RMAF 2019 Show Report
Enjoy the Music.com Best Of 2019 Blue Note Awards
As an added bonus for attending exhibitors during RMAF 2019, Enjoy the Music.com handed out our prestigious Best Of 2019 Blue Note Awards! Just a bit over a week ago we announced that only 21 high fidelity luxury audio products have received our annual award. Enjoy the Music.com's Best Of 2019 Blue Note Awards celebrates the many great achievements by audiophile manufacturers within the high-end audio and Hi-Res Audio industry. This year's Blue Note Awards is a culmination of 19 years of reviewing and carefully choosing what products have earned special recognition for 2019.
A killer MC phono preamplifier, the Chord Electronics Symphonic MC phono preamplifier is well worth its asking price. The first thing one might notice in regard to Chord's Symphonic Moving Coil (MC) phono preamplifier is its eye-catching appearance. At least that's the first thing that I noticed, even though by now I should be accustomed to this: I've never seen a Chord component that uses a rectangular 17" wide cabinet. Seen here is their very proud USA distributor Jay Rein of Bluebird Music.
Audiophiles exploring the boundaries of RedBook CD Playback from the early to late nineteen-nineties will no doubt recall California based Audio Alchemy gear with great fondness; I know I do! Founded on the inspired design and engineering of one Peter Madnick, Audio Alchemy almost single-handedly set the stage for the acceptance and ascent of multi-box Compact Disc playback systems. Fast forward to early 2015, and we see the most significant iteration of technology yet to bear the original moniker, as Peter re-emerged from his time with Constellation Audio to re-launch with a line of even higher-quality and full-featured audio products.
These Italian phono preamp components aren't entry-level, I would place them more in the "affordable" category. But they great performers. When using a phono preamp I all I want is one thing – quiet amplification of my phono cartridge. What divides the great phono preamps from the greater phono preamps is the quality of the signal of that amplification. Seen here is their USA distributor Mark Gurvey.
Marco Manunta, the designer of the Nash phono stage, told me that in the past he has designed many phono stages, but this is the first he designed for M2Tech, and is also the first phono preamplifier that M2Tech has ever offered. When designing the Nash, one of Marco's main goals was to make this phono preamp have vanishing low noise, which in his mind also meant that it would have a very high-resolution. But he also wanted to this phono stage to have a high enough output voltage to match the outputs of the digital sources in most audiophile's systems. When adding the Der Graaf Mk II Power Supply it does it even better. And when one adds the $1299 Van Der Graaf MkII power supply it may not just about double the level of its performance. I'm afraid it doesn't work that way. But it sure raises the sonic bar, and I doubt one will find a better sounding phono stage at this price.
Sanders Sound Systems' Magtech amplifier with additional output transistors now produces 500 Watts into 8 Ohms and 900 Watts into 4 Ohm's. As I read through the Magtech list of specifications I found they were simply everything that I could want in an amplifier. In this audio thing that we do, can we truly ever find the end of the rainbow? There is always something up ahead, an elusive best. And so hat in hand I inquired of Roger Sanders (left, with Joshua Kravette) if he could/would upgrade my old original ESL power amplifier, and he graciously agreed.
To say I am delighted by the metamorphosis of my Sanders amplifier would be a bit of an understatement. Even if I were to ignore all the l beauty and life it brings to music. Then all the practical considerations should be a powerful inducement for ownership. If you take into account the fact that it can drive / complement any speaker you are likely to own. Common sense tells you It will serve as the foundation to build a complete audio system.
Schiit make all categories of high-end sounding, diminutively-sized components that lend themselves to simple desktop usage as well as full on, high-end, sonic insanity with full size speakers in a dedicated two-channel set-up. And two of these components, the Jotunheim (balanced) and the Lyre 3 (tube – unbalanced), graced my listening rooms as well as my production facility (in which I produce and edit audio and video programs of the highest quality). Not surprisingly, they distinguished themselves admirably from a huge deluge of similar headphone-based listening gear created to sooth a hungry marketplace over the last decade and more.
Blue Note Awards typically go to sophisticated products requiring gobs of engineering, mountains of esoteric and expensive parts, and a corporate track record approaching at least a decade. Stack Audio's Serene Base Board for the Linn LP12 turntable isn't like that at all. The Serene base board designed by Theo Stack incorporates the sandwich damping principle I first encountered with the (now) Soundeck turntable mat and the footer plates made of the same material. Two precision machined plates are separated by a coating of what they call AVDC, that performs the vibration absorbing similar to the visco-elastic polymer in Soundeck products. Holes are machined at appropriate places for access to adjust the suspension and remove the armboard. Three adjustable feet allow for very easy leveling of the turntable.
Installation of the Serene base board is simple and straightforward with 12 screws attaching it to the plinth in what can be called a very precise fit. Unlike the other component parts of the Serene series, no skills in balancing the suspension are required. For £140 (~$170), using simple, proven technology, precision engineering, and outsourcing manufacturing to a company that does work for medical and aero-space companies, Stack Audio has created a product that enhances the Linn LP12 far beyond its modest cost. The immediate improvement in resolution and resulting involvement with the music will either satisfy you for years to come or encourage you to press onward with their additional fine products for the Linn.
After releasing the Blue Note Award-Winning Auteur headphones, ZMF's Zach Mehrbach could have remained content and stood pat. But what's the fun in that? Instead they came back bigger and stronger than before just a year later with the Vérité ($2499), and now they've picked up another Blue Note Award to boot.
Quite possibly the prettiest headphone on the market today, the Vérité's beautiful woodwork and swirling metals instantly catch the eye. But the sound is perhaps even more grabbing. The Vérité has lightning-fast beryllium-coated drivers that offer a shockingly immediate transient response and deep, deep inner detail. The bass impact is sensational and the overall dynamics are among the best you'll find. The result is an incredibly engaging headphone that grabs hold of you and doesn't let go.
Congratulations to all those who received their award during RMAF 2019. You can see all 21 products that earned a very special Enjoy the Music.com Best Of 2019 Blue Note Award at this link.