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RMAF 2010 Show Report (Rocky Mountain Audio Fest)

  I'm already bored.

Hmmm, perhaps that is the wrong way to start a show report. No, am not bored with the show, as it just began and the fun is about to unfold. For those who have read my recent editorial knows that within the past few months I have sold 15 years of equipment that has gathered in my home. Face it, and be honest with yourself, over the years audiophile tweaks, gadgets and toys have gathered in your home like some guys collect exotic cars, fountain pens, mechanical watches, analog cameras... or women and their shoes. Color me bored because I am hoping to be totally wow'ed and after visiting a few rooms am already falling into the SSDD scenario.

Ahh, but this may prove to be a bit premature at this point and am seeing many great people within the industry. Add to that, the RMAF show is really fun in so many respects that I would come here just to hang out and schmooze with longtime audio buddies, so the gear would become a minor part of the show. Yet for me, now, I am seeking to completely rebuild my system so am looking for some specific items. Sadly, like three years ago when I was hoping to see more USB-enabled audiophile device and came up nearly empty, my goals are now more innovative for my new system. And no, will not tell you what they are as am bouncing off some ideas to advanced manufacturers in hopes of bringing this amazingly diverse industry of ours to a new level.

And so my quest for a new system begins...

 

Parts Express is known by the DIY'ers and tweakers as they provide a much-needed service for us solder-sniffing types who know which end of the soldering gun is hot.

 

Then I get pulled into a 'dog and pony' show. For those unfamiliar, manufacturers will hold a press-only type get-together to tout whatever is their latest and greatest gear and inform us lowly press types about all the new technology that embodies their latest creations. I call them 'dog and pony' shows. Well, so there I am in the VTL room as they announced their series 3 of their 450 monoblock tubed amplifier. So what has changed from series 1 and series 2, besides the number change on the silk-screened front panel? Well, for starters it is now fully balanced. This is their first fully balanced unit and thus provides benefits including noise rejection, plus VTL has improved the grounding scheme and other circuitry. Built-in protection, three layers in fact, ensures that if there is a problem such as a tube fault, the unit will safely shut down instead of imploding like a brick of firecracker in the hands of a pyromaniac. There is zero global feedback yet two very short local feedback loops for stability.

Also now in series 3 is VTL's 7.5 Reference preamplifier that sports resistors and relays for volume control. Nothing really new there for the high-end industry, so nice to see VTL play catch-up. This two-box design is normal for such high-end preamplifiers to keep power supply noise away from the fragile analog stage. For me, while the amplifier is interesting i can't help but feel bored during the 10+ minute presentation on the preamplifier. Guys like me who have modernized our system with high resolution digital audio front-end via NAS drives as 'source' have no need for going backwards in sound quality by using an analog preamplifier. Why spend more money and yet degrade the sound quality due to adding in another device in the signal's chain plus having to buy yet another set of expensive interconnects? Volume and balance control can easily be handled digitally. Once you go high-rez digital, the analog output of the DAC acts as a preamplifier with the added benefit of signal purity and thus making totally unnecessary the expense of more gear and cables. Ok, if you have a turntable or other analog sources you may need a preamplifier, so rest assured VTL offers one for you old-timer guys too.

 

Remember a while back my writing about selling all my old stuff. Chad Kassem and Nate Lennox of Acoustic Sounds now have virtually all my vinyl record collection. If you want it, call 'em up and enjoy the vinyl music. It brought me over 20 years of musical bliss and ready to bring you countless hours of joy too.

 

Ah yes, Empirical Audio has a wonderful array of toys for us modern music server types. For Win OS you just use Foobar or J River Media Center and use kernel output for USB. Of course for a Mac you can use Almarra Music Player 2.0 of course as well as the truly excellent Pure Vinyl software from Channel D that can handle not just 24/192; it can play 384 kHz too!

 

Cables, well, color me still in love with Kimber's all silver goodies. Kimber Kable KS60xx-series speaker cables uses multi-layer constrained matrix geometry. This includes solid core and varistrand conductors and is offered in an all copper configuration, copper/silver mix and of course all silver ($4400 for the copper, $8000 for hybrid and $18,800 for all silver). Great stuff here!

 

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