Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 19, 2011  |  0 comments
The Benchmark room on the 10th floor also featured the retro-looking loudspeakers and amplifiers from Studio Electric. The Studio Electric Monitor ($2,550/pair) and Studio Electric EA4 Dual Mono Hybrid Amplifier employs a tube input (NOS E88CC) and MOSFET power out (projected cost $8,000).

The Benchmark DAC1 Pre ($1,595) handled the front end and was playing 16/44 songs from Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin and it sounded like music you'd like to spend more time listening to. The Benchmark DAC1 PRE offers six inputs - one analog, one USB, and four S/PDIF (one optical, and three coaxial digital) and four outputs - stereo XLR balanced, RCA unbalanced, and two headphone jacks driven by Benchmark's HPA2'99 0-ohm headphone amplifier.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 19, 2011  |  0 comments
I have to admit that Behold was news to me. Based in Bayern, Germany Behold is, I think its safe to say, a highly engineered line of electronics and loudspeakers. We were treated to the new Behold Tanara Loudspeaker ($55,000/package includes the Gentle G192 integrated amp and active crossover) being fed its music from a Memory Player 64 ($9,890). A track from Tom Wait's earthy Alice played and I noted it sounding "effortless".
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 18, 2011  |  0 comments
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  |  0 comments
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  |  1 comments
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  |  0 comments
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  |  1 comments
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  |  0 comments
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  |  0 comments
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  |  2 comments
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.