I always have to remind myself that, despite Marantz’s “mass-market” reputation, the company’s Reference line products have more than earned their place on audiophiles’ equipment racks because they sound so good. Which leads to Marantz’s TT-15S1 turntable ($1500) and PM-14S1 integrated amp with phono stage ($2500). As best I can tell from my scribble, the table is a joint venture from Marantz and Clearaudio, and comes complete with arm and cartridge. What I am sure of is that system had a really nice midrange and lovely sound.
In the room put together by Rutherford Audio of Denver, Genesis’ 7.2f loudspeaker ($12,500/pair), whose servo-controlled bass extends down to 22Hz; Burmester’s 089 CD player ($33,000), Phono 100 ($20,000), and 956 amplifier ($19,000); Thorens’ TD 2035 Black with TP92 Genesis cartridge (price given as $6399 table, priceless cartridge); and Genesis cabling made for an ear-opening combination. An LP of Count Basie and his Orchestra’s “Me and you” had huge dynamic range, a nice and warm midrange, and an aggressive top. My JVC-XRCD of Sarah Vaughan and Basie was a bit mellower, but the top was again bright.
Thanks to PS Audio’s P5 Power Plant ($3495) and Nordost’s Norse cabling, Krell’s Phantom III preamplifier ($5499, or $7000 w/optional 24/192 onboard DAC), S-350A CD 24/192 CD player ($2500), EVO 2250E amplifier ($8000), and Krell Connect ($3500) were enabling Magico’s S-1 loudspeakers ($12,600/pair) to perform wonderfully. In the room sponsored by Audio Video Logic of Iowa, a Red-Book file of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Tin Pan Alley” had great slam and midrange power, with the guitar singing clear and free in a deep soundstage.
German loudspeaker manufacturer ELAC showed its prototype Air-X403. Scheduled for launch at CES2014, the wireless loudspeaker system includes a passive model ($2800?) and an active baby with a 210Wpc, class-A/B amplifier ($4000 range total). This black, bottom-ported speaker system did a very nice job on a track by Diana Krall, a singer John Atkinson enjoys, and I do in moderation. I would never have expected such a good midrange from such small speakers.
With Tyll Hertsens reporting in depth on RMAF’s CANJAM 2013 at our sister site, innerfidelity.com, I’ll just briefly acknowledge the scope of this major exhibition. Hosted by Head-Fi.org, the event drew the youngest crowd in its history.
I discovered the popularity of the “Cartridge Alignment” seminars presented by Vana Ltd.’s Stirling Trayle and the “Speaker Set-Up” presentations by AudioBeat.com’s Roy Gregory were when I passed the closed doorway to their seminar room and discovered people already lined up for the next presentation.
Warned that the speakers and phono cartridge were not fully broken in, I entered Vana Ltd’s Room 9025 to discover Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Baby Grand SE loudspeakers ($5500/pair) paired with the debut of the Dr. Feickert Analogue Woodpecker turntable with 12 Jelco and Acoustical Systems Arché headshell ($8000) and equipped with an Ortofon Windfeld phono cartridge ($3900). Also in the system were Primare’s CD 32 CD player ($2800), I32 with MM30 media upgrade integrated amplifier ($4500), and R32 phono amp ($1200); IsoTek’s EVO3 Aquarius Mains conditioner ($2000), EVO3 Syncro active DC blocking cable ($1750), and EVO3 premier power cables ($195/each). Analysis Plus analog cables completed a system whose bass was not under control, and whose midrange was somewhat muffled, but whose highs, on an LP test pressing of Mahler’s Symphony 3, were quite wonderful.
When I entered the room sponsored by the three above entities, I heard first a CD quality file of Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre, and then a 192kHz sample-rate file of period instrument violinist Rachel Podger playing Bach. I thought the system wonderful at handling complex information, keeping everything clean, and controlling the basssuperb in fact. The only question arose when, on an SACD of mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson singing Handel, the voice was somewhat damped.
What actually transpired as the person in charge of the darkened room began to change LPs:
Me: What are you putting on?
Him: (sounding slightly hostile) What am I putting on?
Me: Yes. What music are you playing?
Him: It’s violin music.
Me: (To myself: Yes, I do know what a violin sounds like.) To him: What violin music?
Him: “I can’t pronounce it. Here, you look.”
It was all psychedelic retro in Room 9000, as Odyssey’s Klaus Bunge dimmed the lights and headed to Fillmore West as he played Iron Butterfly’s "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” Given that I was hardly prepared to drop acid in the midst of blogging the show (as in who is that strange person from Stereophile who has spent the last 15 minutes staring at our turntable while muttering something about God being the deepest groove of all?), I didn’t know what was going on equipment-wise until I found Klaus outside the room and asked which way was up.