The sound in the large PS Audio room was impressive. Despite, at one point, my trying to listen to music over three conversations at once, the system on display,—all PS Audio save for the Avalon Ascendant speakers and JL Audio subs—was distinguished by its full midrange and inviting warmth. The sign on the poster behind the system—"Perfect Power Without the Box"—refers to the company’s forthcoming rack, which will have a power conditioner built into the bottom, additional power filters for every component, and the power itself carried by the tails of the rack. The initial plan is for an 11" wide rack designed for smaller, "lifestyle" components. (I’m one of those folks more concerned with having a life than displaying a lifestyle, but a chacun son gout). A desktop version is also planned.
Ayre and Vandersteen are two companies whose products have achieved an enviable reputation for excellence. I was, in fact, blown away by my listening experience in the Ayre room at RMAF 2006, and looked forward to an equally enveloping experience this year.
I was impressed by the extremely full-range presentation of the VMPS RMD-60 loudspeaker ($9950/pair) paired with the VMPS Very Solid Subwoofer ($1850)—especially with the system's admirable bass control. Part of the credit goes to Bybee special-effect Golden Goddess AC cables and speaker bullets, Bolder Cable interconnects and cables, the rest to the Eastern Electric M156 monoblocks (160W into 8 ohms, $7000/pair, based on the EL 156 pentode tube), and Bolder's Statement Level Modded Squeezebox 3 ($1300). If The Bolder Cable Company’s display sounded this good with brand-new amps that were not yet broken in, I look forward to hearing it again once everything is fully ready to strut its stuff.
The delightful Gilbert Yeung of Blue Circle, minus the Mickey Mouse ears and Snake Oil display I encountered at the last Show, has a thing for circles. I'm not complaining. After seeing boxes upon boxes upon boxes, encountering a surfeit of circles is super. (I have a feeling someone is going to rake me over the coals in the comments section for that one.)
A definite eye-catcher, the $25,999/pair spherical Proclaim Audioworks DMT-100 speaker system features an external crossover that facilitates the ability to balance stereo output in difficult listening environments. (The crossover includes an L-pad bypass option to ensure "the cleanest possible signal path...for audio purists.") Each driver is independently mounted in a spherical enclosure cast from a proprietary high-density laminate. Fine-tunable for one's room, each driver can be adjusted up to 45° off-axis; they also afford up to 12" vertical and horizontal positioning flexibility for the tweeter and midrange modules. Daniel Herrington's babies, designed by ear, are so new that their sensitivity has yet to be measured.
The sweet solidity of the violin beckoned me from down the hallway (which is far more than I can say about some of the rooms I visited). I was hardly surprised to discover that I had been lured by Edge Electronics. Paired with the Tyler Acoustics Woodmere II speakers ($8800 base price, 185 lbs each), the Edge System handled silences wonderfully. That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but I mean anything but. Playing the exquisite Elly Ameling singing Schubert to piano accompaniment, there was a stillness, poise, and grace amidst the living flow of her voice that I rarely experience from sound systems. (I experienced something similar one year in the Joule/Elrod room at CES). On display were the new Edge CD player, whose RAM circuitry is said to perform advance error correction, the G8 amp, and G2 preamp (available with optional battery supply). Actually, passive display was not what was intended. Shipping mishaps from the company's new base in Florida had actually destroyed some of the intended components, which were replaced by older versions of Edge's current models, which Steve Norber lifted from his home system a few miles away.
Toward the end of Day One, I encountered my Bay Area Audiophile Society buddy Jeff Wilson in the hallway. Jeff, a true music lover and long-time audiophile whose ears I trust, is about to open a showroom with Bob Kehn in Oakland, CA that will feature Magico, VAC, Silversmith, and other top-quality brands.
In a room tuned with the amazing Acoustic System Acoustic Resonators to sound good with the glass window exposed, Darren and Bonnie Censullo of Avatar Acoustics displayed a system distinguished by the kind of openness and air that some people would kill for. Products included the Abbington Music Research AMR CD-77 and AMR AM-77 ($8500 each, both outfitted with NOS tubes), Acoustic System Tango Speaker ($13,500/pair), Current Cable Powercord and interconnects, and a host of Acoustic Resonators. If you look closely, you may see one of the diminutive resonators ($200–$2200) on the rear window. This is one system I hope to revisit if time allows. I’d love to hear some of these products in my own listening room, which is far bigger than the hotel suites into which most systems were shoeboxed.
Having hosted an AudioKinesis speaker demo at my home for the Bay Area Audiophile Society (BAAS), I feel confident saying that Duke LeJeune is one of the dearest men in the business. Here he demonstrates his new 92dB-sensitivity, 16 ohm impedance, 170 lb Dream Maker ($9000/pair), whose "controlled-pattern, offset bipole configuration" is designed to control the relative level of reverberant energy density in the room. If that sounds like gobbledegook, the vivid presentation of the AudioKinesis/AtmaSphere combo, which was admirably clear in the higher frequencies, whet my appetite for more extended listening in the future.
I couldn't resist the wonderful sounds of Louis Prima coming from the Green Mountain Audio room. Paired with Jaton Corporation’s Operetta AP2140A 2-channel Distributor amplifier ($1000, 140Wpc into 4 ohms, 70Wpc into 8 ohms), whose "processing filter circle eliminates 99.99% of noise at maximum volume," the intriguing-looking Green Mountain Calypso loudspeaker ($10,000/pair for the next month or so before the price increases 10–15%) was producing the kind of extremely smooth sound that draws you into the music. The speaker measures 88–89dB sensitivity, and utilizes a simple, first-order crossover to achieve "perfect" time-coherence. The midrange and tweeter are also adjustable forward and back for optimal sound in the listening position. The entire system, including the speaker, was wired with Marigo wire. I constantly find that Green Mountain's innovative designs produce lovely sound. Expect a whole new line of smaller, less-expensive speakers to appear on the Green Mountain website in another month or so.