2007 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest
October 12 ~ 14, 2007
Denver Marriot Tech Center Hotel
Show Coverage Page 2
(Exhibit details supplemented by the Exhibitors and the companies they represent)
German electronics brand AcousticPlan and U.K. loudspeaker company Acoustic Research Technology (A.R.T.) were represented by their common U.S. Importer, Tangram Audio. Using his own 47 Laboratory 4713 Flatfish CD transport, 4705 Progression DAC and separate 4799 Power Dumpty power supply for each, Tangram proprietor Yujean Kang showcased the $20,000 A.R.T. Emotion Signature XL loudspeaker in beautiful piano lacquered Santos rosewood, being driven by AcousticPlan’s transformer-coupled, $10,650 Sarod tube preamplifier and the companion 50Wpc, $10,650 triode-input MOSFET-output hybrid power amplifier, the Santor. When I commented on the striking resemblance of their speaker to my Audio Note UK AN-E SEC Silver, Derek Dunlop of A.R.T. disclosed that the Emotion Series was developed as a response to their Asian business partners’ request, who were familiar with Audio Note UK speakers. (www.tangramaudio.com)
I was surprised by how dynamic and extended the A.R.T. Emotion Signature sounded in a minimally treated hotel room, which also served as a reminder to how detailed and spectrally uniform the 47 Lab digital combo could sound. The A.R.T. Emotion Series of loudspeakers comes in three models, namely the $10,000 standard version with premium quality OFC copper internal wiring and hand-wound copper air core inductors and Clarity cap custom-made SA series capacitors. The Emotion Signature at the show featured Kondo KSL SPC copper wiring, whereas the top-of-the-line Emotion Silver Signature has Kondo KSL SPz silver wiring and Jensen pure silver foil Inductors and Jensen pure silver foil paper in oil type capacitors. All Emotion models weigh identically at 110lb each, with the same drivers and efficiency of 90.5dB/8Ω, and a frequency range of 24 to 25kHz within 2dB’s.
Active loudspeaker manufacturer Salagar introduced its $7,999/pair Symphony S210, a 60lb monitor equipped with a 200-watt Bang & Olufsen ICEpower class D switching amplifiers in each cabinet. With a curved cabinet resembling a string instrument, Salagar co-founder and president Salahuddin Khan said in the Press Release that, “This design facilitates an even distribution of cabinet stress, realized by creating a curved walled, airtight vessel, to reduce dramatically cabinet coloration for high quality sound production across all audible frequencies.” Active speakers beckon the question whether the mere presence of meter-long speaker cable is the cause of certain fidelity loss, for the Salagar produced a level of tonal fullness not usually found in speaker/amplification at the same price point. Then, there is the X-ACT active digital crossover/controller that offers four custom settings of frequency response, selectable speaker sensitivity and digital input for a 24 bits 96kHz sampling that “applies SALAGAR’s proprietary digital filters to divide the signal between the high frequency and mid-bass transducers. The result is a balanced, musical sound from virtually any source.” See Pre-Show Coverage under “Salagar” for equipment listing. (www.salagar.com)
Over John Atkinson’s head comes music!
Genesis Advanced Technologies and Acapella were featured by their common dealer, Audio Limits. Speakers from GAT were the $16,000 5.3 and the $2,100 7.1p (Petite) mini-monitor. Amplifications were Genesis’ newly developed class-D amplifier, namely a pair of the $11,000, monoblock version of the Genesis Reference Series amplifiers when driving the G5.3, and a $3,000, stereo version of the Genesis Reference Series Basic Edition when driving the 7.1p. As usual with the GAT loudspeakers, they produced big sound and unbelievable dynamics for their respective prices.
The G5.3 was using the Harmonix Reimyo CDT-777 transport, the DAP-777 DAC and the Einstein “The Preamp”. The G7.1p was using the Simaudio CD transport and the Benchmark Media DAC-1.
The Acapella featured in the other side of the room was the $88,700/pair High Campanile. When I was in the room, the Genesis systems were being rotated, so I didn’t get to hear them. But stipulating from my understanding of the $26,000 La Campanella that I reviewed, and the $170,500 Triolon Excalibur that I auditioned for six days at Importer Brian Ackerman’s home, I wouldn’t underestimate the sound of anything Acapella, particularly the High Campanile. See Pre-Show Coverage under “Audio Limits” for equipment listing. (http://www.genesisloudspeakers.com/) (http://www.aaudioimports.com/)
The Jumping Cactus Speakers exhibit was one of the more impressive demo I’ve experienced at the show. Sold direct to consumers at $9,300 the pair, complete with a Marchand XM44 crossover and Billy Baggs custom speaker stands, the 120lb, tri-wiring loudspeaker had incredible distinction in frequency spectrum, making each instrument timbre easily discernible. Although the Jumping Cactus did not disappear as the Tonian Lab speaker, it demonstrated impressive dynamic handling capability. When playing my 1987 Hyperion choral disc of Samuel Barber’s Agnus Dei in pure vocal form, I was waiting for driver break-up during the most colossal singing of the group; but it was over before I realized it. The trio of taiko drums in the JVC Ondekoza disc of Dotou Banri was rendered with vast and clear dynamic contrast, with no sign of compression. I listened, chatted with Jim Harrell, wrote down the notes above, then got up and left with the sound in my head. Didn’t take any pictures, wasn’t thinking of the readers but only the sound….guess my head wasn’t in the right place. (http://www.jumpingcactusloudspeakers.com/)
Retailer 8250 Theaterworks specializes in home theater sound; but their exhibit this time was all 2-channel, and the Cowboy Junkies CD had incredible retrieval of original venue’s ambiance. The playback of my FIM K2 HD sampler also produced amazing warmth and timber definition. Associated equipment: Esoteric P-05 CD/SACD transport ($7,000), Esoteric D-05 Dual Mono 32-bit DAC ($7,000), McIntosh C220 vacuum tube preamp ($3,300), McIntosh MC501 monoblock amplifiers ($4,700 each), Aerial Acoustics 20T loudspeaker ($26,000/pair), MIT Oracle digital cable ($1,399), MIT Oracle MA RCA ($7,295), MIT Oracle MA XLR ($8,795), MIT Magnum MA interconnects ($2,629), MIT Magnum MA speaker cable ($9,195), Richard Gray’s Power Company 1200 Custom ($2,195) and 600 RM Pro ($1,295). The MIT Magnum’s were elevated above floor by a quadruplet bottles of hot sauce, and the sound was quite hot. (www.8250theaterworks.com) By the way, the 8250 theaterworks-brand Red Habanero Hot Sauce is just as potent and pungent as the Tabasco Pepper Sauce. Don’t miss it.
Luxman Corporation returns to the U.S. market with their top products as presented by Philip O’Hanlon of On A Higher Note, its U.S. Distributor. Sitting on top of the rack was Luxman’s top integrated amplifier, the L590A II ($9,000), pumping 30 watts of class A power into the medium efficiency Vivid Audio K1 loudspeaker ($22,990/pair). Hailing from South Africa, Vivid designer Laurence Dickie was responsible for the creation of B&W’s crowning achievement, the Nautilus. Source was via the Weiss Jason CD transport & matching Medea DAC beneath the L590AII. In display were Luxman’s own DU-80 Universal Player ($9,400) and a DU-7i Universal Player ($6,600). Cabling was via a complete XLO system that, per Philip, cost only $1,800 retail.
Driven by the the 30Wpc Luxman in playing a very good-sounding, high-voltage vintage Frank Sinatra track, there was no dynamic compression during peaks when the orchestra and the singer collided in equal loudness, and yet both were reproduced in clear and excellent timbre distinction and dimensional separation. Unbelievable dynamics from a 30Wpc. The bottom-end was also some of the most solid and clearly delineated among exhibits. Simple setup, immensely musical. According to Philip, “the demo sessions made use of DVD-Audio discs made by Cirlinca form Music Giants’ Super HD downloads (24-bit, WMA Lossless).”.(http://www.onahighernote.com/)
Ray Kimber of Kimber Kable has been present in every show, and his Exhibit has consistently been the grandest. This time, Ray converted the largest ballroom at the Marriott and turned it into a concert hall with 4 surround-sound pairs of a trio of the enormous Sound Lab ProStat 922, plus a pair of Sony prototype loudspeaker sitting mysteriously in static in front of the Sound Lab’s. Ray’s usual configuration also included a workstation feeding signals into separate DACs, this time an EMM Labs DAC. Amplification was four pairs of Pass Labs’ $10,500/each X350.5. Piano solo image was remarkably realistic in both scale and dimensionality. This Exhibit was one of the very few rooms that I needed to return to. By the way, it wasn’t the Sony’s that were playing. Really.
To my luck, while Ray was simply demonstrating the large Sound Labs in my first visit, my second visit the next day coincided with a last-minute change in demonstration – the activation of the Sony prototype loudspeakers in front of the gigantic Sound Lab. Ray invited the audience to listen to the taping of a live band playing outside, after which he returned the audience to their seats and played the same performance via the Sony’s. For the first few 10 or so seconds, I thought the Sony was perhaps attempting the impossible in the presence of the Sound Lab’s, and its output level was perhaps too loud, if not simply trying in vain to fill up the same space within the same large ballroom setup. Before long, the hidden aspect of this experience surfaced, as the Sony’s was producing sound that was most satisfying, imparting a most involving listening experience. I went to the back of the room, where the two Japanese Sony engineers responsible for this loudspeaker project stood nervously, congratulated them for a successful project, and requested a review pair. They didn’t exactly turn me down, but you know how polite Japanese can be.
Andrew Jones of Technical Audio Devices (TAD) unveiled the company’s latest Reference One ($65,000/pair), an upper model to the Model 1 of 2005. Weighing in at 330lb each, the Reference One features a vacuum-vaporized Beryllium for a concentric tweeter and midrange that traverses the unheard-of range of 250Hz to 100kHz! Driven by Bel Canto monoblocks and digital front-end, I experienced for the first time an utterly realistic reproduction of the male/female choir in my Hyperion disc of the vocal version of Samuel Barber’s Agnes Dei. I had to open my eyes to ascertain that none of the other attendees was standing there singing.
Andrew Jones and the cause of his jubilance.
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