Articles

Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2013

ARTICLE INDEX

Piero Gabucci Reporting in...It's a Wrap!

This year's show proved to me that digital audio, at the highest level is finally here. Some might say it was inevitable or already prevalent, but the audiophile world is not apologetic about it anymore, in fact embraced. The irony is that I've never seen so much analog at a show either. The mix of sources and playback gear is astounding. We heard turntables and reel-to-reel, we heard CD's and SACD's, we heard digital music from laptops, SD cards and servers. I saw more DAC's, table top and portable. Digital formats included standard redbook mp3 and flac, high resolution at all levels and DSD native resolution and even BluRay. Headphones galore, with Class A amps! I haven't heard so much room correction for a two channel show before - the music world is alive and well, thank goodness!

Jim Clements and I visited every room and went back to many of them over the few days. Hope that you liked some of our videos on Google+. Jim has presented a very complete picture of this year's RMAF and I wanted to add some additional images and input as a final wrap of the show.

Parasound Halo

Although Parasound's CD 1 player has garnished a lot of attention this last year, the new P 5 preamplifier has mine. A replacement to the popular P 3, the P 5 offers adjustable high and low pass crossovers, balanced inputs and outputs, a built in DAC and digital inputs. Retail should be around a grand once available in November.

Bryston

Unsatisfied with just producing significant hardware Bryston has dabbled with speaker design. Last year's Model T has turned into an entire line called the HT Series. This speaker hardly befits its name as the Mini T bookshelf at about $2,500 plus the stands. I heard clean full sound with plenty of bottom end.

DeVORE FIDELITY

Brooklyn, New York based speaker designer was auditioning it's line called Oragutan, a highly sensitive speaker designed to be powered by low powered tube gear. A sensitivity of 93 dB and rated at 10 ohms, I liked the simplicity of design and enjoyed listening to it. The O/96 sells in the $12,000 range while the more affordable O/93 at about $8,400.

Sadurni Acoustics

All kidding aside, these sculptural, floor-sitting horn loaded loudspeakers are impressive. I appreciated the modest volume playback but at just 2.5 watts the sound was truly pleasurable. The separate subwoofer array placed behind the speaker is referred to as ABW, or Added Back Wave. The "system" begins around $25,000 and can climb to $40,000. Bring a crane, they each weigh in the 500 pound range.

SST Audio

SST Audio gear is visually stunning. This Russian brand tube gear is expensive but it looks it. I'd give it "Best eye-candy" of the show as the design aesthetic was a collaboration with Zagato Studio in Italy. "The Essence" is a single-ended class A 40wpc monoblock. I should mention the Volti speaker Alura A15, 3-way featuring a wood midrange horn and a 15" base driver. Based in Maine, the stunning lacquer-finished rosewood cabinet speakers sell for $13,900 for the pair. A truly great sounding room.

VTL

Luke Manley was on hand to audition their new S-400 Siegfried Reference II amplifier stereo version at $33,500. Paired with Wilson Alexia $48,000 speakers, the amplifier is rated at 300 watt, triode switchable to 150w and left me drooling, almost literally. I went back to listen several times.

Joseph Audio

I suppose it's expected for a $31,000 speaker pair to sound amazing, but the Pearl 3 was exceptional in looks and performance. There were a handful of speakers I'd say I'd love to take home, those were one of them. Using a VPI classic direct drive turntable and Jeff Rowland Design Group amplifiers, my notes read, "Clear, open, accurate with a full bottom dynamic." Even loved the Elvis!

Raven Audio

JJ and I marveled at these beautiful tube amplifiers made in Groveton Texas. Expect JJ to review the Silhouette monoblocks at $12,995 and the Preamplifier at $13,995. But they had beautiful units starting at $1,495 with a 20 wpc Nighthawk. I omitted the bad image I took but JJ got a superb image which is included here.

VELOCE Audio

A few rooms included YG speaker for paring their amps. Veloce audio llc showed and auditioned their Lithio Series Saetta hybrid amplifier. With a Class A tube driver stage and solid state output. By making this a hybrid battery/AC system, it removes AC noise for a lower noise floor, I though the room sounded clean and detailed.

Dynaudio

Always a favorite stop of mine, Dynaudio introduced the Excite Series with the X34 3-way floorstanding speaker that will retail for $3,400 per pair.

Along with a modestly powered 40 watt tube amplifier from Octave in the V40SE at $5,300 entertained me with a rich and dynamic sound.

Also pictured is the X38 at $4,500 per pair.

Antelope Audio

Just stunning in design, introduced last year, the Rubicon Atomic AD/Da preamp, atomic referring to the atomic clock said to be 100,000 times more accurate. 384 kHz, DNLA streaming, analog and digital input/outputs galore. Don't recall the actual price, somewhere in the $40,000 range.

Also, their Zodiac Platinum DSD 768 kHz DAC, the poor image doesn't do it justice. With the power supply about $5,000.

EMM Labs

With the total cost of the room around $275,000, yes that's more than most pay for a house EMM Labs played SACD in recorded 4 channels. Although the music was amazing, the room may have been slightly too big to fully appreciate the surround sound. The technology used to record in 4 channel is called IsoMike or Isolated Microphones - 4 microphones are suspended separated by IsoMike baffles.

Neat Acoustics

Even I was struck by the hot pink speakers from Neat, the Motive SX2 at $2,395, but the sound was coming from the $995 Iona speakers on the back stands. Sonneteer provided the Sedley USB phono preamp at $1,495, the Byron CD player at $2,795and Orton Integrated amplifier at $3,795. Vinyl playback from the VPI Scout 2 turntable and Dynavector cartridge, $2,400 and $850 respectively.

Nola Speakers

I've never come away from listening to New Jersey based Nola speakers disappointed, in fact always impressed. Fine detail from a ribbon tweeter, magnesium gold bass drivers, the Metro Grand Reference is finished in rosewood. Audio Research (found in many rooms) provided the amplification and cables from Nordost.

Jeff Rowland Design Group

A number of rooms included Jeff Rowland amplifiers. The image shows how from a single block of aluminum that a chassis is cut. The optical illusion wavy faceplate is unmistakable.

Krell

Audio Video Logic included in their room Magico S1, a two-way, $12,600 per pair speaker with an aluminum cabinet. I was stopping by to see the Krell audio player in the Connect at $2,500, ($3,500 with the on-board DAC). I loved the display of course. the other equipment included the Krell Phantom III preamp at $5,500, CD player S-350A $2,500 and EVO 2250E power amp rated at 250 wpc @ 8 ohms, $8,000.

Audio Alternative

This was a great sounding room with Dan D'Agostino Momentum monoblocks and pre-amps, Vandersteen 5A Carbon Loudspeakers , the new Rega RP-8 turntable and Audioquest cables.

Devialet

One of the beautiful pieces, and there were many including Wadia Intuition, is the french made Devialet D-Premier which combines Class A and Class D power.

Sony

Sony's audio reputation has skyrocketed in the last couple of years with the SS-AR1 and AR2 loudspeakers. Their commitment to two-channel audio continues with the high resolution audio player at $1,999 shipping later this year.

The Sound Organization T.S.O.

The group showing in a couple of rooms included the Naim NAIT Series integrated amplifiers from $1,800 for the 5si and $2,900 for the XS2 and SuperNAIT 2 at $4,900. Add the Naim network music player and a pair of Dali Epicon 6 loudspeakers at $13,995 for the pair.

PMC also very impressive with their beautifully finished Fact 12 at $19,500 for the pair. Rega's new RP8 turntable, $3,995 with cartridge and new integrated amp, DAC, CD transport, and phonostage made for a rich, articulate presentation.

I did admit to the good people at T.S.O. that I'd become more familiar with their line up thoroughly. Loved what I heard in both rooms.

PSB with NAD

The Lenbrook Group pair teamed up to deliver an exceptional demonstration that Paul Barton presented himself. The PSB Imagine T2 that I reviewed powered by the unique NAD D7050, $999 digital integrated amplifier that should say more about what audio components will look like in the future.

Thorens

Just because, I liked the new Thorens complete table for $1,499!

JBL and Mark Levinson

JBL's M2 sounded amazing with Mark Levinson equipment. "Master Reference" monitor for those who like that professional studio accuracy. I didn't catch the price but wow, impressive.

Rogue Audio

Last year I marveled at the Sphinx Integrated Hybrid Amplifier, 100 wpc into 8 ohms for under $1,500 which powered one room on the other side of the hotel, while the new Pharaoh integrated Hybrid powered a different room. The price is $3,495 but such a great value in my book.

And now for the "other" stuff that caught my eye, and ear....

Stillpoint

This audio rack is just a thing of beauty! Talking to Stillpoint's Bruce Jacobs who shared some thoughts about it with me, I was struck by the elegance and technical simplicity. American made, the ESS rack can be customized to any component configuration you need.

At this show they cleverly showed their Stillpoints products as graphics for acoustic room treatment.

MIT or Music Interface Technologies

If you're into hardcore cable technology, MIT can help you, because you have a problem. But these new reference audio cables called Oracle MA-X Super HD speakers cost $53,000.

Marigo audio Labs

Marigo displayed the newer version, the Ultima High Definition Signature Mat at $239. Thinner and lighter than it's predecessor, it will work with all disk formats for improved audio and video.

Finally met the man behind the Marigo Ron Hedrich. Merigo makes cables as well as the mat but was showing the beautifully conceived and fabricated Mystery feet. $799 will buy you a set of 3, since that is the minimum to support a speaker or component. Each turn will produce a different sound Ron articulates.

DEQX

Speaker and room calibration DEQX paired their Premate DC/DSP/DAC room calibration with a VPI Scout turntable, an Apple MacBook Pro and Mac Mini, Plinius amplifiers and YG Acoustics Kipods. The changes in EQ'd and not EQ'd is subtle but adds a bit of refinement especially in the mid range.

DSPeaker

More room correction with this totally customizable system with the Dual Core for $1,099. The tiny screen is controlled by a remote that offers a significant configurability.

Dupuy Acoustique

The Daisy Reflector, or should i say three of them stacked is said to improve clarity is placed directly between the speakers and practically over the components. Shown with their Conga 3 way speaker and equalized by the DSPeaker mentioned above.

Some additional photos I just liked, but didn't have time to write about.

Audioengine

The new A2+ powered speakers for $249 for the pair

JBL Everest

Not new but always impressive to look at and listen to!