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Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2013

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Jim Clements Report-Day 2

As always, mbl was on hand showing a complete system. This year, they were featuring their entry level Corona line.

This is a side view of the mbl 116 Elegance speaker showing the side-mounted woofers.

The UHA tape deck brings a splash of bright colors to the mbl rack.

Every year, Emerald Physics assembles complete systems with performance far beyond their price points. Their open-baffle, controlled-directivity speakers are said to be less prone to room effects than other designs. Maybe that is one reason they sound good at these shows – the room doesn't faze them much. Another offshoot of the highly efficient open-baffle design is that they are very dynamic, making them perfect for those who like to play music at live levels without strain. This year, they had a very luxurious presentation throughout the entire spectrum. 

This is the Emerald Physics rack. Their system included a pair of Emerald Physics CS3 MK2 speakers ($3,500/pr.), two REL T9 subs ($2,400/pr.), one Emerald Physics EP100.2SE Special Edition power amp ($2,200), one DSPeaker Anti-mode 2.0 (preamp and room correction) ($1,200), a Jolida Fusion DAC/Transport ($2,300), a ProJect Xtension 10 turntable and NuWave phono stage.

German Physiks speakers' main strength remains their open staging. They used room treatments which made for a better demo than last year. They would still benefit from a sub and super tweeter but Patricia Barber did sound a little more refined than in last year's set up. 

Wyred 4 Sound had a new stereo amp at RMAF this year. This dual mono, fully balanced amp is available with either of two power rating levels – 250 wpc (ST 500mkII, $1,499) and 450 wpc (ST 1000mkII, $1,999). Both models are available in either black or silver. I listened to the ST 1000mkII driving a pair of Emerald Physics CS2.3's. Each time Wyred 4 Sound releases a new amp, it has less and less of the characteristic Class D sound which is a definitely good thing. I always enjoy W4S's staging abilities and this year the pacing was incredible as well. 

I accidentally photobombed myself in the D+M room! This room featured Boston Acoustics towers being fed via an all-Marantz rack.

Here is the aforementioned rack showing you all the Marantz goodness on display. New this year is the Refernce Series Network Audio Player (NA-11S1). It is AirPlay compatible and can stream online music services like Pandora and Spotify as well. It has all manner of digital inputs including front and rear panel USB's (DSD capable). DAC's are native 192/24. Stereo analog outputs are both single ended and balanced. Also new this year is the SA-14S1 Reference Series SACD player. This player is also natively 192/24 and has optical, coax and USB inputs but single ended outputs only.

The Audio Video Logic room had this system on demo – Krell Phantom III ($5,499), Krell S-350 CD ($2,500), Krell EVO 2250 ($8,000), Krell Connect Stream Player ($3,500), PS Audio P-5 ($3,495) and the Magico S-1's ($12,600). The sound was decidedly clean. I wish the speakers were farther apart. So I took matters into my own hands and moved my chair much closer. That was way better as these speakers image strongly. These compact tower speakers were naturally not the greatest in bass extension but were strong performers nonetheless. 

This is the Krell/PS Audio rack.

Here was another YG Acoustics room. This one featured Veloce electronics driving the YG Kipod II Studio/Signature passive speakers. A Diana Krall album was spinning on the turntable when I entered the room. This was an all-around balanced and fine sounding system with an extremely nuanced presentation.

This is the rack with the Kronos turntable on top. This turntable is equipped with the famously counter-rotating pair of platters. This patented technology eliminates torsional forces in the table's action. Other refinements include a double suspended plinth as well as a unique tonearm design where the bearing is below the stylus. These two features make the set-up far less prone to external vibration and skipping. Both these qualities were demonstrated to me by the designer, Louis Desjardins. I hate to pass out best of show awards because of all the different complicating factors, but if pressed to pick the best sounding turntable I heard at RMAF this year then I would name the Kronos as the outright victor. It was that good.

Ayre turned their room into a record store.

Odyssey always has a complete system (sans source) at an affordable price. The one pictured here included speakers, amp and preamp that will cost you just $6,700 for the set (cabling included). They also had new room treatments by GIK Acoustics at the show this year.

They were playing one of my favorite Richard Thompson songs in the Vienna Acoustics/Boulder Amplifiers room when I sat down for a listen. There was copious mid bass; it was more than just a little too rich though. In all fairness, it was impossible for me to evaluate this system with a large group of people in the room. The system comprised the Vienna "The Kiss" speakers ($18,000/pr.), Boulder CD1021 Network CD player ($25,000), Boulder 1010 Preamp ($15,000) and Boulder 1050 monoblocks ($46,000/pr.) all strung together with Analysis Plus cables.

The Audio Alternative room had epic sound on orchestral crescendos, but was somewhat shrill on a *Snowbirds'* album (not sure what my tablet substituted *Snowbirds* for?). Melody Gardot on CD was much more in balance if not downright seductive. The speakers are the Vandersteen 5A Carbons with M7-HP Balanced Crossover.

The Dan D'Agostino Momentum Monoblocks nicely displayed on the tilting Momentum stands.

The second Audio Alternative room was equally seductive. Seen here are the Vandersteen Model 7 speakers.

This is the rack with the Audio Research Reference 10 preamp, Reference 10 phonostage and Reference CD9 CD Player/DAC. Cables and interconnects were by Audioquest.

A closer look still to show the AMG Viella 12 Turntable with Lyra Atlas MC Cartridge. AMG turntables showed up in a lot of rooms this year.

audiohouse had a room full of gear that featured Parasound, Monitor Audio, VPI and Kimber Cable. Of note here are the Monitor Audio Platinum PL200 speakers in ebony ($9,000), the VPI Classic 4 with dual tonearms ($12,000) and the new Halo JC3+ Phono Preamp ($2,350). They were playing flamenco guitar on vinyl. I wanted to sit closer again. The sound was best when the speakers and I formed an equilateral triangle.

Here is the new Parasound Halo Phono preamp conveniently backwards in the rack so attendees could see the connectivity and adjustment options.

The Joseph Audio, Jeff Rowland, VPI and Soundsmith system was incredible. They played Elvis singing "Peace in the Valley" from the Essential 57 album (Living Stereo). This was the only demo I heard that earned a spontaneous, unanimous standing ovation at the end. Was it the equipment, the recording or was it the King? The table was the new VPI Classic Direct. I know this system with the Jeff Rowland electronics is very expensive but I swear I'm going to hold my breath till they give it to me.

Lovely.

The Cary Audio room.

Cary's new network player is seen on the upper right.

Cary's entry-level Audio Electronics line.

Rega turntables are now available with graphics representing your favorite football team? I want one with the Dallas Cowboys on it (but you can go ahead and leave Tony Romo off there please).

The speakers shown here are the new PMC Fact. 12 reference floorstanding 3-ways. They have adjustable crossovers, twin transmission line woofer loading and come in a number of gorgeous finishes including white satin. They have dual 6" woofers, a 2" soft dome mid and a 0.75" soft dome tweeter. Claimed frequency response is 26 Hz – 30 kHz. ($19,500/pair.) There were a number of new products on display from Rega here as well – the Elicit-R Integrated amplifier (105 wpc, $2,995), the Saturn-R Dac and CD Transport ($2,995), the RP8 turntable with Alpheta MC cartridge ($3,995) and the Aria MC/MM phono preamp ($1,495).

The all-seeing eye(s) of McIntosh were looking right through me. XRT1K ($45,000/pr.)

Check out the amazing new Sonus faber Olympica III's! The lyre shaped cabinets are mirrored pairs finished in real wood veneers. These speakers are a full three way design with all new drivers and dual 9" woofers.

Top view of the Olympica III showing off the cladding with the Sf logo embossed into the natural leather.

The ported enclosure of the Olympicas fires through these side vents. The user can choose to place the speakers so the vents are on the inside or on the outside giving them the opportunity to tweak the set up for the best tonal balance in their room or for their particular tastes.

This is Wadia's new streamer, DAC and amplifier called the INTUITION 01. It is rated at 350 watts per channel and features 384 kHz/32 bit DACs with native DSD playback via USB.