RMAF 2016: Ascending to Floor 5

Before me, the name Auralic. Inside the room, that company's new Polaris wireless streaming amplifier ($3800), paired with Ryan R630 loudspeakers ($5000/pair). Outputting 120Wpc into 8 ohms and 180 into 4 ohms, the 10 lb Auralic Polaris supports PCM up to 384/32 and DSD up to 256. Containing a wireless streaming unit, optional internal music storage, DAC, phono stage, preamp, and amp, it does almost everything but wash windows. Happily, you won't need it for that, because I found it delivered a clear as well as nice-sounding rendition of Beethoven's Eroica, as preserved on a 24/88.2 file played by Andrew Manze and the Helsingborg forces.

To these ears, DSD material seemed even more successful, with a file of the Adagietto from Mahler's Symphony 5 sounding quite liquid, with far more depth and spaciousness than I would have expected from a system in a small space. Color me impressed. Voters in the Rocky Mountain International Press Awards 2016 were also impressed with Auralic, as I was to discover when I attended the awards ceremony on Friday evening (blog to follow).

Things got a bit confusing in the SweetVinyl room, because no sooner did I begin to listen to their SugarCube SC-1 ($1500) and SC-2 ($2000) LP noise removers-recorders than Michael Fremer entered. At that point, all attention was focused on him. (Can't blame them, really.) The presenters attempted to compare the before and after performance of their units, which are designed to remove the sounds of clicks and pops from damaged LPs. Alas, even as we were trying to listen, the folks demonstrating the gear kept talking, which necessitated Michael shifting into alpha mode to figure out what the hell was going on.

I learned that, of the two units, it's the SC-2 (the lower gray unit in the photo) that looks up the metadata of the recording being played/treated and identifies it. The cleaned-up sound of pop-ridden vinyl seemed undiminished in quality from the sound of the untreated recording, at least on this mini system in this small room. How it would sound on a big reference system is TBD. The units are not yet distributed, awaiting the results of an Indiegogo campaign. Given their promise, I hope the campaign is successful.

In yet another fifth-floor room to feature Ryan Audio loudspeakers—in this case, the smaller R620 model ($3500/pair)—Vincent Audio's SA-T7 tube stereo preamp ($2499.95) and SP-T700 tube mono amplifiers ($1995.95/each) joined an Aurender N100H music server ($2699.95); Auralic Vega DAC ($3499); Pangea Audio interconnects, power cables, Octet power distributor, and RV400 audio rack; and Cardas Audio Clear Reflection bi-wire speaker cables…all to produce really nice sound. A Red Book file of Fink's "Trouble's What You're In" exhibited lovely colors, while a DSD file of the late Erich Kunzel playing the Polonaise from Boris Godunov exhibited more of the same, plus smoothness for days.

"Smoothness for days"? Uh-oh. Now I sound like Jana talking about her favorite Scotch. Best to move on to my shots of the next rooms…

As Herb has already mentioned in one of his blogs, everyone wants press, but not everyone takes the time to put together a coherent equipment list. Hence we sometimes end up with scattered sheets of paper that we struggle to piece together, only to later discover that information on some essential gear is missing. Or, in the case of at least two rooms I visited—blogs yet to come—we end up with scrawls on the backs of business cards, and hope that we don't lose them.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, but he does not necessarily come equipped with pen and paper to write down all that he's carrying on his sleigh. Hence my mini-collection of scrawls was accomplished with one of my extra pens, because those exhibitors didn't even possess such old-fashioned instruments.

The paranoia-inducing scenario of potentially misplacing scribbled notes of all sizes that are handed to me during the course of an audio show brings to mind the time that I pieced together my entire book, Psychoimmunity & the Healing Process: A Holistic Approach to Immunity & AIDS, on a Royal manual typewriter. The only way I could edit interviews was by cutting them apart and then repasting sections in chosen order on blank sheets of paper. Each time I sneezed, I feared whole dialogues would be lost forever.

That little tidbit from the life of JVS was brought to you by the same network that brings you that cult reality TV show, Life with the Three Rabid Terrorers. Given that none of them is running for President, having ceded that honor to a still more rabid beast, we now return to our regular programming…

I first discovered Resonessence Labs of Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, three or four years ago at RMAF. I expected to hear the same great sound as before, but this time it was overly warm and smooth. In particular, a 24/96 file of cello and piano—I missed the title—seemed rolled off on top.

Along with Resonessence Labs' "next generation" Veritas DAC ($2850), with the latest generation ESS Sabre Pro series chips, and their Projecta "enhanced class-A" 100Wpc amplifier ($50,000), which claims "substantial heat reduction," the system included a prototype Resonessence streamer, Clarity cables, and Pari Passu loudspeakers ($50,000/pair) from Tokyo, Japan. (The speakers are not yet distributed in the US.)

Pari Passu's literature says "Since 1900." Does that leave you as curious as I to discover exactly what they're referring to?

Another overly warm, extremely smooth presentation was delivered by the Rogers High Fidelity Model 34S-1 integrated amplifier ($19,999) and PA-1A phono stage ($7300). These were mated with Focal Sopra No2 speakers ($15,000/pair), a VPI Avenger turntable ($12,000) with VPI 3D-printed tonearm ($4000) and Ortofon MC A95 cartridge ($6500), Transparent Audio cables ($11,000), PS Audio Power Conditioner ($5000), and Box Furniture equipment rack ($4500).

Emile Vos of Colorado was on hand to unveil the Vos Loudspeakers ($50,000/pair, 6 weeks order time, $20,000 deposit). Sold manufacturer-direct, this open-baffle, line-source, 4 ohm design, which includes a slew of Dayton AMTs (Air Motion Transformers), is ideally mated with Vos subwoofers ($90,000/pair, 10 weeks order time, $35,000 deposit). You get $5000 off for buying the whole system (that entails a different deposit and waiting time), but you also need a (recommended) 70Hz crossover that is not supplied.

The speakers were powered by a NAD Master Series amp ($4100) and preamp ($3000), with eight Dayton amps on the subs ($500 each). Source was a Marantz Super SACD player. In the first room to play the Eagles' "Hotel California" during my visit, I found the bass exaggerated. My SACD of Mahler's Symphony 9 yielded toned-down highs and unfocused bass. These speakers clearly needed a bigger room in which to sing.

This time, in the third appearance of Ryan loudspeakers on floor 5, it was the large Ryan Tempus III loudspeakers ($15,995/pair) that strutted their stuff. Paired with Cardas Audio Clear Beyond and Clear cabling, an Aurender N10 music server ($7999), and PS Audio's DirectStream DAC ($5999), BHK Signature preamplifier ($5999), BHK Stereo 250 amplifier ($7499), and P10 AC power regenerator ($4999), the system was handicapped by a preponderant midrange.

Perhaps this had something to do with the setup on the long wall. (What do I know? I only work here.) What I do know is that an interesting progression of tracks—Bruno Coulais's "Norbu," Madeleine Peyroux's "If the Sea Was Whiskey," and an arrangement for guitars of de Falla's La vida breve—was, for me, more smooth than involving.

Allen Fant's picture

A really nice higher-end review of systems- JVS.
Happy Listening!

Pryso's picture

Was this photo intended for this placement? The Janszen speakers are ignored in the text and you discuss vinyl although I don't seen any vinyl playback components.

So Jason, what's the story?

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

what they tell me. In virtually all cases, Stereophile runs one photo per room. The vinyl playback components were on the side of the room, and could not fit in the photo, especially when any attempt to take such a photo would have necessitated ordering everyone away from the chairs and equipment. No information on the Janszen speakers or the playback chain was provided. As I said in the blog, once Mikey entered, I was ignored. The exhibitors are welcome to fill in the blanks.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

David Janszen tells me we heard JansZen Carmelita
electrostat hybrid loudspeakers ($4495/pair).

philipjohnwright's picture

Of the written kind..........take a photo of them, then you can't lose them.