RMAF 2019 Show Report Part 2
At this point I realized I had forgotten the Sonus faber presentation at 4pm so Ron and I parachuted down to the main floor and sprinted back to the conference center just in time to catch the last few minutes of the video. There was plenty of time to hear the actual speakers — their new Olympica Nova which looked quite familiar with their asymmetric cross section and vents down the back spine.
The aluminum top edge with "Sonus Faber" machined into it added a visual touch of elegance, as did the horizontal grooves in the wood side panels. Both of these design elements were trickle-down variations from higher models. The lighter wood stain in a flat finish gave it a more contemporary or casual look that might otherwise have suggested Scandinavian origin rather than Italian design.
The "sound" was promoted as "Natural Fidelity" which I found quite inviting, neutral and not disturbing in any way when driven by the Audio Research tube components, including a pair of monoblocks. At $16,500 they seemed quite worth the price with lots of air and bloom which contributed to a great sense of space. While we heard the large floorstander of the series, wall-hanging surrounds and a center channel are available for those interested in an upscale home theater configuration.
The open bar for the presentation had an interesting selection of canned beverages. I became adventurous and opted for the Dry Dock Apricot Blonde which was quite tasty and more than welcome as it was difficult to keep hydrated in the thin, dry air of Denver. It should be noted that no one has ever run a four-minute mile in Colorado.
With my thirst quenched, we wandered across the hall from Red Rock 1 to Red Rock 10. The jazz grabbed my attention immediately and I sat down for a listen. A United Home Audio (out of Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland) reel-to-reel tape deck ($30,000) was an obvious front end in eye-catching red and silver, but it was on silent display until later each evening when they let analog tape take over in concert-like presentations. Heard here was the Vitus Audio SCD-025 Mk II CD player ($25,200) feeding the new Vitus Audio SIA-030 ($40,000) integrated amp putting out 30 Wpc in Class A and 200 Wpc in Class AB.
I expect it rarely got out of Class A driving the Audio Solutions Virtuoso M loudspeakers ($32k) from Lithuania, rated at 92dB/W/m efficiency. Cabling was by Ansuz Acoustics with a 3m pair of speaker cables ($5670), 2m XLR interconnects ($4500) and 2-meter power cords ($3150 each), plus their Mainz8 A2 power distributor ($4500). The casual looking gentleman seen here was none other than Hans-Ole Vitus, himself, who offered to play some cuts from my compilation CD.
The couple of minutes from With Every Wish from Bruce Springsteen's "Human Touch" were heartbreaking as this proved to be another of the Best Rooms at the show and Ozan Turan of High End By Oz is very proud too. The gorgeous orange anodized version of the SIA-030 on silent display swayed my opinion only a little. Hans-Ole explained that the care in design at the outset has contributed to the longevity of their model runs. From what I heard, this amp likely will be around for a decade or more.
Sliding across the hall again to Red Rock 3 where we heard more great music I was immediately drawn to this unusual turntable in high-contrast lighting that presented an atypical challenge to me. The plinth was noticeably smaller than the platter which itself was positioned far more forward and to the left than you might expect. The aluminum tonearm looked like it has been etched with acid and there was a small wafer of foamed aluminum between the tonearm and the Soundsmith cartridge. It had the air of a very serious hot-rodder. A tall guy in a brown striped shirt without a name tag approached me and was kind enough to answer questions.
The platter was comprised of about a 1cm thick layer of highly compressed black paper with a slight cutout for the record label, placed on top a layer of metal alloy. The diameter was slightly smaller than an LP so the lip of the LP would not interfere with the grooves being in direct contact with the platter. Inside, a high torque AC motor with an unspecified belt drove the seven pound platter. The inertia of the motor combines with the inertia of the platter to a much higher degree than when a low-torque motor is driving a high mass platter. With this system, the motor controls the platter rather than the platter controlling the motor, he claims.
The silver cylinder on the right in the photo is a step-up transformer for the low-output moving coil cartridge. So who was this masked man without a nametag? He finally pulled it out to reveal himself as Frank Schroder, the German tonearm maestro that Art Dudley has made famous on this side of the ocean. I had a good laugh and felt honored that he took such an interest in explaining his turntable to me. He must have sensed my passion for hot-rodding my Linn.
The room here was shared with Thrax Audio electronics from Bulgaria including preamp and monoblocks which I've seen most often at the Montreal show, and Troy Audio loudspeakers with high sensitivity, heavy weight and large price tags out of San Antonio, Texas. What caught my eye from Thrax was their AIO (all-in-one) modular Ares unit that offers an optional mm/mc phono stage and modular DAC for future upgrade capability. With dual mono amps putting out 120 Wpc into 8 Ohms and 200 Wpc into 4 Ohms, this is a serious addition to this burgeoning sector for someone who doesn't have the space or the inclination to build out a system with separate components. Any major electronics manufacturer who is not starting development of an AIO product may miss the boat in another year or two. I could see this coming when I heard my first Devialet presentation way back... when?