Publisher Profile

2009 RMAF Coverage 12

Jolida, King Sound, K.T. Audio, Luxman, Soundsmith, TT Weights Audio, Vandersteen, Von Schweikert,/Channel Island, Win Audio

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Mike Allen and Jolida always brings great gear and this year he displayed a trio of his little 12-watt EL84 driven Cube amps. He was also using his own Tascam BR-20 10-inch reel-to-reel. Are these tape decks making a comeback? Evidently so and I for one am glad. While Mike’s little amps may not be the stuff that Dagogo is made from, the innovation and the target user thought process is worth mentioning. Many of us caught up in the world of uber expensive audio, that rely on this industry to drive our livelihoods or simply our addictions, never giving much thought to the fact that unless we can cultivate a new breed of younger audiophile we, ourselves, will go the way of the dinosaur. All one needs to do is look at where the industry is headed and that is downloadable and portable music. Mike is making an amp purpose-made to mate with the iPod. Capture the kids with a bit of their own preferred transport, mate it to a bit of high-end, and just like giving someone a bit of crack, you get them hooked. Yes that is a terribly ugly analogy but without us fostering the addiction to audio to a certain degree we will perish. Kudos to you Mike! Total display: JD 502 BRC Integrated Tube Amplifier, JD 3000B Tube Preamplifier, Nola Boxer Speakers, FX 10 Tube Integrated Amplifier, JD 1701RC Remote Control Hybrid Integrated Amp, United Home Audio Reel To Reel Tape Deck and the JD 100 CDP.

Not too long ago Doug Schroeder introduced Dagogo readers to the King Sound “the King” electrostatic speakers ($8000 the pair). These speakers were being driven by Concert Fidelity CF-80 line stage ($18,000) and Silicon Arts ZL-120 mono amplifiers ($23,000/pair) and all of it being fed by the Weiss Engineering Jason CD player ($ 19600). This system was producing great sound and the speakers presented the music and a totally integrated top-to-bottom fashion including some impressive bottom-end. Even though this was not the ideal setup it did an admirable job of showing the true potential of these speakers.

Tom Vu’s KT Audio room was slamming along with the Gamut El Superiores S9 speaker powered up by the Gamut M250i monoblock ($25,995/pair) and D3i Dual mono preamplifier ($9,500). On the digital front-end was the CD3 player ($8,900). Tom was displaying 3 of the Musical Life turntables including the Musical Life Conductor turntable ($20,000) and Conductor SE 12″ arm ($7,200), with ZYX Omega cartridge ($8,300)for analog front-end. Considering the size of this room the sound was amazing and almost live and true to concert in presentation. I made three trips to this room to listen to various recordings over two days. Tom is a great guy and his products are some of the finest around. The S9s simply smoke many other speakers. They not only sound great but they are certainly eye candy! Now if I could only figure out that ZYX Omega and the lapus ball! Looks like a little planet in orbit around the ZYX Universe.

Another room that really captivated me and caused me to return multiple times was the Luxman room. I found the new Luxman tube-powered monoblocks, CD player and preamp driving the new Vivid Giya speakers. These were designed by the same person who designed the B&W Nautilus of great speaker lore and these speakers were captivating the attention of all who saw and heard them. Fronting the system was the Brinkmann Bardo magnetic-drive turntable. It all sounded great, looked awesome and there was definitely a bit of whimsy due to the speakers. I would love to review this entire setup!

No show is complete without Peter Ledermann and Soundsmith. To know Peter is to love him. He is a brilliant scientist, designer and poet and a true humanitarian. This year he rocked everyone’s world with a new lower priced Strain Gauge system and a brand new moving iron cartridge the Sussurro ($4500). Teaming up with Chris Brady from Teres fame they used both cartridges on the new Teres table. The new Soundsmith Strain Gauge light at $5500 represents a great bargain and down more than $2000 from the regular Strain Gauge. The new Sussurro moving iron cartridge was first and foremost on Peter’s mind and tongue. Like the proud papa of new twins!

Canadian company TT Weights Audio was showing not only an incredible new turntable design in the Christine, but also offering some pretty snazzy deals on accessories. I got a smoking deal on a new record clamp (like I needed another of those) for $20! How can you pass up a 450 gram polished alloy record clamp for that kind of money? They were also offering some great show deals on record mat/platter ring combos. As great as that was, all the rage was the Christine turntable. It is machined to incredibly tight tolerances of aluminum and brass with a very interesting Super Torque Servo DC Aircraft Grade Drive System. Whew that is a mouthful! TT’s owner and chief machinist Larry Denham is a world class machinist who makes little unimportant non-audio things like furl pump parts for F16 fighter jets. No need for exacting tolerances there! He had a display of a titanium pump part and the machining was so exquisite that most everyone wanted the thing even though they did not know what it was. It was just that cool. Well, the Christine has received the same level of attention and excellence in execution as the parts manufactured for the fighter craft, and maybe even a bit more. The 180-pound turntable not only sports an 80-pound platter but also a very unique and simple arm mounting system that is best described as a plug-and-play system. This is one table that had everyone drooling including Mikey Fremer! I was in the room with Michael and there was no mistaking how impressed he was. We were discussing outside the room of my jealousy that he would be getting his hands on it long before I would! I am not sure that a firm price has been set but expect it to be pretty substantial at between $45,000 and $60,000.

Vandersteen displayed the new Vandersteen 7. At $45,000 the Model 7 is a four-way system employing a 12” powered (400W) push-pull woofer taken straight out of the Model 5. The midrange, mid-bass, and high-frequency drivers, however, are made from a three-layer sandwich of balsa wood flanked by carbon fiber. The ScanSpeak tweeter uses Vandersteen’s sandwich dome. Vandersteen makes the cones and ScanSpeak builds the drivers. There are patents pending on this cone and dome technology. The enclosure is made from five layers of carbon fiber in a constrained-layer-damping configuration that is then bonded to a carbon-fiber skeletal structure. Done in beautiful shade of blue (my favorite color), these speakers looked as good as they sounded!

I cannot imagine a show without Albert Von Schweikert and his fabulous speakers. Teaming up with Channel Island Audio and paring the Von Schweikert UniField 3 ($15,000) which I reviewed last year, this room was putting out some amazing sounds. The Channel Island stuff is extremely efficient, low power consumption, little to no heat output and the sound is definitely not old school solid-state in sound.

I don’t think I can honestly pick a best room this year but at the top of the list would certainly be the Win Audio room. I am looking at doing a much extended visit to Win’s showroom in the San Francisco Bay Area to get more familiar with these amps. They are extremely heavy and require some pretty intensive setup to get them sounding their best. The great news is that when you buy these U.S. made amps and preamp they come to you to set them up. That is always a great little benefit! The V 833 – 135 W Vacuum Tube Monoblocks ($110,000 per pair) and the Z845 Tube Preamp ($45,000) were simply stunning in both looks, build quality and also sound!

Other Honorable Mentions:

Tri Audio and there fantastic TRV-M88PP Mono Block amps – $13,900
Teres Audio – Certus Model 44 – $14,600
Acoustic Zen Crescendo Speaker
LSA Group – LSA1 Statement speaker with ribbon tweeter. Flat to 40 KHz!
Audio Unlimited for the 40 rooms they had!
Well there you have it. That constitutes my picks for this year’s RMAF. This does not even begin to scratch the surface of what was available, but this year I did not even get to stay for the entire show. With the entire Dagogo staff in attendance I doubt that much got missed at all! (We missed Richard Austen. –Ed.)

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