Now this was a fun room. If ever you wanted to own a fully
restored reel to reel, Jeff can help you out. Not only can you get a bone stock looking but fully restored
R2R but Jeff will also customize one to suit your personal tastes. Want one in
candy apple red? No problem. The speakers were also a J-Corder creation. These
are a quad-polar design that uses an 8-inch driver run full range and a soft
dome tweeter rolled in above with just a simple cap, just like so many
companies used to do. The amps were vintage Kenwood 700-M monoblocks with a
McIntosh C220 tubed pre. This room was tons of (vintage) fun.
OK, this is where things started getting a bit more
serious…at least for me. For a number of years I've been reading just how
marvelous the Feastrex drivers are supposed to sound. Being a wide range,
single driver devotee myself, I needed to spend some time in this room.
Let me get all of the ancillary gear out of the way first
and then I'll focus a bit more in the Feastrex open baffles. Atop the rack
was another high end turntable, the Hanss T-60 ($6200). It fed the Hanss PA-60
tubed phono stage ($5000). Also in the mix was the Hanss CD-20 upsampling CD
player ($2200). These sources fed the Lamm Industries LL2.1 preamp ($5990). On
the amplification side the Lotus Room was using a pair of Pass Labs 30.5 amps
in a vertical bi-amp configuration. I mentioned that the speakers were bi-amped.
Since there are no passive crossovers, they are using an active crossover to
split the signals between the OB woofers and the Feastrex drivers. After
talking to Joseph Cohen of Lotus, he said that the crossover is a proprietary
design that is similar to a DEQX HDP-3.
The Lotus Group Granada UBII weighs in at a hefty price of
$115,000. For this you get the field coil version of the 5-inch Feastrex along
with a standard laboratory power supply to power the electromagnets. Filling
in the bass is what appears to be a pair of Lamda TD15M woofers. If you look
closely at the back panel of the speaker you will notice a rear firing, soft
domed tweeter at the top of the baffle. I can't see the crossover network
but I'm pretty sure it is located down in the base of the speaker. I have to say that as big of Lowther fan as I am, this room
sounded quite good when I was in there. The vinyl reproduction was top notch
with the Hanss table and Soundsmith cartridge. In fact I was so impressed at
the time I had to run downstairs and pick up the same Janos Starker Brahms
Cello Sonatas vinyl from Speakers Corner. When someone in the room asked to
hear a CD, the sound did get a bit strident. I don't have a clue if it was
the recording or some other factor contributing to that sound. Now, all this
said, I wish I could have heard this system with a simple active crossover
that uses no EQing so I could have gotten a feel for how these open
baffle speakers really
performed. If you read my drivel, you know that is how I do mine. A simple
active XO at 150Hz, no baffle step compensation, no notch filters, music
served up straight, no chaser.
I had really high hopes for this room. I heard everybody
talking about these phenomenally cool looking amps and pres. Each time I
passed by the Win room, it was literally packed with people. I finally got a
chance to sneak in, take a couple of pics and give the system a listen.
I'll give the folks from Win a hand for the Katie
bar the doors design of not only their amp but their pre. It was
cool to look at. The Win Z845 preamp was completely over the top. You read
(and implied) correctly, Win uses a 5751 small signal tube to drive an 845
beam triode IN A PREAMP! Then, if things weren't extreme enough, Win
designed the S-833 power amplifier. This one uses a 12AY7 to drive a KT-66
which in turn drives an 833 transmitter tube. Unfortunately when I attended the room, the sound was
mediocre at best. Somebody had been leaning on the volume control and things
were distorting pretty heavily. This was surprising as it wasn't that
loud. That and with the chosen speakers (whatever they were) I didn't hear
all of the single ended magic of the 833. Who knows, maybe it was just my ears
being fried from the previous seven hours of noise.
This was another room that had some great sounds coming out
of it. Most people associate Soundsmith with cartridges and cartridge repair
but Peter Lederman also designs and offers amplifiers and speakers. As you can
see from the picture Soundsmith had most of their offerings on display at the
show. Peter teamed up with Chris Brady of Teres Audio who brought along the
new Certus Model 440 turntable with Chris' new Illius unipivot tonearm.
The Certus was also equipped with a second arm, the Schroder Reference. The
Shroder had the Soundsmith Strain Gauge and SG Preamp while the Illius was
outfitted with Peter's newest offering, the Sussurro moving iron cartridge.
The other gear you see on the racks (besides the super cool
VPI HR-X turntable) is a custom built tubed preamp designed by Jim Fosgate,
the Soundsmith HE 2006 power amp and the Soundsmith He-150/150m MOSFET Power
Amplifier. The speakers were the Soundsmith Dragonfly $1500 and Monarch $1999.
When I was in the room the 300 watt HE 2006 was driving the
little Dragonfly speakers. I was impressed just how good these diminutive
little speakers sounded. I think the term I used to describe the sound to
Peter was "stupid good…especially for the money".
OK, I've saved the best for last. Sure, it may not have
been the best sound of the show but it was absolutely the best looking
room of the weekend. If you attended and didn't hit the iFi Chair room, you
missed something extremely fun. Now, I say fun because even though the iFi
chair did a more than adequate job of fulfilling the majority of our
audiophile needs by means of clarity, articulation and reasonably even sound
top to bottom, these chairs were an absolute hoot.
What we've got here is basically a tricked out and hot
roddedLazyboy recliner. Jeff Olster, chief designer of the chair, has taken a
really comfortable, high end recliner and added a sound system to it. First
are the speakers which are stand mounts on the end of the armrests. These
speakers are a basic two way Vifa mini-monitor. Below your butt is a subwoofer
and also a Buttkicker bolt on servo just for fun. Also included in the chair
design is an iPod dock and an 1/8th inch stereo input jack. Along
with a master volume control you can also control the bass (woofer) and the
Buttkicker level. There is also a small display for navigating other the
interface to your iPod and other features. Amplification is provided by class
D amplification which is also housed within the chair. You can also set the
chair up to be wirelessly connected to your sources.
When I was in the Audiophile i-Fi chair I listened to an
older Sony SACD player and also Jeff's iPod. I'm here to tell you this
thing was an absolute, unadulterated blast. I started off with some ZZ Top
then rolled into some Pink Floyd then Jeff docked his iPod and I got control
of the tunes. I proceeded to play some Aretha Franklin, the Reverend Al Green,
Bill Withers and then some War (Low Rider TYVM). While in control, I cranked
the bass and the volume up and had one heck of a great time. I can only
imagine how much better this chair would sound using a good tube DAC. Of all the rooms at the show, I probably spent more time in
this one than any other. I personally think the i-Fi chair is an extremely
cool product. I'm in the process of trying to get one in to play with for an
extended period of time.
Well, this ends my Rocky Mountain Audio Fest coverage for
2009. All in all I had loads of fun visiting all of the rooms, catching up
with old friends and industry associates. In hindsight, I wish I'd have
attended a couple of the seminars that were put on by the various industry
professionals. As it is with most of these shows, it is physically impossible
to see every room much less carve out a few of hours for seminars.
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