RMAF 2015

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Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 10, 2015
The Cambridge Audio UPnP endowed CXN Network Player ($1,999 pictured up top) includes 24-bit/192kHz-capable Wolfson WM8740 DACs, an asynchronous USB input, a front mounted USB input for your USB sticks, aptX Bluetooth for family-and-friend-friendly playback, Apple's AirPlay, and streaming via Spotify Connect. Cambridge says the CNX "upsamples your favourite songs to 24-bit/384kHz, delivering pure, audio heaven." Pure audio heaven for $1,999 has to be a deal only the devil can make ;-).
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 10, 2015
OK here's my idea. The newly minted Cary Audio DMS-500 Network Audio Player ($4,995) was sitting above the company's also newly minted TL-300d vacuum tube preamplifier. You know how Cary will sometimes offer a "T' version of their solid state products adding tubes? I suggested that Cary add a DAC and a "T" to the DMS-500 and make it look like the TL-300d preamp with that tube peak-a-boo window on the right and the network player's 5” HD full color display on the left. Old and new. Cool idea, no? I don't think it went over so well in the Cary room.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 07, 2015
apologies for the crappy photo

The Concert Fidelity DAC-040BD Vacuum Tube Digital-to-Analog Converter ($12,000) has been around for a while but this battery-powered, non-oversampling, filterless, 16-bit/44.1kHz max DAC sporting NOS Philips multi-bit 16-bit DAC chips makes it perfectly en vogue. The DAC-040 employs a pair of 12AU7 vacuum tubes for gain and a 6CA4 for rectification, checking off all of the items on the "I want analog-like sounding digital" checklist.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 06, 2015
Shhh, don't tell anyone: When you walk into a room at a hi-fi show and the person in charge asks if you have any music with you that you'd like to hear, you know they are confident in the sound of their system. On the other hand, if you walk into a room and they are only willing to play music that sounds as if it was made by fairies with feathers, you know something is terribly wrong. Luke Manley and Bea Lam of VTL always offer to play my music through their show system.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 07, 2015
Holy dueling Bose radios Batman! DEQX pulled out all the stops (again) showcasing their flagship HDP-5 Preamp Processor's ($6,499) DSP prowess through a pair of Magnepan MG1.7 loudspeakers/JBL Fathom Sub driven by Parasound monoblocks and a stereo'd pair of Bose Wave Radios. I'd like to say that the Bose Wave Radios sounded amazing when DEQX'd but I'd have to add some sort of qualifier which would effectively null that noise. Yes, the DEQX made the Bose sound more like music, no doubt, which is a very impressive feat. But let's be clear—never, ever, buy a Bose Wave Radio unless you are prepared to spend over $6 grand to make it listenable.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 07, 2015
Do you see a theme developing? I see a theme developing. The active Dynaudio Focus 600 XD ($13,500/pair) are rated from 20Hz – 24kHz and include a total of 600W of power per speaker (2x 250W for each subwoofer and 2x 150 for the Midrange and Tweeter). The digital coax S/PDIF input supports PCM resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz as does the coax S/PDIF output. There's also an analog input for your turntable and if you add the Dynaudio Connect ($450) you can send up to 24-bit/96kHz data to your Focus speakers over WiFi, look ma, no wires. The Connect also adds Bluetooth (A2DP, apt-x, and AAC compatibility) connectivity.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 05, 2015
"Excuse me, you were sitting in front of me in the ELAC room and I was wondering what you thought." Richard, who could not have been a nicer man, looked at me with eyes wide open and said, "That's just crazy! I mean, I was looking at some speakers that sounded really nice and they were $1300. I was thinking I'd treat myself. But man, that's just crazy!"
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 08, 2015
Before you get too excited, the exaSound UPnP/OpenHome PlayPoint Network Audio Connector ($1,999) is only for exaSound DACs..."at present". The PlayPoint has a nice one-two punch "Ready" list that includes Roon Speaker and MQA, while also supporting AirPlay, Tidal (also via AirPlay), and HQPlayer. Of course, this being exaSound, the PlayPoint supports PCM and DSD resolutions beyond anything being sold (up to 32-bit/384kHz and native DSD256 up to 12.2MHz) so you are present and future proof. If you want to take advantage of that native DSD256 support, you'll need to run MinimServer on your NAS.
Kii
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 07, 2015
The active Kii Audio speakers were one of the products I was most looking forward to hearing at RMAF 2015 even though they have nothing to do with computer audio (I'm only human). Bruno Putzeys, the designer behind the Kii THREE Loudspeaker System ($13,900 + $2,540 for the Kii stands) is also the person behind the Mola Mola line of gear, which we'll talk about later. Bruno also works with Grimm Audio and Hypex where he "designs high-performance discrete AD/DA converters and analogue signal processing circuits, DSP algorithms, class D power amplifiers and switch-mode power supplies. He holds several patents in the fields of digital audio and power conversion and has published extensively in these and related domains." according to Bruno's Wikipedia page. I think he's wickedly smart, as are many people in this crazy wonderful industry, thus my interest in his Kii speakers.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 10, 2015
DACs with tubes (do you see a trend?). I very much enjoyed my time with the LampizatOr Lite-7 DAC (see review) because it made great strides away from sounding digital. The flagship balanced Golden Gate DAC ($19,800) pulls out all the stops designer Lukasz Fikus has up his sleeve (or most of them) and promises to go even further in that right direction. Watch out for an AudioStream review of the Golden Gate sometime soon-ish.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 09, 2015
A room full of friends. I have a pre-production pair of the DeVore X speakers ($15,890/pair) in-barn, John (of DeVore) and I are friends, and the Line Magnetic LM-502CA DAC ($1,795 pictured at the bottom of the rack) is distributed in the US by my friend Jonathan Halpern of Tone Imports. Using the Spec RSA-M3EX Integrated amp ($9,500) to drive the Xs with data being sent from a Mac to the LM-502CA, I thought the system sounded just like music. Like real, honest to goodness, sit back, relax, and lose yourself in it music.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 09, 2015
We first saw the Merging Technologies NADAC ($10,000 stereo, $11,500 multichannel-8) back at CES 2015 and the buzz that was buzzing then has only gotten louder. Merging Technologies had to hold a rock, paper, scissors death match at RMAF 2015 to keep hi-fi writers from offing each other to get the first review sample (kidding). The most obvious technological NADAC stand-out has to be its RJ45 Ethernet input (RAVENNA/AES67) which promises transmission accuracy and, well, great sound.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 10, 2015
France's Metronome Technologie's C6+ DAC (€11.000) pops a pair of 6922 vacuum tubes in the analog output stage. The C6 can handle PCM resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz but the DAC board is easily swapped out making future upgrades a breeze (DSD is coming). The C6+ sits midway between the company's solid state C5 and the top of the dual-output (tube/SS) C8+. The C8+ employs the Asahi Kasei AK4490 DACs which I'd imagine will be used in the updated C6+ (I neglected to ask). Inputs include coax S/PDIF, AES/EBU, Toslink, and asynchronous USB. The C6 includes both single-ended RCA and balanced XLR output. We'll be taking a closer look and listen to a Metronome Technologie DAC in the future.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 05, 2015
I walked into the Mojo Audio room as I do every RMAF, reintroduced myself to Mojo's Ben Zwickel and took a seat. Ben was standing to my left and as I went into listening mode, Ben interrupted by saying that I never followed up on our email exchange from month's ago regarding an exclusive review of his products.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 10, 2015
Speaking of speaking to people I enjoy talking to, I was lucky enough to encounter On A Higher Note's Philip O'Hanlon and Mola-Mola designer Bruno Putzeys in Philip's room where we listened to music through Bruno's Mola-Mola Preamp/DAC ($13,450 + $5,000 for the DAC), the Mola-Mola Kaluga Power Amp ($18,000), and the Vivid Giya G3 speakers ($40,000). This pairing always sounds wonderfully musical to my ears and this year was certainly no exception. What I enjoyed even more, was listening to Bruno talk about his DAC.

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