Philip O'Hanlon of On A Higher Note had the most interesting teaser of the show. Philip demonstrated the Chapter Audio Notepad AirPlay 250 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 Audio. 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 Elipsa 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 amp and B&W 802 Diamond 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.
Gordon Rankin's Wavelength Audio 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 Promise 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.
Transferring a vinyl collection to digital files is about to get easier with the Ayre Acoustics 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.
Meitner Audio / EMM Labs
Meitner Audio and EMM Labswere 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.
Simple Design - Sonore
Simple Design's Sonore music servers are gathering a nice following in the CA forums and elsewhere including manufacturers like Mbl and Music Culture Technology. 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.
I've always been a huge fan of Stax electrostatic headphones. 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 SE were simply luscious.
My favorite product of the entire show goes to Woo Audio and its 234 Mono-block headphone amp ($10,000 estimated) connected to a pair of Sennheiser HD800 headphones. 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.
Burmester - The Rolls Royce of Audio
Burmester 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?
The Laufer Teknik Memory Player and Behold Gentle products. Notice the interesting USB implementation inside the product. What looks like a standard USB cable connects from the case to the internal board.
dCS was happy to play my 24/96 version of Dark Side Of The Moon via an Amarra playlist.
TAD Labs used the C2000 preamp with built-in asynchronous USB DAC. I have the unit and am currently working on a review.
Dan D'Agostino 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 :~)
The T+A MP 1260 R player accepts a few different digital inputs including my USB stick holding Dark Side Of The Moon at 24/96.
Wadia / Sonus Faber
Bryston / PMC
VTL Siegfried Series 2 Amps with TAD Reference 1 loudspeakers