RMAF 2019 Show Report Part 6
7th Floor At RMAF 2019
In Room 138 sponsored by Upscale Audio and their import arm, Upscale Distribution I encountered Feliks Audio headphone amps from Poland which have a cult following in Europe. The low end of their four model lineup is the Echo ($679) and the top end is the Euforia ($2599) which looks to be equipped with Psvane black bottle tubes. The wood side panels on the Echo were a welcome touch of elegance.
There are two models between these which were probably on display for audition at their table in the Headspace over in the Convention Center. The gentleman here was unable to quote tube types or power ratings for these models and as you see there were no headphones available for listening.
Other brands imported by Upscale Distribution included Tannoy speakers, Pathos electronics and Sbooster aftermarket power supplies for those seeking serious performance upgrades to the OEM wall-warts. I couldn't help but notice the right side heat sinks were the mirror image of the left side heat sinks and wondered if it might look better if the right side were flipped over and reversed so they read properly from back to front of the amp.
I've seen Pathos frequently at the Canadian shows and always admired the fine styling of their hybrid designs — from Italy, naturally.
Night Time Fun
Getting down to business, Gary showed me the new BDA-3.14 Streamer / DAC which also acts as a preamp. It also accepts analog inputs, converts them to digital, feeds them to the DAC where volume is adjusted in the digital domain before it is converted back to analog whereupon it can exit via balanced or RCA outputs. In this case they took the balanced analog output to their BAX-1 Active DSP Crossover which then converts the analog back to digital for the DSP processing (dividing the signal up into bass, midrange and treble) and then converts it back to analog to be fed to a pair of their 21B Cubed three-channel amps (used as monoblocks.) As such, the amps drive the woofer with 600 Watts and the midrange and tweeter with 300 Watts each. In essence, they were doing much the same thing as Prana Fidelity, except the amps and crossover were brought out of the speakers and placed in separate components — a solution that requires a lot more cables and the loss of transparency that comes along with those cables. Nonetheless, this was probably the best I've heard any Bryston speaker sound.
I should also mention that by combining the streamer with the DAC in the BDA-3.14 they have brought the price of buying two separate components down considerably.
After numerous rounds of hors d'oeuvres and probably a beer to wash them down, Bryce Allen latched onto me with his Scottish accent and pointed out this line of very handsome monitors from Fyne Audio. Bryce works for the distributor, The Sound Organization in Texas and this was the launch of the Fyne line. As the story goes, when Tannoy was bought out and production was moved to China, the Scottish workers, along with some government backing took their knowledge and skills and came up with modern speakers using similar technology.
Bryce walked me to the back room of the suite where I heard the F702 driven by a rack of Rega gear with the Rega P8 turntable as the source. The F702 is a 2.5-way speaker with 200mm (8") coincident driver with a mid/bass cone and 25mm magnesium compression tweeter with a neodymium magnet.
Below it is a 200mm mid/bass driver. The cabinet is made from pressed high density birch plywood, heavily braced and ported at the bottom to avoid chuffing, hence the dual metal platform. Yet, it weighs a modest 67 pounds. With 92dB/W/m sensitivity and 8 Ohm impedance it is a tube friendly design with a frequency range of 30Hz to 34kHz (+/-6dB). Fit, finish and styling were... how shall I say this... conservative Italian, top shelf?
The clear gloss finish was wonderfully transparent, revealing the fine walnut veneer, and the spread of the spikes gave reassuring stability. But all this would be for naught if the music didn't measure up. It did. And it would likely have sounded even better with finer electronics, not to put down the quality of the Rega gear, but this speaker cries out for fine tube gear. Even so, it was one of the Best Rooms at the show and one I kept thinking about as I drove home across the country. Sadly, because this was shown in the back room of the suite, I think many people might have missed this wonderful opportunity. Gloss black and gloss white are options if you need something more contemporary looking.
With the sun lost behind the clouds and the mountains, I met up with Ron once again and we took the long walk back to the Tracker parked out among the sagebrush where the deer and the antelope roam.