RMAF 2012

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John Atkinson  |  Oct 21, 2012  |  0 comments
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.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 21, 2012  |  1 comments
Styled to resemble Sonus Faber’s cost-no-object “The Sonus Faber” flagship design, the new Sonus Faber Venere range of speakers made its debut at RMAF. Costing $2498/pair, ie, around less than 2% of the big speaker’s price, the Venere 2.5 was demmed with an Audio Research DSI200 class-D integrated amplifier ($5995), a Wadia Model 121 decoding computer ($1299), a Pro Ject Xtension turntable with Sumiko Blackbird cartridge ($3699) a Pro Ject Phono Box ($999), and Pro Ject’s new Stream Box ($1999). The LP of Jeff Buckley’s classic album Grace was reproduced with appropriate impact and a color-free tonal balance. Even considering the relatively affordable price of the system, this was still one of the better-sounding rooms I heard at RMAF.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 21, 2012  |  0 comments
No, I’m not talking about one of the young women who always seem to drive Stephen Mejias to distraction at shows. Rather, I’m speaking of Estelon’s Model XB loudspeakers ($32,900/pair). Designed for more modestly sized rooms, this Estonian speaker was producing realistic, full-range sound courtesy of Vitus Audio’s SM 010 monoblock amplifiers, SL 102 preamplifier, and SCD010 CD player. Power Conditioner was Silver Circle Audio’s Tchaik 6, cabling Kubala-Sosna’s Elation, and rack and feet from Stillpoints.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 21, 2012  |  1 comments
Anders Ertzeid, VP of Sales and Marketing for Hegel, introduces the Norwegian company’s new H300 integrated amplifier ($5500). This amp includes a 32-bit DAC, 5 digital inputs and 5 analog inputs, and uses a high-precision clock circuit said to eliminate jitter.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 21, 2012  |  11 comments
One of the final rooms I visited at the 2012 RMAF was Sony’s. An as-yet-to-be-named floor-standing speaker was being demmed with Pass Labs amplification, Kimber Kables, and a Mytek DSD-capable DAC, taking data over USB from a laptop. The speaker has much in common with the superb SS-AR2 that I reviewed in October, but is shorter and, as can be seen from Jason Serinus’ photo, has an intriguing array of two supertweeters above and below the tweeter.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 21, 2012  |  0 comments
Denver retailer Gold Sound’s room featured the Focal 836W speakers ($4500/pair), a three-way design related to the French manufacturer’s 826W Anniversary Edition speaker that Robert Deutsch enthusiastically reviewed in November 2010. Driven by a Cambridge Audio 851A integrated amplifier ($1795) and a Cambridge 851C CD player ($1795) and hooked up with Crystal cables, this relatively affordable system punched above its weight, producing a big, naturally balanced sound.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 21, 2012  |  2 comments
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!
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 21, 2012  |  1 comments
Sunday afternoon is always the slowest time at an audio show, but you couldn’t tell it from the room dominated by Hsu subwoofers. In the only room I encountered on floors 4 and 5 of the Atrium that was playing action DVDs or Blu-rays, the movie’s obligatory, super-hyped explosions were resonating far outside the door. In what I take to be a statement about popular culture and the American obsession with violence, the darkened room was so packed that there was no way I could even stand in the doorway.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 21, 2012  |  8 comments
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 electronics—ZDAC, P7 preamp, A21 power amp—the 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.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 21, 2012  |  1 comments
When I entered the DEQX room and experienced a neutral, almost full-range sound, I assumed I was listening to the Gallo Reference speakers. But no—it was the $80 pair of RadioShack PA horns in the room corners that were playing, corrected in the digital domain with the latest DEQX DSP processor, the DEQX Mate. This is an analog in-and-out (XLR and RCA), two-channel processor that goes between the preamp and power amplifier. Bypassing the DEQX Mate resulted in the squawky balance I would have expected from the horns, with no lows or highs. Switching the DEQX Mate back in-circuit gave a sound that was evenly balanced, with good HF extension and enough upper bass to sound convincing. Color me gob-smacked!
John Atkinson  |  Oct 21, 2012  |  2 comments
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).
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 21, 2012  |  3 comments
In two adjacent rooms, GTT Audio & Video showcased systems dominated by much-admired YG Acoustics loudspeakers. In the smaller set-up, the diminutive YG Acoustics Carmel ($18,000) joined the excellent PS Audio PWT Memory transport ($3500), Devialet D-Premier all-in-one DAC/Phono Stage/Integrated amp ($16,000), and Kubala-Sosna Research Emotion interconnects and speaker cable ($3000/first meter) and power cables ($1100/first meter). The chosen material, Jascha Heifetz’s classic recording of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, sounded excellent, but the system’s clarity drove home to me that he was playing so fast that much of the soul of the music was lost.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 21, 2012  |  0 comments
I’ve come to expect three things from Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio: great music, great sound, and great set-up. The music came first. With the new Joseph Audio Pearl3 loudspeakers (introductory price $28,500/pair) singing their hearts out, the timbres of Ben Webster and Gerry Mulligan’s saxophones were gorgeously conveyed. The same goes for the massed voices on Cantata Domine’s Scandinavian language version of “O Holy Night,” which was a favorite classical demo track at RMAF for exhibitors with analog rigs.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 20, 2012  |  3 comments
Assistance Audio, North American distributor for BMS, was showing off the company’s drivers. As I was soon to learn, Lacoustic, JBL, and Volti are but three of the audio manufacturers that use BMS’s drivers in their products.

The company’s Jack Arnott explained that BMS’s drivers can be found everywhere from soundstages in LA to naval paging systems and home audio installations. “I’m using my own cabinets so you can see what’s inside,” he said. “I am using Home Depot speaker cable because I am selling speaker components, not speaker cable." Well, I must say that both Tony Bennett and K.D. Lang’s duet on “La Vie en Rose” and the opening chorale from Glenn Gould’s second recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations sounded quite beautiful.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 20, 2012  |  2 comments
Not only do Metronome electronics and Rethm loudspeakers seem inextricably bound together by a common musical cause, but they also make great sound. As we await notification of model numbers and prices, as well as other components and cabling in the chain, I recall the warmth and beauty with which this system conveyed soprano Elly Ameling’s radiant voice. Rethm’s single-driver loudspeakers didn’t plumb the lower reaches of the piano as do other loudspeakers with dedicated woofers and intelligent crossover and cabinet design, but the sound of the system’s mids and highs was superb.