RMAF 2019 Show Report Part 4
Walking into room 118 was one of those "oh-oh" experiences where I thought I was going to be trapped into a long presentation of a product that was at the wrong trade show. Bob Hazelwood of Andover Audio quickly convinced me otherwise. We are conditioned, in recent times, to think of an AIO (all-in-one) system as being digital oriented with built-in DAC and streaming capability. The Andover comes at you with all that plus LP playback, but this is no Crosley or Silvertone record player in a suitcase. It surpasses the quality and elegance of vintage KLH systems of yore and will interface with your computer to expand its functionality. A push/rotate knob controls volume and gains access to the display menu. A smaller button mutes or turns it all off. Built-in speakers function in mono, panorama or stereo modes. Tone controls, subwoofer output, internal speakers on/off, yep. Built-in Air Motion Transformer (AMT) tweeters face forward; four woofers are side-firing. Or use external speakers. Turntable speeds: 33, 45 & 78. Need to adjust the speed of the turntable? Why not?
Use your computer as a source, or send a signal to your computer? Certainly! The remote control is RF, so you don't need line-of-sight, hence it also has 3 channels. The turntable is built to their specs by Pro-Ject and has a gimbal carbon fiber tonearm equipped with an Ortofon mm cartridge. Acrylic platter?Of course. The plinth is mdf with a steel backing. Got headphones? There's a dedicated Class A amp waiting for them. Wood trim is in real maple or real walnut with matching wood back on the remote. So what's the damage? A mere $2500 for a unit that would look at home in the den or home office in the finest of homes. If you need a stand to put it on, there are two available that will hold a collection of 100 or 200 LPs. There is also a subwoofer with dual 10" drivers and 150 Watt Class D amp and DSP that extends it down to 25Hz ($800). While this will not replace an audiophile's big rig, it sounds terrific for casual listening. It looks great and it will probably get the Marie Kondo seal of approval for minimalizing the maximum. It's very special, in a class by itself.
Across the hall in Room 117 was a straight forward rig sponsored by Simple Design, LLC. Their new product was a server that will be priced about $3k. It was located on a shelf, far away from the rig and speakers. It is seen below my hand which is holding a Sonore audiophile grade copper to optical fiber converter. The signal was run was run through an optical cable ($35 for 10-meter length) along the wall to the Sonore Signature Rendu SE on the top shelf of the rack. From the Rendu SE you go via USB to the dual mono Bricasti M21 DAC ($24k) and on down to the dual mono Bricasti M25 power amp that puts out 150 Wpc into 8 Ohms and doubles down to 4 and again to 2 Ohms where it will put out 600 Watts.
This was plenty to drive the Vivid Kaya 45 speakers rated at 6 Ohms with a low of 2.8 Ohms and a sensitivity of 87dB/W/m. Unlike the Giya line from Vivid, the curly-que horn is folded over within the chassis of the speaker, creating a somewhat more conventional, though still very contemporary form. Also note the handsome rack that appears to have an adjustable middle shelf. Cabling was by Cardas. The Signature Rendu SE is priced at $3500 with a Tier 1 upgrade that includes a Synergistic Research Blue Fuse and RFI absorbing material for $3745. Another $745 will get you their Turbo power supply. Unfamiliar music and multiple conversations in the room prevented an atmosphere for evaluating the sound here, but given the quality of the brands, it wouldn't surprise me if others thought it was very good.
In Room 113 Alta Audio had a world premiere of their Alec speaker along with fine Krell pre and power amp that fed the signals from yet another VPI 4oth Anniversary direct drive turntable ($15k) equipped this time with a top of the line Audio-Technica cartridge. A VPI Voyager phono preamp was also in action here as was a loom of ZenSati cables. The Alec speaker, which they think will price out below $10k, was in a vibrant wood veneer with a very transparent finish that contributed to the overall high quality appearance. The slightly concave sides and slightly arched top make it stand out from typical two-way towers for those who demand something a little different. A 5.75" ribbon tweeter and 8.75" woofer with a long folded horn combine to give the speaker 93dB/W/m efficiency.
This might suggest the Alec would be good with SET tubes, but the 4 Ohm rating and the recommended 50 to 150 Wpc, combined with the strength of the solid state Krell amp used here suggest we better wait for the reviews to find out for sure. The cabinet uses a multi-layer, multi-density approach to damp resonances and the clear male vocal from what I suspect was a remaster of a 1950's male vocalist confirmed their claim. It's not my favorite genre of music, but it sure commanded the attention of those in the room who listened intently. I have to admit that I succumbed to the romanticism of the music on this very fine sounding system.
Across the hall in 114 was the Lu Kang Audio (Taiwan) room with their Spoey 230 stand mounted "bookshelf" speaker with a small dome tweeter and a 230mm (9") mid/woofer ($5500, and $6300 with stands.) With a low sensitivity of 86.5dB/W/m it was said to have a frequency response of 40Hz to 20kHz. Recommended power was 100 Watts and they were not taking any chances with the 100 Wpc VAC iQ200 tube power amp with intelligent automatic biasing.
Also in the system was the MusiChi server SRV-01 that is optimized for working with your home library, but will also handle commercial streaming software. Show price was $4k. A Cos D10 DAC/preamp/headphone amp interfaced with the MusiChi and the VAC amp.
At the end of the hall in the large 105 Suite was the HiFi Guides.com room that was set up to audition a bunch of stand mounted monitors in one area and headphones in another. Checking out their site seems to indicate they are a shopping interface for Amazon.com for these categories, plus a few subwoofers. There is also some forum activity and reviews. The sign on the door is prophetic in that they focus primarily on entry level gear and below.
Within Part 5 I will tackle the 8th Floor as I work my way down through the hotel. As always, much more to come!