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.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 15, 2011  |  0 comments
DeVore Fidelity was showing off their newest addition to the lineup—the preproduction gibbon 88 ($5,000/pair est.). But I'm not here to talk about speakers, so let me point you to the very cool looking cityscape of an amplifier, the LM Audio LM-219IA 845 dual mono single-ended integrated amp that uses a pair of 300Bs to drive a pair of 845s. Come to think of it, I'm not here to talk about integrated tube amps so let me point you to the Acoustic Plan DigiMaster Tube USB DAC ($4,995).
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 15, 2011  |  0 comments
NYC-based dealer / distributor Audio Arts was showing a nice mix of old and new technology with the Voxativ Schmimel Ampeggio horns ($29,750), a prototype 300-based integrated amplifier designed and built for Audio Arts by Don Garber of Fi fame ($TBD), and the source while I was in the room was a MacBook Pro running iTunes (no, no add ons) into the Docet U-4DAC ($750 & the Docet is hiding behind those LPs on the bottom rack). The sound was "delicate, fine and not the last bit edgy" according to my notes and bass was controlled and "not the least bit bloated".

Pavia, Italy based Docet is a new name to me. Their U-4DAC uses the AKM AK4396 DAC chip and provides 24 bit /192kHz output. The U4 also includes a 24 bit/192kHz S/PDIF (coax) output so it can function as a UBD-S/PDIF converter along with a pair of unbalanced RCA outputs when used as a USB DAC. The brochure says "Asynchronous mode supported" which I'd assume means the U-4DAC runs Async USB but I'm not positive so I'll just leave it with that quote.