RMAF 2019 Show Report Part 3
What really grabbed my attention was a pair of Nessie record cleaning machines from Germany. The top of the line Vinylmaster ($2995) is a fully automatic model with a two minute cleaning cycle (per side) during which the record changes directions at regular intervals. A 12-minute deep cleaning cycle is also possible. A dust cover and accessories for cleaning 7" and 10" records are optional. It features internal noise insulation that makes operation extremely silent, at 48dB @ one meter, they claim. Unfortunately, it was not convenient to plug it in to demonstrate. Their literature claims over 1000 satisfied customers as it has been available in Europe for a while. Looking at the build quality and visual aesthetics, it is easy to understand why. These machines will not embarrass even the finest turntables.
Stepping down the line to the Vinylcleaner Pro ($1999) the 7" and 10" accessories are standard, as is some of the noise insulation yielding. This one runs at 57dB (A weighted). A dust cover is again optional. Like the Vinylmaster, the record changes direction at regular intervals. And for those on a tighter budget, they have the entry level Vinylcleaner at $1495 that requires manual washing with a hand-held brush like the VPI 16. It also becomes a bit louder at 62dB (A). (I've put a 9V battery for my Radio Shack SPL meter on my grocery list to see how this compares with my VPI-16.) They desperately needed someone in a white lab coat and a stack of garage sale LPs to demo these beauties.
Moving on to the Ayre Acoustics room in 136, Ariel Brown walked me through their rig comprised of the new 8 series which should be shipping by the end of the year. On top, in black was the power amp, followed by the KX-8 preamp and the CX-8 CD player (~$6k) with optional USB and Ethernet inputs (~$500 each). But just as interesting was a new offering of a major upgrade from their twenty series for the venerable QB9 USB DAC which was among the very first USB asynchronous dacs and certainly one of their most popular products.
Also seen (but not so much heard) in 136 was this rack full of AURALiC and Ayre components driving the Dali speakers within this photo. Cardas cabling and a Cardas power strip ran the electricity and signals. AURALiC was promoting their Vega G1 streaming DAC ($4k) with the offer of a free iPad. It was seen on the top shelf of the rack here.
Lone Mountain Audio (Room 144), based in Las Vegas, is the importer and distributor for ATC Loudspeaker Technology LTD from the United Kingdom. ATC's original reputation was built on the Pro-Audio side of the fence, but it must be more than a decade they've been addressing the audiophile world with their accurate and transparent sound in enclosures that also feature real wood veneers. In recent years up in Canada they've been running comparisons of non-active speakers with the active versions of the same model. This bucks the traditional predisposition for separates by most audiophiles, but the comparison has always been convincing. It does lock you into their solid state amplification that frequently gives you the impression that you're live-in-the-studio with the musicians. That's not a bad perspective for fans of solid state gear, and that's where most people are to begin with. More recently, they've begun developing their own line of electronics.
ATC was running their large active SCM50SE towers in Piano Black Gloss ($66k) fed by their CDA2 Mk II CD Player / Preamp / DAC ($4249) on the loud side giving a bold, up-close sound that was crisp, dynamic and very transparent. It was a "live-at-the-concert" sound that was quite thrilling for concert-length listening sessions, but not particularly suited for late-night, unwind-from-a-busy-day type listening. For true deep bass you will also need a subwoofer to complement the SCM50SE. Note the speakers come with the plinth seen beneath them, but the cylindrical footers beneath the plinth were Stillpoints Ultra-6.
On a side table they had two new products on silent display: the CD 2 CD player ($2349) and their SIA2-100 stereo integrated amp/DAC ($3749), as well as their entry level SCM7 monitor ($1649/pr) in satin black with a very rigid metal grill that will certainly withstand the assault of ping-pong and possibly pool balls that get loose from the tables in your rec room.
In room 134 they held the world premiere of the Raidho TD 2.2, a 2.5-way loudspeaker ($46k). The front ends were a VPI HW-40Signature turntable ($15k) equipped with a Van den Hul Black Crimson cartridge ($5300) with a Moon 610LP phono stage ($7500) and a Moon 780D V2 streaming DAC ($15k).
On the bottom shelf was a Moon 700i V2 integrated amp ($14k). Nordost Valhalla II cables tied it all together. The room was jammed packed with every seat taken as you might have guessed with such esteemed gear. It sounded good and I vowed to come back for a more definitive listen, but then proceeded down the road to hell.