Holy dueling Bose radios Batman! DEQX pulled out all the stops (again) showcasing their flagship HDP-5 Preamp Processor's ($6,499) DSP prowess through a pair of Magnepan MG1.7 loudspeakers/JBL Fathom Sub driven by Parasound monoblocks and a stereo'd pair of Bose Wave Radios. I'd like to say that the Bose Wave Radios sounded amazing when DEQX'd but I'd have to add some sort of qualifier which would effectively null that noise. Yes, the DEQX made the Bose sound more like music, no doubt, which is a very impressive feat. But let's be clear—never, ever, buy a Bose Wave Radio unless you are prepared to spend over $6 grand to make it listenable.
The Concert Fidelity DAC-040BD Vacuum Tube Digital-to-Analog Converter ($12,000) has been around for a while but this battery-powered, non-oversampling, filterless, 16-bit/44.1kHz max DAC sporting NOS Philips multi-bit 16-bit DAC chips makes it perfectly en vogue. The DAC-040 employs a pair of 12AU7 vacuum tubes for gain and a 6CA4 for rectification, checking off all of the items on the "I want analog-like sounding digital" checklist.
I first heard the stunning 3-way, self-powered, DSP corrected, horn-loaded Avantgarde Zero 1 ($21,950/pair) way back in 2013 in Munich (see report) where they easily filled a very large room, "I found this room's sound to be among the most compelling and physically vibrant at the show." The Zero 1s are not only internally amped (50W Class A solid-state amps for the tweeter and midrange and 400W Class D for the woofer), but they also include a preamp and 24-bit/192kHz capable DAC (3x Burr-Brown DACs) in the Master speaker. The Slave connects to the Master wirelessly via a 2.4 GHz ISM/SRD link and the Zero 1s can also accept incoming data via Apple's AirPlay.
The active Kii Audio speakers were one of the products I was most looking forward to hearing at RMAF 2015 even though they have nothing to do with computer audio (I'm only human). Bruno Putzeys, the designer behind the Kii THREE Loudspeaker System ($13,900 + $2,540 for the Kii stands) is also the person behind the Mola Mola line of gear, which we'll talk about later. Bruno also works with Grimm Audio and Hypex where he "designs high-performance discrete AD/DA converters and analogue signal processing circuits, DSP algorithms, class D power amplifiers and switch-mode power supplies. He holds several patents in the fields of digital audio and power conversion and has published extensively in these and related domains." according to Bruno's Wikipedia page. I think he's wickedly smart, as are many people in this crazy wonderful industry, thus my interest in his Kii speakers.
Shhh, don't tell anyone: When you walk into a room at a hi-fi show and the person in charge asks if you have any music with you that you'd like to hear, you know they are confident in the sound of their system. On the other hand, if you walk into a room and they are only willing to play music that sounds as if it was made by fairies with feathers, you know something is terribly wrong. Luke Manley and Bea Lam of VTL always offer to play my music through their show system.
Bricasti Design has come out with the Gold Edition ($15,000) of their highly regarded M1 DAC (see Steve Plaskin's review). The search for gold was initiated by some customers in Japan and beyond the Kind Midas touch, the Gold Edition adds larger footers to support the weight of all that bling (kidding) and includes some internal tweaks that add to the unit's cost. These improvements may work their way into a non-gold version.
I walked into the Mojo Audio room as I do every RMAF, reintroduced myself to Mojo's Ben Zwickel and took a seat. Ben was standing to my left and as I went into listening mode, Ben interrupted by saying that I never followed up on our email exchange from month's ago regarding an exclusive review of his products.
"Excuse me, you were sitting in front of me in the ELAC room and I was wondering what you thought." Richard, who could not have been a nicer man, looked at me with eyes wide open and said, "That's just crazy! I mean, I was looking at some speakers that sounded really nice and they were $1300. I was thinking I'd treat myself. But man, that's just crazy!"