RMAF 2018: Tone Imports digital and analog delights

Wood, polished alloy, rich-hued dark grey and burnt-orange paint, glowing tubes and the exquisite sound of pure timbre and tone reeled me in from the hall like I was a fish on a line that had taken the bait.

I was wandering the 5th floor at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (not the tower) and had swam directly into the path of the Tone Imports room run by Jonathan Halpern and Matthew Rotunda of Pitch Perfect Audio out of California.

Jonathan Halpern.

These two are always on my must-hit-rooms list at every RMAF because they curate some of the very best sounding, but utterly esoteric gear on the planet. This year was no exception with the duo pairing up to show Riveria Labs amplification, Meyer Tonapparate Yonna loudspeakers and digital and analog front ends that had me in a trance both times I ended up in the room. This is always a carefully curated collection of kit that the two spend months painstakingly putting together for ultimate sound both from the vinyl groove and silicon realms.

Matthew Rotunda.

Please don’t take offence because I’m going to rhapsodize on not only the physical beauty of this system, but the sound it was pollinating the room with. That isn’t to say it was necessarily sweet-sounding, or overly warm, but it was drawing me in like a bee with it’s rich, organic tonal color, lifelike timbre and keen resolution: tenets of the holy grail of two-channel sound in my book.

The Verdier La Platine/EMT/Sumile/Neumann analog front end had a subtle way with piano, keyboards, strings and vocals that seemed to float in the air, but always had the weight and impact of each instrument firmly planted in the lower registers. This had the effect of grounding everything in place with a rock-solid spatial presentation and regardless of what Gil Scott Heron threw at us during my first listening session of his 13th and final studio album I’m New Here it always stayed cohesive throughout the frequency spectrum easily translating the innate musicality of the LP to my ears.

The ones and zeroes were being calculated with both precision and emotion by a totaldac d1 tube MKII (hidden in a drawer!) so there were no real surprises here for me as I’m quite familiar with the totaldac line, but once again, there was the sense that something special was happening between the streaming DAC as it wended its way through the Riveria Labs APL-01 preamplifier and AFM-50 mono blocks to the Yonna loudspeakers… bass depth was fast, throaty and tight through the 50-watt/8 Ohm pure Class A amps and zero-feedback, all-tube circuit path of the 01 pre-amp. Midrange and treble spoke with more finesse, tonality and deep timbral hues to brass and decay off high hat/cymbals was lasting longer than I’d heard from this DAC in previous systems.

Overall, one of the best, most enjoyable rooms at RMAF and a standout memory for me from the show.

Gear List

  • Amplification
  • Riviera Labs AFM-50 $ 40,000 USD
  • Riviera Labs APL-01 $ 35,000 USD
  • Riviera Labs AIC-10 Integrated $ 12,995 USD
  • Speakers
  • Meyer Tonapparate Yonna $ 14,500 USD
  • Sources
  • Verdier La Platine Turntable $ 13,995 USD
  • EMT 997 12” Tonearm $ 5,995 USD
  • Sumile Stereo MC Cartridge $ 8,495 USD
  • Neumann WV2a Phono Preamplfier (Vintage NFS)
  • Technics 1500 Reel to Reel (Vintage NFS)
  • TotalDac D1 Tube MKII
  • Furniture
  • Meyer Tonapparate starts at $10,995 USD
  • Cables and Accessories
  • Auditorium 23 Speaker Cable $ 995 USD for 2.5M Pair
  • Auditorium 23 Interconnects $ 795 USD for 1 Meter Pair
  • Auditorium 23 Hommage Mat $ 250 USD
  • Auditorium 23 Hommage T1 Step up Transformer $ 4,995
  • Or Arai Labs Step up transformer $ 13,995 USD
  • Box Amp Stand $795 USD

Tone Imports/Pitch Perfect Audio
73760 El Paseo, Palm Desert, CA 92260, USA
+1 415-244-9310

Sue's picture

I was wondering if you had a chance to stop by the Atma-Sphere room. I heard they are working on a Class D amplifier and was curious about a prototype at the show. I heard the same rumor a few years ago and thought it was a joke. A Class D amp would be a real departure for them

Keep the RMAF reports coming and sorry for the interruption

Rafe Arnott's picture
To get to all the rooms I wanted to (InnerFidelity requires CANJAM coverage). It should be easy enough to find out if they actually are working on a Class-D amp. But, you're right. That would be a huge departure for them circuit design-wise. Perhaps it's a hybrid design?
Everclear's picture

Rogue Audio has some Class-D hybrid designs, BTW :-) .........

Sue's picture

There's never enough time at the hifi shows.

I'll have to give Ralph a call but guarantee I won't be trading in my Novacron otl amps anytime soon.

Everclear's picture

May be Rafe could review the Ama-Sphere Novacron amplifiers?:-) ...........