OMG. It’s 4pm on Sunday, the show is over, and I have three rooms left to cover. Dash to door number one. It’s already locked. Next to door number two. It’s locked as well. Is this going to be the worst episode of Let’s Make A Deal ever known to man or audiophile, I wonder, or will I find the pot of gold behind door number three?
Well, kind of. The door opens, there are boxes everywhere, and Larry Alan Kay, former co-founder of Fithe audiophile magazine that ran all those recipes for audiophiles who like to drink and chomp while they listenis packing up the BSG Technologies QOL Signal Completion Stage.
Sunday afternoon is always the slowest time at an audio show, but you couldn’t tell it from the room dominated by Hsu subwoofers. In the only room I encountered on floors 4 and 5 of the Atrium that was playing action DVDs or Blu-rays, the movie’s obligatory, super-hyped explosions were resonating far outside the door. In what I take to be a statement about popular culture and the American obsession with violence, the darkened room was so packed that there was no way I could even stand in the doorway.
In two adjacent rooms, GTT Audio & Video showcased systems dominated by much-admired YG Acoustics loudspeakers. In the smaller set-up, the diminutive YG Acoustics Carmel ($18,000) joined the excellent PS Audio PWT Memory transport ($3500), Devialet D-Premier all-in-one DAC/Phono Stage/Integrated amp ($16,000), and Kubala-Sosna Research Emotion interconnects and speaker cable ($3000/first meter) and power cables ($1100/first meter). The chosen material, Jascha Heifetz’s classic recording of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, sounded excellent, but the system’s clarity drove home to me that he was playing so fast that much of the soul of the music was lost.
No, I’m not talking about one of the young women who always seem to drive Stephen Mejias to distraction at shows. Rather, I’m speaking of Estelon’s Model XB loudspeakers ($32,900/pair). Designed for more modestly sized rooms, this Estonian speaker was producing realistic, full-range sound courtesy of Vitus Audio’s SM 010 monoblock amplifiers, SL 102 preamplifier, and SCD010 CD player. Power Conditioner was Silver Circle Audio’s Tchaik 6, cabling Kubala-Sosna’s Elation, and rack and feet from Stillpoints.
Listening to HDTracks’ 24/192 download of the Jimmy Cobb Quartet’s Jazz in the Key of Blue, I finally heard what a well-tuned MSB system can do. “So musical!” I wrote in my notes. Instrumental timbres were excellent, with the warmth and fullness of Roy Hargrove’s trumpet portrayed with near tube-like roundness and warmth. Combined with the air and depth conveyed by the high-res recording, and the sheer presence of the drums, the experience opened a portal to audio nirvana. I could have spent hours exploring music in multiple formats on this system, and still have wanted more. It killed me to have to leave the room so soon. Only the reality of many more rooms to cover before show’s end kept me from staying longer.
I’ve come to expect three things from Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio: great music, great sound, and great set-up. The music came first. With the new Joseph Audio Pearl3 loudspeakers (introductory price $28,500/pair) singing their hearts out, the timbres of Ben Webster and Gerry Mulligan’s saxophones were gorgeously conveyed. The same goes for the massed voices on Cantata Domine’s Scandinavian language version of “O Holy Night,” which was a favorite classical demo track at RMAF for exhibitors with analog rigs.
People sat up and took notice when Sanders Sound Systems released their Model 10 full-size electrostatic loudspeakers with analog electronic crossover amplifiers a few years back. The latest version, Model 10c ($13,000/pair) was delivering solid, full-range sound from a system that also includes Sanders Magtech Stereo amplifier ($5000), new preamplifier that combines both line and phono stages ($4000), and their own interconnects and speaker cables.
High Fidelity Services of Braintree, MA was producing good, solid sound on well-recorded rock on a system that mixed two products it imports and distributes, Neat Acoustics’ Ultimatum XL6 loudspeakers ($14,280/pair) and Scheu Analog’s Das Laufwerk 1 turntable with 12" Tacco arm and Scheu/Benz cartridge ($15.995), with Zanden’s Model 2500 CD player ($22,000), Model 6000 integrated amplifier ($22,000), and 1300 phono stage ($13,750); Running Springs’ Maxim power conditioner ($6400); and Chord Cable Company’s SArum cabling ($8400).
“We have no crossover,” I was told soon after I entered the Tocaro loudspeaker room. “Our tweeter receives the full signal. And even though our speakers are 100dB or more efficient, they can handle the 175W of power that we’re feeding them.”
Developed by Miguel Herrero and hand-built in Gütersloh, Germany, the Tocaro 42D ($14,000/pair including stands) was connected by Crimson interconnects ($360/m) and Crimson bi-wire speaker cable ($1070/8’ pair) to the Resolution Audio Cantata ($6500), Crimson 710 solid-state preamplifier ($7000), and Crimson 640E monoblock amplifier ($6000/pair). I tried to do what the sign said, and forget whatever I thought I knew, but I couldn’t overlook the sound of boxy percussion on my well-played Chesky CD of Marta Gomez, nor the bright edge around her voice.