Music Hall electronics, Aurum Cantus M103SE speakers ($1800 per pair) and a variety of DanaCables round out RMAF 2017's very special $5000 audio system. Music Hall's C-DAC 15.3 CD player and new Music Hall A30.3 stereo integrated amplifier ($549 and $999 respectively) provided a good value-priced front-end. The CD player features a 24-bit/192kHz Burr-Brown PCM 1796 DAC, has three digital inputs (TosLink, S/PDIF coax, and USB-B), 24-bit/192kHz Wolfson WM8805 DAC, and S/PDIF coax digital output. Music Hall's A30.3 stereo integrated amplifier produces 85 Watt/channel and has five analog inputs, MM phono stage, and three digital inputs (USB, TosLink, and S/PDIF coax). The internal DAC is 24-bit/192kHz Cirrus Logic CS4398 chip. Add in Bluetooth connectivity, preamp outputs, plus remote control, and here's an impressive value for an integrated amp.
Arum Cantus M-103SE speakers are an incredible value at $1800/pr and are available in matte Cherry or Rosewood PU finish. This two-way vented enclosure design has a surprisingly wide frequency range from 35Hz to 40kHz via an APR3.2. sandwich aluminum ribbon tweeter being mated with an AC180/DC50C2C 7" sandwich cone of non-woven carbon fiber + Cell + non-woven carbon. Fortunately sensitivity is 89dB/W/m and is 8 Ohms (minimum 6.4 Ohms) so even low-ish powered tube amps can play nice. For a mere $5000 this is one heckofa system. Bass was full sounding, with the highs being fast and extended. Yet on voice... oh yes my friends, female vocals were smooth and glorious. Me likeeee for the priceee.
Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio and i have been friends for a few decades now and always enjoy talkin' shop and music fun during shows. We both know about the annual Rockin' Cruise Ship and Gordon goes each year with his lovely wife. Yeah i'm a bit jealous because many great bands play and the boat becomes, basically, one big live music party-fest 24/7. Note to wife Heather, she needs to take time off for a cruise. Anywho, let's get to the gear. Gordon may be known to audiophiles as a digital God, yet did you know he also designs and builds the guitar amps/speakers for the Barenaked Ladies? Yup! As for the audio system, a MacBook Pro Retina 15 and 4T Drobo fed the Crimson + Q1 FPGA DoP/PCM DAC module ($9000) or new Secant DHT 32/384-DSD64/128. Wavelength Audio's Sine v6 directly heated triode line preamplifier ($7500) fed his limited edition all silver Napoleon Ag Silver ($35,000 pair) or Corona V2 VT52 Silver ($20,000 per pair).
Ok, one of the amazeballs cool things within Gordon's Wavelength Audio room, because he always brings something special, were the loudspeakers. Plasma Signature floorstanders use the historic Dukane Plasma tweeters with a Fostex Dipole midrange and powered subwoofers rolling in under 60Hz. Cost is about $20,000 per pair, add in $3000 for a subwoofer. Their new Wavelength Audio Secant ($5000) 32-bit/384kHz PCM, DSD64/128 USB DAC employs the ESS ES9038 DAC chip. Directly heated triode design of course plus add in a glorious external tube rectified power supply and transformer coupled outputs. Full LED display of samples rates and other info is provided. Also shown during RMAF 2017 was Wavelength Audio's Europa v2 ($7500) modular analog and digital preamplifier with a single analog input and the following possible digital inputs: USB HS (32-bit/384kHz PCM DSD64/128), TosLink (24-bit/192kHz), Ethernet and Wi-Fi are supported within this all-tube directly heated triodes and tube rectifier design. Gordon always has a sensational sounding room, and equally enjoy our fun time together talkin' shop n' stuff too.
Whiz Kid electronics designer Peter Madnick stands proudly next to the Audio Alchemy and ELAC stereo system. He deserves it, as Peter designed the original AA stuff waaay back in the day (hence Whiz Kid) and i remember enjoying their CD transport and DAC combo, as it was great sound for very reasonable money.
The same is true today as the re-launched Audio Alchemy offers, once again, some seriously great sound for the money. Excellent build quality too! During my time at RMAF 2017 Peter was manning the room with ELAC Adante AF-61 speakers, Alchemy DDP-1 DAC/Preamp + PS-5 power supply, DMP-1 media player + PS-5 power supply, DPA-1 mono amplifier (pair) and Discover media player. Engineering / Marutani Consulting power conditioner and cables, plus Solidsteel rack with Stillpoint & Vicoustic acoustic treatments rounded things out nicely. The other room was manned by, you guess it, none other than Boy Genius loudspeaker designer Andrew Jones. He went speaker crazy with four ELAC Uni-Fi UF5 floorstanding speakers, a Uni-Fi UC5 center speaker, two Debut S12EQ subwoofers, four Debut A4 Atmos-enabled speaker toppers and Pioneer Elite SC-89 Dolby Atmos receiver.
Andrew's room seemed to always be jam packed with listeners, so never had a chance to take time and sit in the sweet spot, yet Peter Madnick and i had time for a listen and, you guessed it, at this price range these guys must be crazy! You've read all the great reviews of ELAC / AA gear, so i probably need not say more. Just go, listen, or do an in-home audition and decide for yourself. Whatever it takes, you need to hear ELAC and Audio Alchemy gear as these guys are killin' it!
Audioengine's cute little HD3 wireless speakers ($399 per pair) is their most versatile powered speakers to date! They'll work with all your apps, music, and devices via Bluetooth aptX or hardwired analog input. There's even a USB input that feeds a PCM 5102 24-bit DAC. Audioengine's HD3 front panel headphone jack is driven by the OPA2134, so you know they took a bit of care in every step of the design. Dual analog Class A/B monolithic amplifiers produce 30 Watts peak per channel to drive a 0.75" silk dome tweeter and 2.75" Kevlar midrange/woofer. Inputs include 3.5mm stereo mini-jack, stereo RCA, USB, and Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX. Outputs include RCA variable and 3.5mm mini-jack headphone out. There's even a very convenient front panel volume control. At only $399 per pair, it is wonderful that the wood cabinets are hand-built and come in Satin Black Paint, Cherry Wood Veneer, and Walnut Wood Veneer. They're tiny, and what these speakers miss in deep bass they make up for in sound from upper bass to highs. Audioengine speakers err on the side of omission, which means they sound pleasant all-day-long hour-after-hour and never offensive, which you tend to hear often via those plastic-boxed small speakers you hear at big box stores. If you just need a small pair of powered speakers, Audioengine's A2+ is a great choice ($249 per pair).
Legendary loudspeaker designer Sandy Gross of GoldenEar Technology teamed up with Hegel and Audioquest during RMAF 2017. Hegel's H190 integrated amplifier produces 150 Watt per channel stereo and has their exclusive SoundEngine2 error cancelling circuitry to prevent distortion. You have balanced XLR and two unbalanced RCA analog inputs, S/PDIF coaxial, three TosLink, a USB and Ethernet hookup as well. Need to bi-amp you speakers? If so, then the line level output (both variable and non) via RCA can be put to use. A Mohican CD player and AudioQuest 5000 power conditioner rounds out the other electronics, yet i really want to focus on GoldenEar Technology's amazing speakers. GoldenEar Technology's Triton Reference floorstander is big, bad (that's means good), and holy cr@p is that a big / wide soundscape you got there! Even in a challenging show hotel room space they danced, sang and basically gave an impressive showing. We've all read "best speakers at $ABCXYZ price or 'punches above it's weight'", yet must admit that's exactly what they do! Another must-hear product if you haven't had the chance to do so. You can read my world premiere review of the GoldenEar Technology Triton Three+ floorstanding speaker at this link.