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Impressions: My RMAF 2015 Show Report, Conclusion...the Audio Oasis! Awards

10-29-2015 | By David W. Robinson | Issue 82

The Audio Oasis! Awards

Time is short…on to my Audio Oasis! Awards. These I give to the rooms that were of high quality, drawing me in to sit down and really get into the music. You know:  An audio oasis! Rest for the weary audio traveler and all that. For me, that's a sign of great accomplishment, especially under show conditions.

Wherever possible, I'll supply lists of equipment in a given room, but remember that many exhibitors are rather diffident (or worse) about getting their room lists ready for journalists and visitors. Big mistake. When that happens, I can't let you know the specifics.

Exhibitors, if this is you, pay attention…you know who you are.

This year's RMAF winners, in no particular order, include:

GTT Audio/Audionet/YG Acoustics/Kubala-Sosna/KRONOS

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Another year of really righteous sound from Bill Parish, Joe Kubala, Dick Diamond, and company. This team really has their room down to a fine art, with the YG Acoustics speakers fed by the KRONOS Pro LE turntable to the Audionet electronics via Kubala-Sosna Elation! cables and the XPander Power Distribution Unit. Show in and show out, this combination has set an extraordinarily high standard, with massive synergy all around. With the quad set of MAX amplifiers, the YG's reproduce the KRONOS feed with an effortless authority that must be heard to be believed.

This was truly an amazing system, from a team of companies that are producing state-of-the-audio-arts sound. Only a few high-end audio rooms are able to maintain such an exalted standard from year to year, in my experience. (Yes, I have a short list of names.) This is one of them. If you haven't heard the GTT Audio room and this collection of designs, you really owe it to yourself to visit their room the next time that you go to Newport Beach or RMAF.

It's a true reference standard.

GTT Audio/Kii Audio/Kubala-Sosna/PS Audio

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Kii's designer Bruno Putzeys with the Kii THREE powered loudspeaker with DACs

Right next door to the GTT Audio room above was another excellent space, featuring Kii THREE speakers, Audionet electronics, and Kubala-Sosna cabling with the XPander. The source was the excellent PS Audio PerfectWave transport and the DirectStream DSD DAC. The Audionet/and K-S gear I've praised above (and elsewhere; see Issue 77 at  for my notes on Audionet), and the PS Audio gear has also been reviewed by me in past issues (see, for example, my review of the DirectStream back in Issue 74).

Here I concentrate on the remarkable performance of the new Kii THREE speakers, retailing at $16,400 for a pair of speakers and matching stands. Each of these monitor speakers features no less than six drivers…but also six amplifiers, each dedicated to a speaker, and, to top it off, six DACs, each also dedicated to a speaker. One could drive the Kii Three speakers with a computer or music server if you liked, although this room used PS Audio and an Audionet PRE 1 G3 on the source end.

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The Kii THREE in its seductive BMW Gray finish on custom monitor stand…yowzah!

The results were amazing! The Kii THREEs filled the room with a full-range sound and kicky dynamics that really made you wonder about your sanity. Here were these very compact monitors, and they were pressing you back in your chair and giving you that final octave in a very real way. At this price point, it was like a Jedi mind trick…like Obi Wan whispering in your ear, “These are the speakers you're looking for.” We listened to some Double DSD tracks, and I have to say that I was bloody impressed. The Kii THREEs represent a whole new and wholly unexpected breakthrough in loudspeaker performance at this price point. When you realize that some audiophiles would be able to handle these without having to purchase separate DSD-capable DACs, or even amplifiers, the price-point looks even better.

This is a new standard at anything like the price; other speaker manufacturers in this category (and a few others as well) will have to take notice of the Kii THREEs…these are bona fide giant killers!

Notch up another Audio Oasis! Award for Bill Parish and company…well deserved, too.

Synergistic Research

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I visited the Synergistic Research room at RMAF, not as a newcomer to Ted Denney III and his concepts and designs…I've known Ted since about 1994 or so, after all…but as a person who had just recently had a startling, highly gratifying demonstration of his designs in my own listening rooms here at PF Central. (More on that in another essay to be published very shortly.)

Let's just say that I came in this doorway to Ted's demos knowing exactly the sort of wondrous effects that I would hear.

And I heard them! The amazing Atmosphere! The killer Black Box bass resonator! The bloody HFTs! The Grounding Blocks! The cables!

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Ted did a very thorough demonstration of what his designs could do, swapping out and in various products. Once again I heard the sorts of gains (with SR in the chain) and losses (with SR removed) that I had heard quite clearly in our own listening room. No doubt about it in my mind and to my ears:  The Synergistic Research line really does what Ted says that it does.

And it will do it to all sorts of gear, just like it did for our listening rooms here.

A definite Audio Oasis! Award for this one!

ModWright/Daedalus Audio/WyWires

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Speaking of symbiosis and synergy in audiophile show rooms, here's another great example:  Dan Wright, Alex Sventitsky, and Lou Hinkley, the Three Musketeers behind ModWright Instruments, WyWires, and Daedalus Audio, respectively. This is another tandem of companies and a band of brothers who have spent years sharing the show experience and room costs, and in so doing have honed their designs so that they bring out the best in the products of the others.

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This year, for example, Dan Wright brought out his new 845-based tube amps, named the Ambrose SE. Running 32 WPC, and sporting brilliant new transformers, these new amps absolutely knocked me out! Frankly, the 845 has been a tube that underwhelmed me in the past…it had a tendency to pour honey all over the sound of everything. But the new ModWright is the best 845 sound that I've ever heard, by far. It was ably aided and abetted by the latest and greatest WyWire cables (the Diamond Series interconnects and speaker cables, the Silver Series power cords, the WyWires/Daedalus Power Broker AC Distributor, and the Platinum Series Digital Cables), the Daedalus Poseidon V.2 full-range floor-standing speakers, the Daedalus BOW subwoofer system with active crossover, the Daedalus Audio custom audio rack, and the DiD Daedalus Isolation Devices. There was a ModWright digital setup, but while I was there a VPI turntable was providing the music.

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Dan Wright of ModWright:  A Portrait

The results were smashing! I had to hang out in this room for quite a while…much longer than expected, actually…enjoying the quality of the sound. I also ran into some good friends while here, and so things got really fine really fast!

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Herb Reichert of Stereophile and Lynn Olson of Positive Feedback, two good audiobuds of mine, ran into me while in the ModWright/WyWires/Daedalus Audio room. This is a pretty typical moment.

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I also ran into Greg Weaver of PF and TAS while in the ModWright/Daedalus/WyWires room:  The music was magic! And seeing Greg again was, too.

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Herb Reichert at work:  A portrait.

GamuT Audio/Pear Audio Blue/Audio Skies

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Michael Vamos is a man on a mission. He started out several years ago with a few brands, but has steadily improved his line card and his presence in the high-end market. For the past year or so, his rooms have sounded really fine, and have started to garner my Audio Oasis! Awards.

His GamuT room was stuffed with some righteous gear, and he was good enough to have an electronic version of his equipment list (hint, hint):

  • GamuT RS3, speaker pair: $19,990
  • GamuT D200i Dual-Mono Power amp: $13,990
  • GamuT D3i Dual-Mono preamp: $8290
  • GamuT Wormhole Reference Bi-wire speaker cables: $5990
  • GamuT Wormhole Reference interconnect RCA/XLR: $2990
  • GamuT Wormhole Reference Power cables: $2990
  • Pear Audio Blue – Kid Thomas/Cornet 2 turntable/tonearm & optional power
  • supply: $9995
  • Pear Audio Blue – Reference 2 box phono stage: $4495
  • Ortofon Cadenza Black cartridge: $2729
  • Ortofon ST-80 Step-up: $1679
  • Isotek EVO3 Polaris power strip: $495

ROOM 518:

  • GamuT RS7: $39,990
  • GamuT M250i Mono amps (2): $12,990
  • GamuT CD3 CD-Player: $7990
  • GamuT Lobster Chair: $5,590
  • GamuT Wormhole Reference Bi-wire speaker cables: $5990
  • GamuT Wormhole Reference interconnect RCA/XLR: $2990
  • GamuT Wormhole Reference Power cables: $2990
  • Pear Audio Blue – Kid Thomas/Cornet 2 turntable/tonearm & optional power
  • supply: $9995
  • Pear Audio Blue – Reference 2 box phono stage: $4495
  • Ortofon Cadenza Black cartridge: $2729
  • Ortofon ST-80 step-up: $1679
  • Isotek EVO3 Sirius power strip: $895

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Benno Meldgaard of GamuT with his RS-7 loudspeaker

And no wonder that Audio Skies is starting to win awards…once again his GamuT room was rocking the house! We're talking really rich, musical sound that made you remember why the hell we got into high-end audio in the first place (and plain-old audio before that!). I met Benno Meldgaard in Michael's room, as well. A very cool dude, filled with passion for musical systems…it's clear that GamuT reflects passion like Benno's.

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Photograph courtesy of GamuT Audio

And then…there was the GamuT Lobster Chair for listening! Holy shazbat! This was a real treat for me…a chair designed to optimize one's ability to listening deeply, while also making you incredibly comfortable. I dug it extremely, it reminding me of some of the ultra-cool “Stereo Egg Chairs” of the late 1960s. Not cheap at $5,590, but it's really a work of audio art.

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See what I mean?

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My friend Scot Hull, editor at Part-Time Audiophile, catches me grooving in the music, the bourbon (thanks, Michael!), the music, and the moment….  (Photography courtesy of Scot Hull and PTA)

No wife? No kids? No pets? No worries!

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Turnabout being fair play and all that, I did a portrait of Scot Hull by the big GamuT RS-7's. He was in full audio-lust mode, so far as I could tell…

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Yet more turnabout being fair play:  Michael Vamos, bourbon, music, and the GamuT Lobster Chair, looking highly relaxed. And why not?!

Michael and I are conniving to bring some GamuT gear to PF for review. Stay tuned.

“Murderer's Row”:  On A Higher Note, Apex Audio, and VAC

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There was no surprise in Philip O'Hanlon's On a Higher Note room this year. Once again, a great space with excellent music, first-rate components, and excellent synergy. Philip has a fine ear for audio quality, and works hard to bring it to pass in his rooms. He also throws a fine after-hours party each year…I don't miss it!

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Yes, that's Philip giving us the high-five during the after-hours bash…

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…while also in Philip's room was my very good friend Dominique Brulhart, here rendered in black and white ink outline. Dominique's Merging Technologies NADAC 8-channel DSD DAC was sounding absolutely fabulous in the On a Higher Note room.

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Carol Clark, Dave Clark, and Cookie Marenco digging the party in Philip O'Hanlon's On a Higher Note room. Me too!

Philip provided an exemplary list of highlights and the equipment profile for his room. Would that all exhibitors did this for suffering audiophile journalists!

“Musical highlights on the multi-channel  NADAC running 4.0 with a phantom center channel  included "Piece of Me” in multichannel 24/96  from Lori Liebermann's new album Ready For The Storm

Nickel Creek - Sabra Girl  DSD

Beck - The Golden Age from Sea Change   DSD

We used Emotion to play the DSD files and it was fun once Dom installed the app on my iPhone as I was able to adjust the volume & choose the next song from the Playlist. The Apple app should  be ready in a few weeks; its under review by Apple at the moment. 

We had a Macbook Arr running stereo into the Mola internal DAC and a Windows PC running Emotion for the 4.0 playback.

Music Highlights on the Mola Mola internal DAC (name TBA) 

Suzanne Vega  - Small Sweet Thing from Live At Montreux 24/48 (unreleased)

De Falla / Ansermet  - Three Cornered Hat  DSD file transferred from the 1” master tape by Paul Stubblebine using the Grimm AD1 (also designed  by Bruno Putzeys in 2005)

Longs Peak Room on the Mezzanine level:

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The Mola Mola Makua preamp (above) and Merging Technologies NADAC MC-8 in the OAHN room on an Artesania Audio ramp.

Many thanks, Philip and company! Brilliant, full-range sound, including a four-channel set with the NADAC, and exceptional sources via the NADAC…loved the DSD here!

A no-doubt Audio Oasis! Award winner, hands down.

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When I got to the Apex Audio room, however, I confess to being surprised. In past years, this space hasn't done a lot for me, and so has gone unmentioned. Considering that there have been some great names in this space, the lack of Audio Oasis! Award excitement was always something that I wondered a bit at.

Then again, if the audio magic ain't there, it ain't there.

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A pair of Focal Stella Utopia EM loudspeakers, with amplification by Accuphase, Air Tight, and Soulution, racks by Critical Mass Systems, turntable by Transrotor, Graham, and Air Tight, and cabling by TARA Labs…this year sounding great to me!

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Arturo Manzano in the Marriott Tech Center Atrium:  A Portrait

But this year, there was magic in the air. I don't know how he did it, but long-time audio distributor Arturo Manzano pulled some glory out of his hat. This system was powerful, authoritative, and effortless in its presentation of LP while I was there. Unlike past years, I had to stay and listen to the music.

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Now there's some glory for you!

The results spoke for themselves. And for the first time, I was compelled to give the Apex Audio room an Audio Oasis! Award. Well done, Arturo and all!

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Another confession:  I was also quite taken by the sound of the next room over from the Apex Audio room. This was my old friend Kevin Hayes' VAC room, with some of the Apex lines used in support of his exceptional VAC Statement System, including a pair of Focal Grande Utopia EM, the Transrotor Orion turntable with Air Tight PC-1 Supreme MC, and Critical Mass Systems racks.

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The VAC Statement System on Critical Mass Systems racks…lovely, a gigantic music-making machine!

Kevin Hayes has a real accomplishment in this VAC system, which synergized amazingly well with the rest of the components. The Focals really sat up and took notice! So did I.

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The Transrotor Orion Reference turntable with the Air Tight PC-1 Supreme MC. Quite the vision, and it delivered the grooves!

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Kevin Hayes and the latest iteration of his design genius….

Another fantastic listening experience on this floor. VAC's Statement System really is, and impressed with a full-range and holographic presentation of LPs. Ella and Louis were placed right there…entrancing. I stayed a lot longer than past experience would have indicated.

Kevin knows how to make tubes sing…and this was the Hallelujah Chorus!

Definitely an Audio Oasis! Award winner here, I'm pleased to say.

ModWright/Skogrand Cables/Endeavor Audio/Massif Audio Design/Triangle Art

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This was the second ModWright room that I saw, this time sporting Skogrand Cables, with Endeavor Audio, Massif Audio Design, and Triangle ART for the turntable.

All that I can say is that I must have liked this room, since I seem to have forgotten to even photograph what had impressed me. I was really impressed with the ease of the LPs from the turntable…must have been tired by this time, as I just relaxed. And forgot to do what I should have done with a superior room.

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Damn. Embarrassing. This hardly ever happens to me. Apologies to the folks in this room.

My Audio Oasis! Award will have to speak for itself, I reckon….

Kimber Kable/IsoMike/EMM Labs/Meitner Audio/Martin Logan/WATTGATE/WBT-USA/Heatshrink.com

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Zounds! What a room Ray Kimber and company had going on the main floor!

Here was a 4-channel DSD system, with four enormous Martin Logan speakers, cabling by Kimber Kables, and electronics by EMM Labs and Meitner Audio. Ray was playing a series of his IsoMike surround recordings in DSD. To say that there was a true soundfield, and not just a soundstage, would be about right. You simply felt enmeshed in the performance…close your eyes, and you were there.

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The EMM Labs/Meitner Audio electronics handled the DSD feed with effortless power and great authority…not too surprising, at 1200 beefy Watts per monoblock. The EMM Labs DSD stack was clear, detailed, and highly elegant in its presentation of Ray's brilliant recordings…a gratifying accomplishment. This very large room was filled with music that floated, filling the space and the soul with presence, a very impressive accomplishment under the usual difficulties of show circumstances.

There was no doubt about it…this was a slam-dunk all-surrounded PF Audio Oasis! Award.

Done!

exaSound

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George Klissarov of exaSound Audio Design

Once again, the exaSound Audio Design room was sounding very fine. The combination of exaSound DSD DACs, DSD sources, Pass Audio Labs integrated, and Magnepan speakers, did a remarkable job of making George's library of recordings impress all who came to this room. We have an exaSound e28 Mk. II DSD DAC here, and love it for its great sound and sophisticated driver set.

exaSound was also debuting their new PlayPoint network connector for exaSound DACs. Slated to be released in November of 2015, the PlayPoint will allow exaSound DSD DACs to connect to your local area network (LAN) via gigabit Ethernet to deliver up to eight channels of up to Quad DSD (DSD256) music. It will also allow streaming music from the Internet, and route it to your exaSound DAC. This is an exciting new product from exaSound, one that I'm looking to hear ASAP.

All in all, a most satisfactory listening experience…an Audio Oasis! Award to George Klissarov and exaSound Audio Design.

Merging Technologies/German Physiks/Purist Audio/Ayre Acoustics/Star Sound Technology

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The second Merging Technologies room was altogether different than the On a Higher Note experience, but was likewise entrancing. Featuring the NADAC, with Ayre Acoustics providing the downstream electronics, piped via Purist Audio to the German Physiks omnidirectional speakers, this combination produced music that was immersive and more holographic than usual in stereo rooms.

The NADAC was its usual superb self, with Dominique Brulhart and company providing a mix of DSD recordings in Quad DSD (DSD256) resolution together with some DXD PCM recordings at 352.8 kHz/24-bit. I was struck with how well Charlie Hansen's Ayre Acoustics equipment sounded in tandem with Jim Aud's Purist Audio cables; they really lit up the German Physiks Carbon Mk. IV loudspeakers. It has been years since I had heard the German Physiks omni's, but this new carbon fibre design was clearly superior to the earlier work that I knew pretty well. Robert Kelly is obviously on to something here, and the rest of the chain highlighted the excellent qualities of this speaker.

Excellent! Another Audio Oasis! Award winner, to be sure….

Vapor Audio/Lampizator/Antipodes/Verastarr Cables/Resolution Acoustics/VH Audio/Zen Wave Audio

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The Vapor Audio/LampizatOr/Resolution Acoustics/Antipodes/Verastarr Cable/VH Audio/Zen Wave Audio room (stop for breath here) was a most pleasant surprise to me. Knowing that LampizatOr was there attracted my attention…I knew the extraordinary quality of their Golden Gate all too well, since we have the GG here in our reference listening room…but the rest of the audio chain in this room was new to me.

The sound was a knockout! Full-range and powerfully authoritative music, with the exceptional resolution of the LampizatOr in play, all transparently rendered. I stayed here for a while, either listening to the music in contemplation…

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…or talking with Lukasz Fikus, the design genius behind LampizatOr, and his highly congenial North American distributor, Fred Ainsley. In the photograph above, you see the balanced version of their acclaimed Golden Gate DSD DAC on the right; we have the unbalanced 300B/845 version here.

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Lukasz is a very passionate, very solid designer, who has produced one of the very finest DSD DACs that I've heard. And with tubes! Tube lovers, take note:  The LampizatOr Golden Gate in either its balanced or unbalanced configurations is a killer product.

The combination of a stellar source with the rest of this audio set produced a real Audio Oasis! Award experience for me. Terrific stuff.

Award given!

eXemplar audio

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In the eXemplar audio/Stillpoints room

And now for something completely different.

The work of John Tucker at eXemplar audio has caught my ear over the past few years. His tube-modded Oppo BDP-105…his new horn speakers and reference amp and preamp (reviewed by Malachi Kenney back in Issue 79)…his new reference headphone amplifier, on its way to me next week…all of this bespeaks a talented designer who is comfortable in a number of different audio contexts. That's fairly rare.

The eXemplar audio/Stillpoints room featured a set of John's latest electronics and cables, all supported by a Stillpoints rack and Stillpoints Ultra 5 isolation feet in the case of the new single full-range dynamic driver speaker. At first, I thought that this was a hidden horn, and I'll admit that I'm not the world's biggest horn fan, as a general rule…but I was wrong. John had come to a single full-range dynamic driver, as he pointed out to me.

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John Tucker of eXemplar audio (left) and Bruce Jacobs of Stillpoints

John Tucker's speakers were quite coherent, as you would expect from their drivers, but I didn't experience the kind of fall-off in the frequency ranges at either end. The dynamics were excellent, and there was fine detail and texture. The audio presentation filled the room, and didn't seem beamy. His tubed electronics, cables, and speakers synergized wonderfully, and sounded very clean and transparent on the Stillpoints rack and isolation feet. (No surprise, that; Stillpoints is what we use here at PF Central. Stillpoints designs are the best that I've used.)

Very fine, very musical sound. Very quick, very lively, but also well-controlled. Great dynamics, naturally, and fine tonal integration. A very fetching audio presentation.

No doubt:  This was Audio Oasis! Award territory.

Puget Sound Studios/Lampizator/Abyss Headphones/JPS Labs/Cavalli Audio

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Going into the Puget Sound Studios/LampizatOr/JPS Labs/Cavalli Audio was another visit that led to a very fine surprise for me. I've already said that I knew that a room with a LampizatOr in it would be a superior place, and I also know that this was Bruce Brown's Puget Sound Studios room, which meant that the quality of the sources would be top-notch.

I was right on both counts.

But although PF's Michael Mercer has been gonzo about Cavalli Audio's Liquid Gold headphone amp for quite a while now, I had never had a chance to hear it. Likewise unknown to me were the JPS Labs Abyss-1266 reference headphones…in fact, at first I didn't even make the connection between Abyss and JPS Labs…sorry, Joe Skubinski!

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The Abyss AB-1266 headphones, Cavalli Audio LAu headphone amp, and LampizatOr Golden Gate (balanced configuration)

Regardless, the result of this combination was an unbelievably full-range headphone experience, especially with the really deep bass…thus the name “Abyss.” In the relatively short time that I had them, the 1266's were very comfortable, reasonably spacious, and amazingly dynamic. The Cavalli LAu's 9 Watts (!!) drove the Abyss ‘phones wonderfully. In fact, I don't know that I've ever heard the sort of deep reach via headphones that I heard in this room

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Rene Brown of Puget Sound Studios, Jason Skubinski of Abyss Headphones, and Bruce Brown of Puget Sound Studios

Not only was this audio chain worthy of an Audio Oasis! Award, but I have made arrangements to audition the Abyss Headphones/Cavalli Audio LAu with our very large reference library here at PF Central. I am certainly looking forward to the results with up to Quad DSD recordings!

Meanwhile, a richly merited Audio Oasis! Award to this room.

Bricasti Design/Stillpoints/Silver Circle/Tidal/Oyaide

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As usual over the past couple of years, the Bricasti Design room was another refreshing audio space during RMAF. Brian Zolner's designs were joined by Stillpoints racks and isolation feet, Tidal speakers, Silver Circle, and Oyaide. The recordings used were a variety of favored titles in DSD from Jared Sacks at Channel Classic. Brian and I find that we are in agreement:  It's impossible to beat Jared's brilliant production and engineering work in his very large and constantly growing library of great titles.

The result was truly transparent and clear, with remarkable quickness and dynamics, with the inclusion of Stillpoints doing its usual stellar job of preventing any form of vibrational interference. This combination of equipment brought out all of the virtues of DSD, without falling behind in any area. The Tidal speakers certainly seem to be a fine match for the rest of the system, the components of which are listed below:

  • M28 power amps
  • M1 Limited Edition M1
  • Bricasti Design interconnect and speaker cables
  • Stillpoints isolation feet
  • Silver Circle T6 power conditioner
  • Tidal Piano Diacera speaker
  • Oyaide V2 power cables

I must admit it. Brian Zolner has done it again:  This room warrants a repeat award for transparent audio magic.

Done!

Stax

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This year, I was able to visit the Stax room. It was just down the hallway from my room, and so…for once…I didn't actually miss it while trying to cover RMAF 2015.

Having already heard some really great headphone gear, I went directly to the Stax SR-009 reference headphones, which were on active demonstration. They were paired with the Stax reference headphone amplifier, the SRM-007tII vacuum tube amplifier This tandem represents the current pinnacle of Stax's headphone art. After only a moment, I realized that this was a very special achievement in headphone technology, one that would be well suited for Double and Quad DSD listening for extended sessions.

In fact, I was so taken by the Stax system that I visited the room two or three times. I also was so entranced that I forgot to make any photographs! (Guess that says something.) By the end of the show, Stax agreed to send me the SR-009 and the Stax reference headphone amplifier for review ASAP after RMAF. At the time of this writing, I am expecting it to arrive late next week....

Definitely a PF Audio Oasis! Award for Stax…a first for them.

And very well deserved, too.

CanJam Awards

Astell & Kern

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Jimmy Moon and Owen Kwon at the A&K space in CanJam

As usual, Astell & Kern was rocking my world with their beautiful and innovative products. The AK-380 has already become my new reference for portable high-resolution players, and the new support products that they debuted at RMAF 2015 helped to extend its capabilities.

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For example, above you see the AK-380 playing some Single DSD of Eric Clapton while sitting in its new docking station. Providing power and connectivity options, this new station will be an essential component for any AK-380 owner. (That includes me.)

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As you can see in this rear view of the docking station, power is provided to maintain the charge on the AK-380 during extended us, but standard XLR connectors are also provided. Additionally, there is a USB input for an external CD ripper…

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…which will be very handy for those who want to rip their CDs to the AK-380.

I just wish that it did SACDs!

Also on display were the new Astell & Kern headphones, the Beyerdynamic AKT1P over-ear models.

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These were very pleasant to look at, and even better to listen to. I was intrigued by the lightness of the design and its very fine tonality in the mids and upper regions. I didn't have a chance to listen enough to be definitive, but this first kiss was enough to let me know that A&K had put a first-rate and exemplary high-resolution portable system of the highest order.

PF Audio Oasis! Award duly given!

Audeze

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A real show-stopper for me was the performance of the new Audeze LCD-4 headphones, the long-awaited (by me) potential successor to my beloved LCD-3's. They were being shown with the new Audeze reference headphone amp, The King. Designed by Bascom King himself, The King is remarkably power at 6 Watts (!), plenty enough to get the attention of just about any headphone in the Solar System. It only took a few seconds for my “Oh yeah!” to erupt…there was no doubt that I was listening to an extraordinary synergy in action.

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Jonathan Scull at the Audeze space-time continuum…

Mind-blowing. Really. It outpointed the aural picture that I have of the LCD-3's, which I know quite well, in every way that I could tell in such a short time. Naturally, I couldn't be definitive under those circumstances, but I was pretty sure that this quick impression was accurate. I could hardly wait to get these babies back to PF Central to listen to high-resolution sources with them!

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Jonathan Scull with Sankar Thiagasamudram, CEO of Audeze

I got a chance to meet Sankar Thiagasamudram, the CEO of Audeze while in the company of Jonathan Scull...a very good fellow. Sankar graciously agreed to send me a pair of LCD-4's ASAP, and The King right after they start rolling off the production line. That should be shortly after the turn of the year.

I have the recordings here, ready to go!

Definitely an Audio Oasis! Award here, given gladly.

In retrospect…

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Chebon Littlefield of Mytek

Looking back on RMAF 2015 from several weeks later, I can say that this was a very special event…the best RMAF that I can remember going back several years. There were more great rooms and excellent spaces this year than there have been in a while. That's the major reason why my RMAF photo essay and Audio Oasis! Awards took so long to produce…there were so many great places to document.

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Ted Denney III shows Robert Stein his photographic technique:  Ted photographs me photographing him!

As I said earlier on, for me audio shows are more about the people and our audio community than they are about just the gear. Yes, great audio equipment and excellence in music and the audio arts are what draw us all, and what we have in common. Yet it's the relationships, the good times, the gonzo moments, and the shared passion that make shows like RMAF the places of memories that we love.

A few more photographs of moments from RMAF 2015:

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Quiles and Cloud performing live-to-DSD at the Positive Feedback DSD seminar. The resulting recording was amazing!

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Ken Ball of ALO Audio at CanJam

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Peter Hansen of Synergistic Research during the On a Higher Note party

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Marc Sheforgen of Acoustic Sounds and SuperHirez.com manning the media

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At the very busy Nordost space…lots of people here!

Thanks again to Marjorie Baumert, the Colorado Audio Society, all the exhibitors, all who covered RMAF 2015, and all who attended it.

A major good time was had by all…party on!

(All photographs by David W. Robinson unless otherwise indicated.)

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