PranaFidelity, WyWires, ModWright, Groove Note Records & ORG. What more can I say about PranaFidelity that I have not said in past years? For all of you chuckleheads who keep complaining about the ever-increasing cost of high-end audio, get yourself a pair of Steve Norber’s Fifty90 speakers ($3’950/pr) and never look back. For at least the third year in a row, I am going to vote these speakers among the best values of the show and beyond). Steve also has another speaker model, the Vayu/fs at $6’950. Formerly of Edge Electronics, Steve also designs his own electronics: the 400wpc Purna/ma amplifier ($8’950), Purna/ca preamplifier (full function preamp with MM/MC phono stage, $4’500 - $9’950 depending on single-ended vs. balanced line and/or phono stage options). Sources in the room were Steve’s personal Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable with Denon 103 MC cartridge (not for sale), J-Corder Technics RS 1500 reel to reel tape deck with Charles King output tape preamp and a ModWright modified Oppo CD player.  Between the great sound, Steve’s charming personality and the wonderful music selections, I could have stayed in this room all day!

MSB Technology, Voce Audio. The Voce Audio Trius speakers ($64’00/pr) were another product new to me. Their appearance was simply breathtaking - and so was the sound. What caught my eye when reading the back of Voce’s glossy flyer was the following about the crossover design: “…ultra-linear topology with constant impedance and flat response throughout the entire audio band” – wow!  With an 89dB sensitivity and constant 8-ohm impedance, these should be a dream for all but flea-powered amplifiers to drive. Fronted by the MSB Technology Universal Media Transport with Dual Signature Power Base ($10’990) and the highly reviewed Diamond DAC IV Plus with Diamond Power Base ($38’999) and the S201 200Wpc stereo amplifier ($17’995), the sound in this room was simply sublime!  Playing Ella Fitzgerald singing Let’s Face the Music and Dance, her voice was creamy smooth and there was tremendous presence and clarity. Another contender for best of show for sure!

GTT Audio & Video - YG Acoustics, Audionet, Kronos Audio, Kubala-Sosna Research.
A new YG Acoustics speaker model, the Hailey 1.2 ($42’800/pr) was being demoed in the GTT Audio & Video room along with the exciting new (to America) Audionet electronics from Germany.  Peter Breuninger was raving to me about the Audionet gear before the show. The rest of the equipment in the room was all ultra premium: Kronos Sparta turntable ($21’500) with 10.5” Helena arm ($6’500) and Air Tight PC-1 cartridge ($8’500), Audionet PAM G2 phono stage ($16’800), DNC DAC ($10’100), and PRE G2 preamp ($23’350), two Audionet MAX monoblocks ($30’500/pr.) all connected with Kubala Sosna Elation cables. Count Basie was playing on the Kronos table when I entered. The system had a sense of very low distortion (a hallmark of the YG speakers), with good dynamics on the horn section. Still, being a tube/high-efficiency speaker guy, my taste runs toward a bit more bloom in the midrange. Putting that bias aside, I would have to agree that this was an excellent sounding room.

Goldmund Audio. The brand Goldmund surely conjures up the heady days of their strong presence in the U.S. market in the late 80s and 90s. A friend of mine still owns Goldmund Dialogue speakers from that time and they continue to sound great today. From the reviews of their new line of Job electronics by our editor, they appear to be making a strong showing again.  To see them at RMAF was a great surprise. Even more surprising was to see them demonstrating a WiFi-sourced music system. No cables! The Prologos Plus speakers ($69’000/pr) are active tri-amped and tri-DAC’d with a wireless receiver built in. Files were played wirelessly from a USB dongle in a laptop computer. One can also use the Goldmund Mimesis 11 wireless hub/preamplifier to interface other digital or analog sources. The Wailin’ Jennys The Parting Glass was playing and while this is an acapella recording, the female vocals were among the best I heard at the show. This is very promising indeed.

PS Audio. There was some buzz about this room because they were showing with vintage Infinity IRS Beta speakers. Both Paul McGowan of PS Audio and Arnie Nudell of Infinity/Genesis, were on hand. A Bascom King-designed PerfectWave 250wpc hybrid stereo amplifier (Russian 6H23 triode driving a Mosfet output stage, $7’500) was powering the speakers. The source was the PS Audio PerfectWave Memory Player ($3’995) and DirectStream DAC ($5’995). I wish I had more to say about this room but the selections being played were at such a low volume that I really couldn’t tell much.

Mockingbird Distribution: Jakutis Analog, Jasmine Audio, Pyon Sound, ABIS, Tiglon.
While there was music playing here through some odd-looking spherical speakers (Oasis Audio 816A omnidirectional speakers), the emphasis seemed more on the static display items. Phillip Holmes of Mockingbird Distribution had one half of the room chock full with the Pyon Sound Ultima Black Pearl turntable ($15’000), Jakutis Analog Black Stork turntable (complete with dedicated stand for $10’000) and the Jasmine Audio MC cartridges (featuring the Dragon at $2’800). Phillip explained that the Pyon Sound turntable uses a structural material with three times the laminations of the panzerholz that has been in vogue with some DIY plinth builders.  They have termed it pikawood. On the other side of the room, Hiroshi Ishihara of Sibatech was showing a selection of four different tone arms made by ABIS, including an interesting new ABIS TA1L 12-inch arm ($5’000). He also pointed out to me a full range of Tiglon magnesium-shielded cables and accessories.  Since I have reviewed the Glanz MH-124S tone arm they carry, he was careful to point out the Tiglon phono cable to see if I would be interested in reviewing it. It is certainly a possibility.

Stenheim, Nagra. Stenheim speakers are a Swiss speaker manufacturer founded in 2010. This was their premier at RMAF and they wisely relied on their highly pedigreed Swiss mate Nagra to show what they could do. I was handed a very professionally put together brochure on thick paper stock that detailed their three speaker models and also talked about their latest venture into recording (and included a CD sampler). The speaker model on demo was the Alumine 3-way. It combines their Alumine Monitors (2-way, $15’975/pr) with the Alumine Woofer Sections (floorstanding bass modules, $29’750/pr). The Nagra equipment in use included the Nagra HD DAC with MPS battery power supply ($27’250) and the Nagra VPA 845 mono amplifiers ($29’750). In the post-show wrap I did for AVShowrooms, Peter Breuninger commented very favourably on these speakers. I was not as favourably impressed.

Burwell and Sons Loudspeakers, Raven Audio, Mytek Digital, Douglass Connection. Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Tin Pan Alley was playing when I entered. I often quietly groan to myself when I hear these overplayed demo cuts but this time was much different. On the beautifully made and finished Burwell and Sons 'Mother of Burl' hornspeakers ($80’000!), this was flat out the best I had ever heard this cut. The system was very lively and smooth. Every inflection in his voice and the smallest nuances of his guitar were easily heard. This is the kind of sound you have always wanted from a horn speaker yet with a minimum of coloration. The cabinet is a greatly refined and improved version of the venerable Altec A5 cabinet with Altec 803D woofers, JBL LE85 compression driver midrange with wood horn (fashioned after an Altec 811 horn) and what looked to be a JBL 2405 slot tweeter. The electronics were the Raven Audio Shadow preamplifier and Spirit 300B Mk II monoblock amplifiers. A couple of friends were back later in the day with some classical reel-to-reel tapes and said that the system was not quite as stupendous with that genre.

High Water Sound: TW-Acustic, ZenSati ApS, Horning, Silver Circle, Running Springs.
Jeffrey Catalano, owner of High Water Sound, was hosting a bevy of audio illuminati when I visited. John Atkinson was among them. I settled into a seat towards the rear to bathe in the analog splendour that has become a reliable RMAF fixture. The TW-Acustic GT SE turntable ($12’500) with two TW 10.5 tone arms ($5’500 each), the Ortofon Winfield ($3’899) and Ortofon Cadenza Mono cartridges ($1’219) fed the TW-Acustic RPS B tube phono stage ($17’000) or the Tron-Electric Syren 11 GT Preamplifier ($55’000). A new TW-Acustic amp was making its debut: the 45 & 6B4G SE monos ($15’00/pr). These were used to drive the Horning Hybrid Systems Eufrodite Ellipse ($30’000/pr). Equipment support was provided by Running Springs, power conditioning by Silver Circle and cabling by ZenSati. We listened to some interesting LPs as always: Booker T Jones’ The Road from Memphis and Betty LaVette’s Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook. This was all thoroughly enjoyable and there was friendly chatter among the attendees. I moved up to a seat in the front center to get the full measure. The system was very musical, coherent and natural. I would have liked a bit more weight/slam however but think that was asking too much of the 3wpc amps. Plus, it was not really the point of the demo.

Funk Audio. When you’ve got a 21-inch active subwoofer ($6’720) in the room, what do you think will be played for the demo music? Organ, drums and other such subterranean instruments of course. We were almost blown out of the room by the tremendous slam of this subwoofer. It was mightily impressive! To comment only on the bass in this room would be a complete disservice since the beautifully finished Funk Audio 8.2.P active floorstanders ($9’735/pr or passive for $7’205) were making very convincing music in the more normal frequency range.  They spun a Coleman Hawkins album on the new VPI Prime turntable and tone arm with Funk Audio 0.5kWx4 M1 amps (with active xover for the speakers, $3’330) and a Dynamic Sounds Associates Phono II solid-state phono preamp ($12’000). The sound was velvety rich with great dynamics. I asked about the planar high-frequency drivers and was told they are planar magnetic. They blended very well with the cone drivers unlike some ribbons. While Funk Audio may not be one of the premier names in audio, this system would give a lot of the more expensive systems a run for their money.

ENIGMAcoustics. Srajan reviewed the ENIGMAcoustics Mythology M1 two-way monitor ($14’69/pr) with the Supranino electrostatic super tweeters ($3’690) and awarded them a Blue Moon award. I was curious to hear it. The Mythology M1 speakers use a 34mm soft dome tweeter and a polypropylene and mica 180mm mid/bass driver both manufactured by Enigma.   Associated electronics were of very high quality starting with a Light Harmonic DaVinci DAC ($20’000). My notes are blank as to the other electronics but I think they were an Ayre K-5xe CD player and V-5xe integrated amplifier.  We listened to a Muddy Waters selection while the host disconnected the super tweeters. The loss of ambience was easily heard and there was little doubt of their significant benefit. My friend Roger Swiatek of Music Direct decided then and there to investigate a pair for his vintage Tannoy speakers. The system as a whole did provide a surprising portion of full-range sound in a small footprint although I felt that the lower mids were a bit dark in tonality when juxtaposed with the transparent and airy highs.