Dennis Fraker of Serious Stereo was having a ball playing his favorite Eagles Farewell 1 TourLive from Melbourne Blu-ray on an older Pioneer Elite Blu-ray player, Serious Stereo Ultra-Dynamic Attenuator ($2800 FOB), a pair of Serious Stereo 2-stage direct-coupled amplifiers ($15,750 shipped), and Serious Stereo loudspeakers boasting Altec 604 duplex 15” point-source transducers ($13,800/pair FOB). I wouldn’t call the sound audiophile nirvana, but it sure was a fun change of pace. Would have loved to have heard the components with the latest Oppo.
Lovely, warm and delicate sound, unmistakable tube bloom, and fantastic percussive impact distinguished my brief time in this room. Danny Richie of GR-Research’s open-baffle, line-source LS-X loudspeaker system ($39,000/pair), which includes two integrated servo-controlled subwoofer towers, mated extremely well with Dodd Audio’s battery-powered 34Wpc monoblock power amplifiers ($2900/pair plus battery and charger) and tube amplifier ($1199 plus battery, charger, and tweaks), and a Mac-based computer source feeding a not-yet-released dB Audio Labs Evolution DAC ($1495 or higher). Cabling was from three companies (Triode Wire Labs, PI Audio, and Electra Cable), and power conditioning from PI Audio.
Did that title get your attention? Andrew Jones’ TAD Evolution 1 loudspeakers ($29,500/pair) usually do by themselves. But, in this case, they were paired with TAD’s visually understated M600 amplifiers ($68,000, presumably for the pair), C600 preamp ($42,000), and D600 (CD/SACD) disc player ($32,000), as well as Ron LaPorte’s forthcoming Blue Smoke Entertainment Systems’ Black Box II digital music server/client ($3995) and USB to 384/32 digital output ($2995both expected late 2013).
I’ve grown quite fond of Nola Metro Grand Reference Gold loudspeakers ($33,000/pair). Mated once again with ultra-transparent, full-range Nordost Odin cabling and several Nordost Quantums ($2200/each), the system brought out the true nature of Audio Research’s CD-8 CD player ($9000), Reference 75 amplifier ($9000), and Reference 10 preamplifier ($30,000). On a recent Mercury Living Presence CD reissue of music by Chabrier, that made for an easy-on-the-ears, slightly damped top and the dominant ARC midrange that so many people love.
At a 9am press conference Saturday, October 12, whose attendance was curiously dominated by Stereophile and our sister computer audio online site, AudioStream.com, Jared Sacks of Channel Classics and Philip O’Hanlon of On A Higher Note announced the November 1 launch of nativedsd.com. A world-wide accessible, multi-label download site dedicated exclusively to native DSD recorded stereo and multi-channel studio masters, the site promises centralized shopping for native DSD recorded Edit Master files, along with information and discussion of both software and hardware. We are also assured of “extensive site-wide search capability through the use of ID3v2 compliant metadata across all labels.”
Every music lover/audiophile with vision longs for the same thing: those magical moments when the system disappears, the time-space continuum parts, and we find ourselves mystically transported to a place where only the transcendent wonder and beauty of musical creation exists. For me, one of those unexpected listening experiences that make life worth living occurred on the Marriott’s mezzanine, when Kevin Hayes of VAC (Valve Amplification Company) played my JVC-XRCD of Sarah Vaughan and the Duke Ellington Orchestra performing Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.”
Hardly ones to shy away from the big stuff, the folks at Apex Audio Denver filled the mezzanine’s large Blanca Peak room with an I-dare-not-do-the-math system that, for starters, paired Focal Stella Utopia EM loudspeakers ($95,000/pair) with Soulution’s 500 monoblock amplifiers ($55,500/pair), 530 integrated amplifier ($49,000), 520 preamp ($26,000), and 540 CD/SACD player ($32,500). Those still breathing can add in a Transrotor Rondino Nero turntable ($14,000), Graham Phantom Supreme ($6800), and Air Tight PC-1 Supreme Cartridge ($10,500).
Ah, Zu Audio, ever the chameleon, albeit with a distinctive color. At the California Audio Show last August, Zu paired their loudspeakers with gray-tinged tube electronics that toned down their sometimes metallic leading edge; at RMAF, with Peachtree Audio’s Grand Integrated ($4500), whose design let the true nature of Zu’s Druid Mk.V loudspeakers ($5200/pair), Submission sub ($3995/each), and Zu Event cabling, emerge in the best possible light.
At last, Nordost has augmented its four-level Sort Kone equipment support line with the threaded Sort Füt ($350/each). A mechanically tuned resonance control device designed to replace the standard spikes and stabilizers supplied with loudspeakers and racks, it boasts aluminum and bronze hybrid construction, a filial dome to minimize effects of vibration, and three internal ceramic balls that minimize contact surface area while providing physical stability. The “Premium Package” includes four Sort Füt units (which together support speakers up to 800 lbs), an adjustment tool, laser leveling, and both 8mm and 6mm threaded adaptors.
There were so many exhibitors at this year’s RMAF that it was not possible to go back to rooms. One of two wonderful rooms in the Marriott Tower that I most regretted not having time to revisit, Apex Audio’s mezzanine set-up of equipment mainly distributed by Musical Surroundings produced warm, gorgeous sounds and a “midrange to die for” on Reference Recordings’ LP version of Doug MacLeod’s There’s a Time (Stereophile’s May 2013 Recording of the Month). Managing to let the brightness of the latest CD transfer of Mercury Living Presence’s stereo version of Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra come through while remaining a joy to listen to, the system inspired me to scribble, after listening to a track from an LP of guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, “one could listen for hours without fatigue.”