When I walked into the Robyatt Audio room, I discovered that Robin Wyatt had come all the way from New York City to show people what a lovely, airy sound he could get from Jacintha’s “Here’s to Life” and other LP selections. “The man who recorded that LP used the same stereo Miyajima Kinsui cartridge that I’m using for playback,” he explained.
Jim Rush of PTE (Precision Transducer Engineering) of Orange, CA explained that he was using the system in his room, headlined by PTE’s The Phoenix self-powered, bi-amplified loudspeaker ($5700/pair), to conduct 10 different blind tests with five sequences. The results of his experiments, which he said demonstrated that most people couldn’t discern differences with a high degree of accuracy, are slated to be posted to PTE’s website.
One of many Colorado retailers that displayed at RMAF this year, Fort Collins Audio hosted the debut of the TSG planar ribbon tower line array loudspeaker ($29,000/pair). Unfortunately, the speaker sat unplayed in the corner of the room when I entered, replaced by the excellent Totem Earth ($8995/pair). Connected to a Hegel H20 amplifier ($5740), Hegel HD20 DAC ($1995), and Quicksilver Audio preamp ($3900) via Kimber Kable Bifocal XL speaker cable and Kimber Select 1126 interconnects, the system was producing fine, solid sound with nice color.
If there’s anything that will grab this whistler’s attention, it’s the sound of another whistler who knows what she or he is doing. Given that the first thing I heard when I set foot in the room from Pro Audio Ltd. of Tower Lakes, IL was the delightful sound of whistling on Livingston Taylor’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” I was primed for a good experience. And so it was, with the system’s genuinely lovely if somewhat light-bodied sound distinguished by a captivating sense of air that is the mark of good analog.
I ended Day 1 of RMAF with my first visit ever to the MC room. Although the MC-501A CD/USB player ($3995) and MC-701 integrated amplifier ($4595) were initially driving MC’s RL-21 loudspeakers ($3495/pair) too loud, generating an unwelcome host of small room interactions, the system did an exceptional job, at more realistic volume, playing a recording of a traditional jazz trio. Not only did the music sound very alive and in the moment, but the piano also had a special illumined quality absent from many systems that cost far more than this one.
Nordost’s Lars Christensen has become an industry legend of sorts for the enthusiasm with which he launches into cable comparison after cable comparison. At RMAF, he notched his demos up several steps, inviting people to hear the effects that cabling, power distribution, and resonance control products from Nordost and other companies can have on system sound.
“The bottom line is, despite the science involved, if you can’t hear it, it matters not,” Nordost’s West Coast distributor Michael Marko told me outside the demo room...
Not to be outdone, Kent Loughlin of MIT (Music Interface Technologies) staged 5-minute cable comparisons in the MIT room on the 2nd floor of the Marriott’s Tower. Using a Cary CD player and Cary monoblock amplifiers, and Polk Audio monitors with Custom Sound Anchors stands, Loughlin initially chose the beautiful, albeit oft-played soprano solo from Reference Recordings’ superb version of Rutter’s Requiem to let people hear the difference that MIT’s AVT Speaker Module ($149), which added up to 10 poles of articulation, brought to MIT’s custom installation cable (80 cents/foot for 12-gauge cable with two conductors).
As I was heading out of the Sony room, which John Atkinson is covering separately, I spied an open door. Like a cat to a paper bag, I dove inside to discover the sensational recording engineer and producer Cookie Marenco of Blue Coast Records. A strong proponent of DSD, with which she records many of her projects (including free hi-rez downloads), Marenco was hanging in Sony’s storage area/hospitality suite prior to delivering one of her four guest demos in the adjacent Sony room. (Gus Skinas of Sonoma Systems presented three other demos, and Chad Kassem of Analogue Productions the remaining two). I promised Cookie, when snapping the photo, that I would say nothing about the tantalizing, not-yet-released products intentionally hidden from view.
Although I was only able to stay long enough to snap a few photos and hear moderator Ken Kessler’s (Hi-Fi News) downer of an introduction, Friday evening’s post-show panel included, from left to right, HiFi Plus editor Alan Sircom, recording engineer Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio Specialties, Kathy Gornick of Thiel Audio, Michael Fremer of Stereophile and AnalogPlanet.com, Roy Hall of Music Hall and "why don’t you join me for a shot," and Kessler himself. Dan D’Agostino of D’Agostino, Inc., founder of and former designer at Krell, turned up after I had shot my photo.
John Atkinson adds: Kessler’s thesis was the high-end audio industry is dying by its own hand; that if it is to continue to exist, let alone thrive, high-end audio has to emulate the example of the luxury watch, pen, and car industries...
As familiar as I may be with the Playback Designs/Evolution Acoustics set-ups that Blue Light Audio's Jonathan Tinn brings to showsone of these, with darTZeel electronics and much bigger Evolution Acoustics loudspeakers, received my Best of Show at T.H.E. Show Las Vegas a few years backI constantly find myself amazed by the quality of the sound. This time, with Playback Design's MPS-3 DSD-capable high-resolution CD player with USB input ($8500); an Ampex ATR-102 open-reel recorder, restored by ATR Services, Inc of York, PA, playing 15ips master tapes sourced from ATR and Puget Sound Studios; and B.M.C. Audio's AMP CS2 integrated stereo amplifier ($8400) driving Evolution Acoustics' MMMicroOne 2-way monitor loudspeakers with stands ($2500/pair), the sound of a Shelby Lynne demo safety copy of her new album, provided by ATR Services, blew me away with its solid bass, powerful slam, and great depth. True, there was a bit of an edge on Lynne's voice, but it may have been room-induced, and sure didn't stop me from writing "OMG" in my notes.