RMAF 2010

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Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  1 comments
Due to all the positive reviews Emerald Physics loudspeakers have earned, it took several attempts over a three-day span until the crowds in the two Emerald Physics rooms had thinned down enough to allow a brief listen.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  0 comments
Stereophile editor John Atkinson in a pensive mood as he listens to Jonathan Reichbach of Sonic Studio/Amarra speak at the start of the Advances in Computer Audio seminar JA chaired on Sunday morning.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  3 comments
New York-based Nola was showing its Metro Grand Reference speakers at RMAF ($25,000/pair). Combining a Raven ribbon tweeter and a 4" midrange, both mounted on an open baffle, with two 6.5" reflex-loaded woofers, this slim tower, driven by an Audio Research Reference 210 power amplfier, Reference 5 preamplifier, and CD8 CD player via Nordost cabling, produced more bass than I thought possible, given its modest drive-unit array. The response is specified as being 6dB down at a low 26Hz. This was one of several systems at RMAF using the Quantum QX4 AC treatment device from Nordost.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  1 comments
Big does not mean five figures in Jolida's book. The most expensive equipment in their main exhibit on the second floor of the Marriott Tower were the Phase 6 Tape Deck from United Home Audio ($15,000) that was playing master tapes from The Tape Project, the Von Schweikert factory-direct VR33 loudspeakers ($3750/pair), and the Fosgate tube phono preamp ($2500).
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  2 comments
Elsewhere in this blog, Stephen Mejias enthuses about the Kaiser Kawero loudspeakers ($66,000/pair). I first encountered these loudspeakers at RMAF 2008's Kaiser/Echole exhibit extension in the nearby Hyatt, and have coveted them ever since. Optimally paired and internally wired then and now with Echole's excellent cabling, as well as with modded tube amps that had been re-wired with Echole, the sound of this system was so large, rich, and true that it blew me away. Stephen's summation—"This system, more than any other I heard at RMAF, seemed to bring the musicians and instruments into the room with really impressive body and force"—rings true.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  27 comments
When I reported in our report from the 2009 RMAF that I perceived a degradation when Ted Denney of cable manufacturer Synergistic Research removed his tiny ART devices from the room, it triggered a debate that raged not just in the comments following that report but also in our website forum right up to today. The fact is that these small metal bowls are too small to have a significant effect on the acoustics of a room at frequencies below 10kHz or so, yet they seem to improve the accuracy and stability of stereo imaging and even tighten up the sounds of bass instruments. It is a mystery, therefore, how these devices can work. I have conjectured that perhaps they have an effect on the listener’s state of mind rather than the acoustics, but if so, then I don’t comprehend how that effect can be both repeatable and demonstrable. Whatever they do—if they do anything, that is—therefore, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went into my final room at the 2010 RMAF, the Synergistic room.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  2 comments
Here's an up-close look at the Merrill-Williams Audio table featured in the Quad room. The base is made of Rubber Elastomer Acoustic Laminate (aka R.E.A.L.—got it?), and the platter of Bakelite resin composite. tHE outboard power transformer, clamping ring, etc. are not pictured. Despite its English-sounding name, the company is based in Memphis.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  2 comments
Despite the recession, which hit the world of high-end audio hard in 2009, every Show features many new brands. One such was Emillé from South Korea, named after a 10'-high, 18.9-ton bronze bell cast in that country in 771AD, using the "lost-wax" process. Shown in my photo is the Emillé Rapture tube monoblock power amplifier, a zero negative-feedback design that uses four 6550 output tubes to produce 110W into 8 ohms at 2% THD. Emillé products are being distributed in the US by Solos of Cerritos, CA.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  7 comments
Perhaps the best sound I heard at RMAF was in the large room on the mezzanine shared by Dynaudio, XLO, and Wadia. The Dynaudio Confidence C4s ($20,900/pair), which I first reviewed in March 2003, were sounding as good as I remember them sounding in my own room, perhaps even better. The rest of the system was obviously high-class: a Wadia 971 CD transport ($17,950) fed Wadia's Series 9 Decoding computer ($33,450, comprising the 931 controller and dual-mono 922 DACs), which in turn fed Octave MRE130 tubed monoblocks from Germany ($16,000/pair) sitting on Grand Prix amp stands. Cabling was all by XLO. The 130W Octave amplifiers use two pairs of KT88s in push-pull and the wideband output transformer has a single tap. The amp can also use 6550s or EL34s, and an accessory "black box" increases the B+ storage capacity.
Stephen Mejias  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  0 comments
I enjoyed a conversation with Jude Mansilla, founder of Head-Fi, organizers of the CanJam conference which was sort of tucked away in the Marriott’s grand Rocky Mountain Event Center. The entire perimeter of the space was occupied by long tables, each showcasing headphones and headphone accessories from companies such as Sennheiser, Head-Direct, JH Audio, Ultimate Ears, CEntrance, Grado, Audeze, and Ray Samuels Audio.
Stephen Mejias  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  0 comments
After walking me through the Naim Uniti display, Naim’s David Dever then ushered me over to a second Naim room where the company was showing off its new NDX network player ($4750, shipping this November).
John Atkinson  |  Oct 21, 2010  |  0 comments
"Good grief, those look like Apogees," I muttered as I went into the Analysis Audio room and saw the Analysis Omega planar-ribbon speakers ($22,000/pair). Driven by Arion HS-500 hybrid monoblocks ($5995/pair), which combine a tube input stage with a class-D output stage, the speakers sounded a bit too warm in the upper bass on Jennifer Warnes version of Leonard Cohen's "Way Down Deep," but this could well have been a room effect. The soundstaging was to die for, in terms of stability and accuracy.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 21, 2010  |  2 comments
I ended Saturday's incredibly packed tour of the 15 rooms on the Marriott Tower's 10th floor with a stop in Musical Fidelity's room. It was a good choice. This was the first room at the show where I pulled out Channel Classics' superbly recorded hybrid SACD of the Ebony Band Amsterdam performing a unique arrangement of Revueltas' elemental, gutsy, phantasmagorical Sensemaya. The sense of air was immense, with amazing soundstaging that belied the small size of the room. I also loved the height of the soundstage, and the deep reaches of the bass. But as much as I savored the presentations' air and depth, this hardly laid-back system sounded a bit tipped-up in the highs, a common factor in many of the smaller rooms at the Marriott.
Stephen Mejias  |  Oct 21, 2010  |  2 comments
Aperion Audio introduced their new Verus Grand line of speakers: the Verus Grand Tower ($1798/pair), Verus Grand bookshelf ($598/pair), and Verus Grand center channel ($699), all with very nicely finished, curved cabinets in attractive high-gloss cherry or piano black lacquer.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 21, 2010  |  0 comments
Departure Audio seems to take their name seriously. In a system fine-tuned by Shakti Hallographs (the candelabra-like devices at the edges of the photograph) and the infamous you know whats from Synergistic, the Fort Collins dealership was showing Canton Reference 7.2 loudspeakers ($7000, presumably for the pair), Herron Audio's VTSP-3A preamplifier ($6550) and M1 power amps ($6850, presumably for the pair), Arcam CD 37 ($2295), Blue Circle Audio BC 507 DAC ($2095, with options available), Audio Magic cabling and Oracle power conditioning ($7500). The sound was clean and incisive, which means somewhat tipped up. I would have stayed to explore more, but constant conversation in the room led me to take Departure Audio's name literally.