RMAF 2013

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John Atkinson  |  Oct 17, 2013  |  0 comments
The KingSound King III electrostatic loudspeakers ($12,000/pair) sounded superb at RAF, without the sweet-spot beaming I would have expected from their width. Amplifier was the 120Wpc, $6500 Innamorata from Wells Audio that I first heard at the 2013 Newport Beach Show, with an EAR 868 tube preamp ($7395) and Kaplan cables. Source was the latest Sound Science Music Vault M7 ($5595) with an Antelope Zodiac Platinum DAC with Voltikus power supply ($5500). Analog source was a Townshend Rock 7 turntable ($3900) fitted with an Ortofon Rondo Blue cartridge ($879).
John Atkinson  |  Oct 17, 2013  |  3 comments
John Wolff's Classic Audio company has been a fixture at audio shows the past few years, always showing his beautifully made speakers, combining hornloaded midrange and highs with big paper-cone woofers, most recently using field-coil–energized drivers. This year John was demming the T-3.4, which combines a field-coil–energized midrange unit, with a 4" beryllium diaphragm loaded by a wooden horn horn with a 2" throat, with a pair of 15" woofers operating below 500Hz, one firing forward, the other at the floor, and a "Ultra-High-Frequency" supertweeter operating above 12.5kHz.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 17, 2013  |  1 comments
My sleeping room at the Tech Center Marriott was next to the Jeff Rowland Design Group's sound room. The night before the show started, though I wasn't kept awake, I was puzzled by the low-level, low-frequency noises coming through the wall. When I went into the room after the show had begun to take a listen, JRDG's Lucien Pichet, who for many years had been a stalwart at Avalon Acoustics, explained that they had been breaking in the system. This comprised Raidho D1 speakers, driven by the Continuum S2 400Wpc integrated amplifier ($9800) via Cardas Clear cables, with source the Aeris D/A processor ($9800) hooked up to a Bryston BDP-1 file player. The components were supported by one of the impressively built Harmonic Resolution Systems racks.
Stephen Mejias  |  Oct 17, 2013  |  0 comments
If you’re going to spend time scrubbing records, the task might as well be made fun and easy. That seems to have been Jonathan Monks’ goal when he designed the new discOveryOne record-cleaning machine ($2495, base price).
Stephen Mejias  |  Oct 17, 2013  |  2 comments
The Antelope Audio Zodiac Platinum DAC ($5500, including Voltikus power supply and remote control), seen here in the shadow of the wild Rubicon, utilizes the company’s 64-bit clocking technology, supports sampling rates up to 768kHz, and plays DSD files. It offers both analog and digital inputs, including balanced analog XLRs, unbalanced analog RCAs, AES/EBU, two coaxial, two Toslink, USB, and a 10MHz input for Antelope’s Rubidium Atomic Clock. Dual front-panel 1/4" headphone jacks, an analog volume control, and a spiffy app for PC, Mac, and mobile devices add to the fun.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 17, 2013  |  0 comments
Lovely, warm and delicate sound, unmistakable tube bloom, and fantastic percussive impact distinguished my brief time in this room. Danny Richie of GR-Research’s open-baffle, line-source LS-X loudspeaker system ($39,000/pair), which includes two integrated servo-controlled subwoofer towers, mated extremely well with Dodd Audio’s battery-powered 34Wpc monoblock power amplifiers ($2900/pair plus battery and charger) and tube amplifier ($1199 plus battery, charger, and tweaks), and a Mac-based computer source feeding a not-yet-released dB Audio Labs Evolution DAC ($1495 or higher). Cabling was from three companies (Triode Wire Labs, PI Audio, and Electra Cable), and power conditioning from PI Audio.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 17, 2013  |  0 comments
Zesto first made its name with its Andros PS1 tubed phono preamplifier that Michael Fremer raved about in his April 2013 "Analog Corner" column. Then they launched the $7500 Leto tubed line stage, which Bob Reina will be reviewing in our February 2014 issue. Now they have the Bia 120 stereo power amplifier ($12,500), which uses a pair of autobiased KT88s per channel to produce 60Wpc. In a system featuring a Merrill Williams Real 101 turntable mounted with a TriPlanar tonearm and Dynavector XX2 cartridge, and TAD Evolution One speakers ($29,800/pair), I auditioned Steely Dan's classic "Hey Nineteen," which not only sounded superb but also got me thinking that the young girl who "don't remember ('Retha Franklin) the Queen of Soul" would now be 52!
John Atkinson  |  Oct 17, 2013  |  2 comments
The very first room I visited at the 2013 RMAF was Sony's, where they were demonstrating the HAP-Z1ES hi-rez file player ($1999) that I reported on in September. This neat device features a 1TB internal drive, Ethernet and WiFi connectivity, and can be controlled by an app running on a tablet or phone. It will upsample any format to double-DSD as well as handling native single-DSD and double-DSD files. It comes preloaded with 20 hi-rez albums from Sony, Warner, and Universal and the goal was to make file playback as easy and as fast as playing a disc. It doesn't, therefore, allow playback from a computer or NAS but a rear USB port allows the internal storage to be supplemented with an external drive.
Stephen Mejias  |  Oct 17, 2013  |  1 comments
I was as surprised as everyone else who walked into the MSB room to find the company’s Universal Media Transport Plus ($5995), Diamond DAC Plus with Diamond Base ($34,000), and 200Wpc Platinum Stereo S201 amplifier ($17,995) driving the enormous SoundLab M1PX loudspeakers.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 17, 2013  |  1 comments
Daedalus Loudspeakers has been a loyal exhibitor at RMAF, along with ModWright Instruments and WyWires. Their system showcased the Ulysses v.2 speakers ($14,950/pair) driven by a ModWright KWA 150 Signature amplifier ($8495), with the front-end a pre-production prototype ModWright Elyse DAC (price TBD) fed data from a ModWright-modded Oppo disc player, and ModWright LS 36.5 two-box preamp with tube-regulated power supply ($9995). Cables were WyWires PLatinum interconnects (from $1495) and Silver Series AC cords, with Daedalus/WyWires speaker cables. The Ulysses uses two full-range Fostex units for its midrange, combining it with twin tweeters and two proprietary 8" woofers with paper cones and corrugated surrounds originally designed by Daedalus 20 years ago for musical instrument use.
Stephen Mejias  |  Oct 17, 2013  |  0 comments
I first met Gary Gesellchen and Rick Kernen, the duo behind Vanatoo, at the 2012 Music Matters event, held at Definitive Audio in Seattle. At the time, Gesellchen and Kernen, who, through prior business relationships and active participation in the Pacific North West Audio Society, have known each other for 28 years, were just bringing their design to market. Now, the Vanatoo Transparent One powered loudspeaker ($499/pair) seems fully realized.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 17, 2013  |  2 comments
Wandering into the Blackbird Audio room, whom do I encounter but audiophile legend Dean Peer giving Trenner & Friedl’s Pharoah loudspeakers ($13,000/pair) a major run for the money. While learning that the speaker’s plywood cabinet is bottom-ported, and that it has a horn-loaded compression tweeter and 8" paper-cone woofer, Dean played various impossibly deep runs, leaps, and scales to discover that the speakers in fact react quite fast, and extend down to the subsonic level. Very very cool. I’m afraid I didn’t hear much else in the system—apologies to Heed Audio, Cardas Audio, Profundo, Colleen Cardas Imports, Unison Research, and Opera Callas loudspeakers, among others—but I sure had a great time.
Stephen Mejias  |  Oct 17, 2013  |  0 comments
Astell&Kern’s AK10 portable DAC ($299) measures 2.1 ” W x 2.1 ” H x 0.5 ” D, weighs just 1.8oz, and comes with an attractive leather case. It uses a Wolfson WM8740 DAC, capable of handling 24-bit/96kHz data, and is compatible with iOs (iPhone 5 and 5th generation iPod Touch) and Android (Galaxy S3, S4, Note2, Note3) operating systems. Its USB 2.0 input means it can also be used to improve the sound of music files stored on your Mac or PC—just send the output to your headphones or stereo. Inspired by turntable design, the silver circle atop the AK10 is actually a volume control: spin it to raise or lower the volume. Sweet.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 17, 2013  |  0 comments
Dennis Fraker of Serious Stereo was having a ball playing his favorite Eagles Farewell 1 Tour–Live from Melbourne Blu-ray on an older Pioneer Elite Blu-ray player, Serious Stereo Ultra-Dynamic Attenuator ($2800 FOB), a pair of Serious Stereo 2-stage direct-coupled amplifiers ($15,750 shipped), and Serious Stereo loudspeakers boasting Altec 604 duplex 15” point-source transducers ($13,800/pair FOB). I wouldn’t call the sound audiophile nirvana, but it sure was a fun change of pace. Would have loved to have heard the components with the latest Oppo.
Stephen Mejias  |  Oct 17, 2013  |  3 comments
One of our favorite small desktop loudspeakers has been significantly revised. Audioengine’s new A2+ powered loudspeaker ($249/pair) is scheduled to ship on November 1. Upgrades include a built-in 16-bit Burr-Brown DAC; variable subwoofer output; and improved binding posts, AC connection, and power supply.