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.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 15, 2011  |  0 comments
Leave it up to Zu Audio to throw a healthy curve ball directly at the traditional computer audio setup (not that there is one, but you'll see what I mean). Sean Casey, the ever-exuberant host and spinner and server of music I actually want to run out and buy as opposed to run away from, was playing music files from his Mac Pro and a modified Technics SL-1200 turntable both connected to a Rane MP4 which was connected to the new Kronzilla SXI single-ended 50W integrated amp driving the new Zu Definition Mk IV. Sean could seamlessly spin from Mac Pro to LP and back again. "This is how your kids might do it." Sean said. And I said something I've been saying a lot lately, "Our kids interface with technology like there's no interface."

The new Zu Definition Mk IVs ($12,500/pair) sounded huge and pumped so much musical energy into the room the good vibrations carried all the way into the couch I was sitting on. A musical massage and a nice reminder that this is all about music which all about having fun.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 15, 2011  |  0 comments
Lavry Engineering was directly across from Auraliti in the ground floor ballroom. The Lavry DA11 DAC ($1,480) was being fed its musical fodder from a laptop running Foobar2000. Lavry Engineering is another company with Pro Audio roots which is hinted at in the DA11's half rack size and rather utilitarian appearance. One interesting design aspect in the DA11 is what Lavry refers to as "PiC" - Playback Image Control™: "allows the listener to adjust their position within the stereo sound field in a way that is unique to the DA11. Applications include adjusting the stereo width to create a headphone listening experience more like listening in a room with speakers, or moving the “sweet spot” with asymmetrical speaker placement." The Lavry display only allowed for headphone listening and with the distractions of a busy ballroom, it was difficult to concentrate on whether or not my headphone listening experience was more or less like listening in a room with speakers. It was more like listening in a room with lots of people.

The DA11 comes equipped with USB, XLR, RCA, and optical digital audio inputs and balanced XLR outputs (XLR-RCA female Neutrik converters included).

Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 15, 2011  |  0 comments
The Auraliti L1000 Music File Player ($3,000) is one of the newer breed of purpose-built devices meant to oust your multi-tasking computer from the music playback chain. Built on a Linux platform, the L1000 can play FLAC, WAV and AIFF files at 44.1 , 48, 88.2 , 96 , 176.4 and 192 and hands off your music files to your DAC via AES/EBU output. I've requested a review sample of the Auraliti PK90 USB Music File Player and should one in-house shortly.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 15, 2011  |  0 comments
Ultra-Fi had a mostly silent display showing off their NOS USB DAC 41 ($1,750), their own USB cables, the miniplat 2 ($375, introductory pricing $275) a replacement access cover and nickel coated brass cones for the 2010-2011 Mac mini that Ultra-Fi claims provides "improved righty and coupling" for improved sound quality, and cables from Ridge Street Audio. The part of the Ultra-Fi display that wasn't silent was proprietor Larry D. Moore, Esq which proved to be a good thing as I didn't originally connect this Larry D. Moore to the Larry Moore that participated in J.C. Morrison's infamous NY Noise Shows from the early 2000's that featured mostly home brew tube-based amplifier and preamplifier designs that could be called for the most part outrageous. It's nice to see that old school meet this new one.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 14, 2011  |  0 comments
Mytek Digital has been making A/D and D/A converters for the Pro Audio world since 1992 and they've just entered the world of consumer audio at RAMF 2011 with the introduction of the 1/2-rack sized Stereo 192-DSD DAC. The 192-DSD DAC's name is telling you something about what it can do: 32 bit PCM up to 192kHz, and DSD. The 192 comes in three versions: the Black Preamp version ($1,695) includes LED level meters (and its black), the Silver Preamp version ($1,695) which loses the LEDs (and its silver), and the Mastering version ($1,595) which adds digital DSD inputs to the Black version (its black too). All three have the following inputs - USB (1.1 & Async 2.0), Firewire, S/PDIF, AES/EBU, Toslink (all up to 192kHz), DSD (analog 64x DSD in the Black & Silver and digital 128x in the Mastering), and Wordclock (in/out). Outputs include unbalanced RCA, balanced XLR and a 1/4" headphone jack.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 14, 2011  |  1 comments
RMAF 2011 opens today at 12:00pm (but I need more time!). With 8 floors and over 150 exhibition rooms! the Denver Marriott Tech Center is for this long weekend, the center of the audiophile universe.

I'd like to thank everyone who sent me heads-up emails with their not-to-miss lists. I will do my best to cover all of these and as much computer-based audio as I can squeeze into two and a half days. Look for my first reports later tonight. Now it's time to have a hearty breakfast so I can do some serious[ly] (fun) listening.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 12, 2011  |  10 comments

Capturing the state of Computer Audio is like trying to describe a river with a bucket of water, to paraphrase Alan Watts. Computer Audio is in flux, evolving as we speak. That’s not to say it’s too soon to jump in and join the fun. Computer-based hi-fi offers some of the finest seats in your home for the enjoyment of music - today.