Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2010 Show Report
Amidst all the bristling digital products, there were some turntables on display; and a couple actually playing.
Over last three years there has been a tremendous influx of new tables from Germany, the Nordic countries and, of course, China. We have reviewed several of them. It's true that Europeans and those from the Far East appreciate analog more than we do here in the US. While there might have been as many new brands or models, we did see some that we haven't seen at shows for a while, so let's look at some analog.
We've never met Simon Yorke but we like him. We're told he isn't in it for the money but makes turntables
at his leisure simply from the love of music and his joy in making fine works of art that happen to play LPs.
We don't publish Stereomojo at our leisure, but we do so out of love of music and the things that play it back in our homes.
We're not in it for the money either. But then we don't live on an estate in Spain like Simon does.
The $10,000 S9 is a descendant of the S7 which was part-developed for the United States Government, Library of Congress Audio Preservation Facility. It has been around for decades, but here it was at the show. It consists of a turntable chassis, bearing and platter, armboard, unipivot tonearm and free-standing motor control unit – complete with remote low-voltage power supply and offering 33,3 and 45,0 r.p.m.
It is simple and elegant. The platter is a finely balanced flywheel, precision machined in solid aluminium, and capped with a solid graphite record mat. The turntable bearing uses a hardened stainless steel shaft revolving in precision bored bushes above a hardened thrust pad. Cartridge output is conveyed via two twisted pairs of Teflon-insulated silver-plated copper wire terminated via miniature gold connectors to insulated RCA phono sockets allowing connections to be made in unbalanced or quasi-balanced modes.
Refurbishing and building custom plinths for vintage turntables is a big thing these days.
Old Thorens, Empires, AR's from the 50's on are being updated and sold for big bucks.
This is a Lenco, a Swiss table sold in the 70's with not much acclaim but have had a resurgence lately. Some claim they sound better than anything being built today.
This is the Model 3 built by Oswald Mill having a new slate plinth (like the Musical Life table we recently reviewed) with two arm capacity, displayed in the Rogue Audio room. They weren't sure of the price, but it sure sounded fine.
This is the Artemis Labs TA-1 tonearm ($3500) mounted on a gorgeous Artemis SA-1S table ($11,000). The arm is made of South American Kingwood, designed by German guru Frank Schroeder. Unfortunately, we didn't get to hear it, but we have at other shows. Analog heaven.
Here's a new one. Aleks Bakman, aerospace engineer, showed us his Onedof handmade
table. That's real gold, and it should be since the price of the table (no arm or cartridge)
James Darby: This is the Okki Nokki record cleaning machine. Designed to be a VPI 16.5 killer, the little machine goes for $499.
I have a 16.5 and it is LOUD. The Okki is much quieter, I tried it myself. Its motor also goes forwards AND backwards for better cleaning. The internal liquid reservoir has a sensor that will shut off the machine when full, something the 16.5 and others could sorely use. A brush that comes with it is goat hair. A plastic dust cover is available. Impressive. The guy from Sumiko said he'd send us one for review. Okie doki.
A real beauty is this Stevio II table from Thom Mackris at Galibier Design. Other than the black anodized platter, the whole table is brilliant in mirror-polished aluminum. The base is milled from a single 75 lb billet. $27,500. The arm is relatively new Talea from Durand. According to the literature, Just like a musical instrument that needs to be perfectly in tune before it is played, a tonearm should have a number of adjustments readily available to maximize its tuning. the Talea™ is the first tonearm to offer the ability to adjust the azimuth on the fly. Never before has it been possible to fine-adjust this essential parameter while listening to music. With the Talea™, all you need to do is turn a small bolt on the side of the azimuth tower; and it can be done while playing a record. $7,900
In two other rooms, Thom showed the Stevio I table at $15,000 and the Gavia 1 for $8,700.
I was disappointed we didn't get to hear the Green Mountain Calypso speakers in the room, but they weren't happy with the way they sound for some reason.
A redone Denon DP3000 with Denon arm but Shelter cart.
The "House" turntable. Good to see SOTA out and about at a show presented by Tweak Studio.
This is the Sapphire Series V, we think. Could be a Jewel, only difference is the suspension.
The Sapphire goes for around $2,400
New to us was the "The Beat Magdrive" turntable at $24,000 with a Reed 3Q Laser Guided 12" arm - $6,500
AND a Reed 2P VTA on the fly 10.5" arm for $4,950. Cartridge and amps were all by Allnic; about $45,000 worth.
As you can see, the platter was empty, so they were using an $850 Oppo BluRay player through the MBL 11F speakers ($39,500).
This is Lloyd Walker and his Proscenium Black Diamond II Turntable & arm.
This table weighs more than I do; it's 245 lbs. I had a wonderful conversation with Lloyd about analog vs digital as well as other off-the-record industry gossip.
This is one of the few rooms I wish I could have stayed in for looooong time. The thought crossed my mind to ask him if he could just
lock me in there overnight and let play his vinyl all night. Seriously. This table is, of course, air supported; platter, main bearing and even the arm and spindle.
If the air was cooled, it would be perfect for my South Florida home. (just kidding)
The table with arm (no cart) goes for $57,000. Crazy money you say? Considering there are several other tables
that cost several TIMES this price (Clearaudio Statement or Continuum or Rockport or Da Vinci to name a few) that may or may not sound as good,
the price is rather sane. I can't imagine any table sounding better. Different yes, better, no.
Was this as satisfying as all the digital I heard at the show? Oh lord yes.
The rest of the system:
Walker Reference Phono Amp
Velocitor SS Power Line Enhancers
Silent Source Cables
Technical Brain Electronics
TAD Reference Speakers