RMAF 2018 Show Report -- High-End Home Audio
The Denver Chronicles Part 2
In the Paradigm room in 9007 I was particularly impressed with the design of the Anthem STR preamplifier ($3999) and STR stereo power amplifier ($5999) which struck me as a major step up in price from previous models I've seen in the past. They were used to drive a pair of Paradigm Persona B speakers ($3500), the 2-way, ported stand mounted speaker in the top-shelf Persona lineup. Also in use was the Premier 200B monitor ($499). I'm not sure (without the aid of my video notes) which speaker was in use when I was there, so I can't comment on the sound, here.
Old Forge Audio out of Mystic, Connecticut, in room 9004 had a couple of the most interesting products I saw at the show. First was the belt drive Wand turntable from New Zealand with a German Panzerholz plinth comprised of about 26 plies topped with a thin black layer of something else. It sported a Wand uni-pivot tonearm of large diameter carbon fiber with integral mounting of the cartridge, which, this late in the afternoon reminded me of a high-tech cannoli. This was a very early showing of this table with first production scheduled for Australiasia in December. I noted the larger-than-LP multi-layer platter that provides 20% more inertia, yet still allows for grabbing the LP with your fingertips while it is spinning. Also the 78 rpm speed and an acrylic clamp so you can still see some of the record label. All very cool.
There were lots more innovations that need covering in a full review, but briefly, this looks to become a classic. The Pure Audio One integrated amp (around $9000) also comes from New Zealand was another of the most intriguing designs I saw at RMAF. It boasts 100 Watts of Class A power in a dual mono layout, but has a fallback mode to lower power when it is not in use. The wide-open architecture of the chassis was most striking. The top and sides are laser-cut from a sheet of thick aluminum and folded to form the box. The wedge-shaped cutouts are then utilized as cooling fins for the internal heat sink inside. To keep paws out of the amp a coarser wire mesh shields the outer banks of the amp while a finer screen covers the mid-section. So who is this new Old Forge Audio? Well, it's my long-time acquaintance David Cope who has emerged from retirement after stepping down after many years as the US representative of Audio Note UK. He now has a big smile on his face and looks 10 years younger. As the guiding force for Wand and Pure Audio in the US, it is easy to see why. These look like a couple of real winners to me as well as an infusion of fresh blood into the industry.
Things are little confusing for me at the low end of the 9th floor as the notes in the program, my notes and the websites involved do not correlate with my photos exactly. What I can tell you with certainty is there was some mighty interesting and expensive gear in 9002 (the Gated HiFi Distribution room) and 9000 (the Next Level HiFi room). I'll start with Gated HiFi Distribution. In the first photo above with Fritz Dalmose of Ansuz talking with the guests, the stand mounted monitors do not look like any Kudos speakers I've seen before... so possibly they are new models or another brand. The gear in the equipment rack sure looks like Naim, but Naim is not on the banner. There was a price list for Ansuz Acoustics cables on the wall, and that brand appears on the banner. The next photo shows a lovely pair of the new Borresen 01 Compact Monitors ($30,000) that was off to the side at the time... and Borresen appears on the banner, so all is good on that account. And this makes sense given that Michael Borresen is also the principal behind Ansuz Acoustics.
Moving next door to 9000, the Next Level HiFi is a retailer in Wayne, IL, just west of Chicago, not far from where my kids/grandkids live. They sell premium brands including Raidho and Scansonic speakers also designed by Michael Borresen. So it is not surprising to see the new Borresen 03 floorstanding speakers ($66,000) along with Michael Borresen himself, leaning on a pair of Borresen 02 floorstanders ($45,000). The design of these speakers is superb with their trick dynamic drivers that reveal no flange or indication of how they are attached to the baffle, their carved out channels on the sides behind the ribbon tweeters, their boat tail design emphasized by the horizontally applied grain of the walnut veneers with an understated matt finish. The "stirrups" on the back spine were to control the dispersion of air at the ports. Just looking at these speakers you could tell there was intense research behind them and concealed technology within.
The Aavik Acoustics electronics, with the assistance of a Naim CD player and Ansuz Acoustics actively shielded cables came together here in another of the Best Rooms at the show. The sound was very similar to the Raidho and would probably need a direct comparison to determine any differences. The styling of the Borresen is clearly a bit more conservative than the Raidho line so the Borresen will likely appeal to a broader customer base. Given the high price range, it will be interesting to see if Raidho remains a viable competitive line with the new Borresen. With a little research I've even figured out that Gated HiFi Distribution and Next Level HiFi share the same address in Wayne, and are just different legal configurations of the same people. Why is life so complicated sometimes? Good show, gentlemen.