When I walked into the On A Higher Note room at RMAF, Philip O'Hanlon was playing Doug McLeod's There's a Time LP, our May 2013 "Recording of the Month," and very good it sounded too. Turntable was a Brinkmann Bardo fitted with a TriPlanar 12" tonearm and a Brinkmann Pi cartridge, with a Luxman L590X integrated amplifier ($9500) driving the superb Vivid B-1 loudspeakers ($14,990/pair) that I reviewed in October 2011. Cables and power conditioning was by Shunyata.
The very first room I visited at the 2013 RMAF was Sony's, where they were demonstrating the HAP-Z1ES hi-rez file player ($1999) that I reported on in September. This neat device features a 1TB internal drive, Ethernet and WiFi connectivity, and can be controlled by an app running on a tablet or phone. It will upsample any format to double-DSD as well as handling native single-DSD and double-DSD files. It comes preloaded with 20 hi-rez albums from Sony, Warner, and Universal and the goal was to make file playback as easy and as fast as playing a disc. It doesn't, therefore, allow playback from a computer or NAS but a rear USB port allows the internal storage to be supplemented with an external drive.
"Gauder?" I pondered as I went into the room shared by German electronics manufacturer AVM and speaker manufacturer Gauder Akustik, "I know that name." And when I met speaker designer Roland Gauder, I remembered why the name was familiar. Roland Gauder was the designer of the Isophon Europa II loudspeaker that Larry Greenhill had favorably reviewed for Stereophile in April 2004.
I have listened to Legacy's Aeris loudspeaker at earlier shows this year, but this impressive tower ($17,750/pair) sounded better at RMAF. Driven by an AVM SA8 stereo amplifier ($13,880) an AVM PA5.2 tube preamp ($5650), and AVM CD5.2 tube CD player ($6995) and wired with Morrow cables, the system reproduced the Crash Test Dummies' "Superman's Song" with authority.
I mentioned in my coverage of Steve Silberman's Computer Audio Seminar that I had been frustrated by the inability of the otherwise superb Marantz Reference NA-11S1 network player that I reviewed in October to handle every file format I sent to it. Following the seminar, I bumped into Steve in one of Colorado retailer Listen-Up's rooms where he just happened to have the Marantz players, hooked up, of course, with AudioQuest cables and with a Marantz integrated amplifier driving Sonus Faber speakers.
"I don't want you to talk about the nuts and bolts of computer audio, FLACs and DACs and files, etc, but to talk about the impact the computer has had on high-end audio," said AudioQuest's Steve Silberman when he asked me to be on the Saturday lunchtime panel session he was organizing for RMAF. Titled "Computer Audio and Beyondthe Ever-Shifting Landscape of Hardware, Media, and Content Providers," the session featured (from right to left in my photo), as well as Silberman, Joe Harley of AudioQuest and Music Matters, Chris Connaker (ComputerAudiophile.com), Matt Ashland (J River Media Center), Gordon Rankin (Wavelength), and Matt Green (Logitech/Ultimate Ears).
One of the joys of audio shows is the unexpected encounter. I wandered into the Positive Feedback Online hospitality room toward the end of the first day, drawn by the rumor that they had some high-end coffee on offer to ear-weary showgoers. And there, sipping on some truly first-rate, hand-roasted java, I bumped into Swedish recording engineer Jan-Eric Persson. Persson, a Blumlein-miking purist, has been responsible for some of the most gloriously natural sounding recordings on his Opus 3 label, first on LP, then on SACD. PFO had a system set-up in their room, courtesy of Jonathan Tinn of Blue Light Audio, comprising Evolution MMMicro One speakers ($4000/pair) and a Playback Electronics IPS-3 D/A amplifier ($13,000). I took a listen to some of Jan-Eric Persson's recordings, transferred to double-DSD from analog tape and was, in a word, gobsmacked by the sheer beauty of what I was hearing.
Mytek Digital's Michal Jurewicz (facing camera) was busy all weekend, demonstrating both his company's new Stereo 192-DSD DAC FireWire D/A converter (see "Music in the Round," July 2013) and his 8-channel DSD A/D converter. The latter was being used with an Ampex open-reel recorder just out of shot.
The Marriott's lobby area was packed with booths, with exhibitors actively engaged with showgoers all weekend. Shown here is the booth shared by The Cable Company and sister company Ultra Systems, which was opposite the Nordost Sort Füt booth Jason Serinus wrote about below. Ethan Wood is helping an audiophile through the process of using his computer as a high-end audio source while Robert Stein looks on.
"What is this music?" asked Jason Serinus (above).
We were sitting in the VTL room, where a pair of Wilson Alexia speakers ($48,500/pair) were being driven by VTL's S-400 stereo amplifier ($33,500), TL-7.5 Series III preamp ($20,000), and TP-6.5 phono preamplifier ($10,500 with transformer).
"It's 'Lose Yourself to Dance,' my favorite track from Daft Punk's Random Access Memories LP," I whispered...