Audio Note UK:
Vincent Belanger, Audio Note, UK Ambassador walked us through one of the best Audio Note audio show exhibit rooms I’ve heard to date. The new turntable, the Audio Note TT3, was spinning and the sound in the room was effortless and natural while playing a track from the album “Pure Cello” from Audio Note Music. Loudspeakers were the AN-E/SPeHE’s.
Wow! I got slammed, musically that is. The Gryphon room featured the Trident II Loudspeakers driven by the mighty Mephisto stereo amplifier with the new Ethos CD Player/DAC. Cables were Gryphon’s own VIP line. I was spellbound by the impact this system had. The system produced extensive image layering but the real take away was the emotion impact this amazing system produced. The dynamic range was simply off the charts! It was if I was at a live Kraftwerk concert!
GT Audioworks/Sound Insight:
Bravo to Steve Rabitz of Sound Insight and Greg Takesh, loudspeaker designer, GT Audioworks along with Eric Pheils, North American Distributor for Zanden. We played a track from “Chasing the Dragon” that filled the small hotel exhibit room with deep, rich music along with perfect tonality and tonal quality in both the female vocal and the organ. The GTA 3.1r Planar Magnetic full range loudspeaker along with Sound Insight’s open baffle subwoofers delivered seamlessly integrated bass as the panels pressurized the room. The Zanden tube amplifier Model 8120 drove the loudspeakers effortlessly, something I’ve come to expect from one of the best tube amplifiers being produced today (see AVShowrooms’video review of the 8120). . With pleasure I report that this year’s exhibit in a small room proved how well the loudspeakers work within a limited space. Included in the room: all cabling from Zanden, Richard Grey isolation transformer and power conditioner, Esoteric K01XS CD Player and the Kronos Sparta turntable.
High Fidelity Cables:
At the end of the hall, at the Schaumberg Convention Center, Rick Schultz of High Fidelity Cables was presenting us with a concert. There was so much energy in this space that it seemed to completely obliterate everything else that was going on at the other exhibits.
Included were the Bafflex loudspeakers, open baffle with adjustable side panels. The LS has 4, 12” drivers with a ribbon tweeter and is 102 db efficient. Driving these giants was the MA70 amplifier complete with magnetically assisted transistors. The High Fidelity Cables magnetic based Pro Series cables and Pro Elite cables along with the Pro Elite power conditioner were part of this wonderful spectacle of a system.
We played Kraftwerk’s “Radioactivity” a very appropriate track to show off the huge dynamic range, giving us slam and multiple layering.
LSA/Emerald Physics/Core Power Tech A/V:
This year’s AVShowrooms’ Video will feature a listening session with the new LSA-20 Statement floorstanding loudspeakers. We then move on to two listening sessions with the LSA 10 Signature Monitors; one session with the room correction on and one with it off. The room correction feature is included in the preamp and DAC, the DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core driving the monitors. The floorstanders brought Kate Bush into the room with us, front and center. The LSA-20’s threw a huge soundstage with great spatiality and bass. The speakers were driven by the Emerald Physics EP200.2SE hybrid dual mono amplifiers with 200 watts per channel. The DAC/preamp was the new Pure Audio Lotus and power conditioning was the Core Power Technologies Equi=Core 1800.
Especially compelling, and others in the room agreed, was the comparison of the same track on the monitors with the room correction in and the room correction out. With the correction in, noticeably the soundstage expanded, Kate’s voice was very close to what the floorstanders produced (without any room correction), the bass and the separation of instruments was about 85% of what the floorstanders delivered. You don’t have to shell out the big bucks to get great sound.
The Nagra exhibit room at AXPONA 2019 – easily one of the best sounds at the show. The electronics, of course, were all Nagra including the world-class Nagra HD preamp and Rene Laflamme walks us through the system on the AVShowrooms’ video. Along with effortless, delicately revealing sound and brilliant tonality, we were treated to an emotionally involving track from Rene’s recording of “Audiophile Analog Collection Vol. 1” titled “Greek Tycoon Bouzouki Music”. Several cuts on the album were recorded on the 4S Nagra tape deck. Outstanding! The loudspeakers were the Kharma Elegance S7’s and the cabling was by Organic Reference from Denmark.
Next Level HiFi/Borresen 5 Loudspeakers:
Truly, the star of the show was the United States debut of the Borresen 5 flagship loudspeakers. The Next Level HiFi exhibit room was dead quiet with the blackest of black background; the information I’ve not heard before in the Norwegian vocal cut “Liberty” was astounding. Another track, a jazz instrumental put the musicians in the room with us, you could hear the sax player breathing and connecting with his instrument. Michael Borresen explains in an interview on the AVShowrooms’ video, his revolutionary driver design. Driving the Borresen’s were the Aavik monoblock Class A 300 watts per channel (Michael talks about these beauties) along with the “Danish Army Knife”, the C300 preamplifier with a DSD DAC, PCM DAC and phonostage. Cables were Ansuz.
This year at AXPONA 2019, the Odyssey Audio exhibit room, with the newly upgraded Magnan Cables, gave the listeners one of the best soundstage experiences at the show comfortably competing with systems 10X the price. The layering, detail, beautifully integrated sound with the magnificent imaging is what keeps so many reviewers from various publications visiting the Odyssey/Magnan Room at the audio shows.
Equipment included the Kismet loudspeakers; Candela preamplifier and the Khartago mono blocks.
The Magnan cables were the Magnan Signature speaker cables and the Magnan signature interconnects, the upgrade (you’ll hear about it in the AVShowrooms’s video) is about replacing the woven jacketing with cotton cloth. I think this gave the overall sound a deeper texture with more image density. Definitely an improvement. I noticed a more profound emotional connection when playing a Kate Bush track. Next track was the Eagles’ “Hotel California”. I’ve heard this track in the Odyssey Audio room at shows before and nobody denies that the recording is bright. That brightness was toned down without losing any of the punchy, big, but detailed presentation.
Raidho with Audio Skies:
The Raidho TD4.2 loudspeakers pressurized the room to deliver both a musical and accurate sound. I consider the TD4.2 LS to be a hybrid composed of the TD4.1 and the organic signature that Benno Baun Meldgaard, Raidho’s chief engineer brings to the new design, a best of both worlds. Benno explains his design philosophy in the AVShowrooms’ video along with Michael Vamos, the Raidho Sales Director for the U.S. market. Michael talks about the new ribbon tweeter; higher efficiency (tube friendly), lower distortion and increased resolution. A track from the Kraftwerk album presented a full detailed, dynamic sound with a rich and emotionally stirring midrange that harkens back to the GamuT LS designs by Benno.
Everything in the system at the Synergistic Research exhibit room was running through the Powercell 12 SE power conditioner and we played the track “Radioactivity” from the Kraftwerk album “The Mix”.
Simply, when the power conditioner was turned on the soundstage opened up, the sound was more layered and images appeared in space around the room. The room included the Magico loudspeakers; Gryphon amplification and the United Home Audio tape deck.
VAC/Von Schweikert/The Audio Company:
The Flagship Ultra 11’s with the Valve Amplification Company’s Signature 450 iq’s are the must-have uber speakers and amplifiers if you want that live concert sound. When playing the track “Radioactivity” from Kraftwerk on the LP “The Mix”, the Ultra 11’s threw a huge soundstage with multiple layering, and an almost tactile imaging with earth-shifting dynamics.
Of course, the careful attention to choosing the right associated equipment, such as the Critical Mass racks and stands and MasterBuilt Cables is essential to achieve the end result.
The analogue source was the Tech Das One; The CD player was from Esoteric; the streamer from Aurender. Other associated equipment included a mass array of Esoteric electronics and the VAC Statement phono stage and linestage.
Well Pleased A/V:
The sound delivered through the new redesign of the Rethm Maarga v2 loudpeakers left this listener absolutely sure she could live with this speaker for the rest of her days. Jacob George, the designer, has made such monumental improvements delivering more warmth in the mids without sacrificing any of the detail, and in fact, bringing the musical experience closer to me with more overall dynamics. Simply, Anne Bisson’s “Le vent soufflé encore” from the album Conversations, a track I’ve heard hundreds of times over the years, delivered new information that was astonishing. Anne’s vocal mix in the beginning was profoundly more apparent as was her daughter’s at the end of the song. In addition to being in my top three best sounding rooms at AXPONA 2019, the speakers are a value at under 10,000 U.S. dollars (no price increase) and can compete with any speaker five to ten times the price. No exaggeration. A room with this kind of sound reminds me why I do what I do.
Associated equipment in the room, brought to us by Well Pleased A/V’s proprietor, Mark Sossa, include the Qualiton A20i SE Amplifier; Aqua Formula xHD D/A, GigaWatt PC-r Power Conditioner, Swisscables Diamond/Reference Plus and the SGR HiFi Racks Symphony Model 5/3. The source was the excellent Innuos Zenith MKIII Music Server.
Reviewers View, The Florida Audio Expo 2019, Show Highlights
Gated HiFi Distribution:
Easily one of the best sounding rooms at the show. Dana Haskins Mueller, proprietor of Gated HiFi, along with Lars Kristensen of Aavik Ansuz introduced the Borresen 01. This little stand mount speaker is the entry level to the Borresen- Acoustics loudspeaker line. It’s difficult to explain how the sound coming from such a tiny speaker could pressurize the room and deliver spatiality unrivaled at the show; that, along with giving us a tight, lightning-fast transient response. We played a Norwegian female vocalist who could have been standing in the middle of the room and the little woofer delivered low frequency that was startling when the saxophone came in. The upcoming video will give you more details and an excellent listening session.
Amplification was the Aavik U-300 integrated amplifier; cabling was the Ansuz DTC line. Also included in the system was the Ansuz Mainz8 power distributior and the titanium equipment rack.
House of Stereo:
Joe Parvey, owner of House of Stereo put together an exceptional sounding system. One of the best sounds and this was in the morning of the first day of the show. Peter Breuninger and I were both impressed with how the little TAD Labs Micro Evolution 1 loudspeakers packed a powerful punch with perfectly integrated bass. We listened to a track from Dead Can Dance on the Wolf Audio Systems Alpha 3 music server with the Flux Capacitor Clock and the sound was palpable with the proper spatiality and effortless reach from the mids to the highs. We were not the only listeners with dropped jaws, the show attendees who stayed for the video shoot were conversing and extolling the virtues of the sound delivered by House of Stereo. Cabling from Wireworld, Rack and room treatment from Stillpoints, other electronics from Ayre Electronics.
The Audio Company:
These guys never do anything in a small way. The giant ballroom had three systems including the new Von Schweikert Ultra 55 loudspeakers, the smallest of the VS Ultra line, making their world debut at Florida Audio Expo 2019. This indeed was one of the finest sounding systems at the show. Don’t believe for a minute that the smallest and least costly of the Ultra line is in any way “lesser-than” and you’ll learn why in the AVShowrooms’ video coming up next.
Also, one of the AVShowrooms’ videos will showcase Gordon Waters of The Audio Company introducing the new speakers driven by the VAC Statement 450 iQ monoblock power amplifiers sitting on the Critical Mass Maxxum stands with cables by MasterBuilt. Kevin Hayes of Valve Amplification Company (VAC), Damon Von Schweikert and Leif Swanson of Von Schweikert Audio also take the stage and speak in more detail of their own designs and design philosophies. Included, is Leif Swanson explaining the technology of the new Ultra 55 loudspeakers and the advantage of the 525 booster amp in the back of the speaker along with other tasty details.
We played two tracks; first, a vocal by Michel Jonasz. The system’s ambiance along with pinpoint imaging and spatiality gave this listener a feeling of a three dimensional, live performance. Next, we played the first track on the Roger Water’s album “Amused to Death”. Very different but with the same excellent musical experience.
One upcoming video will include Leif Swanson explaining the technology of the Ultra 55 loudspeakers and the advantage of the 525 booster amp in the back of the speaker along with other tasty details.
Associated equipment included in the entire exhibit were the Kronos turntable with the Black Beauty tonearm and the Airtight Opus 1 cartridge, Esoteric digital electronics, Critical Mass Maxxum racks and stands. All cabling by MasterBuilt Audio.
AVShowrooms’ videos will walk you through the systems and all of the components. Grab your favorite beverage, put on your headphones, get comfy and treat yourself to a room full of some of the most prestigious audio equipment in the world along with two powerful listening sessions.
Peter Mackay of Magico tells us all about the entry level, A3 Magico 3-way floorstanding Loudspeaker in the AVShowrooms’ video now in production. Then Joe Lavrencik of Critical Mass Systems explains in detail the benefits of the Critical Mass Rack and the Center Stage footers.
These Magico loudspeakers have the signature sound of the brand and achieved sound way above its relative price to Magico’s more costly speakers. We played the ballad “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” sung by Lisa Gerrard and Gerrard’s voice filled the room with a spatial, atmospheric sound that was so emotionally engaging it took on an almost tactile quality. Brilliant decay and believability,certainly one of the best sounding rooms at the show.
Electronics were the Luxman integrated amplifier, 125 watts per channel and the source was the Luxman CD player sitting on the entry level Soto Voce rack from Critical Mass. Cabling by Audioquest.
Mike Malinowski Reviews the United Home Audio UHA Ultima2 The new written review is below the videos!
Peter Breuninger Reviews the Phase 11
Introduction to the Phase 11
Listening to Reel-to-Reel Tape
Reviewer Thoughts and Conclusions
Meet the Designer and Purchasing Tapes, Greg Beron
Mike Malinowski Reviews the United Home Audio UHA Ultima2
As a lifelong audiophile and long-term reviewer I’ve had the opportunity to listen to some of the world’s greatest audio components. Having meandered through the various formats, I always returned to vinyl. For years, I have been firmly ensconced in the vinyl world, fortunately, reaching a point at or near the state-of-the-art. That was until I met Greg Beron.
Although a diverse group, audiophiles often inexorably strive for that next small, incremental improvement. While leapfrog watershed component improvements have occurred, unfortunately, they usually occur in the ultra-high price strata. I believed that long-gone are the days of inserting a reasonably priced source component into a state-of-the-art system resulting in dramatic improvements. Therefore, part of the fun of our hobby is looking for that 3%, 4%, or 5% gain. I believed in this paradigm until I had the pleasure of meeting Greg Beron and his UHA Ultima2 deck. This is a game changer which has upended my beliefs as to what is possible.
While I’m not going to spend a lot of time discussing the design, Greg’s radial remanufacturing and modification of the Tascam BR-20 is utterly stunning in every respect. Visually you can customize this deck from an understated but elegant basic black, to an over-the-top paisley design with enough bling to command attention in any system. I opted for the somewhat conservative silver with a touch of red in the screws and VU meters. The top silver paint has a slight iridescence providing an elegant sparkle. Yet a beautiful chassis and distinctive look does not guarantee great design or sound. Underneath the hood, Greg did not just meet the current state-of-the-art, he blew past it. Stripped of its previous electronics, Greg re-engineered and replaced every element and every critical component of the deck with the highest quality audiophile circuitry. For example, the outboard power supply has the size and weight of an amplifier and provides pure DC to the entire tape deck – no AC anywhere means no AC hum. Actually, the outboard power supply is really two independent supplies: one for the drive motors, the other for the electronics. Greg has done a far better job than I could in describing the technical aspects of the deck. I urge anyone who might be interested in the technical side to explore the UHA, a website for detailed information.
Although beautiful and elegant, the ultimate question is the sound, both in an absolute sense and compared to my current state-of-the-art source components. Over many years, I’ve been very fortunate to assemble a superior listening room – Wilson Alexandria, Tenor electronics, Walker turntable, Clearaudio Statement cartridge, tweaks galore, all sitting in a custom ASC designed room. At this level there is no right or wrong, just as there’s no right or wrong luxury car. Ultimately it comes down to your specific taste.
My room reflects my tastes in listening: high-energy, emotional, revealing, with an immersive sound stage. It is the antithesis of polite and laid-back. The room is intensely resolving without being analytical, offering the ability to discern the details and differences between components.
On my audio journey, I’ve auditioned and/or owned hundreds of audio components and I really thought I had a good handle on my sonic expectations. I was wrong. Nothing could have prepared me for the arrival of the Ultima2.
The deck, now several months old, is fully broken-in. Let’s not kid ourselves. Every component imposes a unique sonic character on the sound. To get a handle on the Ultima2, I’ve listened to a large variety of tape sources and can draw some specific conclusions as to the overall sound quality of the Ultima2. Tapes in my collection include reissues from Acoustic Sounds, Groove Note, spectacular new tapes from Ed Pong, the Tape Project, Yarlung, and others. Fortunately, I was also able to listen to copies of master tapes from some of the great classic pop and rock artists, sourced from the internet and collectors around the world.
So, in general, what does Greg’s Ultima2 “sound like”? In a word – Stunning! It is utterly involving, which to me is one of the highest compliments attributable to a component. It has the ability to pull you in directly to the heart and soul of the music and at times allows you to forget that the music is being mechanically reproduced. It allows you to focus solely on the essence of the music. On the best recordings, there is an inner sense of purity and detail, which exceeds the best that I’ve heard from vinyl or digital.
The Ultima2 projects a seamlessness that is almost hard to describe. From top to bottom, music flows with a natural continuity. It makes even the best analog and digital sound slightly “discrete.” It’s also dead quiet. Turn the volume up, put your ear two inches in front of the speaker, and you hear absolutely nothing. Although cliché, music leaps from a deep black background, with heretofore unheard low-level cues, and details clearly emerge.
When it comes to soundstaging, the Ultima2 removes the walls and scales proportionally to the music source. With the right recording, in a darkened room, you can actually see the music spread across a 100 foot stage or tightly focused in an intimate nightclub. With my Proscenium Black Diamond turntable, I have heard instances where the speakers simply disappear and the music just “exists” in the room. To me, this is the ultimate compliment of the system. The Ultima2 ups the ante. At times, and with the right tapes, the speakers, the walls, and the rooms literally ceased to exist.
Over the years I bought and sold dozens of copies of very specific records that I love, in search for that ultimate set of vinyl recordings. These are my benchmarks. Over the past few months I’ve been fortunate to be able to compare some of these treasured recordings against analog tape using the Ultima2. I am able to draw some interesting and relatively consistent observations. Compared to my vinyl, the Ultima2’s tonal response is fuller, and more powerful, while vinyl is tilted to the top-end. Let me be clear, this does not mean that the Ultima2 adds a warm, slow, or euphonic glaze to the sound; far from it. It does mean that the low-end is explosive and dynamic. With other media, the low-end can be a vague background image; with the Ultima2 the low-end is deep, rich, detailed, and fully integrated into the sonic signature. Music via the UHA had more body and more “meat on the bone.” As to the top-end, I initially wondered if vinyl had more high-end energy than the tape, “and was it real?” While the records were in some cases brighter, they didn’t appear to have any additional high-end information. After significant comparative listening, I’ve concluded that tape has all of the top-end information compared to vinyl, and sometimes much more. The key difference appears to be that tape has lower distortion and presents a far smoother top-end. However, the Ultima2 has variable equalization which can be used as a pseudo tone control without the inherent messiness that typical tone controls bring to the signal. If the tape is slightly dull or bright, you can make some subtle adjustments to suit your taste.
While taking listening notes over the past few months, the word “more” kept appearing. In short, take every relevant audiophile buzzword that we banter about, and just add the word “more.” More realism, more depth, more soundstage, and more information. Simply put, the Ultima2 allows the user to become more engaged in the musical presentation. Here the Ultima2 is off the charts, and in my humble opinion, it is a quantum leap forward.
There is a sense of limitless dynamic energy, authority and musical density with an effortless presentation. To my ears, the best tape makes other medium sound slightly compressed or limited. When you combine this with the lack of surface noise, pops, or ticks, it just adds to the realism.
Conclusions? As the proud owner of arguably one of the world’s top vinyl front end systems, the question most often asked is how does the Ultima2 compare to your Walker and which is better? Certainly the comparison is not apples-to-apple. On one hand, the retail value of my vinyl front and is more than five times that of Greg’s Ultima2. On the other hand, tapes cost approximately five to ten times more than a new high-end vinyl record. Life is full of trade-offs. After living with the Ultima2, will I be selling my Walker Proscenium Black Diamond turntable? Never… They will have to pry it from my cold dead hands.
While you can find specific tracks where both the tape and vinyl are equally satisfying, generally, the Ultima2 was clearly and unambiguously superior, not just to my vinyl system, but to any system that I’ve ever heard. When the Ultima2 was better, which was often, the level of realism and emotional involvement was a substantial leap above what I thought was possible.
Reviewers are prone to hyperbole. However, I can say without fear of exaggeration, the Ultima2 is one of the signature landmark source components in a generation. If you love music, if you love sound, and are invested in a high-end system, get one of Greg’s Ultima2s. I assure you that will fall in love with it just as I have.
When visiting the Black Ice room at audio shows there is always the anticipation of something new and better. So far I haven’t been disappointed. The AVShowrooms’ Video will show you Jerred Dunkerson doing a compare and contrast on two new Black Ice Audio integrated amplifiers, the Black Ice Fusion F11 Vacuum Tube Stereo Integrated Amplifier, 18 watts per channel and the Black Ice Fusion F35 Vacuum Tube Stereo Integrated Amplifier, 50 watts per channel. We played the same two tracks with each amplifier in the system on the Black Ice Audio Fusion DAC/Transport now featuring DSD. One track was a drum and percussion recording and the other was a vocal track by artist Michel Jonasz.
The 50 watt amplifier did everything I expected it to do, delivering a full, detailed sound with layering and great separation in the instruments. However, the real surprise in the Black Ice exhibit room, hey, maybe at the entire Capital Audiofest 2018, was the little 18 watt with the giant sound driving the Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Concert Grand loudspeakers, 87db efficient. The sound was around the room, folks. Effortlessly punching through whatever challenges these recordings present. It was awe inspiring to know such great, not good, but great sound can be had at $1400! And, if that is not enough, the amplifier includes a headphone jack. All electronics in the room were Black Ice Audio.
Brian Zolner of Bricasti Audio introduces to our viewers his new M25 power amplifiers, a dual mono version. The M25’s fall between the M28 and M15 models for power, current and performance. And, a powerful performance it was. We played a track with Chinese drummers that literally exploded in the room. Outstanding bass, a multi-dimensional and layered presentation. At one point I actually jumped in my seat due to the transient attack of a drum thwack! The Bricasti system was fast, accurate and mind-blowing in its emotional involvement.
Cube Audio/Refined Audio:
It’s almost impossible for me to describe what the Cube Nenuphar 10” cone full-range single driver loudspeaker delivered at The Capital Audiofest 2018, but I’ll try. We played two tracks, one by the Frederic Alarie Trio and the other from Michel Jonasz. The realism of the bass was astounding; the overall sound, holographic with both superb tonality and tonal quality. Every instrument was in it proper place . Jon with Refined Audio talked into the AVShowrooms’ video camera and told us about the new technology that makes the Nenuphar stand out. Not to be missed. Driving the loudspeakers was the Pass Lab’s latest amplifier, the SIT-3. The preamplifier was the Pass XP-20. In use were the QLS music server and the Metrum DAC.
A beautiful and rich sound enveloped me even though I was sitting off axis. The new 2.5 way Larson 9 loudspeakers sit against the wall and pressurize the room, turning the space into the sound. Michael Vamos of Audio Skies walks us through the system and explains in more detail on the AVShowrooms’ video the number of improvements in the new Larsons. Indeed, the proof was in the sound and the bass was astounding; the overall sound, coherent. We played the track “Nublado” from the MA Recordings album Sera Una Noche on the new Thrax turntable with the Hana cartridge and Schroeder tonearm with the new Sutherland “Phono Loco” phonostage. Amplifiers were the VAC Phi 170 separates with the VAC Renaissance Mark V preamplifier with cabling by EnKlein.
GT Audio Works & Sound Insight:
This room was certainly getting the buzz during CAF 2018 and for very good reason. Possibly one of the best sounding rooms at the show, if not the best. Greg Takesh, owner of GT Audio Works talks all about his design of the GTA3r loudspeakers, an open baffle, full range, 2-way planar magnetic loudspeaker with a ribbon tweeter and proprietary driver. Now, include Steve Rabitz of Sound Insight’s open baffle powered 6/channel stereo sub woofers that go down to 16 Hz and you’ve got an uber-fast, chest-pounding sound with no sacrifice to delicacy and detail.
I describe this as a masculine sound in the AVShowrooms’ “Reviewers View” Video that most certainly mesmerized and beguiled this female listener! The system was powered by the Pass Labs XA 60.8 power amps and the Pass Labs XS pre amp, a perfect combination for this system. However, tube lovers should take note that the GTA3r’s are 92 db efficient. All wiring was by Triode Wire Labs, both the Synergistic Research Powercell 12 UEF SE and Tranquility Base were in place and the CD was played on the Esoteric K01xs SACD player using the Vu Jade Audio 101DHT DAC.
Legacy Audio with Leesburg Listening Room:
This is probably one of the most product-filled AVShowrooms’ videos produced for the Capital Audiofest 2018. Bryce of Legacy Audio expertly walks us through each system being exhibited leading up to the flagship Legacy Audio loudspeaker, the Legacy Valor, in its debut on the east coast of the United States. The speakers were powered by the Raven Audio Silhouette monoblock amplifiers and the Legacy Wavelet pre amplifier and DAC.
Peter Breuninger played a vocal track on this system by Michel Jonasz and mentions in the video that it is the best sounding Legacy Audio room he’s experienced in all of the years of visiting the owner and founder Bill Dudelston’s exhibit rooms. The vocal was floating in the middle of the room and the system showed off what the Legacy Audio Wavelet preamp/DAC could do by separating the instruments and allowing for perfect imaging. Many thanks to both Dennis of Leesburg Listening Room of Leesburg, Virginia and Bryce of Legacy Audio for delivering one of the best sounding rooms at The Capital Audiofest 2018.
Old Forge Studio:
Dave Cope of Old Forge Studio joined forces with Nellie Davis of Audio Federation to deliver sound that was both organic and detailed at the same time. In its United States debut, Nellie talks in the video about the Acapella La Campanella 2-way loudspeaker, the largest of the Acapella loudspeakers that do not have the plasma tweeter. Also, debuting in North America, were the Pure Audio monoblock amplifier’s, Class A with 70 watts per channel and the Control 2 preamplifier.
Dave talks about the new Wand turntable in detail that plays 33’s, 45’s and, get this, 78’s! The phono preamp was the PureAudio Vinyl. Spinning up a track from Audio Note Music’s “Pure Cello” was a reminder that Vincent Belanger, the cellist on the recording, was in this very exhibit room at a past CAF show. There was his signature sound, no doubt, unobstructed, in a quiet and serene environment thanks to Dave and Nellie. Embracingly beautiful.
The Audio Company/VAC/Von Schweikert Audio:
Without a doubt, The Audio Company of Marietta, Georgia has found its Mojo in the Potomac room at the Hilton Hotel in Rockville, Maryland. After an entire year of anticipation based on my experience at The Capital Audiofest 2017, I have come away with a head-shaking, nobody does it better conclusion. The Von Schweikert Audio ULTRA 11 loudspeakers and the VAC (Valve Amplification Company) bi-amped 450 IQ monoblocks with Masterbuilt cabling gave this listener that enveloping and involving concert-like sound that I’ve come to expect. On Sunday we played a CD and recorded it for the AVShowrooms’ video, a drum and percussive track on the Esoteric Grandioso P1 CD Transport with the G1 Atomic Clock and Esoteric power supply.
The system pressurized the room and the music exploded around us. It was the same track we played at the Saturday night listening session and everyone in the room was pulled into the explosive sonic experience. Tone, tonality, imaging and a palpable gut-wrenching response by the listener is only at this level (I thought) when attending a live event and sitting in the best seats at the venue. This is not supposed to happen with reproduced sound. One vinyl track I was most anxious to play on the Kronos turntable with SCPS was a track from The Franklin Mint Country Music Collection with Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton. The voices were real and the raw presentation of Haggard’s voice combined with the effortless flow of Dolly’s vocals was so apparent it felt as if I could ride the music like a surfer rides a wave. Associated equipment included Critical Mass stands.
The Wilson Benesch “Resolution” loudspeakers with the carbon fiber Infrasonic Generator were one of the stars of the show. Aside from the beautiful fit and finish, their performance, along with the Ypsilon electronics, achieved one of the best sounding rooms at RMAF 2018. Brian Ackerman, proprietor of Audio Imports, introduces the U.S. debut of the Ypsilon DAC 1000 and in the upcoming video he talks about the features of this new accomplishment from Ypsilon. Playing a track from Dead Can Dance, Brendan Perry’s voice was in the middle of the room. This sound was coherent and musical with pinpoint imaging and excellent detail. Cabling was Stage III Concepts.
Alsyvox, Omega Audio Concepts:
The Alsyvox 3-way Botticelli full range ribbon loudspeakers were accompanied by electronics from Omega Audio Concepts combining beauty with function. Playing MA Recording’s “Nublado” early in the day on Friday, day 1, drives home the fact that great sound can be achieved early in the show with the right equipment and set-up. Music filled the room and music filled me with emotion. The sound was natural, realistic, fast and tight. The Botticelli’s are also beautiful to behold. I’d love to spend more time with these babies.
Proprietor, Gideon Schwartz showcased the Zellaton’s Legacy stand-mount loudspeakers, a two-way speaker with an 8” proprietary woofer on the back augmenting the 5” Zellaton driver. These little guys filled the room with the larger Zellaton Statement sonic signature; extremely dynamic, with the same speed and liquidity. Other components in the room were the very impressive Ensemble Massimo Fuoco integrated, hybrid amplifier; the Thoress phono stage powering the Thales turntable with their top-of-the-line Statement tonearm and a Fuuga MC cartridge. I encourage our viewers to watch this video with these incredible products brought together to achieve one of the best sounding rooms at RMAF 2018.
Audio Logic Online with Sigma Acoustics:
North American Distributor, Kaveh Saffari, introduces the Sigma Acoustics Orchestra 2.3 loudspeakers for the first time in the United States. The designer, Aldo Zaninello, impressed us with his beautiful Italian design of the speaker, but more importantly with the design of the ribbon tweeter giving the high frequencies room to breathe across the top opening up the soundstage. 90.5 dB, easy to drive – tube amplifier friendly. We played percussive, a human voice track and a vocal track. The sound was open and enveloping at the same time. The instruments had proper space between them and the system brought out the detail and vocals perfectly. Associated equipment; the AAvik U300 amplifier, Ansuz cabling, stands by Music Tools from Italy and an Esoteric Cd player.
Bending Wave USA:
Elliot Goldman, importer and distributor of some of the top brands in high-performance audio, introduced the Goebel Aeon Reference Bending Wave loudspeakers from the Epoque line in its U.S debut. The room featured a vast array of CH Precision electronics including the mono preamplifier, the mono DAC, external power supplies and 2 M1 amplifiers. This system threw a holographic, three dimensional soundstage putting the singer, Michel Jonaz, in the middle of the room. Especially apparent was how the sound of the electric piano popped in the track “Terre”emphasizing its tonality in this already multi-layered sound.
High End by Oz with Audio Solutions Figaro XL:
It gives me much pleasure to introduce Audio Solutions’ Figaro series loudspeakers from Lithuania, debuted and distributed by Ozan Turan in the United States. One of the unique features of these loudspeakers is that the plywood cabinets are not glued; instead, there’s a self-locking mechanism employed to enhance the bass response.
We listened to a track from “Dead Can Dance” and we were both floored that a $15,000 speaker, retail, of this scale, is now available in North America. A more than satisfying low frequency presence and an organic sound in the purist sense with musical involvement that I found to be off-the-charts. As said in the upcoming video, this rave is not to diminish the performance the smaller, Figaro M at $7500, but the added bass response won the AVShowrooms’ Gold Show award for the XL model. This was my take-home, folks, and this at a show I thought had great sound in so many rooms. The Figaro XL rivaled loudspeakers at the show 10X the price on most every level. The speakers were powered by the Vitus class A integrated amplifier and cabling was by Ansuz.
We were fortunate enough to be introduced to the new HD DAC X. In the upcoming show video, Rene Laflamme will explain how much work was done to achieve the end product with optimal results. Our first round of listening was a female vocalist and honestly, I looked twice because I thought Rene was playing tape. The sound was about as close to analogue I’ve heard a CD sound at an audio show. After the song was over, Peter Breuninger commented the same. Quite an accomplishment. Next, Rene played us a jazz piece on tape that was sonically satisfying but the standout was the new DAC. Overall, the sound was effortless with very good tonal quality. Loudspeakers were Rockport’s Cygnus and cabling was Argento Audio. Of course, all of the electronics were Nagra.
Next Level Hi-Fi with Borreson, Aavik and Ansuz:
A debut in the United States by Next Level Hi-Fi in Wayne, Illinois. The Borreson 03 loudspeakers have arrived and meet the exacting standards of their designer, Michael Borreson. Michael painstakingly walks us through his journey to his end creation. The AVShowrooms’ video will delight Borreson fans when he explains in detail the new drivers, the new ribbon tweeter and the new magnet system, along with his concept of the project from beginning to end. We played two male vocal tracks with the C150 Ansuz amplifier powering the speakers. The system was extremely quiet. There was no noise floor. It was organic and detailed without any harshness and delivered music with emotional involvement. The system included the Ansuz DT-C, top-of-the-line cabling with the Mainz 8 Power Distributor, the Ansuz equipment rack and new P150 stereo amplifier.
Michael Vamos, Sales Representative for both Raidho and Scansonic loudspeakers, treated us to one of the biggest surprises at RMAF 2018. Just as I was wrapping up my notes for Reviewers’ View I settled back for a listen. We played Roger Waters “It’s a Miracle” on the Scansonic MB5B and the bass and imaging were that of speakers three times the size. “Giant Killers” was what Michael called them. These slim, little 2.5 way floorstanders will disappear in any size room and they are front-ported giving the listener the ability to move them closer to the wall. The Raidho DNA was apparent, but for a fraction of the price. How about $7500? Anyway, how could I resist adding the Scansonic to my list for the show wrap-up?
We were introduced to new SR products at RMAF 2018 including the Galileo SX Cables. These new cables were developed incorporating the technology from the Synergistic Research program that resulted in the all-silver 25th Anniversary SR power cord. The AVShowrooms’ video will have Ted Denny talking about the components in the system. We played a beautiful version of the “Intermezzo from Carmen” by The All Star Orchestra and were treated to Ted Denney’s demo with the SR technology turned on and off. As promised, with the SR technology turned on, the sound had more clarity and musicality, better resolution and superior imaging. With the SR technology turned off, the sound collapsed and fell into itself. Ever raising the bar, the Synergistic Research team had one of the best sounding rooms at RMAF 2018. Look for the voluntary third-party endorsement by a show attendee in the AVShowrooms’ video.
VAC/Von Schweickert – The Audio Company:
Once again, it is difficult to find words to properly describe the concert-like experience both Valve Amplification Company and Von Schweikert Audio bring to the listener. The new Ultra 9 loudspeakers incorporating their technology from their development of the Ultra 11’s will be the focus of an upcoming AVShowrooms’ video interview with both Damon Von Schweikert and Leif Swanson of Von Schweikert Audio explaining their journey, and the technology that resulted in the end product. Kevin Hayes, in his own video, does an outstanding job of showcasing his new Statement 450i IQ Integrated amplifier and explaining to the viewers how it took three years to bring the Statement technology to an integrated amplifier.
The new integrated is so fast and quiet, unlike any tube integrated I’ve come across at any audio show. Truly a masterpiece in its category. And, speaking of masterpieces, the Ultra 9’s are the perfect loudspeakers to be paired with the Statement 450i IQ integrated. The sound of the “Song of the Stars” track from Dead Can Dance had imaging, tone, impact, micro dynamics and macro dynamics far superior than any other room I heard at the show, or any show for that matter. Peter Breuninger mentions in the video that it is the best; however, only to possibly be exceeded in performance in the exhibit room at The Capital Audiofest 2017 with the Ultra 11’s, Von Schweikert’s flagship, and the bi-amped 450 IQ monoblocks. We played vinyl on the Kronos Audio turntable with the SCPS. Cabling by MasterBuilt Audio ULTRA and stands were Critical Mass. The Digital stack included the transport and DAC by Esoteric.
Paul Manos of High Fidelity Services and Julian Pelchat of Verity Audio astounded and delighted us with a system worth over 1 million U.S. dollars. The loudspeakers showing were the Monsalvat’s accompanied by two woofer towers using the walls as a horn. The vinyl played was Dead Can Dance’s “Song of the Stars” and the sound came at you and around you in a phase coherent, radiating pattern. The Verity woofer tower and the main tower were perfectly time aligned and the power amplifiers from Verity were a surprising 60 watts per channel. “Power doesn’t mean much” said Julian (more about this on the upcoming video), had me scratching my head, but the truth was in the listen. Easily, one of the best sounding systems at the show. Associated equipment included Verity DAC/Preamp, TW Acoustics turntable with an Ortofon cartridge, Signal Projects cabling and Vibex power conditioning.
Saying farewell to the Denver Marriott Tech Center I nostalgically pondered on how in all of the years I’ve been attending RMAF, that its last show at the Marriott ended on such a high note. In my opinion, and contrary to other show reports, this was one of the best overall sounding RMAF’s. However, change is good.
Next year the new venue is Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center in Aurora, Colorado, a brand new resort that looks like the size of a small city. It’s now a four day show, (Thursday is trade day) Sept 5 – Sept 8 2019 with many more large conference-sized rooms available and, it was reported from a reliable source, the smaller exhibit rooms are larger and all furniture is removable. Yay! What’s not to like. The ‘fest has moved on. Long live RMAF!