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2011 RMAF – Coverage III

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Was it just me, or was the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest mood more subdued this year? Days prior I had received a diagnosis of tears in my medial and lateral meniscus in my knee and a narrowing of a spinal vertebrae, forcing “retirement” from basketball and racquetball, two sports I’ve loved and played for more than 25 years. Being forced to adopt a more low-impact physical regimen I felt more tempered as I strolled into the Marriott Denver Tech Center’s lobby. It seemed the show had taken things down a notch as well; truthfully it did not seem as crowded as past years, which is perhaps a misperception. Nevertheless, my mood was mellow and so will be this show report.

Was it just me, or were the systems more monochromatic as well? Audiophiles know how their daily or weekly moods can effect enjoyment of the music, and I wondered if I had a mental wet blanket mindset hampering my perception of the event. But on day two another industry insider stopped me and asked, “Have you heard anything that gets you excited?” I answered honestly, no I hadn’t. It was “all good” but not extraordinary compared to past shows. Perhaps that was the stimulus I needed, for within about a half hour everything seemed to change. Only minutes later, I was sitting in a demo which made me feel emotionally as though the trip had been worth it. From that point on my enjoyment of the show escalated and stayed elevated.

It can all turn on a dime. You don’t know when or where, or even if it will happen at a particular show, but be prepared because when something strikes your fancy, something which you would never see or hear had you not attended, you’ll be glad you bought the ticket. So, as I present this year’s show report, don’t bother to try to “break the code” of which components were in the first half and which were in the second, as they are not presented in the order in which I visited them. Enjoy!

Aaudio Imports

Einstein The Final Cut Balanced OTL Tube Mono Amplifier with Acapella Big Block Resonance Control Device atop each transformer

Einstein The Final Cut Balanced OTL Tube Mono Amplifier with Acapella Big Block Resonance Control Device atop each transformer

If I had deep pockets, a generously sized room and a strong desire for some of the best sound attainable I might end up with a system like that shown by Aaudio Imports. There are no glaring weaknesses with this system, something which cannot be said of the majority of show systems. When heard at successive shows the consistency of quality of the Einstein/Acapella combination becomes anticipated, and I have not yet heard it disappoint. The Acapella ion tweeter is as delicate as any tweeter in my experience and complemented by the solid foundation of the subwoofer-like bass.

Providing the exemplary horn hybrid sound via it’s stout bass driver array, midrange horn and ion tweeter, the Acapella High Violoncello II MkII ($83,000) was accompanied by Einstein’s The Source CD Player ($18,400), The Preamp ($26,000) and The Final Cut Ultimate OTL Amps ($60,000). Cabling was by Stage III (range $2,400-13,200) and power distribution by Weizhi’s PRS-6 Pure Power Distributor ($3,200).

Acoustic Fields

Acoustic Fields Low Frequency Absorption ACDA Series

Acoustic Fields Low Frequency Absorption ACDA Series

I don’t normally spend time on coverage of room treatments at shows as there is a plethora of gear to cover. However, the Acoustic Fields freestanding panels (there are three ranges to consider with prices starting at $750-1,750) struck me as aesthetically pleasing and effective in the Salk Sound/Audio by Van Alstine room. The panels can be adapted to hang on walls. They aided the Salk/AVA components to sound the best that I have heard at shows.

Apex Audio

Soulution 700 Mono Amps powering Focal Stella Utopia EM Loudspeakers, with Tara Labs cabling

Soulution 700 Mono Amps powering Focal Stella Utopia EM Loudspeakers, with Tara Labs cabling

Soulution 745 CD/SACD Player

Soulution 745 CD/SACD Player

A reception on the mezzanine level of the hotel was held on Saturday evening for the late John Barnes who started Denver’s Audio Unlimited in 1987.

Carl Jerritts carries on the business under the name of Apex Audio, which showed a top-end system featuring Focal speakers, Soulution amplification and Transrotor analogue. I concluded that I “get it” in regards to the smoothness and soulfulness of the Soulution electronics; I felt the speakers and amplifier a good match, similar to my feelings about the pairing of Lamm amplification and Wilson Maxx 3 speakers at CES. Joan Baez’s voice on “Diamonds and Rust” was centered and shimmering with a very consistent left-center-right soundstage with no gaps. At moments I felt I heard too much of the speaker’s cabinet, perhaps a slight over-emphasis in the mid-bass, but it also had exemplary transient response.

The system included Focal Stella Utopia EM Loudspeakers ($90K); Soulution 700 Mono Amps ($130K); Soulution 720 Pre Amp ($45K), 745 CD/SACD Player ($80K) and 750 Phono Stage ($32.5K). Analogue source was the Transrotor Tourbillon Turntable ($55K), JR 5012 12” Tonearm ($5.5K) and Air Tight PC-1 Supreme Cartridge ($11K). Tara Labs complemented with cables ranging from the Zero GX Phono ($3.8K) to the Omega Gold Speaker cables ($24K). Running Springs provided the conditioning.

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