• Rocky Mountain Audiofest 2011 Show Notes

    Rocky Mountain Audiofest 2011 was the funnest show I've been to in recent memory even though I missed covering a few floors as time ran out Sunday afternoon. I'm not sure if attendance was up, down, or the same as previous years but I had a great time talking to everyone who made the show. I did much more talking than listening to music at RMAF 2011. The C.A.P.S. v2.0 seminar was really fun as was the Windows seminar in the AudioQuest suite. There were a few new products at RMAF this year and a few old products with Series 2 type upgrades. Most impressive were the new products from Peachtree Audio, Stax, Woo Audio, and the never budget friendly Burmester Audio Systems. If this Rolls Royce of music servers fits one's budget at $50,000 then why not pick one up? Life is too short and your money won't do you any good when your dead. (To be read sarcastically with a smirk on one's face).





     

    Teaser

    Philip O'Hanlon of On A Higher Notelink had the most interesting teaser of the show. Philip demonstrated the Chapter Audio Notepad AirPlay 250link during an after hours session on Saturday. The AirPlay 250 arrived a bit late to make it into the main playback system but I was able to hear it and play with it in a secondary system connected to Vivid V1s loudspeakers. The Chapter Audio Notepad AirPlay 250 supports streaming audio via WiFi up to an unconfirmed 24/96 and via Ethernet up to 24/192. This little integrated puts out 250 watts into 4 ohms and had no trouble powering the Vivid loudspeakers. The AirPlay 250 should ship in December for $2,500. Please excuse the iPhone 4 photo taken under harsh lighting conditions.





     

    Peachtree Grand Series

    In the months leading up to RMAF I'd heard quite a bit about the new Grand Pre and Grand Integrated components from Peachtree Audiolink. Every one at Peachtree was very happy with how the products turned out sonically and visually. I went into the show with high expectations from the new Grand Series of components. After the first few notes were played from a MacBook Pro (USB) through the Grand Integrated and Sonus Faber Elipsalink loudspeakers I was hooked. Peachtree has upped its game tremendously with the Grand Series. Sonically the Grand Integrated ($4,299) was one of the best at the show. The Grand Pre ($2,999) was connected to a Simaudio link amp and B&W 802 Diamondlink loudspeakers. This system was pretty good but I preferred the Integrated combined with Elipsa speakers. I can't wait to hear what the Grand Pre is truly capable of in my own system.













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    Wavelength Audio

    Gordon Rankin's Wavelength Audiolink room was truly a computer audiophile's dream. He had all the latest technology, new products, and great sonics. Leave it to Gordon to use the new Thunderbolt Pegasus R4 external drive array from Promiselink connected to his MacBook Air. In addition to showing a new USB headphone amp Wavelength Audio also displayed the Nuetron 24/192 USB Analog to Digital and Digital to Analog converter. As usual Gordon had very lush sound using his tube amps and DACs throughout the system.




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    Ayre Acoustics

    Transferring a vinyl collection to digital files is about to get easier with the Ayre Acousticslink QA-9. This Analog to Digital converter has XLR analog inputs and USB digital output. RCA to XLR adapters will be provided. The price will be somewhere between $2,750 and $5,000.



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    Meitner Audio / EMM Labs

    Meitner Audiolink and EMM Labslinkwere on hand to show one of my new favorite DACs the MA-1. Also on display was the EMM PRE2 preamp that will be arriving here at Computer Audiophile in one or two weeks. I have pretty high expectations for the preamp based on what I heard with the MA-1 DAC.




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    Simple Design - Sonore
    Simple Design's Sonore music serverslink are gathering a nice following in the CA forums and elsewhere including manufacturers like Mbl link and Music Culture Technologylink. The Music Culture Technology room this year featured the new Signature Series Sonore DAC and the Signature Series Sonore Music Server with I2S output and Signature upgraded power supply. Simple Design servers we featured in other rooms but as I said earlier I missed covering a few floors as I ran out of time.
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    Head-Mania

    I've always been a huge fan of Stax electrostatic headphoneslink. The 007 phones were my favorite headphones until I heard the new Stax 009 at this year's show. The 009 headphones connected to the Headamp Blue Hawaii SElink were simply luscious.




     


    My favorite product of the entire show goes to Woo Audiolink and its 234 Mono-block headphone amp ($10,000 estimated) connected to a pair of Sennheiser HD800 headphoneslink. This is a statement product if I've ever seen one. After listening to these mono-bocks I couldn't get the awesome sound out of my head for the rest of the show. I still remember the sound even as I type this show report. I certainly can't afford to spend $10,000 on a headphone amp so I'll be listening to the Woo Audio 234 at CanJam / RMAF for years to come. Also introduced by Woo Audio was its WDS-1 DAC ($1,099 estimated). The DAC has USB, S/PDIF, AES, and coaxial inputs. I was told the USB input is asynchronous but I've not been able to verify the input mode or the supported sample rates.

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    Woo Audio WDS-1 DAC ($1,099 estimated)


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    Woo Audio 234 Mono-block headphone amp ($10,000 estimated)


     


    Burmester - The Rolls Royce of Audio

    Burmesterlink had its new Reference Music Server 111 ($50,000) on hand at RMAF. This thing is absolutely crazy in a good sense. I can't really say how it sounds as the environment was less than good and I was unfamiliar with every piece of equipment in the system. Features and aesthetics on the other hand were out of this world. The chassis and shiny front plate looked like they could have been pulled from the trunk of a Rolls Royce Phantom. The iPad application that controls playback and volume etc… was designed by the same people who designed the Remote app for Apple. Scrolling through the cover flow interface on the Burmester app was very nice. I didn't see a single slow-down or interruption in scrolling as is so often seen in other apps. One interesting note is that Burmester is the only company in the world allowed to ship an iPad 2 in the box with the Reference Music Server without putting the iPad in Apple packaging. This may be the only packaging that Apple can beat. Simply put, Burmester builds incredible components. Over the top? Yes. Outstanding? Yes. If you have the money, why not?




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    Miscellaneous Items

    The Laufer Teknik Memory Playerlink and Behold Gentlelink products. Notice the interesting USB implementation inside the product. What looks like a standard USB cable connects from the case to the internal board.




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    dCSlink was happy to play my 24/96 version of Dark Side Of The Moon via an Amarra playlist.
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    TAD Labslink used the C2000 preamp with built-in asynchronous USB DAC. I have the unit and am currently working on a review.
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    Dan D'Agostinolink had his new preamp on static display. The dial moved so elegantly and smooth. This thing is like a fine watch. Note the input labeled Server on the close-up image of the preamp. Nice touch Dan :~)




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    The T+A MP 1260 Rlink player accepts a few different digital inputs including my USB stick holding Dark Side Of The Moon at 24/96.




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    Wadialink / Sonus Faberlink
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    Jeff Rowlandlink
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    Brystonlink / PMClink
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    German Physikslink
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    VTLlink Siegfried Series 2 Amps with TAD Reference 1 loudspeakers





     


     


     


     
    Comments 34 Comments
    1. Mercman's Avatar
      Mercman -
      Nice coverage and great pics Chris. Thanks.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi AudioDoctor - You are 100% correct. I just checked my text messages and indeed the the Grand Integrated is $4,299 and the Pre is $2,999. Thanks for the correction.<br />
      <br />
    1. Truth In Audio's Avatar
      Truth In Audio -
      There were a number of excellent new digital audio products at RMAF 2011 that are omitted from the above list:<br />
      <br />
      1. dB Audio Labs' new battery-powered Asynchronous USB DAC; supports up to 24/192 files (debuted at RMAF)<br />
      <br />
      2. The new Mach 2 Music Mac Mini OSX Lion music server running from a PI Audio BatteryBuss (that also powered the connected hard drive) (debuted at RMAF)<br />
      <br />
      3. Auraliti linux-based music servers (of various types)<br />
      <br />
      4. Empirical Audio Overdrive Ultra DAC (debuted at RMAF)<br />
      <br />
      5. Red Wine Audio battery powered DACs (with USB input)<br />
      <br />
      The dB Audio Labs DAC and Mach 2 Music server ran the room that The Absolute Sound awarded Best Sound for the Money. Very interesting that all of these manufacturers get zero mention here.
    1. dummy's Avatar
      dummy -
      Chris,<br />
      <br />
      Are you sure about the Burmester 111 Music Server 50,000$ price? I've read elsewhere that It was 70,000$. At that price, +/- 20k doesn't matter much in the end but still...<br />
      <br />
      Thanks for the pics. It looks droolin' good!<br />
      <br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      The Bermester guy said they were trying to keep it under $50,000 :~)<br />
      <br />
    1. AudioDoctor's Avatar
      AudioDoctor -
      I was hoping to get a good deal...<br />
      <br />
    1. dummy's Avatar
      dummy -
      How generous of Burmester! ;-)<br />
      <br />
      A mighty great machine nonetheless!<br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. granosalis's Avatar
      granosalis -
      What about new Zu Definition? Any comments?<br />
      Thansk!
    1. Amused's Avatar
      Amused -
      Any more specifics on what they displayed...how they sounded? I see that you listed a bunch of Gordon's products, but not so much of the Bryston/PMC room. Any observations on cabling choices?<br />
      <br />
      Thanks.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Jason - For the most part I don't like to comment on sound quality in the rooms. I used to comment much more until I realized it does more harm than good, again for the most part. Nearly all rooms sound lackluster and there's no way to narrow down the cause. Most rooms have components I've never heard in a good sounding room let alone a terrible sounding hotel room. Suggesting that a speaker or DAC etc... sounded bad, even though I've heard the component sound spectacular in other situations, is just misleading and doing a disservice to those who couldn't attend the show. Almost all systems are capable of better sound than what was achieved at the show. I'd hate to steer someone wrong by suggesting the new Ayre QA-9 D to A transfers sounded way too bass heavy when in reality it was the combination of all the components interacting with the room. I'm sure you get what I'm trying to say :~)<br />
      <br />
      The Bryston / PMC room was very crowded so I quickly moved on. I saw a ton of AudioQuest cable at the show. Much more so than any other brand. The preponderance of AQ cable may mean any number of things.<br />
      <br />
      Sorry for the long windedness and no real answers to "how did it sound."<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. Gobbledigook's Avatar
      Gobbledigook -
      Can be confusing. Burmester sounds like Bermester. T+A sounds like something rude, but stands for Theory+Application. As one of the few members of CA with T+A gear, I am naturally very curious what your impressions were with the R-series gear. <br />
      <br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Gobbledigook - First, thanks for the spelling class :~)<br />
      <br />
      Second, I will get something from T+A in for review after CES. I talked quite a bit to the reps from T+A. It's an impressive company who has been doing this for a long time. Solid stuff.<br />
      <br />
    1. plakey's Avatar
      plakey -
      <br />
      I heard that Wavelength was also coming out with a combo DAC and class D amp... was there any mention of that at the show?
    1. murrayp's Avatar
      murrayp -
      Hi Jason,<br />
      <br />
      First, I completely agree with Chris re sound at shows - a less than stellar sound proves absolutely nothing. But I think there is one small ray of light - if a room really does manage to sound good, then at least it proves that that system indeed can. Two friends and I did listen to the Bryston/PMC room and indeed it did sound wonderful to our ears, and on visits over two days. This is just kudos where it is due - however they did it, these guys achieved a very good sounding system and we were very impressed. If you search around a little you will find other similar comments. Hope this helps.<br />
      <br />
    1. NickG's Avatar
      NickG -
      Hi Chris, I'm looking to add a DAC with a few features like the new Peachtree. The TAD you are planning to review looks interesting. Do you know the price point on it? <br />
      <br />
      Meanwhile, I'm curious about the DCS debussy DAC. Their copy makes it sound like it is different than older versions of the product. I'm not likely to buy a new one, so I'm wondering if you know if an older version can be upgraded to match the features you wrote about recently?<br />
      <br />
      I'm also curious if you think the Peachtree can compete purely on a sound basis with the Ayre QB9?<br />
      <br />
      The Mytek preamp looks like it would compete very well also. You don't mention it in your post, but have you expressed thoughts on the Mytek approach/sound on the blog somewhere?<br />
      <br />
      Thanks
    1. barrows's Avatar
      barrows -
      The dCS Debussy is upgradeable. You can buy a used one with confidence that it can be upgraded to 24/192 USB capability (but this is a hatdware upgrade, so will have to be done through a dealer).<br />
      Peachtree vs Ayre QB-9, which model Peachtree? These are going to sound quite different. And the feature sets are very different as well, the Ayre being a straight USB only DAC, and the Peachtree products having many more features, depending on model. Both these products have good dealer representation, show you should arrange for in home trials if you are serious about auditioning them. Remember, good dealers are often willing to ship products for trial periods, so you do not have to have a local dealer to get a trial at home.<br />
      BTW, kudos for Chris C. for not commenting too much on show sound; having set up show demo systems, it is quite obvious to me that getting decent sound in show systems is usually quite problematic. The only impression one should take away from show auditions is that if something sounded good at the show, it can sound much better with proper set up in most homes. Bad sound at a show is proof of nothing, and should be mostly ignored.
    1. NickG's Avatar
      NickG -
      Thanks, Barrows. I was thinking of the new Grand Pre Chris wrote about. While I don't expect it to sound exactly like the QB-9, I'd like something with a similar sonic signature, but with more features. I'm in the market for a pre as well as a DAC and like the idea of 'integration' without compromise (a very different debate, I know). That doesn't mean I have couldn't buy, for example, an Ayre pre and the QB-9, but it seems that a well designed DAC ought to be something I could attach my CD player to. Maybe attach a Squeezebox too, but that is just a 'nice to have'.<br />
      <br />
      I'm not the type that will fuss much with computer gear, as my time is limited and I don't have a natural inclination to do tech support. I like to turn things on, leave them on, and press play. I prefer not to test various cables and soundcards or do tube rolling. I do however, use software and a high quality microphone to measure and adjust the freq. curve in my room, as that has been the most noticeable upgrade I have ever done.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Nick - The Price of the TAD C2000 preamp / DAC is about $25,000.<br />
      <br />
    1. NickG's Avatar
      NickG -
      Thanks, Chris! Put me down for two :-)
    1. VT Skier's Avatar
      VT Skier -
      Nick, I'm afraid Ayre and Peachtree sound nothing like each other, although it's hard to say what the Grand will sound like after having only heard it with the SF Elipsa SEs, which I'd never heard before either. But generally, IMO, Ayre is a little cooler, tending more toward neutral, and Peachtree tends to be warmer and less "accurate".