Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2013


Jim Clements Report-Day 3

This is a small tower speaker from German manufacturer, Manger Precision Sound. This is their bending wave driver that has claimed linear response from 330 Hz to 45 kHz. One can liken its action to a pebble in a pond – the voice coil excites the innermost part of the driver and then waves trickle outward through the flexible membrane. The technology is designed to tap a human's primordial ability to sense micro transients and should therefore relax the listener. They were lightning fast, but I felt that the frequency balance could use further refinement (albeit in a very short audition).

The rear panel of the Manger tower reveals that it is self-powered via a Class AB amp. The switches allow tailoring the response. Manger is still looking for a US distributor. Expect retail prices in the ~$20k/pr range.

Here is the lineup of Lindeman electronics in the Manger room.

The Aaudio Imports room is always jam packed with show goers and cost-no-object gear. The speakers here are the Lansche No.8.2's ($266k). The electronics were from Ypsilon, turntables from Hartvig and Thales with cabling primarily by Stage III.

The equipment in the Aaudio Imports room was on Tandem Series Equipment Racks ($16,100) and Amp Stands ($4,500).

This room featured Daedalus Audio, ModWright Instruments and WyWires gear. The DAC was a pre production prototype from ModWright known as the Elyse ($TBD). The preamp was the two box ModWright LS 36.5 DM ($9,995) while the amp was their KWA 150 Sig. Edition ($8,495). The speakers were the Daedalus Ulysses version.2's ($14,950). Power distribution was via the pictured WyWires/Daedalus Power Broker AC dist. ($2,499) which showed up in a number of rooms this year as a hedge against the compromised power in the hotel. This system unfortunately sounded strained on Paul Simon's "Graceland".

The Daedalus Audio/ModWright Instruments rack up close.

This is the VPI Classic Direct that showed up in a number of rooms this year. It was a consistently good sounding 'table wherever it showed up.

A pair of Atma Sphere Novacron Limited Edition mono block amps ($12,000/pr.). These amps are the famous output transformerless architecture and are rated at a robust 60 wpc into an 8-ohm load.

This was the Doshi Audio/Paragon Sight and Sound Room. The "core system" was all Doshi – 3.0 Line Stage ($20,000), 3.0 Phono Stage ($20,000), 3.0 Tape Stage ($20,000) and the Jhor 160 watt Monoblocks ($36,000/pr.). The speakers were the Wilson Alexias ($48,500/pr.). The source was a vintage Studer A 80 RC Mk 2 Tape Deck. This demo was waaaay better than the Wilson/VTL demo I heard last year. They played CCR "Suzie Q" when I was there. I was kind of totally blown away if you know what I mean. The level of transparency was remarkable.

The Doshi Jhor monoblocks.

The Pro-Ject HL Signature Turntable ($12,000) with a Koetsu Azule Platinum Cartrdige ($12,000) in the Doshi/Paragon room.

This was the Studer A 80 RC Mk2 tape deck from the Doshi/Paragon room. Must be nice.

The Mass Fidelity relay is a stand-alone Bluetooth receiver with high end aspirations. Apparently, Bluetooth got a bad rap early on and advances have improved the technology tremendously. (I learned that Bluetooth has a much higher bandwidth than I was aware of.) So this flexible, little box can be connected to any audio system and provides a high quality Bluetooth interface. They had an A/B demo where they switched between a direct feed and one that came through the relay. The relay was not perfectly pristine, but was remarkably close to the direct feed and the convenience factor is very high.

In years past, the Luxman and Vivid suite has always been a bright spot on my coverage and this year was no exception. Male vocals were dynamic and at first the orchestra filled a rather large room at near live levels until a big crescendo which revealed they were pushing the amp too hard.

Apex audio had two rooms at the show. This was their big system with Focal Stella Utopia EM speakers ($95,000/pr.), Solution 500 Monoblock amps ($55,500/pr.), Solution 520 Preamp ($26,000), Solution 540 CD/SCAD player ($32,500), Transrotor Rondino Nero ($14,000), Graham Phantom Supreme tonearm ($6,800) and Air Tight PC-1 Supreme Cartridge ($10,500). The system sounded "great" (and expensive) on vinyl.

This is the turntable rig on a Critical Mass MAXXUM rack system ($5,650/level) in the Apex audio suite.

The smaller system in the Apex audio suite with Focal Diablo Utopia speakers, Air Tight electronics and Transrotor 'table and 'arm. Though still expensive, this is much more my speed.

Tannoy Kingdom Royal speakers. Bling. Envy.

Here is the VAC Statement 450S "dual mono" amplifier ($44,000). This bad boy has 8~KT88 tubes and is rated at 225 wpc. He's so cool, he needs a separate power supply (bottom).

These Induction Dynamics 2013 ID1 speaker ($15,000/pr) had a really nice groove on "Hey Nineteen" on SACD. Other EQ on hand: Oppo BDP-105 ($1,200), McIntosh MT-10 turntable ($10,500), McIntosh C2500 Tube Pre Amp ($7,000) and McIntosh MC452 Power Amp ($8,500) with wiring by Kimber Kable.

A close shot of the Oppo/McIntosh gear in the Induction Dynamics room.

2013 marks Phase Technology's 30th Anniversary and to celebrate, they decided to recreate the first product they ever produced all those years ago, the PC60 CA ($1,500/pr.). They had a most excellent soundstaging ability and gave me a wonderfully smooth performance. There was no noticeable transition between drivers likely because of their absolute phase crossover technology. Other equipment in play - Oracle Paris Turntable ($5,000) (cartridge/tone arm incl.), Oracle Paris CD Player ($3,750), Oracle Paris PH200 Phono Amp ($1,795), McIntosh MX150 Processor ($10,000) and McIntosh MC207 Power Amp ($9,000).

I really appreciate the honest and robust build quality of the Phase Technology PC60 CA's.

This is the McIntosh and Oracle rack up close.

ENIGMAcoustics was on hand with their Sopranino electrostatic super tweeters. These tweeters do not require AC power as the membrane is permanently charged as with an electret microphone. They operate over the range of 8 kHz – 40 kHz.

The Sopraninos were atop a pair of Magico floorstanders, speakers that don't need a lot of help to sound good. The demo was an Oscar Peterson track. They played it three times – once with the tweeters in, then out and then back in again. I must say it really does work. You can hear a harmonic structure that just isn't audible with them defeated. It may be largely due to the response in the 8 – 12 kHz range, but it might also be due to our ability to sense ultrasonics but not actually hear them as sounds. Who knows for sure?

Back view of the Sopranino.

JBL was showing these new, smaller horns that they referred to as studio monitors. They have a dual voice coil compression driver that operates down to 800 Hz and is capable of 159 db output! The waveguide (horn) is a new design too. Like many horns, the sound was vivid and palpable but with very decent bass extension too. These were bi amped via an active crossover. I was impressed. Also seen here are a pair of the Revel M105's that I reviewed recently.

Here is the plate amp/DAC from a pair of Vanatoo powered monitors. These little speakers impressed me with their sound via a direct USB input from a laptop. This was a Hi-res file. They had just a trace of the Class D sound with claimed bass extension to the low 40's. The imaging was fine as you would expect from a compact speaker ($499 - $549 depending on finish).

The SW speakers said, "Take me to your leader."

Music Hall's new cowhide mat ($75). It is treated so you shouldn't get lice or mad cow disease.

A new vacuum record cleaner from Music Hall as well ($750).

One more new product from Music Hall was the Ikura 'table ($1,195).

The new Acoustic Signature WOW turntable ($1,595) with a Funk Firm F-XR arm ($2,495) in the Goener Communication room. The speakers were the Audio Physic Avantera Plus+ ($28,000). I had them play some Bach organ works on vinyl. I was able to really relax and tune out the noise from the other rooms at the show. There was an excellent representation of the performance hall on this pipe organ considering no sub.

The electronics in Goener's room were the Trigon Chronolog CD/DVD Player/Music Server ($949) and the Trigon Epilog integrated ($12,995 add $1,495 for a phono module and $1,695 for the DAC module).

Things were chaotic in the SVS room when I stopped in. At least they were playing some modern and relevant music (NIN).

The new Dynaudio Excite X34's ($3,400/pr.) were being fed via a rack full of Octave tube gear.

The Sonist Audio Recital 3 speakers are made from gorgeous real wood and the sound was equally luxurious.

Take a look at this Hifi Man prototype mini player that should come to market in a few months. It has Hi-Res capabilities and balanced outs. I listened to Jack Johnson over a pair of Hifi Man's dynamic IEM's. This was a very promising performance with fine microdynamic shadings.

Yours truly enjoying a demo of the Hifi Man HE-500 'phones. I can clearly see why these are Stephen Hornbrook's reference phones.

This is the EF-5 amp that was driving the HE-500's.

Here is the Hifi Man EF-6 headphone amp that has become John Johnson's reference along with the HE-6 planar magnetic headphones. The combination of the two basically blew me away.

First Impression Music had a selection of silver and gold discs as well as vinyl at the show. I will be getting some of these excellent sounding discs for my collection very soon. Highly recommended.