That title will surely get a rise out of some folks!
Be that as it may, the aforementioned company ran two MQA Live events at RMAF, during which high-resolution (24/192) MQA streams of live jazz ensembles were streamed in real time to various rooms at the show. MQA claims that the streams were essentially analog to analog, right off the desk.
Having missed Friday morning’s private media event, presented by Bluesound, which featured Zara McFarlane and band streaming to audiences in London, NYC, and DenverI was covering press events elsewhereI began my Saturday by heading to the Brinkmann Audio/Eggleston Works room on the 11th floor where I caught the Denver-only live stream of the Misha Mullov-Abbado Group. Brinkmann was but one of twelve participating companies whose rooms showcased MQA. The others were Aurender, Bel Canto, Bluesound (in the CanJam), Cary, Dali, Esoteric, iFi (also in the CanJam), Krell, Mark Levinson, Moon by Simaudio, NAD, and Pro-Ject (in two locations, one being CanJam).
Playback software from Amarra, Audirvana, and Roon was called into play in the various rooms. There were any number of other MQA partners at the show, including NAD, dCS, Cocktail Audio, and Astell&Kern.
The elevator situation being what it was at RMAF, I chose to hike up 11 floors. By the time this panting Serinus reached 1103, every seat was filled. Gratitude and blessings to Greg Weaver of TAS who, after the first number, handed me his front row center seat as he headed off to another commitment.
Those who left when Greg did missed something special. After the first mellow number, which sounded nicely warm and clear, especially in the midrange, but rather soporific, MQA recording engineer Spencer Chrislu must have made some essential changes to the sound. All of a sudden, percussion became alive, horns had bite, and the feed conveyed so much dynamic range that when all the musicians went at it at once, the sound grew louder than the small room could hold. For a live feed from London, it sounded quite impressive.
With this demo, MQA showed that a version of its encoder can run in real-time, and authenticate a high-rez studio feed that can be folded into a small, 1.3Mbps stream and received by anyone with a decent connection. This include mobile phone users on 3G networks. The demo also sent the message that radio and TV need no longer limit themselves to compromised sound.
After the demo, I returned to the room to get a better sense of its sound. Highs were alive and vibrant, the midrange solid, and bass excellent although a mite boomy in places. Doing the honors were EgglestonWorks Viginti speakers ($39,990/pair); the Brinkmann Nyquist MkII streaming DAC ($17,990), which is the successor to the unit Stereophile reviewed; the US premiere of the Brinkmann Marconi MkII line preamplifier ($13,990); Brinkmann mono amplifiers ($19,990/pair); AudioQuest cabling and Niagara Low-Z power noise-dissipation system ($3999); and an HRS-RXR rack.
In a room shared with J-Corder, a Washington state company that restores Technics reel-to-reel tape decks, Technics staged the US debut of its Ottava S SC-C50 wireless speaker system ($799, seen grille-less at the center of the photo above). With full streaming capabilities (including Tidal and Spotify), and Bluetooth, AirPlay, and Chromecast readiness, the self-powered all-digital speaker contains three coaxial horn units, six speakers, and one subwoofer/four Jeno jitter-reduction engines. It also offers “room acoustic calibration,” “Space Tune auto with built-in microphone” (not sure what that is), and lots, lots more. Stereo pairings are possible.
For the RMAF 2018 installment of how not to run a demo, we turn to a two-room suite whose demo I fled after discovering that (a) the presenter was only playing little snippets of music, which meant that as soon as I began to sink into something, it was yanked away without warning and replaced without pause with different music that was sometimes in a different key, (b) competing with these soundbites was lots and lots of talking, so much so that it took two passes before I could actually experience a full minute of music, and (c) when I noted that the music was playing too loud for such a small space, and asked if it could be turned down, I was told to move back, where the sound was still too loud.
Happily, after noting that the system gave every indication of producing solid and extremely satisfying sound worth struggling for, I retreated to the outer room for a quiet chat with Benchmark’s ever-affable, extremely knowledgeable Rory Rall. There, I learned that in addition to MartinLogan Impression ESL 11A speakers ($9995/pair), Aurender N100H network streamer, and Benchmark cabling, Benchmark was showing its new DAC3B D/A processor ($1695), LA4 line amplifier/preamplifier ($2495), and AHB2 power amplifier ($2995) in monoblock configuration. The DAC3B is designed to save money for people who don’t necessarily need a remoteit’s optionaland can do without a headphone amplifier. The DAC3B would certainly work well for those who own or are considering Benchmark’s “ultimate” LA4 line amplifier, which also serves as a headphone amplifier.
Kaveh Saffari’s Southern California-based Audiologiconline.com showcased an impressive system with the North American debut of the Italian-made Sigma Acoustics 2.3 Orchestra loudspeaker in premium walnut cabinet ($38,750/pair). Designed by Aldo Zaninello, the speaker includes a customized Heil AMT ribbon, Accuton midrange, and customized Scan-Speak Revelator subwoofer. The three-way bass-reflex design touts 90.5dB sensitivity and a frequency response of 28Hz-24kHz
I was extremely impressed with how the system handled a Channel Classics SACD of Mahler’s Symphony 2, delivering an excellent midrange and depth, even in the nearfield, and solid bass that extended to the lowest double bass lines. (Some speakers and systems make a mess of these lines, and others fail to reproduce them entirely.) There was extra midrange emphasis on my SACD of soprano Carolyn Sampson singing Fauré’s “Les roses d’Ispahan”that may be due to the electronicsbut the highs were lovely, and the air around voice and piano delicious.
The Sigma Acoustics 2.3 Orchestra loudspeakers kept excellent company in the form of Aavik’s U 300 amplifier ($30,000), Esoteric K03X SACD/CD player ($12,000), Music Tools Italy Isostatic stands, and lots of power products and cables from Ansuz Acoustics. Aavik and Ansuz, for those unaware, are sister companies of Raidho Acoustics.
Distributor Vana, Ltd. and PrimaLuna partnered to present a winning systemthe only one of three in the room that I heardheadlined by the EAT (European Audio Team) C-Sharp turntable with C-Note 10″ arm and Jo No.5 MM cartridge ($4295), brand new EAT E-Glo Petit hybrid tube phono preamplifier ($1495), PrimaLuna Dialogue HP integrated amp ($4399), and Audio Physic Tempo speakers ($6495/pair in Cherry wood). The sound was appealingly warm, lovely, and musical on Yarlung’s new 45rpm issue from the Yuki Mabuchi Trio. With nice air on instruments, this room struck me as an island of sanity and beauty amidst [you fill in the blank]. “Definitely worth checking out,” I wrote in my notes about a system with the potential to satisfy many an audiophile.
EAT’s discrete E-Glo Petit contains two 12AX7 dual triodes, and four J-FET 2SK209 transistors in cascode-parallel configuration.
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