Resonessencewhat a great name for the equipment that closed out my three days of blogging RMAF 2013. Happily it sounded really good as well, especially when JA pointed out that the reason this simple system’s top at first seemed rolled off was because the only way to align our ears with the tweeters of the 20-year old, unusually short B&W mini-towers was to either crouch way over or kneel on the floor.
“It’s all on this USB stick,” declared digital genius and Wavelength mastermind Gordon Rankin, as he pressed lots of data into my hand. Once accessed, I learned that I had enjoyed a MacBook Pro Retina 15 16G-RAM/480G-SSD connected via Thunderbolt to a 4T library; Wavelength’s battery-powered Crimson + Denominator DAC ($9000) connected to the computer via an AudioQuest Diamond USB; Wavelength’s new Europa analog/digital preamplifier ($7500) with ESS ES9018 DAC chip, network support, three analog inputs, and either Ethernet or WiFi remote; Wavelength’s new all-silver Napoleon 300B amplifiers; Vaughn’s new Plasma loudspeakers ($15,000/pair, or $20,000/pair for the signature series w/upgraded power and MagneQuest custom modulation transformers); and Audioquest’s Sky interconnects and Redwood speaker cables.
Very clear and open sound, with a shiny treble and lovely midrange distinguished the room that partnered four lithium battery-powered componentsa Kronos turntable ($32,000) outfitted with Lyra Atlas cartridge and Black Beauty tonearm, Veloce’s Platino Series LP-1 phono stage (NLA), Lithio Series LS-1 linestage ($18,000), and Lithio Saetta 400Wpc monoblock amplifiers ($18,000/pair)with YG Acoustic’ Kipod II loudspeakers ($38,000/pair) and Kubala-Sosna Emotion cabling.
Sergey Sorokin, who deserves kudos as Russia’s first high-end manufacturer, arrived at the Marriott Denver Tech Center from Moscow a day before other exhibitors to ensure that his set-up was as close to ideal as the room allowed. Nonetheless, as John Atkinson and I learned upon listening, one of his Israeli-sourced, hand-wound transformers was damaged in transit, and insisted on humming/buzzing along with the music. Despite the unexpected accompaniment, the voice of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson singing Handel (Avie SACD) exhibited absolutely gorgeous tonalities. The great artist’s hushed sounds, even through the transformer noise, were something special. The period instrument orchestra’s bass foundation was also solid and superbly rendered.
By the time I reached the Tower’s 11th floormy final floor, thank Godat 5:35pm on Saturday, I had been at it for over 8.5 hours, and my cold and fever were at their peak. It felt as though nothing short of the Balm of Gilead could bring me solace. But when I heard, in succession, impressively full-range sound and excellent low-bass definition on Mahler’s Symphony 2, and gorgeous warmth and color on everything soprano Arleen Auger sang, I felt as though I could simply float through the rest of the day in a state of peace.
How wonderful to finally catch up with Scott and Paul McGowan, and to discover how good PS Audio’s prototype class-D amplifier with Hypex modules sounds in its temporary housing. Equally exciting was the just-launched NuWave Phono Converter (NPC, $1895), which combines a phono stage with an A/D converter that can archive LPs in both PCM and DSD formats. Paired with Von Schweikert VR-35 loudspeakers ($10,000/pair) and a custom subwoofer, the system delivered impressive deep bass on a track from Turkish artist and DJ Mercan Dede’s Breath, and lots of color on a track by Chesky artist Marta Gomez.
Artist Jay Paul Apodaca and his lovely wife, Houda Alaoua Apodaca, were rocking out with Roksan UK’s Oxygene touch-sensitive, Bluetooth-equipped integrated amp ($7000) at the world premiere of its limited edition Jay Paul Apodaca incarnation. As the story goes, Roksan’s owner, Tufan Hashemi, visited Jay Paul’s store in Detroit and began collecting his art. Eventually he decided to commission Jay Paul to make 12 original paintings that he could reproduce on the front of the Oxygene. Mated with Roksan’s Darius S1 loudspeaker, the artwork and system livened up the Marriott’s Tower like few other systems I heard.
In German Physiks’ room on the 11th floor of the Denver Tech Center Marriott, the Unlimited Mk.II loudspeakers ($13,500/pair) were mated with Vitus Audio’s RCD-100 CD player ($12,750), RD-100 D/A converter ($11,250), and RS stereo power amplifier. Held together by Purist Audio Design’s Corvus balanced interconnects ($2100/1m pair), fabulously named Aqueous Aureus digital cable ($705/1m), and Venustas speaker cable ($5450/7m pair), the system displayed a lovely midrange with a bit of hard edge on a golden oldie, Sara K’s “If I Could Sing the Blues.” (Who remembers the audio show where this track was playing in at least 7 rooms, if not more?) Regardless, I found the superb sense of depth and air uncanny.
Thinking it was my last roomwrongI lingered for some time with two great and dedicated guys, Keith Greeninger and Dayan Kai of Wyred 4 Sound. Listening to “The Deeper That You Love” from a Blue Coast Special album, I found a moderately bright leading edge balanced by an extremely lovely midrange. “Mids very, very nice for this price” I wrote in my notepad. Then, “Summertime” on an Original Master issue of Patricia Barber’s A Distortion of Love yielded “a fabulous sense of space and air, and great low bass.” (“A great demo track,” I noted, although the same can be said for many of Barber’s wonderfully recorded and mixed tracks).
Walter Liederman’s Underwood Hifi showed an $11,600 system that he sells for the discount price of $8995 + freight. At its head were Emerald Physics CS3 Mk.2 open-baffle, controlled-dispersion loudspeakers complete with Emerald DSP2.4 digital equalizer/crossover ($3500/pair). Supporting them were two REL T9 powered subwoofers ($1200/each) electronically bi-amped through the Emerald DSP2.4, an Emerald Physics EP100.2SE amplifier ($2200), one DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core for preamplification and room correction ($1200), and a Jolida Fusion tube DAC/Transport ($2300). Also included, prices not supplied, were a Pro-Ject Xtension 10 turntable, PS Audio NuWave phono stage, and Mac mini.