Blues singer Jimmie Lee Robinson was singing when I entered the Aaudio Imports room, his jingling spurs sounding preternaturally real on the 6’-tall Lansche Audio 7 speakers ($108,000/pair). Like the Lansche 5.1 that I reviewed in July, the 7 uses an RF-energized corona tweeter to produce clean, transparent-sounding highs. Amplification was the new Ypsilon SET100 monoblocks ($125,000/pair) with a tubed Ypsilon PST-100 Mk.II preamp and tubed VPS-100 phono preamp, these two both favorites of Mr. AnalogPlanet, Michael Fremer.
Classic Audio always makes good sound at Shows, and RMAF was no exception, both analog and digital sources sounding clean, clear and detailed. The system featured a pair of T-1.4 Reference speakers ($36,500/pair), this a retro-looking design combining two reflex-loaded, field-coil energized 15” woofers (one firing forward, the other downward) with a horn-loaded, field-coil energized midrange unit, and a Fostex tweeter. Amplifiers were Atma-Sphere MA1.5 monoblocks, cables were by Purist, and analog source a Brinkman Bardo turntable fitted with a Tri-Planar arm and van den Hul Grasshopper cartridge. The digital source was new to me: all from Texas-based Stahl-Tek, an Opus CD transport fed the “entry level” Ariaa D/A converter ($12,900).
Taking a somewhat different, historical approach than my presentation on the same subject at the 2009 RMAF, HiFi Plus editor Alan Sircom, despite being jetlagged, forcefully showed how insensitive use of compression kills recorded sound.
Whereas the headphone enthusiasts' CanJam had been a subdued affair at the 2010 and 2011 RMAFs, this year's event seemed to have twice as many exhibitors and twice as many attendees. You can find Tyll Hertsens' informed and informative coverage of the RMAF CanJam for our sister site InnerFidelity here.
I emerged from the elevator, to be greeted by the sound of a late Beethoven piano sonata being played with power and precision by a slightly built young lady. The artist, 22 year-old Fan-Ya Lin, was the winner of the 2010 Music Teachers National Association Steinway Young Artists National Piano Competition, and other awards. She studied at Weber State University where she was spotted by Kimber Kable prez Ray Kimber. Ray, who has always sponsored live music performances at RMAF, arranged for Ms. Lin to give recitals during the days at the show, with a big concert Saturday night. Fan-Ya Lin has a new SACD out on Ray Kimber's Isomike label: Emerging, featuring performances of Beethoven's "Appassionata" sonata, Bach's Toccata in c, and works by Chopin and Lowell Liebermann.
My thanks to Ms. Lin and Ray for reminding me how much further audio reproduction has to go before it could be mistaken for the real thing.
The November issue of Stereophile was new at RMAF and free to Showgoers. We were kept busy all weekend replenishing the stock on our booth, which were literally walking away. But no prizes for spotting the enigmatic suggestion in Eric Swanson's cover photo of the VPI Traveler turntable.
Breaking news this morning is the announcement that the Italian Investment Group Fine Sounds SpA is to acquire 100% of famed US tube-amplifier manufacturer McIntosh Laboratory from D&M Holdings. Fine Sounds already owns the Sonus Faber, Audio Research, and Wadia Digital brands and the Sumiko distribution company.
A highlight for me of Stereophile's 2011 equipment reviews was Kalman Rubinson's report on Sony's SS-AR1 loudspeaker in July. I had been impressed by this unassuming-looking floorstander at the 2009 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, when, courtesy Ray Kimber, I had used a pair for my "Loudness Wars" demonstrationand was equally impressed when I used another pair for a dem of my recordings at Massachusetts retailer Goodwin's High End, in summer 2011. The SS-AR1 costs $27,000/pair and combines a full frequency range with an uncolored, detailed midrange, sweet-balanced highs, and excellent dynamics. "The Sony SS-AR1 is an impressive loudspeaker," summed up Dr. Kal; "it brings the analytical capabilities of studio monitoring to the listening room." So when I learned that Sony had introduced a smaller, less-expensive version, the SS-AR2 ($20,000/pair), it took me less than the proverbial New York minute to request a pair for review.
A press release issued by MSE Audio September 13 announced that William (Bill) Hecht, a died Tuesday September 11 in New York after a brief illness. He was 89 years old. In 1955 Hecht founded United Speaker Systems, an OEM manufacturer of speakers and related electronics, and also founded Phase Technology Corporation with his son Ken. (See Stereophile's positive review of the Phase Technology PC80 speaker here.) Phase Technology was later acquired by MSE Audio.