Discovered in Denver...

The RMAF T-Shirt Award of 2018 goes to Denver's own Chris Hoffman, whom I spied on the ground floor of the Denver Marriott Tech Center. "I'd been threatening to make this T-shirt for a couple of years," he confessed after being caught in the act. (For more on this subject, please see my piece "Don't Play it Again, Sam!" from the September 2016 Stereophile).

At the press conference sponsored by Sony Corporation and Acoustic Sounds, Marc Finer, Director of Communication Research, Inc., introduced speakers Hayami Robise, Acoustic Engineer, Sony Corp., Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds, and Tomoaki "Tomo" Sato, Senior Electrical Engineer, Sony Corp. (pictured L to R, above). The men from Sony introduced two forthcoming high-end products they helped design: The transportable DMP-Z1 Signature Series Digital Music Player ($8500, due in January), and the IER-Z1R in-ear headphones ($2200, also available in January).

The DMP-Z1 will play native DSD up to 11.2MHz and PCM up to 384kHz/32bit, as well as MQA. It sports a customized analog rotary volume controller, and includes a dual DAC with the Asahi Kasei Microdevices AK4497EQ DAC chip, and an analog amplifier for high headphone output power. To reduce noise, the unit has five battery cells with separate digital and analog power systems. Music lovers have the option of using the DMP-Z1's DSD Remastering Engine to convert PCM into DSD5.6MHz. The unit comes with 256GB internal storage plus dual micro SD card slots that expand memory up to 1TB. It also includes a Bluetooth receiver.

The three drivers in the IER-Z1R in-ear phones include a 5mm dynamic driver constructed with an new aluminum-coated LCP (Liquid Crystal Polymer) diaphragm and external magnetic circuit, a 12mm dynamic driver with a magnesium alloy dome, and a balanced armature unit with a magnesium alloy diaphragm. Together, they can reproduce signals up to 100kHz. An optional Kimber Kable cable is available.

At another pre-show press conference, this time presented by Mark Levinson, Terence Dover, Senior Global Production Manager, Harmon Luxury Audio, and Jim Garrett, Senior Director, Product & Strategy Planning for the same (shown L to R, above) unveiled two units available in the first quarter of 2019: the new Mark Levinson No.5802 integrated amplifier ($7000) with fully discrete PurePath circuitry, built in Precision- Link II DAC with ESS Sabre 32-bit D/A processor, headphone amp, Bluetooth receiver equipped with AptXHD, and dual-mono class-AB amplification; and the Mark Levinson No.5805 integrated amplifier ($8500). The latter boasts fully discrete, direct-coupled, dual-monaural, class-A preamp circuitry, Precision-Link II DAC, class-A headphone amp, 125Wpc class-AB amplification, and all the other features of the 5802. Both units can play back PCM up to 192/32, DSD up to DSD5.6, and MQA.

Here's a look at the handsome system described above…

In the Ponderosa Room on the lobby level of the Marriott, The Audio Alternative of Denver presented an extremely musical system in which VTL joined with Vandersteen Audio and AudioQuest.

The system described above occasionally included VTL's brand new 2.5 phonostage ($3750), seen here in the left-hand equipment stack, below the VTL TP-6.5 Signature phonostage with MC step-up ($12,000).

In an A/B/A comparison between the two phono preamps, in a setup that also included VTL's S-400 Series II Reference Stereo power amplifier ($33,500) (which won a Rocky Mountain International HiFi Press Award on Friday evening); Vandersteen Model Seven MKII loudspeakers ($62,000/pair) with Sub Nine Subwoofers ($18,900) and Vandersteen Model 7 System 9 Granite Upgrade ($10,000); AMG Viella turntable with 12JT Turbo arm and cable ($23,750) and Lyra Atlas phono cartridge ($11,995); AudioQuest Niagara 500-0 ($3999) and Niagara 7000 ($7,999) Low-Z noise dissipation systems (the latter also won a RMAF International HiFi Press Award), both connected by AQ Hurricane power cords and Wind, Dragon, and Thunder audio cables; HRS RXR audio stands with all trimmings; and Bryston digital equipment that I didn't audition, the more expensive TP-6.5 offered more air around solo instruments, increased depth and bite, and, most important, far more fleshed-out and individuated instrumental lines. Both preamps, however, shared the same sonic signature in a very open, clear, and full-range presentation that included very tight bass and extremely good musical flow.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It would be nice if, Srereophile could do binaural video recordings of some of those different audio systems, like they used to do before :-) ...........

Bodhi's picture

Check out Johny Darko's page. Jana Dagdagan (ex-Stereophile) posted a binaural recording of the new $80k Devore Fidelity O/Ref's fyi & will be posting more binaural recordings in future -

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Thanks for the suggestion and the link :-) ............

markbrauer's picture

Please, for the Love of God,
Start Producing Pop and Rock Recordings
Engineered to Playback with Truly Excellent Sound
Like Those Of
Diana Krall
Patricia Barber
That One Nils Lofgren Song
And All That Music Old White Guys Use
To Test and Demonstrate the Full
Dynamic Capabilities of Hi-End Systems

dalethorn's picture

I don't have a lot of Diana Krall, but my brother (a jazz musician) and I agree on the Live in Paris album as Diana's best overall sound, yet to me the bass is rather boomy there. I wonder about the other albums, and what I would have to give up of the sensual pleasures of Live in Paris, to get a less boomy bass line.

Bodhi's picture

Dale, If you like Live in Paris, check out ‘The Look of Love’ (XRCD24 or 180gm vinyl). I have the XRCD24 which is a good recording and sounds balanced (ie: not boomy) to me & has a similar sensuousness to Live in Paris, If a little lower tempo. Elusive Disc should have both versions.

dalethorn's picture

I ended up with the 1993 recording/2016 remaster of Stepping Out. Not sure I like the remastering yet, but it's different enough being an early effort for her to be a good complement to the later albums I do have.

johnnythunder's picture

If you like Diana Krall, you like engineering more than music. Sorry to be judgy and I know to each their own but DK is to music what Crate & Barrel is to high end design. If you want to listen to well recorded guitar sounds while retaining one's musical integrity, give the Stones LET IT BLEED a spin again.

johnnythunder's picture

Hanging in the Wire has everything an audiophile would want. The recording is magical - layered and the instrumentation is original. The music is profound and important. Her voice sublime. I have never heard this song at an audio show and it speaks volumes about the utter banality of the music heard at shows,

dalethorn's picture

Let it Bleed is a great album, but the gods of high-res need to get busy cleaning up the Jamming With Edward tapes for re-release, as those are coincident with the Let it Bleed recordings. It Hurts Me Too, despite odd vocals by Mick, has some amazing guitar, piano, harmonica etc. etc.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"You can't always get what you want" :-) ...........

dalethorn's picture

Stones -- Stray Cat Blues.
Mott the Hoople -- Sucker.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Shake it Off" :-) ...........

dalethorn's picture

"I'm called a hit-and-run ***** in anger, the knife-sharpened tippy-toe .... the one you never seen before"

vclements's picture

Do recording engineers feel if they are in-front of a 64+ track board that they must use all 64+ tracks to create recordings that are as devoid of air and space as possible?
In the words of Dennis Hopper (I think) "Simplify man, simplify"

RH's picture

...please, no more Buddy Guy or other such blues that for some reason only older white male audiophiles seem to love.

Throw Dead Can Dance into the pot too.

dalethorn's picture

Big time. And some of Lisa Gerrard's other work.

RH's picture

I always really enjoy your show reports.

I hope you will get to hear and report on the new flagship "O" series speaker system being introduce by Devore Fidelity.

The squat, Devore 0/93 and 0/96 speakers, beloved by a number of Stereophile writers, have impressed me lately and Im wondering what an all out update of drivers and design has rendered to that series.
It looks intriguing, with additional upper frequency drivers and a "double speaker" system, one set I presume doing like duties.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

It will take a while for the report to go up, but it will.

RH's picture

Great to hear, thanks!

Anton's picture

I'm sniffing a Nirvana song coming up...

That's a cool shirt, and I get it. However, we don't expect PROFESSIONAL journalists covering a news event to require fine snacks to be better enabled to report the news or any certain variety of uniforms to enable sporting reports; so, why would we ever tolerate narcissistic and self-involved correspondents demanding any particular variety of programming material in order to properly cover an audio show?

Heck, one could better argue for every room playing the same cuts so as to maximize a listener's opportunity to compare attributes.

I hope we will be spared dilettantish bloviating from audio professionals whose job it is to describe sonic experiences rather than having to sift through yet more mewling martyred musings about how sick they are of any given recording.

I know we skew older, but sometimes it starts to smell like Teen Spirit when professional reviewers find themselves too verklempt over hearing Patricia Barber (or Hotel California) again to be able to adequately describe what he or she is hearing.

"We demand good sound and further demand you only play music that surprises and delights us according to our individual idiosyncrasies" should not be an exhibitor's problem.

Rant over, pet peeve.


dalethorn's picture

Well, the Barber (Patricia) sounds great in room A, but Lofgren sounds great in room B (no Barber in room B to compare), so what to do? Better buy both systems...

DougM's picture

Don't they play old white guy music because they're the only ones who can afford $50k amps, $100k speakers, $20k turntables with $10k cartridges, and $3k power cords? And doesn't anyone use Norah Jones's first album for demos anymore?

PAR's picture

" require fine snacks to be better enabled", " bloviating " " verklempt "


T.S. Gnu's picture

A dictionary might help expand your vocabulary, and it quite nice to be rather more than functionally literate in one’s first (or, in many cases, even second) language. A response of "Eh?" In the age of more knowledge at one’s fingertips is symptomatic of a larger problem than comprehension of polysyllabic words.

^ "polysyllabic"


tonykaz's picture

I was just playing my rather large collection of Diana Krall while working on some detailed specification descriptions.

Thanks for letting me know that She's kinda banned from Audiophile Circles, I'll keep my Krall a secret from now on.

Is Jamey Johnson safe ?

Tony in Michigan

ps. I heard that Acoustic Sounds was about to do a Krall release in 33.3 200gram. What gives?

dalethorn's picture

Krall releases are mandatory, like hurricane evacuations. Some people refuse to go along, but what can you do?

tonykaz's picture

Oh Dear, are we now required to select our music based on our love of God?

What Music does God require us to listen to?

I suppose God will limit us to a few Mozarts and a Ferde Grofe and chase us away from the near Satanic stuff of Electronic Guitars screaming distortion to extremes.

We will all need some guidelines on this matter pretty dam soon since our Supreme Court is being taken over by the Religious Totalists.

Does anyone know what Music God will NOT ALLOW ? for gods sake!

Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

Smooth jazz, hopefully.

theguyinthetshirt's picture

Correct, it has nothing to do with God. Search Chris Farley for the love of God on Google and you will see what I was going for.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Diana" .......... Paul Anka :-) .............

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"I'm Coming Out" ............ Diana Ross :-) ..........

dalethorn's picture

"Why are we driving into a ....." -- [crash, boom, splat] -- Diana, Paris tunnel, 1997.

Metalhead's picture

Guess I better buy an album by Diana to see what the deal is.

I think Patricia Barber is a fantastic and thrilling artist with the recordings capturing much of the magic. God, would love to catch her live.

BUT, for a demo could I please hear Rickie Lee Jones debut or Pirates. AND, if possible on mofi please.

Have to leave, have to find out if Giles has been tied to stake and burned yet for messing with the White Album.

Priaptor's picture

I love it.

Who does Stereophile think goes to these shows? DUH, Old White Guys.

Archimago's picture

I see the typical female vocal genre whether Krall, Barber, Jones, etc. as simply "audiophile" demo music. Nothing to do with "white guys".

If you go to audio shows in Asia for example, you'll still hear these types of songs prominently even if there might be some regional variation (eg. Olivia Ong, Tsai Chin, Jacintha...). Nothing wrong with playing well engineered female vocal tracks where you get goosebumps because it sounds like the gal is virtually singing in the room. It speaks well for the gear when a company is showing off their latest and greatest in a hotel room! And isn't *that* why audiophiles go to audio shows - the hardware??? Want new music? Go hang out at Pitchfork.

Hey guys, as a Vancouverite, get off my home-girl (she was born in Nanaimo, close enough) Diana's back will ya :-)? She's great live in concert...

ok's picture

..but demonstrating/evaluating home systems using exclusively audiophile muzac is like judging a car by its ability to smoothly perform in an empty racetrack on a warm sunny day.

dalethorn's picture

Guys with the money, who are not always old or white.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Youth is a blunder, manhood is a struggle and old age is a regret" ........... Benjamin Disraeli :-) ..........

dalethorn's picture

Youth is frustrated energy, manhood is energy spent creating wealth, and old age is wealth spent getting revenge.

MrMikeGC51's picture

I attended the RMAF for the first time.

Some observations:

We don't need some old white guy telling us what is cool and not. On the other side I was discouraged by the lack of interesting newer recordings played in the various rooms.

Glad they are changing the hosting venue to something closer to the airport. For those of us who flew in and stayed elsewhere, it was a lot of time and money wasted on commuting.

Venders could of been a bit more open and friendly to the guests who frequent their rooms. Not that they were rude as a whole, but not always inviting either. If we aren't spending money on gear, we definitely know people who are.

Among the best sound I heard was the PS Audio Room (even if they played digital files as I tend to prefer analog), the Conifer Room with the Rockport speakers and the Focal room on the main floor.

Disappointing was the VTL/Vandersteen room. I wanted to like this room as I own or have owned products from both of these companies but the sound was not as full as I had hoped. When the gain was increased the speakers were easily overwhelmed, this at relatively low volume. Maybe a problem with the room or the hookup, not sure. But I walked away very disappointed.

Loved the CanJam!!!! Lots of great new and exciting products in the headphone arena.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Why not play Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Adele, Taylor Swift, etc.? ........ Young white guys may like that music ? ...........

dalethorn's picture

Crap on $100k speakers is still crap.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I appreciate Archimago's observation that the same "audiophile-approved" tracks are heard at audio shows and dealerships throughout the world, regardless of people's race or national origin.

MrMikeGC51: I believe the Focal room you're speaking of is the one with EMM Labs electronics. I'll be writing about that tremendous system, and also reviewing their forthcoming DAC. Also, from everything I've heard, the new venue will be a major improvement on every level. You are not the only one who hates the commute. I took Lyft this time, because Super Shuttle is so poorly organized in Denver.

Despite the commute, I remain amazed that more people don't come to Denver for RMAF. Rooms are far less crowded than at AXPONA, and a huge number of companies display here.

I am also astounded that, with all that's been coming down this week politically and environmentally, so many people could get so upset by a single t-shirt. Have we all lost the ability to laugh at ourselves?

dalethorn's picture

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Ok, just don't throw any ice while sitting at the bar :-) ............

Anton's picture

Hint: nobody is actually upset. We are joking around on a Hi Fi forum.

With all that’s going on in the world, why start dropping f bombs like a faux outraged jurist?

Metalhead's picture

Please play that gentleman with the T-Shirt some Dark Side of the Moon on the demo system

khande24's picture

The lack of diversity in music at these shows is also evident in Stereophile. Scrolling back the last 10 pages of posts I can only find music-related articles on orchestral/symphonic/jazz music and a post about the Allman Brothers. Are other genres simply ignored because they don't meet a particular "audiophile standard" that only orchestral or small ensembles meet? As a music lover/audiophile/crate digger seeking to expand the types of music I listen to, I find the narrow scope of music discussed here deflating. I have amazing sounding albums in hip hop, indie rock, electronic, post punk, reggae/dub, neo-soul, afrobeat, tropicalia, krautrock, etc. Discussion of these diverse genres is relevant and would also appeal to younger audiences. Just my two cents.

dalethorn's picture

I'd rather get my music tips from people who love the specific music they love, and who love how it sounds on their systems. For diversity, I cruise a variety of sites where a few individuals here and there recommend what they feel passionate about. To expect that kind of diversity in one place with a similar passion expressed for each genre or sub-genre is asking for what cannot be, or cannot meet a high standard.

khande24's picture

I like getting music tips from those kinds of people too. Stereophile should hire them. Their current group of writers, as much as I enjoy reading their gear reviews and respect their knowledge, is not at all diverse in age/race/gender, and it reflects in the lack of range in music presented. I see this as an area where the publication can improve. I want Stereophile to thrive and spread this audiophile hobby to people from all walks of life. I wouldn't expect every genre and sub-genre to be discussed equally in depth, but a little more than classical, jazz, and overplayed classic rock would be appreciated.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Points well taken.

There was a lot of current pop music in multiple genres playing in the Classic Album Sundays room at RMAF, as well as in some of the other rooms I visited. While it isn't always to my taste, I'm always open to taking a listen (unless it's burning my ears, which it sometimes does). I always laugh when manufacturers see me entering the room and quickly put on Mozart. I laugh equally hard when they offer me their playlist or their pile of LPs, and it's clear that no one has added anything classical since 1992 or, in the worst case scenario, the age of Living Stereo. Only three rooms offered me "The Dance of the Tumblers" this time around. Heaven help us all.

But I digress. Stephen Mejias occasionally contributes reviews to the print magazine (whose reviews are different than those online). If you are a qualified reviewer of new pop music, and you are equipped to evaluate it for sound quality as well as musical value, why don't you submit samples of your work to John Atkinson?

khande24's picture

Hi Jason! Thanks for the response and your observations from RMAF. That’s funny about them throwing on Mozart when you walk in.

I do enjoy creative writing and have contributed to some music sites in the past. I’ve built my current system based mostly on components rated Class A, so I feel confident I could properly evaluate sound quality as well.

I’ll put together some samples and reach out to John!


Jason Victor Serinus's picture

A thumbs up emoji would suffice, but the website insists that I use words instead. Yoo hoo, website. An emoji is worth a thousand words. Even if it isn't....

dalethorn's picture

Forced or "strongly encouraged" diversity doesn't work well with art and music. Stereophile is a good source, and doesn't need to be a breeder for artificially-induced diversity. When the right person comes along they'll be hired, then it's up to the readers to make 'em or break 'em.

DougM's picture

I wasn't criticizing Norah Jones's first album. I think it's both sonically and musically excellent.

chuckles304's picture

I'm the young white guy. 33 years old. Never been to an audio expo, but it's on my bucket list.

Never heard of Patricia Barber, Nils Lofgren, or Jamey Johnson. If I attended RMAF and heard classic rock coming from some room it certainly wouldn't draw me in. Probably 80-90% of the artists mentioned on Stereophile (jazz/classic rock genres specifically) I've either never heard of or can't stand.

But, if there were RMAF rooms playing If These Trees Could Talk, Apoa, Distant Dream, Agalloch, or Kerretta (instrumental post-rock) that would certainly get my attention. Hell, the Mozart would get my attention too, but so would some Correlli, Telemann, Vivaldi, or anything pre-Beethoven. John Playford, too (early Renaissance). Definitely could spend some time with his music.

I don't expect any in-depth post-rock reviews here but JVS's Baroque and earlier music recommendations send me scurrying for copies of it.

I'm sure this will get me in trouble, but what the hell is Dead Can Dance?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If you haven't already got one, you could get a subscription or free ad supported streaming internet radio(s) service(s) ......... You can find most of those artists ........ Just a suggestion :-) .........

chuckles304's picture

Pandora is exactly how I found most of what I named.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You could also try Spotify ........ They have both free and paid streaming sevices ......... I think they have wider selections ...........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The 800 lb gorilla is Apple Music streaming service ......... They say that, they have more than 40 million tracks/songs :-) .........

If you are an Amazon Prime member, they have music streaming service included in the price :-) .........

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

reviewing less than CD quality files for Stereophile does not make sense. You can't hear all that's on the recording. I stick to hi-rez whenever possible, and I work very hard to get those files. I just phoned the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, for example, in an effort to get hi-rez files for review. I want to review more new music.

chuckles304's picture

I didn't mean to imply Pandora was my primary listening source. I mainly use it (and sometimes YouTube and Bandcamp) as a means of research for finding new music. Stuff I like I get from HDtracks if they have it and I can afford it, or I buy the CD. My NAD M51 makes Pandora (even paid Pandora) sound like dog doodoo compared to your average CD quality file.

I guess I'll try some Dead Can Dance tonight....

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Dionysus, on November 2. Both CD and vinyl and, I expect, streaming and hi-rez download.

chuckles304's picture

Didn't hate them. Didn't love them.

Can see why Dead Can Dance would be popular for use as a demo track, though.

funambulistic's picture

I preordered the deluxe set (vinyl, CD, book). DCD has been one of my favorites since '93, when I wandered into a music store (remember those?) and Into the Labyrinth was playing. One of the few times in my life that I was completely blown away from something so new - yet old, somehow - and different!

Jason Victor Serinus's picture Tidal has a ton of albums. I expect the same for Qobuz.

Catcher10's picture

When I go to a dealer to audition gear, I take music that I listen to regularly. I feel the same, please no more Enya type atmospheric music that sounds fine on pretty much anything.
Play me some Rush, Genesis, EW&F and Prince.....(I doubt they do though)

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Ella and Louis and the Dean Martin LP from Acoustic Sounds are equally deceptive, because they sound so good on so many systems.

Stardust Emblem's picture

The audioshows i visit, there is always the posibility to request the music visitors want to hear.