Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2012

Part 2

ODYSSEY AUDIO

You should have read our review of the Odyssey complete system including tube preamp, two 100 watt monoblock amps, two floorstanding speakers and even a complete set of high-quality cables for under $3,500.

This time Klaus Bunge was featuring the new Kismet Reference Monitors ($3,500) in final production style. He told us they use the same drivers as the ten times more expensive TAD monitors.

We'll have them for review soon, he told us.

 

$1,000 for rack shelves. Kismet Reference speakers (production) $3,500 pair. Same drivers as TAD Candela pre amp $1,500
Stratos Stereo $1,400

Complete system cost with Groneberg Quattro Cables $5,990

 

 

 

 

How about this hand-made, aduiophile four-shelf rack?

Take a guess how much this costs?

How about $1,000. You couldn't buy something this hefty at Home Depot or target for close to that.

Crazy Klaus shows us the sand or shot fillable supports for the rack.

We love Odyssey. Everything is made just outside Indianapolis, too.

 

AUDIOQUEST

 

How about a USB DAC that looks and acts like a memory stick? That's the $249 Audioquest Dragonfly.

Plays All Music Files: MP3 to 24-bit/192kHz
Drives Headphones Directly
Variable Output Drives Powered Speakers or Power Amp
Fixed Output Feeds Preamp or Receiver
Asynchronous Transfer Ensures Digital Timing Integrity
Two Clocks Enable Native Resolution at 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz and 96kHz
DragonFly is an affordable and easy-to-use device that delivers superior sound by bypassing the poor quality sound card that is built into your computer. DragonFly is a sleek, flash drive sized Digital-Audio Converter that connects to a USB jack on a Mac® or Windows® PC, turning any computer into a true high- fidelity music source.

 

 

Resonessence Labs

 

If you read our review of the Invicta DAC by  Resonessence Labs, you should know that the Concero is the digital processing core of the INVICTA for only $599, including its proven Asynchronous USB Audio 2.0, Outstanding Jitter Reduction capability and the Proprietary Resonessence up-conversion filters delivering 176.4kS/s &192kS/s from your 44.1kS/s & 48kS/s sources. CONCERO is a 192kS/s audio DAC. It is designed to deliver a soundstage approaching that of the INVICTA in a simplified format. It is the Asynchronous USB Audio 2.0 and Jitter Reduction elements of the INVICTA driving the ESS ES9023 Sabre DAC. In addition, we they haveadded an S/PDIF input/output for those configurations that do not use a USB data source.

Look for our review soon.

 

ANTELOPE AUDIO

We recently published a review of the Antelope Audio 192 DAC, their lower end product. But how about the top end? This is the Rubicon Atomic AD/DA Preamp, the World's first 384 kHz converter, phono stage preamp and headphone amplifier with an integrated atomic clock. At $20,000, we probably won't be reviewing this.

 

THE "THING"

Each year at the show there is usually one "thing", one new technology, that is featured in several rooms. This year it was the new, improved digital. The keyword is "streaming". Not the streaming like internet radio we all think of , but streaming throughout your stereo system and in very high resolution such as 24/386.

In the Antelope room for example, we saw and heard something that was being repeated in several rooms; a live demo to illustrate how far digital playback has come. The various demos consisted of a turntable whose output was being fed to an A to D, then D to A converter (sometimes in the same box as above) and then played back in real time in 24/386 bit format. They would switch between the original analog signal and the digital conversion in real time.

How did it sound? It varied. In some demos, if you listened very carefully (and knew what to listen for), a difference could be detected in the top end. In other demos, it was impossible to hear any difference. There are a few different conclusions that can be drawn. One is, "Big effen deal...so digital has almost caught up to the quality of a decent turntable playing an LP? Everyone knows analog has been superior to digital all along!

Others would say, "That's not the point you ignorant slut! A turntable was used simply because a full symphony would be a little hard to fit into the budget and the room. The point is, digital can now capture ANYTHING, including the analog warmth you always swoon over, and reproduce it flawlessly!"

So, the debate continues. But no one can deny that digital recording and playback is advancing rapidly, and prices are coming down as well.

 

NAIM

Towards that end, NAIM Audio might just be the leader in the digital audio/music server/home streaming

field right now.  We used to think of NAIM of the rather stodgy, British amp maker, but no more.

They have several music servers, all fully integrateable to just about any system and their many acessories.

Check out thse features in the NDS model at about $11,000:

UPnP-enabled to stream audio files from any hard disk server such as HDX or UnitiServe, network attached storage (NAS) or laptop/computer via the home network
vTuner 5* full service internet radio
Front-panel USB port for replay of MP3 player and USB-stored audio
Three 24bit/192kHz-capable S/PDIF inputs for external digital sources
Multiple intuitive control interfaces: front panel, remote control handset and n-Stream iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch control app
Internal architecture for high-resolution playback of audio up to 24bit/192kHz over the network
Ethernet and Wi-Fi network connectivity
Streams/plays WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, AAC, Windows Media-formatted content, Ogg Vorbis and MP3 files from any suitable UPnP™ device or USB-connected storage device
Gapless playback available on all lossless file formats and some lossy formats (exc Ogg Vorbis and Windows Media-formatted content)
Digital output on 75Ω BNC connector
Switchable DIN/RCA Analogue outputs
Isolation cans house streaming module, DSP power supply and DACs preventing noise transference to other boards
Suspension isolation system for analogue two layer and digital 6 layer board - provides a mechanical resonance below the audible range at 4Hz
Wired remote in
Wired remote out for preamplifier volume control and input switching, also for CD player and DAC control
No internal power supply to minimise noise and interference
External power supply required. Compatible with XP5 XS, XPS or 555 PS power supplies (two Burndy interconnects required for use with 555 PS)
USB mini-b connector for software upgrades
SHARC 40-bit DSP for jitter removal and Naim oversampling
Naim proprietary 16 times oversampling and digital filtering
Optical/galvanic isolation of all key elements
Ground selector switch for optimum performance
High quality Burr Brown PCM1704 precision laser-trimmed sign-magnitude ladder DACs
Naim reference non-magnetic, low-resonance low microphony case
OLED display for high contrast and easy visibility

 

Or..

All-in-one UnitiLite $2,995

UnitiLite takes the feature set of the award-winning NaimUniti, including high-resolution music streaming (up to 32bit 192kHz), CD playback, internet radio and iPod/iPhone/MP3 playback and distils it into a single sleek enclosure. All you need to add is a pair of speakers to create an accessible all-in-one system.

Along with the conventional remote handset and front panel control, the Naim n-Stream app can provide comprehensive hand-held control of the UnitiLite from your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. As well as providing intuitive control functions like playlist creation, album browsing and input selection, n-Stream lets you fully explore your music with expanded music information powered by Rovi’s vast online music database.

UPnP-enabled to stream audio files from any hard disk server such as a UnitiServe, network attached storage (NAS) or laptop via the home network
CD player with loading tray
vTuner 5* full service internet radio
Streams/plays WAV, FLAC, Apple Lossless, AIFF, AAC, Windows-Media-formatted content, Ogg Vorbis and MP3 files from any suitable UPnP device or USB-connected storage device up to 32bit/192kHz
Optional FM/DAB module available
Gapless playback available on all lossless file formats and most lossy formats (exc. Ogg Vorbis and Windows Media-formatted content)
Apple authenticated enabling digital output from iPod for ultimate quality iPod/iPhone control, charging and front-panel content display when connected to front-panel USB port
Multiple intuitive control interfaces: front panel buttons, remote control handset and n-Stream iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch control app
USB mini-b connector for software upgrades
Ethernet and Wi-Fi network connectivity
High quality Burr-Brown PCM 1793 DAC
Five up to 24bit/192kHz-capable S/PDIF digital inputs (2 x RCA, 2 x optical, 1 x 3.5mm TOSlink) for external digital sources
Three analogue inputs (2 x RCA, 1 x 3.5mm front panel socket)
Three analogue outputs (1 x speaker output, 1 x preamp/sub output (4-pin DIN), 1 x headphone)
Front-panel USB port for replay of USB-stored audio Front-panel 3.5mm headphone connector
British build and design

Then there's the UnitiServe at $3,800

According to Matt Silberstein of distributor "The Sound Organisation", this may be the most misunderstood product at the show.

If what he said is ture, it might be one of the most important, too. According to him, the CD ripping function of this device rips files that sound better than anything else out there; software (Bit Perfect) or hardware. He said even NAIM dealers didn't believe it until he demonstrated it to them. The ripped files sounded easily better than any other method.

But it's much more than a $3,800 CD ripper. It can also play back audio from a USB memory stick and will scan the network for music stored on NAS drives or network shares in WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, OGG Vorbis, AAC, WMA and MP3 formats at up to 24bit/192kHz resolution.

FEATURES:

Slot-loading drive for ease of use

2TB Hard Drive
Naim bit-for-bit secure CD ripping to either internal storage or external network attached storage (NAS) drive
Save downloads or pre-ripped music to the hard drive for easy access to entire music library
Naim Extended Music Database - supports extended metadata to track-level resolution for intuitive browsing & selection
Naim Network Scanning - will discover all playable music & metadata available on networked computers (PC & Mac)
Naim UPnPTM server to serve audio to any UPnPTM rendering playback device, such as the NaimUniti or UnitiQute
Multiple intuitive control interfaces: TV / Web / Desktop Client / Handheld device (iPhone, iPod Touch) and front-panel logo
Front-panel logo touch-sensitive eject and shutdown function
Naim Desktop Client - for browsing music files, player setup and maintenance with a PC
Native 24bit/192kHz playback and internal architecture with support for hi-resolution audio formats. Plays WAV up to 24bit/192kHz, MP3 both vbr and fbr, FLAC up to 24bit/192kHz, AAC (m4a only), AIFF, ALAC, OGG Vorbis and Windows Media-formatted content files.
WAV, MP3, AAC, FLAC, WMA and Apple Lossless files played from any USB-connected storage device
Add a digital to analogue converter, such as Naim's DAC, or digital input-equipped amplifier, such as Naim's SUPERNAIT, for local playback
StreamNet-enabled for NaimNet audiophile multi-room replay of up to six streams over a network
USB ports for easy connection of USB sticks for playback
Ethernet network connectivity for reliability
S/PDIF Digital output on 75Ω BNC or TOSLINK
Composite, S-Video or VGA display output for screen or touchscreen.
Extremely Low Jitter
Quiet in operation
Naim designed silent resilient 2TB Hard Drive mount
Very low noise power supplies
Compact non-magnetic, low resonance, low microphony, low eddy current case
British Design and Build

We look forward to fully putting these units through their many paces for you.

 

DALI

 

DALI brand new top model speakers, EPICON 8 at $19,995. Incredibly beautiful finish, lacquered 10 times 6 layers of finish.

In the EPICON 8, two 8” woofers are complemented by a 6½“ mid-range driver using the Linear Drive Magnet System of the woofers is complemented by their hybrid ribbon/soft dome tweeter module. Each side is constructed from 6 individual layers of MDF, all glued together. In the EPICON 8 these are anchored to a 63 mm multi-layer MDF backbone of the cabinet. Internally the cabinet for the EPICON 8 is divided in two identical sized chambers for the woofers and one extra chamber for the midrange. The woofer chambers are allowing tuning of the cabinet to be done identically yet completely independently for each of the two woofers. The midrange chamber allows the driver to reproduce the critical frequencies related to e.g. human voices without any interference from the rest of the system.

Thus you will find two bass ports on the back of the cabinet located as nearby the woofers as possible. Hardwired crossover is mounted in its own enclosure as well - free from the dynamic variation of cabinet pressure inside the bass reflex enclosures.

Check out the layered finish.

A lot of technology in these speakers and the rest of the Dali line. They've come a long way, we think.

 

So much detail!

Show and tell me more!

 

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