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.”
Mated with B&W 804D speakers and Cardas Clear cabling, Simaudio’s Moon 180 MiND network player ($1250), new Moon Neo 260D CD transport w/optional DAC ($2000 + $1000), Moon Neo 380D DAC ($4350), Moon Neo 350P preamp ($3650), and Moon Neo 400M monoblock amplifiers ($4300), I was struck by the very clear, crisp, and solid sound of Jefferson Airplane’s “Come Back to Me,” sourced from an original Japanese pressing. The Neo 260D, released September 4, includes an optional asynchronous 32-bit DAC with four digital inputs that allows direct streaming and Blu-ray playback.
There was a lot of talking going on when I entered room 8012 in the Marriott’s Tower, but Rosa Passos and bassist Ron Carter sounded very mellow through Funk Audio powered loudspeakers ($19,875/pair) David Berning ZOTL Pre One preamplifier ($12,360), Silver Circle Audio Juice Box One w/Vesuvius power conditioner, and Luminous Audio cabling. Although I don’t know if the RCA LP of tenor Jussi Björling I heard next was inherently bright, it sure sounded such through a VIP Classic 1 turntable with 3D-printed arm ($4400) outfitted with a Soundsmith Hyperion cartridge ($7500), which I know is not inherently bright, and a Dynamic Sounds Associates Phono II phono preamp ($12,000).
My photo fails to do justice to the eye-catching aesthetics of the Wadia Intuition 01 ($7500) on the stand. You can catch much better views of the modern digital integrated amplifier/DAC/preamp combo here. Offering 350Wpc into 4 ohms (190Wpc into 8 ohms), 192/24 resolution via coax, optical, and AES/EBU, and 384/32 and native DSD playback via USB, this beaut mated with Sonus faber’s equally handsome Olympica I loudspeakers ($6500/pair + $1200 optional stands) and Nordost Tyr 2 cabling to produce very mellow sounds on a track by Bill Callahan, and captivate me with the voice of Lucrecia Dalt.
Sonus faber mated its Olympica 3 loudspeakers ($13,500/pair) with Audio Research’s Reference CD9 CD/DAC player ($13,000), Reference 75 amplifier ($9000), and SP20 preamplifier ($9000). Heard through AudioQuest Redwood cables, the system uncompromisingly conveyed the take-no-prisoners nature of the demo CD that was playing during my time in the room.
There was so much going on in Audiohouse’s ParasoundMonitorKimber etc . . . room that all I’m certain of is that the system had a really nice midrange. The Monitor Audio Platinum PL200 speakers ($9000/pair), alas, were insufficiently broken in, and there was no time to return on the last day when, I’m told, the system strutted its stuff so well that Audiohouse’s David M. McPhee sold two pairs of the Platinum PL200s to attendees.
Roger Fortier, US distributor for ADAM Audio (Advanced Dynamic Audio Monitors), paired ADAM Column loudspeakers ($7500/pair) with Clarus Audio cabling from Tributaries and Cary’s CA0211 monoblocks ($20,000/pair), SLP-05 preamp ($6500) and Cary’s brand-new, prototype, full-function media streamer ($3995). Playing Christy Baron’s oft-heard “Ain’t No Sunshine When He’s Gone,” the system produced an exceptionally nice, warm midrange with an overall touch of sweetness. It also handled bass very well.