As I walked into the E.A.R./Marten room, Nat King Cole's voice sounded as beautiful as I have ever heard it reproduced. Through the modest-looking Marten FormFloor speakers ($6500/pair) and Marten FormSub ($4500), Reference Recordings' triumphant version of Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances was so thrillingly full and colorful that I could not hide my amazement. On Dialoghi, a demonstration-quality CD from Bob Attiyeh of Yarlung Records that Robert Levi of the Los Angeles Audio Society urged me to play, the sound of Elinor Frey' cello was as warm and beautiful as anyone would ever want it to be. I was in love.
Lou Hinkley's Daedalus Audio teamed up with an old friend, Art Audio/Gill Audio, and a new friend, Manley Labs. Showcasing the Daedalus Audio Ulysses loudspeaker ($10,950/pair), now boasting new improved internal wire, the system's dark presentation was very well delineated, with impressively three-dimensional sound. The midrange was especially mellow and inviting.
Boy, is it hard to take a good photo when a company purposely leaves the shades behind their equipment wide open. But given that Darren Censulo of Avatar Acoustics (now relocated to Fayetteville, GA) had tuned the room with Frank Chang's Acoustic System International Resonators so that it would sound great with all that exposed glass, asking him to close the shades in order to snap a clearer picture was out of the question.
After my first day of blogging, one dedicated Stereophile reader dropped John Atkinson a note to lament that I was mainly concentrating on large systems to the expense of smaller ones. Happily for all parties, one of the smaller exhibits he urged me to visitthe Feastrex roomsI had already checked out and have since blogged about.
Are we Stereophile's yin and yang, the Mutt and Jeff, or the Lois Lane and Clark Kent of blogging? (I'll leave it you to decide who's Lois). Only our hairdressers know for sure. Que sera, sera and all that, here are two thirds of your loyal RMAF team, Stephen Mejias (right) and yours truly (or not so truly, as the case may be), shortly before trekking the Rockies to the summit of audiophile nirvana.
There's nothing like ending a day at RMAF with a reminder of what the real deal sounds like. If Ray Kimber had his marching band blasting their way around the lobby, the fabulous multi-feted, Grammy Award-winning recording engineer/producer Cookie Marenco gifted us with her renowned piano teacher, Art Lande tinkling the keys in the Marriott's Atrium on Saturday night.
One feature of this year's RMAF that has catapulted it into the major leagues of audio shows was the sheer number of well-attended workshops and panels scheduled at the Hyatt. Over the course of three days, one room featured "Let's Get Digital" with Robert Harley of The Absolute Sound, "Music Everywhere" by Steven R. Rochlin of EnjoytheMusic.com, "The New Music Label" by attorney Ned Hearn, "Adventures in Digital Formats, Unsampling & Dithering" with our own John Atkinson, "Digital Playback Equipment Design Considerations" with David Solomon of Signal Path International, and "Music Discovery" with consultant Sean Leonard. Many of these were panels, with a host of additional participants.
It takes people of vision to advance sound quality in an errorthank you, Mr. Freud, I mean erawhen record companies often seem set on anything but advancing the quality of music and musical reproduction. Hence, for his panel "Adventures in Digital Formats, Upsampling & Dithering," John Atkinson and RMAF's Kurt Bauer assembled an extraordinary panel.
Much of Keith O. Johnson's invaluable presentation consisted of a series of graphs that demonstrated everything from jitter to the noise created by certain power cables. One of his many messages was, if folks think there are no differences between cables, I have the graphs to show otherwise. He also exhibited graphs that show how the quality of manufacture of CDs makes a huge difference in the ultimate analog signal. Want to see what a bad DAC or amplifier does, and compare it with a state-of-the-art unit? Keith can show you. Pictured is a tone-cluster wave he developed as a diagnostic tool that resembles music.
One of the joys of John Atkinson's RMAF panel session was discovering a remarkable unanimity of understanding and vision amongst a group of men who work in different countries on different areas of sound reproduction. Amidst scribbling seven pages of notes that barely scratch the surface of the knowledge and wisdom shared by panelists, I looked up to discover John and everyone having a ball as they spoke with one mind about the current state of the commercial recording industry, and the future of high resolution formats.