Not listed in the Show Guide but providing the power in the Fidelis room was the Bully Sound Corporation’s 60S class-A amplifier ($7900). BSC is a new company founded by Brett D’Agostino, son of one Dan D’Agostino, and with the Harbeth Monitor 30.1 speakers ($5995/pair) so beloved by Sam Tellig, JD Souther’s “New Kid in Town,” played with J River Media Center sending the data to Bricasti’s superb M1 DAC ($8495) via USB, sounded sweet. Until I noticed the Stein Harmonizers sprinkled around the room. (You can see one sitting on top of the speaker.) Would the system sound so good without the Steins? I didn’t dare ask, though Mikey Fremer swears they made his system sound worse!
A reader complained recently that exhibitors at audio Shows tend to demonstrate cost-no-object systems. He was rightthey do. As Stephen Mejias has explained, exhibiting at a show is an expensive proposition and most companies go for broke with the systems they show, wanting to get the maximum “Wow factor,” hence return, on that investment.
Colorado retailer Audio Limits was no exception, its large room off the Marriott’s atrium featuring Venture Ultimate Reference loudspeakers ($135,000/pair) driven by FM Acoustics 115 monoblocks ($108,200/pair), an FM Acoustics 245 preamp ($25,800), with the source either a PC laptop running XX High End software, a Weiss Jason transport ($22,7070), or a Weiss Man301 network player ($9083 without DAC), Weiss Medea+ FireWire D/A converter ($21,799) . . .
“I know that is, it’s Prince. I went to school with him!” exclaimed the woman sitting next to me. We were listening to a strangely compelling version of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” in Hear No Evil’s large ground-floor room. I have heard KEF’s flagship Blade loudspeaker ($30,000/pair) on other occasions but never under good enough conditions for me to get a handle on its sound quality. It was different at RMAF. Driven by McIntosh electronicstwo MC601 600W monoblocks, a C48 preamp, and an MCD500 SACD/CD playerwith a PS Audio PowerPlant regenerating the AC for the front-end components and a MacBook Pro supplying the bits, that audiophile classic “Die Tänzerin” from Ulla Meinecke was reproduced with impressive space and dynamic range.
Not only was Stereophile celebrating its first half-century at RMAF, so was British speaker manufacturer KEF with the US premier of its LS50 ($1499/pair) in one of retailer Hear No Evils’s rooms. Driven by Parasound electronicsZDAC, P7 preamp, A21 power ampthe sound was both delicate yet full-bodied. This came as no surprise as reviewing this little beauty, whose single Uni-Q drive-unit was developed from that used in KEF’s flagship Blade model, for our forthcoming December issue was a highlight of my 2012 auditioning.
In the other Hear No Evil room, Kevin Deal introduced PrimaLuna's new DiaLogue Premium Integrated amplifier ($3299). This amp can be fitted with KT66/6L6GC, KT77/EL34, or 6550/KT88 tubes and, driving a pair of KEF R900 speakers ($5000/pair) did sonic justice to Nils Lofgren’s homage to Keith Richards, “Keith Don’t Go.” Source was PrimaLuna’s ProLogue Premium CD player ($3299), which now has a 24/192k-capable USB input based on an M2Tech module as well as the tubed clock circuit used in the earlier Prologue Eight player.
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.