RMAF 2013…Ella Lives Pt. 2

Hey Audio Fans,

In Part 1 of “RMAF 2013…Ella Lives,” I discussed many of the stuff at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest’s CanJam gathering. This year, it was bigger and better than ever, with some amazing high end headphones, and some budget ones that kick serious butt. In this, the second part of my RMAF 2013 coverage, I’m continuing my discussion of the remainder of the show: the suites, where it was all loudspeakers, all the time…

Let’s start the festivities in the lobby, where my buds Mytek Digital’s Michal Jurewicz, assisted by Mr. DSD himself, Gus Skinas, were holding court with a portable DSD surround production rig…

MyTek’s portable Pyramix recording rig

Mytek’s portable Pyramix recording rig

The MacBook Pro was running Merging Technologies’ Pyramix Native on a virtualized Win7 install. Pyramix, with its ability to record multichannel DXD (Merging invented DXD) at several sample rates, has become the de facto standard for DSD productions these days.

Six channels of conversion

Six channels of conversion

Six channels of Michal’s wicked tasty converters provided playback…

The boiz & their toys

The boys & their toys

Next to Michal was another old friend, the indefatigable Doc of Rez, Mr. Mark Waldrep. Mark mentioned the inconceivable; he’ll be selling DSD! As a stalwart proponent of high sample rate linear PCM, as I am, this would have unthinkable only last year. Mark’s thinking is, as long as content derives for a high quality transfer of a master, then it’s acceptable regardless of format. He mentioned, and I’ve known this since I worked at Criteria Recording back in the ’80s, that supposedly “high resolution” product for sale (by the biggest name in hi rez downloads) is often derived from what engineers refer to as “production copies.” These are transfers made with EQ and limiting in the signal chain to tame the master for less capable distribution media, like vinyl or CD. Moral of the story; check the provenance of your music before purchase!

Dr. Mark of AIX & RealHD-Audio.com

Dr. Mark of RealHD-Audio.com

Not in CamJam, the JPS Labs kidz had their ultra–premium, cost–no–option set of cans. kickin’. Last year, they were showing Abyss prototypes, but this year they had production models. At around $5k, these aren’t your cousin’s crappy Beats, these are reference grade cans; up there with Stax, Sennheiser, UE, JH and Audeze. Super sound and quite comfortable but tragically weird looking.

The new, no–holds-barred Abyss cans

The new, no–holds-barred Abyss cans

Enough with the cans already! Let’s discuss the velvet Elvis of the show; Bel Canto. Not in the cheezy sense but, in a glare–free, super smooth sense. For them, “BLACK” is the new black. They debuted their new BLACK line, with an Asynch Stream Controller, a pair of PowerStream monoblock amps, and StreamLink fibre interconnects. All that was playing through a pair of Andrew Jones’ TAD Compact Reference CR-1 speaks. The whole rig was powered by Kimber PK10 Gold being fed from an RSA Haley APD power conditioner. The name of the line is fitting; their room had an invitingly dark, luxuriant sound.

Bel Canto’s new BLACK series

Bel Canto’s new BLACK series

I dropped into two Bricasti rooms; in the Fidelis suite, engineer David Reitzas was holding court on the floor, playing yet another overproduced (upcoming) Barbra Streisand album for someone’s dancing and dining pleasure. Pro Tools Mac was feeding a Bricasti M1 DAC into Metronome Technologie amplification into Harbeth 30.1 boxes. Couldn’t quarrel with the gear choice at least…Walked into the other Bricasti room and recognized another old friend from my Lexicon days, René Jaeger, sitting quietly in the back. Sidled in next to him for a listen to Bricasti’s above mentioned fab DAC. I asked Brian Zolner, another Lex alum, what were those rather amply sized (read: humongous) amps he was using…turns out they were Bricasti amps, derived from work done at Mark Levinson prior to the Harman purchase.

Having spent a good bit of time with Siegfried Linkwitz’s open baffle speaks, I was curious to hear his latest version, the LX521, which I just found out from Burning Amp 2013…Siegfried was giving a rather disjointed presentation on imaging and psychoacoustics. The new speakers didn’t seem to have improved on prior versions, but I do have to cut him some slack considering the hotel room environment. That said, they are one of the better DIY choices out there.

Siegfried Linkwitz at RMAF 2013

Siegfried Linkwitz at RMAF 2013

While on the subject of open baffle designs, I was pleased by the sound of the Mazanita CVs, a very compact, attractive and affordable passive two way. The folks at Manzanita Audio were new to me, will need to spent some time with these…

From a beer and pretzel budget, we now turn to a rig for the 1/10th of one percent in Nathan Vander Stoep’s NVS Sound room. Nathan took a skeleton from neighbor YG Acoustics, and tweaked it to the nines. New wiring, new binding posts plus shielding and damping, which resulted in a crazy good speaker at a crazy price…we’re talking studio condo on Nob Hill–scale of kilodollars. His proto speakers were driven by prototype amps from Steve McCormack.

While on the subject of YG and amps, the YG room employed stock YGs powered by Bruno Putzeys’ next gen Ncore technology,, as realized in the new 700W into 4Ω Mola–Mola Kaluga monoblock. They’re rated at 1200 Watts into 2Ω, you could probably weld with these puppies…Didn’t used to be a YG fan but last year’s MSB pairing and this year’s Bruno hook up is making me a believer.

Another Stratos City dweller is Boulder, whose amps run in one to two hundred kilodollar range. At Rocky Mountain, they were showing off their new 2120 Network DAC, which replaces the 2020. It’s got AES, HDMI and USB in, and does up to single speed DXD (357.8 & 384 kHz)…no pricing as yet.

Well, the–the–the–that’s all folks, at least for this round. I’ll be back for Round Three: The Final Chapter (of RMAF coverage) at The Bitstream, where I’ll finally answer the question, “What the heck does Ella have to do with this?!” Thanks for visiting & do drop a comment or any questions for me…

Keep listening,

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