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.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 17, 2011  |  7 comments
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  |  0 comments
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.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 16, 2011  |  0 comments
Speaking of plug and play, Audioengine was showing a gaggle of new goodies geared to make your computer audio life less complicated. The Audioengine 5+ Premium Powered Speakers ($399) add a remote, two RCA inputs and a variable output for connecting a subwoofer to the original A5s which are still available for $349.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 16, 2011  |  2 comments
"Muscular and punchy" read my notes from my time in the Tidal Audio room. The bruisers responsible for this reaction were the Tidal Audio Piano Cera loudspeakers ($23,900 in midnight black gloss piano lacer) and their partner in crime the Tidal Audio Impact amplifier ($25,990 and I swear I didn't know it was called that until just now or if I did, I'd forgotten). The Tidal Audio Preos preamp ($28,990 w/phono stage) took its cues from the dCS Puccini ($17,999) / dCS UClock ($4,999) combo being fed its digits by a MacBook Pro running Pure Music. Everything was tied up in Kubala-Sonsna cable.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 16, 2011  |  0 comments
If you think the words "plug and play" are an affront to your encyclopedic knowledge of whatever, we'll have to have a long talk some day just not now. Some people, as odd as it may seem to some other people, just want to listen to and enjoy their music. There are companies out there that want to help you do just that without having to take up a second profession and Olive is one of 'em.

We listened through the Olive 06HD Music Server and according to Olive, a music server (at least this one) includes a 10.1" color touch screen, 2 TB hard drive, a TEAC CDRW drive for ripping your CDs, two TI 24 bit/192kHz Burr Brown PCM 1792 DACs running in mono, a dedicated TI 24 bit/192kHz Burr Brown DAC for the headphone out, along with a host of outputs including 1 XLR, 1 RCA, 1 AES/EBU (balanced), 1 S/PDIF (Toslink), and 1 S/PDIF (Coax). The 06HD can handle WAV, FLAC, MP3 (128 and 320 kbits/s), and AAC (128 kbits/s) files as well as wireless and gigabyte ethernet connections. The 06HD was accompanied by the Musical Fidelity M6 PRE preamplifier and M6 PRX Power Amplifier driving a pair of Sonus Faber Cremona Auditor M Monitor Speakers. Cables by AudioQuest.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 16, 2011  |  1 comments
From my perspective, the MSB Technology Platinum Mono 202 Amplifiers ($17,500/pair) are some serious lookers looking like a foreign female cousin to the classic Pass Labs Aleph 3. But I'm not here to talk about sexy amplifiers. The MSB Diamond DAC IV ($22,000 without power base) is a serious piece of kit if for no other reason than the price of admission. The version we listened to included the Diamond Stepped Attenuator ($2,955) allowing it to also act as preamplifier and the Platinum Data CD IV ($3,995 without power base) that includes 32 bit /384kHz upsampler. "The Diamond DAC contains four 26 bit DACs per channel for a true 27 bit resolution."

All of this mineral and precious metal sexiness drove a relatively modest pair of Silverline Audio SR-17s that let Holy Cole sing out as smooth as a silk purse.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 16, 2011  |  0 comments
The April Music room was playing delicate music ever so delicately which gave the place an air of refuge. The Eximus DP1 Ultimate 24/192 DAC-Preamplifier ($2,295) was doing exactly what its name says it does—in this case taking music from a MacBook Pro running Amarra's music player software via USB and passing it to a pair of Pass Labs XA100.5 monoblocks that in turn drove the Audes Orpheus loudspeakers. The DP1 offers six digital inputs ( USB 2.0, I2S, 2 coax 75 ohms, AES/EBU, 1 OPT USB 2.0), a 1/4" headphone jack and a pair each of unbalanced RCA and XLR outputs.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 16, 2011  |  1 comments
I didn't even have to ask the guys in the Amarra room to play Cat Stevens. "Moonshadow" was tickling out of the Focal Electra 1028 Be's from its home on the Mach2 Music Mac Mini-based server (starting at $1,295) as soon as I sat down. We were also treated to George Harrison's painfully lovely "Here Comes The Sun" and the rest of the Beatles joining in on "Across The Universe".

Amarra was showing off the latest iteration of their highly touted music player software Version 2.3 ($695) that support sample rates up to 384 kHz. You may be wondering how someone can evaluate software running a system that's completely unfamiliar without taking that software in and out of the picture and I'm wondering the same thing myself. Barring any obvious sonic anomalies, I think we have to attribute our enjoyment to everything.