RMAF 2018: Old Forge Studio

Some rooms at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest are jammed packed all the time, making demo sessions a pain as trying to really get a sense of what a system is doing can be difficult with 20 hot, sweaty bodies and all their whispering, muttering and jostling which can easily bump the room’s noise floor by 20dB.

And since RMAF was bizzy this year, most rooms I wanted to spend time in suffered from this, but a minor miracle happened when I made my way into Old Forge Studio’s room as I must have hit a super lucky dead-zone, timing-wise because when I opened the door, only proprietor David Cope was inside and after we caught up a bit and exchanged a few good laughs I was able to sit down and take stock of the system he had obviously so carefully curated for this show.

And while Cope’s setup had the gorgeous new Wand 14-4 turntable ($4,200 USD), Wand Plus 10.3-inch tonearm ($1,600 USD), Pure Audio LV-1 phono stage ($1,200 USD) for its analog front end feeding a Pure Audio ONE V3 integrated amplifier ($9,500 USD), it was his digital streaming front end into the V3 integrated that I was most interested in hearing through the steampunk-inspired (design-wise IMO) Rethm Maarga loudspeakers ($10,500 USD).

Bringing the digital love into the room for my ears was the Innuos Zenith MKII server/CD player/ripper with it’s triple-linear power supply, independent floating optical-drive and SSD storage ($6,450 USD) and the Aqua Formula xHD DAC ($17,000 USD), there was also an Acoustic Plan CD player ($4,500 USD) that I did not hear while I was in the room. The Innuos/Aqua was a combo I was seeing more and more on the show floors in multiple rooms in Denver, so obviously there’s some real synergy going on with this pairing as that kind of repetition doesn’t happen by accident; it happens by listening and experiencing it firsthand to the point where, as a vendor, you are completely confident in its presentation to the thousands of people who will be flowing through your room and passing judgement on what you’ve created for them to listen to. The Formula design focuses on several key aspects in my books. They are: R2R ladder conversion based on 24-bit, non-oversampling field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) which are linked via proprietary light-coupling (optical, hence the Optologic moniker) and extensive magnetic and galvanic decoupling of internal components from the chassis and their analog and digital sections.

Having the Aqua La Voce S3 DAC in my review system at home at the moment (review coming soon!) I’m familiar with the ultra-smooth, refined, yet full-throated and impactful presentation that Aqua DACs seem to share as a sonic signature (only getting more of all this it seems as you climb the model ladder). This was a system that seemed to be all about subtlety but of the iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove variety, with a staggeringly low noise floor thrown in for good measure. Cope spun up the Zenith and played a few local FLAC files, one of which was “Plates” off Jeff Pevar’s album From The Core which was loaded to the roof with huge dynamic swings, stereo imaging, 3D-spatial cues and intricate acoustic interplay between stringed instruments that had me sitting bolt upright in my seat. Recorded in the Oregon Caves National Monument, the album’s sense of space engendered through sonic decay off notes from guitars and mandocello was breathtaking. Between all the digital pieces which Cope used to put his audiophile puzzle together, there was left no doubt that the overall finished image was one of true tone, exquisite timbral reproduction, absolute fidelity to the recorded space and an innate musicality which few rooms at RMAF could come close to matching, especially at this price point.

A true standout at the show.

Check back again for continuing coverage from RMAF and thanks for stopping by.

Old Forge Studio
12 Roosevelt Ave, Mystic, CT, 06355

ceynon's picture

Had I been there this would have been high on my list of rooms to visit. Thanks for letting us “virtually” be there with you.