Last spring's Axpona show in Jacksonville gave me a first opportunity to audition some of Grant Fidelity's bargain-priced Chinese imports. I really liked what I heard. Despite cries of foul from a few of those posting comments to the blog who depicted Grant as the cause of the entire high-end slowdown in the US, and me as a conspirator in the eventual collapse of Western Civilization, the word is clearly out. Grant's room at RMAF was mobbed, so mobbed by attendees who were eager to chat away while the music played that nothing short of blowing a police whistle would have quieted them down. (A few systems at RMAF sounded like police whistles, but that's another story).
J. Gordon Rankin, always at the forefront at computer audio technology, had paired Wavelength's beautiful-sounding electronics with Vaughn Zinfandel loudspeakers and AudioQuest top-of-the-line Sky interconnects and Meteor speaker cables to create a system with an absolutely gorgeous midrange. That is no small accomplishment, folks.
The Audio Alternative of Fort Collins, CO had the perspicacity to mate Wilson Audio's new Sophia III speakers ($16,900/pair) with Rega Research Limited's Osiris Integrated amplifier ($9000), Isis Valve CD player ($10,000), and P7 turntable w/Lyra Delos MC cartridge ($4195). The sound was very mellow and inviting. It was the kind of presentation that would make many an audiophilecertainly this onewelcome the Sophia Series III into their home.
Oh my, did Muddy Waters' Folk Singer sound good. I hadn't heard this audiophile classic in many a year, and my time in Mike Garner of TweekGeek.com's room convinced me that it was time for an extended revisit. Garner achieved gorgeous clarity and marvelous quiet on this recording. As I wrote in my notes, "A very special moment."
Tweak Studio, the Genesis dealer in Washington state, paired the new Genesis G7.1f loudspeaker ($8000/pair) with the Balanced Audio Technology (BAT) Vk-3ix preamp and VK 55SE amp. The match was fortuitous, with the BAT's tubey midrange bringing out the loudspeaker's considerable best. Completing the partnership were the SOTA Sapphire Series 5 turntable ($2700) with SME 4 arm and Denon 103 cartridge; Kosmic server w/500GB hybrid storage ($2295) and a bunch of options; Absolute Fidelity Component Interface cable ($1800/pair), Loudspeaker Interface cables ($3000/pair); and Power Interface cables ($1800); and a host of Kosmic Equipment stands (the stand base shelf is $1600).
The Audio Alternative had a number of rooms on the 9th floor of the Denver Marriott Tech Center Tower, the largest of which boasted an impressive set-up. Audio Research Corporation's Anniversary Edition Reference Preamplifier ($24,995), Reference 210 amplifiers ($19,900/pair), Reference Phono 2 ($11,995), Reference CD8 ($9995) and DAC 8 ($4995) were dancing with Vandersteen 7 speakers ($45,000/pair); Linn LP12 turntable, Ekos SE tone arm and Lyra Titan cartridge ($24,000 total); AudioQuest Wild Blue Yonder XLR interconnects ($16,800 for 26'). Wildwood speaker cables ($11,600 for 8'), NRG WBY AC power cords ($4400 for 12'), and WBY XLR interconnects ($4200 for 3'); and Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR 1921 isolation stand ($4995), M3X 2123 isolation base ($2895), and R1-1921 ($1095). (Whew!) The room was full of people making too much noise; the sound loud (there was no choice), impressively big and solid. Short of blowing a whistle, there was nothing I could do except collect literature and promise myself that at the next show, I'll finally get a chance to hear the Vandersteen 7s that received raves at the 2010 CES.
Doshi Audio of Virginia was proudly displaying their handcrafted Jhor monoblock amplifiers ($18,995/pair) and Alaap V2.1 full-function preamplifier ($14,995). Partnered with the oft-encountered Wilson Audio Sasha, and Transparent XL series cabling, the system excelled in midrange strength as it threw an exciting soundstage. Although lacking ultimate bass control, the system rendered take-no-prisoners rock in accurately brash and brazen fashion.
The sound was so full, so all encompassing, and so natural in the small Magico room (Tower 9022) that I doubt I'll encounter another display at RMAF that will top it. Certainly on the first day of the show, the sound achieved by (pictured, left to right) Tim Marutani of Marutani Consulting (Emeryville, CA), Alon Wolf of Magico, and Maier Shadi of The Audio Salon (Los Angeles) was so satisfying that it topped anything else I heard on Day One by a long shot. A very long shot.
Since my earliest visits to the Stereophile Show, well before I began writing for the magazine, I have always left Jeff Joseph's speaker displays with a smile on my face. This show was no different. Displaying the lovely Joseph Audio Pulsar ($7,000/pair) with not-yet-released-or-priced Pulsar stands, the combo with Ayre electronics (including the QB-9 USB DAC$2750) and Cardas Clear cabling was a joy.
Philip Bamberg's Bamberg Audio was playing the Series 5 TMW ($8800/pair) and displaying the Steries 2 TMM ($4800/pair) when I entered. The 5 is a 3-way design with a 375W active woofer, parametric EQ, and separate monitor. It is said to descend flat to 25Hz, and down to 18Hz 6dB.