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.
Roy Johnson of Green Mountain Audio (left) teamed with Ron Hedrick of Marigo Audio Labs (right) to create a system modest in appearance and generous in musicality. After pairing Green Mountain’s Eos HX top-of-the-line 2-way loudspeaker ($4995/pair) with a cheap Sony multi-disc changer and the Jeff Rowland Design Group’s Model 525 amp and Aeris DAC, they put Marigo’s Mystery Feet under the electronics, and used, in addition to Audio Magic power cords, Marigo Audio cables and, on CDs, Marigo’s new Ultimate High-Definition Signature Mat ($239).
Shame on me for not writing down the name of Ron Sutherland’s adorable pooch, who stayed on my lap as we orbited to bliss with the great Johnny Hartmann. Partnering with some guys named John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner, Hartmann made magic of “They Say It’s Wonderful.” Of course, that was on LP, soundingyeswonderful thanks to a Merrill-Williams R.E.A.L. 101 table with Tri-Planar arm, Sutherland N1 full-feature line/phone preamplifier ($18,000) and Sutherland Power Block amplifier ($6000), arrayed on a Krollo Rack and connected to each other and Avalon Transcendent loudspeakers by Incline cabling.
No US audio show feels complete without hearing Acoustic Zen cables, interconnects, power cords, and loudspeakers connected to Triode Corporation electronics. Acoustic Zen’s Robert Lee deserved to smile, because his set-up showed everyone’s equipment at its best. Upsampled to 192kHz, a violin CD sounded gorgeous, and the low organ pedals on Saint-Saëns’ well-known “Organ Symphony” were equally convincing.
How perfect. Shortly before I entered the room shared by Win Tinnon of Saskia Turntables and his friends, Dave Slagle of EMIA and Chris Kline of Telwire, relatively new singer/recording artist Lyn Stanley dropped by to hear her new LP. Lyn has an extremely special, warm mezzo, perfect what she calls “retro jazz,” which found its ideal home in the room’s fabulous sounding, clear and warm system. So did Bob McChesney’s trombone, which accompanied her with the perfect mix of edgy power and warmth. Thanks to Win’s hospitality and Lyn’s voice, this was one of my special moments at a very special show.
Crescendo Fine Audio of Boulder, a year-old venture founded by music lover and second-generation audio dealer Matt Alterman, 34, made its first showing at RMAF into a major event by sponsoring two impressive rooms. In 9018, Aerial Acoustics 7T loudspeakers ($9850) danced with Ayre’s V5X 175Wpc stereo amplifier ($7950), C-5xeMP universal audio disc player ($5950), and QB-9 DSD DAC ($3250). Preamps were Octave’s tubed HP 300SE ($7000) and, for phono, Red Wine Audio’s battery powered Analogica ($1995). A VPI Classic 1 ($2800) with Sumiko Blackbird cartridge ($1099) topped a system supported by Quadraspire’s Sunoka Vent 2 bamboo shelf rack ($795/shelf), and wired with Shunyata Research cabling, with a Shunyata Triton power distributor with stainless-steel feet ($4995) making sure everything sounded at its best.
Norbert Lindemann tells me that his musicbook:20 ($5000) and musicbook:25 ($5500) will be available in six weeks. The musicbook:25 is a remotely controlled network player/CD player that includes a TEAC CD drive and USB-A port. It also contains a fully balanced analog preamp with analog volume control as well as class-A headphone amplifiers. The musicbook:20 lacks the 25’s CD drive.
I always have to remind myself that, despite Marantz’s “mass-market” reputation, the company’s Reference line products have more than earned their place on audiophiles’ equipment racks because they sound so good. Which leads to Marantz’s TT-15S1 turntable ($1500) and PM-14S1 integrated amp with phono stage ($2500). As best I can tell from my scribble, the table is a joint venture from Marantz and Clearaudio, and comes complete with arm and cartridge. What I am sure of is that system had a really nice midrange and lovely sound.