RMAF 2012

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Art Dudley  |  Oct 19, 2012  |  0 comments
As a card-carrying member of The Insecure, I tend to clam up when I'm around people who are considerably more intelligent or well-informed than I. Consequently, I had embarrassingly little to say in the presence of Bricasti Audio's Brian Zolner, whose understanding of the various digital-filtering choices offered by his company's M1 D/A converter ($8495) was as deep as it was generously and at times even humorously offered. In any event, the Bricasti sounded fine at the front of a system in which a pair of Harbeth HL5 loudspeakers ($5690/pair) was driven by the undeniably beautiful Dan D'Agostino Momentum Stereo amplifier ($25,000).
Art Dudley  |  Oct 19, 2012  |  0 comments
Hawaii-based Emerald Physics—a company I hadn't heard of until RMAF 2012—demonstrated their own US-built loudspeakers and electronics with a Peachtree Audio novaPre preamp–D/A converter playing music files from a laptop computer. Emerald's CS2P open-baffle loudspeaker ($2990/pair) works as a dipole below 1000 Hz, with a 15" woofer and a horn-loaded 1" tweeter. The retail price of the system I heard, including the Peachtree unit; the Emerald Physics CS2P loudspeakers; Emerald's DSP2.4 active outboard crossover/EQ unit ($850); and the company's EPI100.2 100Wpc digital amplifier ($1600) was under $7000, not including computer and playback software. While far from perfect—the bass wasn't especially taut, and there was little in the way of the sorts of texture and tone I crave—the performance was clean, spacious, and satisfying.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 19, 2012  |  1 comments
The big news in Soundsmith land, besides the fact that Peter Ledermann’s fastest top-of-the-line Hyperion cartridge with its cactus spine and diamond tip was making wonderful sound in multiple rooms at RMAF, was the introduction of the Hyperion Mk.II ($7500). Boasting great channel separation, its 10-year warranty includes retipping for the original owner.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 19, 2012  |  0 comments
Having heard the complete Haniwa 24/192 system twice, at two shows, I confess that I don’t get it. The ad for this $18,000 system, which includes 4" speakers, digital preamplifier with channel divider and DSP, and digital amplifier with recording and playback capabilities, proclaims: “An authentic 3D image pops up from sharply focused, high resolution left and right images . . . .Then, an authentic 3D sound should pop up from sharply focused, high resolution right and left channel sounds...” What I hear from digital copies of fine classical analog recordings is bright, edgy sound.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 19, 2012  |  2 comments
John DeVore was using the Well-Tempered Versalex turntable and arm ($4400), a redesign of Bill Firebaugh's classic design.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 19, 2012  |  23 comments
There’s nothing like an active AB demo to convince that something major is going on with Synergistic Research’s increasing arsenal of mind-bending products. In one comparison, Ted Denney and Peter Hansen turned on and off the two Tranquility Bases ($1995/each including MiG supports) which were placed under their Computer Audio system and Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum integrated amp ($2195). The difference in clarity, three-dimensionality, a lower noise floor, and image size was striking. Having a similar effect was turning on and off the Active Shielding on the company’s SR Active Firewire 800 cable ($595).
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 19, 2012  |  0 comments
At every dinner I attended with industry members during RMAF 2012, someone invariably asked, “How was the Magnepan demo?” As I soon learned, it seems that Wendell Diller’s decision to forego exhibiting at consumer shows—since the last Stereophile show in San Francisco, in 2003, he has displayed product only at the annual CES trade event (not open to consumers)—has only heightened buzz around the Minnesotan company’s fabled planar-magnetic loudspeakers.
Art Dudley  |  Oct 19, 2012  |  0 comments
At the end of the first day of RMAF, veteran audio journalist Ken Kessler moderated a seminar titled "High-End Audio: Regaining the High Ground." Some such events—I would go so far as to say most such events—make me feel more like a reporter for Whine Spectator than Stereophile, but this one wasn't bad, and some of the observations expressed on the relationship between education (as in: music appreciation) and industry (as in: us) could actually prove useful. Ken Kessler stimulated the conversation with his own passionately held opinions, and many in the audience responded in kind (if with a little too much wind, in one case). Seen above are panelists Peter McGrath (Wilson Audio), Kathy Gornik (Thiel), Michael Fremer (Stereophile and AnalogPlanet.com), and Roy Hall (Music Hall).
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 19, 2012  |  18 comments
As I entered the second floor seminar room, where I awaited the third of four installments of Stereophile editor John Atkinson’s “Just How ‘Absolute’ Is Recorded Sound?”, I happened upon an energetic exchange between Michael Fremer of Stereophile and AnalogPlanet.com (right) and Roy Gregory, UK Editor of TheAudioBeat.com (left). Mikey was keeping it light, but the issue was real: how do you describe the sound of a component or system without telling listeners and readers what kind of sound they should prefer?
Art Dudley  |  Oct 19, 2012  |  0 comments
Electronics designer and manufacturer Ron Sutherland, who is surely one of the nicest and most upstanding people in our rather motley trade, brought to the show a sample of the brand new Sutherland Insight phono preamplifier ($1400). Essentially, an AC version of the battery-powered Sutherland Ph3D ($1000), the beautifully made Insight uses a well-screened switch-mode power supply, and offers a battery (sorry) of options with regard to gain and loading values, all selectable by means of gold-plated jumpers and pins—which, according to Ron Sutherland, are far better-sounding and more reliable than DIP switches.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 19, 2012  |  2 comments
Vapor Audio’s Rick LaFaver had reason aplenty to smile. Playing M•A Recordings’ fabled CD of Sera Una Noche: La Segunda, his system nailed the timbre of instruments spot on. I was amazed at the depth he achieved from his small speakers, and took special note of the realistic decay of the sound of brushes on cymbals and bells being struck. “The hollow resonance of the percussion seems real,” I wrote in my notes.
Art Dudley  |  Oct 19, 2012  |  1 comments
I've heard TAD's high-tech CR1 loudspeakers ($42,000/pair) on other occasions, at other shows. But they've never sounded as good as they did at RMAF, where they were demonstrated with electronics from a new company called Zesto (a great, un-self-conscious name that sounds like an affiliate of Slusho, the imaginary Japanese soft-drink company created for the 2008 film Cloverfield). The source was a Merrill-Williams REAL 101 turntable ($7200) with Triplanar arm ($5800), Dynavector XX2 MkII cartridge ($1985), and Zesto Andros phono stage ($4300) and Leto preamp ($7500), plus GamuT D200 amp ($6000) and WyWires cabling— which, like the Zesto gear, comes from Thousand Oaks, CA. On selections by Illinois Jacquet and others, this system sounded richly textured and very involving.
Art Dudley  |  Oct 19, 2012  |  2 comments
Thank goodness I wasn't shooting with film: It took several frames to get a decent photo of the Da Vinci DAC ($31,000) from the California company Light Harmonic. But I didn't mind spending all that time trying, as the music was superbly tactile and compelling—thanks in no small part to amplification from KR Audio Electronics, represented at RMAF by the enduringly gracious Dr. Eunice Kron.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 19, 2012  |  3 comments
John DeVore, loved as much for his eagerly anticipated Monkeyhaus musical gatherings, where music new and old wins over hearts and minds, as for his speakers, had a surprise in store for me. After playing an LP of Indian drums, whose depth and resonance were captured wonderfully by the forthcoming high-sensitivity DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 loudspeakers ($7900/pair estimated cost), pictured on the outside of the soundstage, he pulled out a rare Vanguard LP of soprano Netania Devrath singing Yiddish songs. If that name sounds familiar, she’s the very same Israeli soprano who made the extraordinary, dialect-correct recording of Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne that has become an audiophile favorite. In Yiddish, she sounds positively adorable.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 19, 2012  |  6 comments
There’s nothing like a good demo to change one’s opinion of what are now called Harman Luxury Audio components for the better. I had previously heard the pairing of JBL’s visually striking NDD66000 Everest loudspeaker ($60,000/pair) with Mark Levinson electronics at the speaker’s debut at CES a few years back. Although the buzz around the speaker was major, I recall thinking how dark and monochromatic the system sounded, and how it lacked the luminosity and color that I prefer.

Here, by contrast, the sound was some of the best solid-state sound I heard at the show . . .