LATEST ADDITIONS

Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 18, 2011
The Laufer Teknik room featured the scape-age looking German Physiks Unlimited MKII omnidirectional loudspeakers ($14,950/pair) and I'm not knocking their looks whatsoever just saying that almost every omni speaker I've seen looks sci-fi which makes me wonder if omnidirectional sound is sci-fi simply in and of itself. The Unlimited MKII's were driven by the equally distinct looking and named Abis Shungetsu Model P-1120 Mono Block Power Amplifiers (about $30,000/pair). Providing front-end duties was the The Memory Player 64 Full Version with the Teflon Bypass Option ($9,890 + $1,250 for Teflon Bypass Option).
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 18, 2011
I always look forward to seeing and hearing the folks from PFO, Dave and Carol Clark, as well as what they've got cooked up for our listening and libation pleasure (unfortunately I didn't have time to libate). This year, the PFO Hospitality room featured the Sonicweld Pulserod System ($110,000) which gets you those two slim towers of flash-reflecting aluminum filled with 13 drivers and 200W ICEpower switching amps as well a pair of aluminum-encased Subpulse active subwoofers, a DEQX controller to dial-in your room, and all cables including power. A Macbook Pro fed its digital stream to a Sonicweld Diverter HR USB to SPDIF Converter ($2,888) which in turn passed its 24/192 bits to the DEQX.

My notes said only "Holy crap!" in the shakiest hand of the show seeing as Dave was playing James Blake's debut LP and those Subpulse subs have 1100W ICEpower switching amplifiers inside each and are rated down to 16Hz which hurts (so good as long as you time your food intake accordingly).

 |  Oct 18, 2011
Another room I always look forward to and even more so this time around is EAR USA. There's always great music playing (Sinatra singing "Foggy London Town", Getz/Gilberto and more) and it always sounds wonderful. We owe this listening pleasure to Dan Meinwald the EAR US Distributor and Tim de Paravicini the man and designer behind EAR's products. RMAF 2011 saw the debut of the EAR 192 DACute ($5,795 black / $6,495 chrome). The DACute uses the Cirrus SPDIF receiver and accepts up to 24/192 sample rates via one USB and five S/PDIF (2 Coax and 3 Toslink) inputs. Hidden inside is a transformer-coupled ECC88 tube line output stage the offers unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR outputs.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 18, 2011
Is that a DAC in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? I bumped into the big-smiling fast-talking Jon Zimmer of Sound Representation somewhere in the hall on 5 and he gave me the quick low-down on the brand new hot off the production line Halide Design DAC HD ($550) which features Gordon Rankin's Streamlength Asynchronous USB technology delivering sample rates up to 24/96 and according to Jon Zimmer "extremely low jitter". The captive cable on the USB side is an upgraded Wireworld "Starlight" USB cable and those RCAs coming out of the other side sport pure silver conductors and Eichmann "Silver Bullet" RCA plugs. There's also some power filtration built-in and the whole shebang is manufactured in the US of A.

Have I mentioned what a big fan I am of smiling people at Hi-Fi shows? If not, I am and I give extra credit for laughter.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 18, 2011
While I was in the Wadia Digital room they were playing music through the big rig which made perfect sense since this was a big room. The main system consisted of the Wadia S7i CD Player/Digital Hub ($14,950), Audio Research DS450M Mono Amplifiers ($9,990/pair), Sonus Faber Amati Futura Loudspeakers ($36,000/pair), and a pair of REL G-1 Sub-Bass System subs ($3,999/each). I noted a "lightning-like clarity" from this system and an "enveloping sound".
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 18, 2011
I was very much looking forward to seeing and hearing the new Naim SuperUniti All-In-One Player ($5,995) in the Sound Organisation room and I was not disappointed by either its looks or the music it made. But what is an All-In-One Player? According to Naim it is a UPnP device that can stream music from the internet and the airwaves (FM/DAB/Internet radio) as well as serve music from your library wirelessly, via Ethernet or front mounted USB while pumping out 80wpc into your favorite loudspeakers. There are also six S/PDIF digital inputs (3 optical, front panel optical and 24-bit/192kHz capable BNC and RCA) and the SuperUniti can handle WAV, FLAC, Apple Lossless, AIFF, MP3, Windows Media-formatted content, AAC and Ogg Vorbis files at rates up to 24bit/192kHz over the network.

In the Sound Organisation room we were listening to files stored on the Naim UnitiServe 1 TB Audiophile Server ($3,345) as well as a 4TB NAS drive connected through the SuperUniti's ethernet port and a pair of Naim Ovator S400 Loudspeakers ($6,845). You can see from the picture that if you are looking for an uncluttered system approach this relatively new breed of all-in-one players can deliver the goods. You can call this a "Lifestyle" system but to my of thinking that's like suggesting audiophiles who opt for a more complex solution don't have a life style. And we all know that's just silly.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 18, 2011
The perpetually smiling Wes Bender brought a little piece of NYC with him along with Hansen Audio The Knight loudspeakers ($24,000/pair), Wavestream Kinetics V-8 Monoblocks ($60,000/pair), Wavestream Kinetics Deluxe Phono Stage ($7,995), Wavestream Kinetics Deluxe Linestage ($8,495) and while I was there we listened through the Lindemann Audio 825/HD Disc Player ($12,500) and a Macbook Pro running Pure Music. Everything was connected through Kaplan cable except the Lindermann Disc Player which used a single AudioQuest Diamond USB ($695/1m) to talk to the Macbook.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 18, 2011
In the Resonessence Labs room we listened through the INVICTA DAC ($3,995) which can also function as preamp connected to the preproduction Resonessence PROJECTA Class-A 100W power amplifier ($tbd) which drove a pair of Westlake Audio LC 8.1f monitors. You may notice the absence of any computer or hard drive in that picture because we were listening to WAV files played from an SD card which is just one of many features of the INVICTA DAC. The INVICTA will accommodate all resolutions up to 24 bit / 192 kHz through each input including Asynchronous USB, S/PDIF (Toslink & (2) Coax)and AES/EBU. The INVICTA outputs via balanced XLR, unbalanced RCA and a pair of front mounted headphone jacks with independent volume level control. That front-mounted SD card reader will recognize WAV and AIFF files and your stored music's playlist and track information can be display on your monitor of choice thanks to an included HDMI connection. There's also a remote which controls all functions including track selection.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 17, 2011
Rob Robinson of Channel D was manning his room at RMAF and I took advantage of the opportunity and Rob's knowledge and generous nature by asking if he could do a quick demo of his Pure Vinyl software ($299) that Michael Fremer very favorably reviewed in Stereophile. And I did so mainly because sometimes things can appear to be daunting until you actually see them done or just do it yourself. And some things can appear to be much more difficult if you try to describe them in writing as opposed to the actual experience. Try explaining in writing how to tie a shoe. Rob ripped a few tracks (we didn't rip the entire LP to save time—ripping LPs occurs in real-time which seems somehow strangely appropriate) of Dire Straits self-titled LP and it was as simple as starting the Pure Music software and cueing up the record.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 17, 2011
The Music Hall room featured a full, actually a very full system that comes in at under $4,000 and let's you play records, CDs and up to 24/192 (via S/PDIF) music files from your computer. I could personally live without the a15.2 CD player ($499) since we've got everything we need in this system (assuming we also have a computer) to make them sound better, i.e. rip 'em, but I suppose the CD offers some playback comfort food. Besides, the Music Hall MMF-2.2 turntable ($449) offers an even older-school kind of comfort and the ability to connect with your music in a way that lends itself to an appreciation of the record that has a tendency to get lost when converted to digits. If you go for that sort of thing. The Epos Epic 2's ($799) were driven by the Music Hall a70.2 integrated amp ($1,499) and this system also included the Music Hall Cruise Control 2.0 turntable power supply ($299) and Music Hall Cork Record mat ($50).

To focus on our piece of this very reasonably-priced and very good sounding system, the new Music Hall DAC15.2 d2a ($299) uses the Texas Instruments (Burr-Brown) PCM 1796 processor and provides you with three digital inputs - USB (24bit/96kHz), Coax and Toslink (24bit/192kHz). There's also a USB to S/PDIF converter so you can use the 15.2 d2a with your non-USB DAC or just hook up to the RCA outputs and connect to your hi-fi at 24/96.

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