While at the CAN-JAM area I did get a chance to sample the OPPO HA-1 headphone amp and PM-1 headphone combo that John Johnson wrote so highly about in his Secrets review last year. What a great sounding combination. Completely effortless musical reproduction. I wonder if I could smuggle these out along with Piero’s “missing” Burmeisters?
Going back to ELAC for a moment, Chris Walker teased a prototype stereo integrated amp that he and Andrew Jones are working on that will be hopefully ready come time for CES 2016. The nitty gritty on it is that it will put out 100 watts per channel (2) of Class D amplification. It also will have a subwoofer output that will perform some crossover functions instead of just leaving the mains full range as is found on a number of current integrateds so equipped.
There was talk of this little box also performing some kind of subwoofer room calibration as well. It will also have the standard optical and coaxial digital inputs along with USB as well. Maximum sampling rate that this box will work with is 24bit/96kHz. This little integrated gave every impression of being a veritable Swiss Army knife of functionality when it’s complete. I hope they can pull it off.
Something that had caught my eye in the Legacy Audio room was this unassuming box labeled the PowerBloc 2. It’s a new stereo power amplifier based on IcePower Class D technology. What started making my eyes water were the claimed specs. Dial mono bloc design, 325 watts into 8 ohms and 650 watts into 4. THD is 0.005 + N @ 1 kHz with a 30 amp per channel peak current rating. Dynamic range is 117 dB and it only costs $1400.00……Bill, I want two please!!!
The Vanatoo Transparent One active bookshelf speaker was reviewed by Secrets back in 2012. Reviewer Mark Vignola found a lot to like about these little gems and I would concur with his assessment. One speakers has a pair of 60 watt amplifiers and the other is concerted to it as a slave unit. The master speaker has a full suite of digital inputs including USB. When playing music they had a great lively quality with a surprising amount of bass for a pair of little boxes. The secret behind that trick is the patented XBL motor design in the long throw 5.25″ woofer coupled with the matching sized passive radiator in the rear. For $500.00 a pair, they are a great sounding choice for when space is at a premium.
The Emerald Physics room was featuring the new KC II open baffle loudspeaker in a stunning hand painted and finished Cocobolo look ($2499.99).
The system was powered with their new EP100.2SE hybrid digital power amplifier. It also had an Anti-Mode Dual 2.0 acting as a preamp with a modest CD player as the source. The system sounded open and spacious. I could have sat there for a long time.
Another fantastic sounding room featured the Alta Audio Rhea speakers in a pretty rosewood finish ($4495.00).
They also had a La Sacla mark2 NOS DAC ($5600.00), amplification by Nuprime REF20 monoblock amps ($7600.00), and with an Antipodes DX server as one of the sources.
GamuT can always be counted on to have a great sounding room and RMAF was no exception. The little stand mounted GamuT RS3 just belted out a huge soundstage with vocals to die for and bass that was really impactful. At $20,000.00 a pair they should also be able to serve me coffee and make my breakfast to order! Electronics were also mostly made by GamuT.
The Audio Pathways room had one of the most eye catching speakers of the show. The Avantgarde horn speaker with an active (1000 watt) DSP controlled bass section. At $63,000.00 a pair they do make quite the statement. The electronics were from Avantgarde and Sutherland, and the turntable was from Bergmann Audio. The sound was lush and spacious.
Mundorf is a name synonymous with fine quality crossover parts; capacitors, inductors, etc. They have never been known for entire speakers. That is, not until now. In honor of their 30th anniversary, Mundorf has released a speaker kit that almost anyone can put together. Complete with assembled crossover and cabinets, you just have to connect some wire and install the drivers. The kits feature a custom made air motion tweeter and an Accuton ceramic mid woofer. Kit price ranges from $1750.00 – $1950.00 a pair depending on the quality of crossover parts. They sounded very detailed and revealing when powered by Benchmark electronics. Pair them with a good subwoofer and you’ve got a killer system.
Don’t take pictures of me when you’re wearing headphones…that’s dangerous! :)
Popped in to visit NAD and PSB speakers. Being featured, were the PSB Imagine T3 loudspeakers ($7496.00 a pair) powered by the NAD M12 Digital Preamp/DAC ($3499.00) and an M22 Stereo Power Amplifier ($2999.00). A simple, elegant and great sounding system.
The MoFi Distribution room was sporting some excellent sounding gear. Beginning with an exquisite looking turntable by Avid UK, we then had electronics by Balanced Audio Technologies. Also present was the DA1000 DAC from TAD and finally a pair of TAD Evolution One Loudspeakers. I just completed a review of TAD’s Compact Evolution One speakers and they were something else. These big brother models were something else and then some!
The Benchmark Media room was making some great music with their DAC2 HGC (DAC/preamp) at $1995.00, AHB2 power amp ($2,995.00) and SMS 1 bookshelf speakers ($2450.00).
A very clean and dynamic sounding system through and through.
The Mytek Manhattan DAC. $4995.00
Specs: It basically does it all.
Preamp function: yes sir.
Summary: If The Great Gatsby had a DAC, it would be this one.
In the Devialet room listening to the Phantom Silver active networked speakers. These things are something truly different. They have a concentric driver in front with two horizontally opposed drivers on the sides in a completely sealed, ABS enclosure. All you need to add is a source. They are $2350.00 each and are rated from 16 Hz to 25 KHz. The internal amp is rated at 3000 watts. They sounded impressive for their size and the bass was insanely good.
Back in the Linkwitz room to hear the LX 521 loudspeakers. Available as a kit as well, they require 10 channels of amplification and are controlled through a Mini DSP unit for crossover function. The kit is available through Madisound for $2793.00. You supply the elbow grease and amps. Siegfried Linkwitz mentioned to me that since the LX 521a were introduced the Orion sales have gone down because the LX 521 are easier to assemble, less expensive and sound just as good. Strong statement from the man who helped develop the Linkwitz/Riley crossover!
Currently in the Linkwitz Lab room and listening to the modest looking LX Minis. There is NOTHING modest about their sound! It is frankly unbelievable to me that such bass and sound staging is coming from these skinny little tubes! The speakers use 2 channels of amplification per side and a DSP crossover. 50 watts x 4 will power them sufficiently. They are sold as a kit with the DSP for under $700.00. You supply the labor and the amps. Do it! You won’t be sorry. They are stupid good!
Wyred 4Sound was showing off the Thoebe II preamp and the Son of Ampzilla II power amp. Carrying on the in the spirit of the late James Bongiorno, these newly designed components look and feel solid while having some interesting features. The Thoebe II is a modular design with optional DAC and phono stage boards that can be added. The Son of Ampzilla II is a fully balanced design that puts out 220 watts per channel into 8 ohms, 350 watts into 4 ohms and is stable down to 2 ohms.
The Technics Hi-Fi room had both the stand mounted SB-C700 and SB-R1 tower speakers playing choice selections from the SU-R1 Network Audio Player. The player is connected to the oh-so-cool looking SE-R1 stereo power amp with just two CAT-6 Ethernet cables. These sounded great when I saw them at CES and still sounded great here.
Sitting in the Focal/Naim Audio room in the lobby level just marveling at the sound coming from the Focal Sopra 1 stand mounts combined with the Naim NAC-N 272 streaming preamp, Naim amplification and power filtration.
30 grand buys you the lot, including stands and much grinning!
The McIntosh room looked and sounded superb! Gotta love the classic look of those big blue VU meters.The bass coming out of those slender speakers was astonishing!
Kharma Elegance Double Nine Signature speakers- $37,000.00 a pair
Tube electronics by Zesto Audio
Turntable by REAL.
Steely Dan sounds sweet on this!
Gorgeous sound and gorgeous equipment at the Joseph Audio room!
Speakers: Joseph Audio Pearl-3: $31,000.00 a pair.
Turntable: VPI Industries Avenger: $30,000.00 with three tone arms. Electronics by DSA (preamp and phono preamp) and Parasound HALO (mono bloc amps)
Lush and lovely sounds coming from the Volti Audio room, for all you horn lovers out there. 25 grand for the speakers and subwoofer.
This is the Boulder Amplifiers demo room. It featured components like the Boulder 865 integrated amplifier ($14,000) and the Boulder 2120 DAC / network media player ($65,000). The 2120 is built like a tank and is DLNA compliant. The LCD display is 5″ x 11.5″. The speakers are Chario Academy Sonnet loudspeakers ($7,500/pair stands included).
This is the new AKT1 from Astell and Kern. It is a lifestyle system that features a built-in Astell & Kern media player and a sound bar. The media player can’t be removed for portable use but that might be a nice enhancement on the next version. The system is DLNA compliant and retails for $3,800. It will be available late October 2015.
Here is the Astell & Kern AK500N network audio player. This ultimate media player supports one-click CD ripping and realtime PCM to DSD64 conversion. It runs off of an internal battery during playback to eliminate any noise from the AC power supply.
It also has a four bay solid state drive array and supports 1 TB, 2 TB and 4 TB SSD drives in RAID 0 and RAID 5 configurations for maximum redundancy and data protection. It starts at $12,000 and goes up from there depending on options.
Here is a look at some of the gear on display in the Serious Stereo demo room. Yes, those really are bricks on top of the equipment. They are being used to minimize vibration. You will also see golf balls under the feet of the DAC and USB converter. The Serious Stereo amplifier retails for $8,375.
This is the Daedalus Audio demo room. The speakers are Ulysses V.2 which retail for $15,950/pair. The Class A preamp is a Purity Audio Design Reference Preamp ($14,950) and the mono-blocks are Purity Audio Design PSE300B Ultra which retail for $22,000 a pair. Daedalus Audio was running a show special through 11/30/15 and the preamp can be purchased for $10,500 and a pair of mono-blocks can be purchased for $15,400.
The room also featured ModWright Instruments Elyse DAC ($6,900) and a PH150 Tube Phono stage ($7,900). The music playing in the room was gorgeous. It turned out that artist Fiona Joy had dropped off a copy of the studio master of her unreleased 2016 album. It was a pleasure to get a preview of the album and to discover a new artist at the show. This system sounded amazing and was one of my favorites.
These beautiful speakers are from JWM Acoustics in Kailua, Hawaii. The cabinets are made from woods like monkey pod, purple heart, and mango. The larger speaker is the Alyson AML which retails for $6,900 – $7,200 depending on finish. The smaller monitor is the NET-1 which retails for $4,900-5,350. Each speaker is handmade and they sounded excellent in the demo.
These are the Sanders Sound System Model 10d electrostatic speakers. They are built in Colorado and retail for $15,000 / pair which includes a Sanders Magtech amplifier. The Sanders preamplifier is $4,500 and includes a line stage and phone preamp in one chassis.
This was easily one of my favorite demos at the show. The stereo imaging and dynamics were extraordinary and easily beat out systems at the show costing significantly more money. I also loved the exceptional bass response. You can even try out the speakers for 30 days in your own home with a risk free trial.
Martin Logan was also showing a multi-channel surround system along with a pair of their Motion Series speakers. The system was driven by an Anthem Statement D2v processor and Anthem amps. Retail system cost was over $25K.
So while there were many systems at RMAF with crazy high prices, Kimber Kable put together a room with attainable gear for multi-channel surround. This was a modest 5.2 channel surround sound system with Pioneer speakers ($700), Marantz NR1506 receiver ($500), approximately $500 in Kimber Kable speaker cable and interconnects, and a Sony Playstation. Popcorn and a television were extra.
It was great to see Mark Waldrep from AIX records. Mark is going to be releasing a new book and blu-ray disc entitled: “Music and Audio: A User Guide to Better Audio.” AIX Records is the real deal when it comes to high definition audio and the music is simply gorgeous.
The Audiomachina demo room was very crowded and really hot from all the heat generated by the Einstein Audio power amps. The speakers are the Maestro GSE from Audiomachina which retail for around $80K. The equipment in the room retailed for a not-so-cool $250K. The vocal detail produced by the system was incredible.
This is the Usher Audio X Tower speakers on display with the Triangle Art turntables. The speakers are 3-way with 1.25″ Diamond DMD tweeters, 7″ mid-bass and 11″ Eton woofer. A pair retails for $12,950 and the shipping weight is over 400 lbs.
Tubes could be found throughout the show. This collection was next to the Consonance Reference 5.5MKII stereo integrated amplifier from The Opera Audio Company.
This is the Triangle Art Concerto turntable. It retails for $4,000 with a Jelco arm. The Zeus cartridge retails for an additional $3,995.
The Triangle Art demo room had some amazing equipment on display. This is the Signature turntable. It retails for $15,995. The tone arm is a 9″ Osiris which retails for $4,995. The cartridge is an $8000 Apollo.
Taking a break at the Simaudio room. Listening to some exquisite piano and drum music on a pair of Bowers and Wilkins 802 D2 speakers. The demo pair is available for $11,999 as a show special. Regular retail price is $15K. They sound fantastic. The system is using a Moon 700i integrated amp and a Moon 780 D DAC.
If you are looking for the ultimate in personal listening, consider this system from JPS Labs. It has a pair of Woo Audio WA234 mono-block amps ($16,000 a pair plus $4K for upgraded tubes), a Mytek Manhattan DAC ($5K) and Abyss AB1266 headphones ($4,500). The sound was beautifully detailed with excellent bass response.
This is KR Audio Electronics Kronzilla SX. The Class A amp is 2×50 watts single ended and uses T1610 output tubes. It retails for $23,000.
These speakers are from CAS Audio in Japan. The enclosures are made from ceramic and produce a beautiful clear sound. The ceramic material is exceptionally rigid and is highly resistant to warping.
The small speakers are the Optimista and will retail between $13-14K and the larger speakers are the Yagura and they will retail between $34-38K depending on the Yen to USD conversion rate. Both speakers use folded ribbon tweeters. I really enjoyed the clear and natural sound of the Otimista.
A very happy Carlo auditioning the Resonessence Labs HERUS USB powered headphone amp with built-in DAC. It retails for $350 with a single filter option and $425 with multiple filters. It supports native DSD and uses an ESS 90102M chip.
Amazing PS Audio demo room. The speakers are YG Sonja 1.3 which retail for $106,800 for the pair. The PS audio gear is around $45,000. The system uses three PS Audio P10 power plants, one for each amp and one for the components. The cables are from MG Audio. This is also an all Colorado system. It sounded fantastic.
This is the Soekris dac1101 from Soekris Engineering ApS in Denmark. It is a portable USB powered DAC and headphone amp. It uses a discrete R-2R sign magnitude DAC driving a high performance zero feedback fully discrete output amplifier. The circuit board is packed with components and it uses over two hundred tiny ultra precision resistors. It outputs PCM and DSD over USB and has selectable digital filters and a digital volume control. All this technology is packed into a portable format at only $650 USD. It will be shipping this coming November in time for the holidays.