RMAF 2011 Part 4


This is the new Electrocompaniet EMP 2 Universal Disc Player - $3,999

At its core, it is an Oppo BDP-95 Blu-ray Player with some internal upgrades and a new extereior.

It wasn't hooked up, so we can't comment on its sound.

Look for our review of the Oppo BDP-95 coming soon - it's in house now.





If there was a buzz about anything at the show, it was a cable. And it'snot even a brand new release, it's been out for a couple of years, but it seems the word of mouth on these is pretty hot right now.

Cables are not usually buzzworthy, but this was an exception, especially when its from George Cardas.

Cardas Clear is the new, bestest thing. Clear cable uses Matched Propagation conductors, recently awarded US Patent 7,674,973.

It's pretty hard to get a new patent on a cable, so this is a major development.

First, this was my first time to meet George Cardas, one of my "idols" in the high-end community. He has done so much in practically ever aspect of home audio to bring us great sound in our homes and is a true icon. It was a great honor to meet him, much less talk to him for about 20 minutes. I could tell, not by his words, but by his passion that this new cable is a culmination of everything he's done so far in perfecting cables. He told me he thought this was one of his greatest achievements, and that's saying something. In its simplest terms, he realized that there was something missing in the timing of all cables, how the center strand didn't quite match up to the surrounding materials. He experimented and found that if he solves the relationship between conductor and dielectic, the sound is much clearer, cleaner and less noisy. Speed improves markedly as well. While it's more complex tahn I can get here, he calls it Matched Propagation as I said above. But he didn't stop there. Every aspect of the new Clear has been refined, right down to the rhodium connectors. When he explained all this, it made perfect sense.

The astounding thing is, Clear cables are not that expensive! A one meter pair of interconnects goes for about $1,840/pair. I've had cables in my system that cost $10,000 for 1 meter.

Too expensive for ya, you say? He also makes a trickle down cable called Clear Light that is $692 for a one meter pair that incorporates much of what Clear does.

Ah, but he also makes a MORE expensive cable called Clear Beyond! He says, "Clear Beyond is simply that, it is beyond the demands of any loud speaker or amplifier combination imaginable. No impedance dip or current flow demand is a challenge in any way. Clear Beyond is simply overkill for all but the most extreme systems. Clear was not easy. I took a year just to develop the multi-stage, pure fusion connector to conductor connection. It required engineering special dies, then endless hours of fiddling with 10,000 psi hydraulic gear, creating perfectly matched, fully machined connectors. All conductors required tedious individual strand chemical stripping of the litz wire. Because every detail of these cables is so time consuming, their production will be limited for the foreseeable future.

Those will run ya exactly double the price of the Clear or $3,680 - IF you can find them. They are, like he says, very limited production. But guess what. We have them! And our review will be published next week.



Resonessence Audio

Ok, there was another little buzz happening at the show, and it wasn't behind the hotel accompanied by large clouds of smoke. That was something completely different.

The Invicta DAC/preamp ($3395) from Resonessence Labs. It's small and very cool looking and will that include the latest buzzword, asynchronous USB 2.0.

The Invicta supports many major audio inputs and outputs. Two headphone outputs adorn the front face plate along with an SD card reader - play your tunes directly from that. you can easily make your own "mix tape". The back panel reveals several more input connections, including high speed USB audio, Toslink, BNC and AES. It will do all resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz from all of its inputs and and are displayed on the front panel. The analog outputs are equally as impressive, boasting both RCA and XLR.

What chip does it use? Why ESS, of course! You see, the designer was the former Operations Director at ESS! So as he says, who knows better how to get the best sound from them?!

Yes, we will be getting one of the first samples for review.


Resonessence also showed a prototype 100Wpc, class-A power amplifier called Projecta. We plan on getting one next year.

Don't know if it really has blue lights, though..


How about a more simple DAC the has all the goodies you need for only $500?  And wait - it has a remote control!

That's coming from Resonessence, too.

We are going to keep an eye on this new company. Very promising!


New speakers from Behold

 The "Tanara" is their entry-level, three-way loudspeaker with two internally mounted 8" woofers whose output escapes through the front port, and there is a planar-magnetic tweeter flanked by a pair of planar-magnetic midrange drivers behind the grille cloth.

At $30,000/pr we thought them to be pretty overpriced.



When we first walked in the Veloce room, we thought it must be another company like Emotiva or Shandling that looks great on the outside, rather gaudy in fact, but not much revolutionary on the inside. Then we saw the prices and about vomited in our mouths. We were about just walk out when the guy in the room saw our Stereomojo badges and stopped us. He started in with his blah, blah, blah. But we heard "all battery powered" and "tubes" and suddenly we were all ears. Their batteries play for 100 hours! What?!

"There are no solid state devices in the signal path. No regulators, op amps, transistors..." No freakin' way.



"The guy" in the room was designer Vytas Viesulas. He kept talking, we kept listening,

but he was talking faster than Linda could take notes. Bottom line, Voloce is full of cuttng edge technology

and super premium parts. We almost wondered how he could sell his products at even their rather high prices.

LS-1 Tube Linestage $18,000

Phono Module $3,500

Mono Amps - $15,000/pr


Musical Design


We weren't familiar with this company though they've been around since 1988.

It's called Chameleon pre amp 6900.  You'll see why "chameleon" in a moment.

If you like to roll tubes, this is the preamp for you. Why?

See the little board with the tag on it? It pops right out and you can pop a different one in in seconds that adapts to a completely different tube!

No tools necessary.

You can see the difference between the two modules, and they have 8 to choose from.

Chameleon has a versatile motherboard/daughterboard design. The motherboard has most of the functionality of any other preamp. It has the RCA jacks emerging from the backside, selector switch nestled closely between them, muting circuitry, power supply, coupling caps, etc, but it lacks one thing - the actual amplifier circuitry of the Active Board. The motherboard allows you to set up the preamp with or without global negative feedback. Feedback can be changed at any time by moving jumpers on a header block located beneath the Active Board.

Chameleon PC-1T Active Board with single 6DJ8/6922/6N23P which is operated in “plate follower” mode is the standard Active Board for Chameleon. On the PC-1T you can have “degenerative cathode feedback”, know as local feedback, or no local feedback. Other Active Boards include a dual 12AU7 CCGC (Constant Current Grounded Cathode) circuit with moderate gain and low output impedance. There is also a 6 Volt heater version with the superb Russian 6N6P tubes. Active Boards can be delivered in custom form to provide optimum performance with a certain tube. There is even a special board for the highly regarded 5687 tube. Others use the 6H30Pi and the list grows longer. New active boards are planned with SRPP, octal tubes and other versions.

They have two versions of the little lizard:

Chameleon Preamp: $1495, standard PC-1T 6922 SE circuit board installed, Alps ‘Blue Beauty’ volume pot, British Silver-plated selector switch, mil-grade resistors, Special Digital input noise control, SILMIC II caps(tube board)

Chameleon Elite Preamp: $2495, PC-4T 6N6P SE Active Board installed, Jensen four-pole power supply caps, hybrid coupling capacitors, British Silver-plated selector switch, superb SiC Schottky rectifiers, great sounding Takman CF resistors

Think we should review one? We do too.



It was great to meet Clint Harmon (VP) and  EJ Sarmento (President), the head guys at Wyred.

Another company that makes good sounding, good looking hi-end products at very affordable prices.

We had a long talk with these great guys and found out we have very similar audio philosophies.

The first thing EJ said was, "Hey, we just read your review of our DAC"

Did we get it right? Right on the money.

Was it fair? We think so.

You know the reviewer owned it right? Bought it at full retail? No, we didn't know that, but that's just all the better. He told the truth.

That's our goal, guys.



STP-SE pre amp $1,999 buffered.

Darby was especially taken with the STP-SE Preamp.  It's passive and active at the same time. To keep the signal path clean as possible, the line stage is automatically switched in when needed and left out when not. This offers the quietest operation for any level up to unity gain. Noise in the passive mode is <6uV, and <18uV in the active mode which is incredibly good. And yes, this product is fully balanced input to output. We don't know of another preamp that's truly fully balanced for less than two grand.

When they say passive, they mean as in no gain. We all know that all passive preamps have many issues regarding input and output impedances because of the lack of drive current. The result is a loose, floppy bottom end, and a constricted, dry top end. To solve this, they inserted their Ultra-transparent discrete buffer stages to address this issue. With a 25A Schottky bridge rectifier connected through 164,560+uF of capacitance in their proprietary Triple-Ripple-Reduction power supply circuit, the STP preamp has more capacitance than some amplifiers! By the time power reserves supply the audio chain with power, there is no hint of noise left. 2 stages of filtering by high-end Nichicon Bi-polar MUSE audio grade capacitors.

Every preamp has to have a volume control. The easy route most take consists of putting audio in and out of a volume control chip. While being cost effective and easy to design, the audio is left at the mercy of the chip. The best possible electrical connection that can be made and released on command is made by a switch. The best sounding switch is one that has the least resistance and can maintain at all frequencies. The Wyred guys chose to use relays. "While much more expensive, slower and noisier when switching, they are far more sonically superior to any switcher chip on the market today", they say.

With 2 sets of balanced inputs/outputs, 3 sets of unbalanced inputs and 2 sets unbalanced outputs, connection possibilities are vast. Being fully balanced input to output; the phase going in comes out. When an unbalanced input is selected, an inversion circuit is connected to maintain balanced outputs and optimum versatility. Absolute phase and balance control are selected through the supplied remote for those out of phase recordings, and room adjustments to be made on the fly.

User interface is made easy with the VFD display and optical rotary encoder. Allowing input naming and HT Bypass input selection, the setup menu is easily accessed for customization. Several display dimming steps including “off” are available through the remote for stealth operation. A must for the Darby's since they listen in the dark. Oh yes, there's a 3 YEAR WARRANT.

Has Darby found his new high-value reference preamp? We'll wait and see. They Wyred guys are sending him one ASAP.

We look forward to working with these guys on further reviews. They have lots of products in the pipeline.



Wow! This is great! Will there be more?

Yep - take me to Part 5