“Hands down great sound” I wrote of a room that combined Joseph Audio’s universally lauded Pearl loudspeakers ($31,500/pair with outrigger bases), Cardas Clear cabling, and a VPI Classic Direct with 3D arm ($30,000) outfitted with a Soundsmith Hyperion OCL cactus cantilever cartridge ($7500), with Jeff Rowland’s Capri preamp with phono option ($4300), Aeris DAC ($9800), and 825 power amp ($32,000). Sourced from computer, Boz Scaggs “Thanks to You” sounded gorgeous, and the beauty of Reference Recordings’ LP version of Vaughan Williams’ The Wasps confirmed the superiority of both the equipment chain and the Keith Johnson/Sean Martin recording team. Bass was profound, the midrange world-class, and highs just right. Transparency, too, was excellent. I wish I could have spent hours immersed in the beauty and grace of this system.
Count on McIntosh to invariably dem something new, albeit in chassis that maintain the company’s distinctive aesthetics. This time around, Ron Cornelius showed the new MCD550 SACD/CD player ($6500) with volume control, headphone output, asynchronous USB 2.0 input, and 32-bit, “192kHz PCM/SD digital to analog conversion”; and MA8000 300Wpc integrated amplifier ($10,000) with MC/MM phono inputs, five digital inputs that decode music up to 32/192, home-theater bypass, and headphone amplifier. In an all-McIntosh set-up, the system delivered the classic warm midrange and solid bottom end I’ve come to expect. Highs, at least in this small hotel room, were a touch metallic, however.
McIntosh’s Carl Porter was in the midst of demming McIntosh’s MEN220 room correction system ($5000) when I snapped this photo. I’ve heard this baby in action several times, and was not surprised by the positive effects its room correction, custom-EQ, and 2-way crossover had on a recording by Alison Krauss.
PMC’s Fact.12 loudspeaker ($19,500/pair), the English company’s new reference 3-way floorstander, includes two 6” coated aluminum-cone woofers, a 2” hand-built soft-dome midrange, and 0.75” soft-dome SONOMEX tweeter co-developed with SEAS. With a somewhat low 84dB sensitivity and 8 ohm impedance, the speaker claims a 26Hz30kHz frequency response. Paired with four new Rega componentsthe Rega Elicit-R 105Wpc integrated amplifier ($2995), Saturn-R DAC + CD transport ($2995), RP8 turntable with Apheta MC cartridge ($3995 w./cartridge), and Aria MC/MM phonostage ($1495)the system sounded quite solid playing Kraftwerk's “Autobahn.”
The Danish speaker manufacturer Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries (DALI) should have a winner in its new wireless Kubik Free+Xtra Loudspeaker System. Available in black, white, or red, the optional two-part system consists of the Kubik Free ($1295), an active single-stereo speaker that can be used by itself in tight quarters, and the Xtra passive second speaker ($695) for those who want a wider soundstage and better imaging. Demmed by Thomas Knudsen in wireless aptX Bluetooth 3.0 modethe Kubik Free can also be played via USB, optical, and analog connectionsthe speaker's 100W class-D amplifier delivered lovely sound. The drivers are composed of the same proprietary DALI wood-fiber cone drivers used in DALI's big babies.
Naim Audio has just introduced three new great-sounding products in its NAIT (Naim Audio Integrated Series). The entry-level NAIT 5si Integrated amplifier ($1800) outputs 60Wpc into 8 ohms, and has four analog inputs (including DIN, which they think sounds best), a headphone output, and unity gain inputs for AV pre/pro or receiver. Climbing up the ladder gets you the 70Wpc Naim NAIT XS 2 integrated ($2900) and "audiophile version" 80Wpc Naim SuperNAIT 2 integrated ($4900). In addition to more inputs and features, these higher-level products include upgradeable external power supplies, which counts for a lot in Naimland.
With up to 75 rooms to cover on multiple floors of the Marriott’s tower, I decided to check out Synergistic Research’s much-heralded new products before the show officially began. Inventor Ted Denney decided to dem his new babies, not with the expected megabuck system, but rather with a Bose radio. Positioned atop one of his Tranquility Bases, used as shelves on a Solid Tech rack, the radio played a vocal track by Anne Vada and Aki Fukakura as Denney demonstrated the cumulative effects of his tiny aluminum passive HFTs (High Frequency Transducers, $299/5 pack), active FEQ (Frequency Equalizer, $750), and Tranquility Bases. (In the photo, Ted is pointing to the HFT affixed to the front of the radio.)
Every year, the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, which starts today in the Denver Tech Center Marriott, kicks off with a pre-show gathering for exhibitors and press in the hotel’s Atrium. With each attendee handed two coupons for free drinks, it’s a great way to come down after an intense day of travel and room set-up. Show organizer Marjorie Baumert, shown with Ric Mancuso of Reference Recordings, was having an especially jolly time celebrating the show’s 10th Anniversary.
For its 10th anniversary, the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest has lined up some stellar entertainment. With more than a little help from Kimber Kable, Nordost Corporation and Reference Recordings, Marjorie Baumert began the celebration with a pre-show performance by vocalist Lillian Boutté. The only musician since Louis Armstrong to be decorated Ambassador of Music by the city of New Orleans, Boutté brought her 30 years of experience with jazz, gospel, and R&B to the first of three performances at the show. Backing her up were Eric Gunnison on piano, Mike Marlier on drums, Mark Simon on bass, and a singer whose name was not listed in the program.
The 2013 Burning Amp, the DIYAudio forum's "annual experiment in temporary community dedicated to radical self-expression and self-reliance," got off to a slow start. Although a semi-hidden posting about the one-day, all-volunteer event, held in six rooms at San Francisco's Fort Mason Center on Sunday, October 6, appeared months ago, the email blast to the Burning Amp mailing list only went out late on October 3. As a result, attendance was light, making it much easier to listen to music in the extremely live, audio unfriendly rooms.
Central to every Burning Amp is Nelson Pass (above), whose boundless generosity and support to DIYers worldwide has made him a father figure of sorts.