Sometime you wonder. Is the weather alone worth your while? A hobby is a hobby - but when you are willing to spend 27 non-stop travel hours just to attend a show, some people might question your mental sanity; yourselves included.
Even though we spent the night at an airport hotel, we had to get up early. The new regulations strongly advise to be at the airport at least 3 hours prior to scheduled international departures. We opted for two. With our accumulated Delta miles, we were lucky to be upgraded for the entire trip and thus had lounge access. Checking in at Schiphol Amsterdam airport was very quick as we had the address of our US stay -- the Marriot Denver -- on hand so it could be filed. At the border control, the iris scanner was out of order. Having a so-called Privium card enables you to skip passport control on leaving and entering the country via Amsterdam. Identification is based on your iris pattern. After you insert the coded card into the slot, you stare into a lens. The system compares the card data, your actual iris and the stored data at Central. If all is peachy, you may proceed without having to stand in lines which at time could be very long indeed. This system was out of order now but an escape gate led us straight to the top of the queue with the military police booth. And of course we received the full check: passport genuine? No outstanding fines? Where are you going? Well, the works. You see why we like the Privium card?
After this hurdle was cleared, it was off to the KLM lounge. Since Air France took over KLM, the latter's lounge is now also the Delta lounge because of their Skyteam alliance. This lounge is very well equipped, large and quiet. It is a 10 minute walk to the gate but you need extra time for security! At the gate you are cordially invited by a security person to come over to a small stand. Here you have to answer all of life's important questions - like who is the owner of the checked luggage, who did the packing, where and when. Then, what is the reason of your visit to the US - and do you carry anything with a battery? We politely answered these questions to the best of our knowledge and were allowed to approach the next hurdle, the scanner. Off it was with the vest, belt bracelets and boots. Since we have prior experience with these procedures, we always carry some plastic overshoes so our feet are protected from the floor where a zillion people passed earlier barefoot or in socks. Athlete's foot anyone? With the carry-on and everything we had to take off scrutinized by X-rays, we passed thru the metal detector. Beep! Of course when we looked at the dial, it said random. That meant a frisk, male-male and female-female. Joy. With our genitals and the leftovers padded down, we finally could enter the waiting area. Any surprise the wait was a bit longer than scheduled? When the plane took off about an hour late, the flight to JFK was smooth and comfortable. Even the Dutch-prepared vegetarian lunch was very pleasant
Eight hours later at New York's JFK, Delta had their own and very quiet terminal. Our Amsterdam flight was the only one coming in from abroad at that time so we could proceed straight to the immigration officer. In exchange for mug shots, fingerprints and the filled-out visa waver, we received a smile and a "have a nice day" together with the stamps "Admitted" in our passports. After picking up our checked luggage and passing customs, we could drop them off and head to the second lounge of the day. Here we had to spend four hours before the next leg of the journey to Cincinnati. With the good care of lounge host Marina, time flew and we could board swiftly. JFK is a very busy airport and due to a small delay, our captain missed his allotted slot and was pushed back to position 20 in the take-off queue. In Cincinnati we had ample time to enjoy the luxurious Crown Room lounge which nonetheless closes at 8:45 PM local time. After boarding for the final stretch of the journey, another exciting episode of the Denver Diary commenced. Just a few minutes after push-back, the captain announced a persistent warning light in the cockpit. Something was wrong with the nose wheel which he wanted fixed before take-off. His reasoning was sound. A working nose wheel might come in handy upon landing in Denver. When the faulty part was replaced, we had a test drive with the plane and everybody aboard until the captain was convinced that all was safe. We could finally set course to our final destination.
When we finally did arrive at the Denver Tech Center Marriot after a trip that took 27 hours and roughly 5450 miles in total, we were not only welcomed by the front desk clerk but also Alan Kafton of Audio Excellence AZ and Joe Cohen of Prana Wire and The Lotus Group. These guys are always early birds at the RMAF and we experienced our first strong déjà vu from last year. We had arrived a day early on purpose. Sitting in an airplane for hours on end really impacts your hearing. The constant high noise gets actively blocked out by the brain and it takes quite some time to return to normal. Hence Thursday was spent doing mostly nothing. We went downtown of the Mile High City, had a good lunch and checked out a few shops. Back at the hotel, things were really busy. Exhibitors prepared their rooms, visitors checked in and organizers Marjorie and Al Stiefel led their staff to get cracking.
This year's installation of the event was once again bigger than last year's. Now more than 140 rooms were booked, about all the Denver Tech Center Marriot can handle. Yet to visit 140 rooms properly during the formal duration of the show is impossible. There are two options then - only visit the 'interesting' rooms by making a selection based on the very well laid-out show catalogue; or treat all rooms/exhibitors alike and visit 'em all. In our opinion, the latter had the best chances of discovering something new and exciting. So here follow our impression of the rooms we saw. Mind you, we did skip a few. One for the choice of music, some because the emphasis was on video and one -- Linn -- because they did not let us in. A demo in progress. C'mon guys, it's an audio fest. What's with the control?
A nice thing when staying in the actual event hotel is that you can move around lightly. Bulky camera accessories like spare batteries can remain in the room to be picked up when needed. Thus we only carried a camera, a pen and our custom Denver 2007 CD. For this edition, we had EAC'd the tracks to hard disk, burned them slowly with Plextools and with Gigarec at 0.8. That is, the pits and lands are 20% longer which prompts transports to spin 20% faster. We used a MAM-E gold CDR which was then treated with the Nanotech Nespa for 120 flashes. These were the tracks:
Avishai Cohen - As Is - Remembering.wav
Dulce Pontes, et al. - Mediterranean - Song of the Sea (Cancao do mar).wav
Hadouk Trio - Utopies - Baldamore.wav
Mercan Dede et al. - Sevdalinka - L' Jepi Li Su Mostarski Ducani.wav
Michel Jonasz - Le Fab Histoire - Le temps passe.wav
Musica Nuda - Live à FIP - You're the one that I want.wav
Musica Nuda - Live à FIP - Il camello e il dromedario.wav
Pat Metheny Group - Imaginary Day - The Roots Of Coincidence.wav
Paul Simon - Concert In The Park -Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes.wav
Roberto Fonseca - Zamazu - Tierra en mano.wav
Toto Bona Lokua - Toto Bona Lokua - Na Yé.wav
We started at the top floor of the hotel towers, working our way down and then proceeded to the atrium. The first room had the equipment mounted on Stillpoints and played over a David Berning ZOTL amplifier and through the Peak Consult The Emperor speaker. Not a bad start for a first room.
Audio by Van Alstine paired with Salk loudspeakers to showcase affordability.
High Water Sound had two rooms this year. The first offered the 'small' TW Acoustic Raven One and the first open baffle speakers of the show. That could easily have become the theme of RMAF 2007: open baffle. Here it were the beautiful Bastanis Apollo speakers. A 12-inch driver with Alnico magnet covers 100 to 10,000 Hz. A 15" woofer has its own inbuilt amplifier in the enclosure and a horn-loaded 1" tweeter covers the range above 10kHz. All drivers are coated with either violin lacquer -- the tweeter -- or oil for the 12" cone. From what we heard, the sound was very open and fast. In the lower photo, we see Thomas Woschnik working on the arm of his Raven.
In the second High Water room, the big Raven AC turntable with it three motors and three arms was feeding a new Tron amplifier. The Aspara Acoustics horns did a good job in a room that was fully treated with Franck Tchang's Acoustic System resonators and his new product, the Sugar Cube noise filters. These tiny rosewood cubes sport two holes running top to bottom and one hole left to right. In the picture the cubes can be seen at the side of the speaker cabinet. Vinyl, tubes and horns are good for that very special feeling and that's exactly what was present in this room.
Sam Laufer's Brooklyn-based company thus far concentrates on European manufacturers. He now imports Ascendo and as a result of this new collaboration, he convinced designer Jürgen Scheuring to produce the new C8 MKII loudspeaker in rosewood veneer. The result is a treat for the eye and fed by another German make, behold, the combination followed suit sonically. The source was Sam's favorite, the Memory Player.
|In the next room, Sam Laufer invited Shelley Katz to demonstrate his Podium Sound Model 2 and 0.5. Both are the smaller versions of the Model 1 we reviewed. Where the Model 2 copies the looks of its bigger brother with oak and cloth, the Model 0.5 sports a lacquered frame and a metal finish on the naked panel in brushed aluminum or
|copper. We played the Musica Nuda track much to the surprise of all present in the room as it not only is possessed of a musical twitch but does give any system a full workout. The small(ish) panels did a great job with the acoustic bass and evenly with the high-high pitched voice.
First Watt by Nelson Pass has now added a speaker to its line. It is -- yes, again -- a small open baffle. Special to this design is that the woofers too are open dipoles. A Lowther PM6A is in charge of the mid and high frequencies with its silver voice coil and Alnico magnet. A pair of SEAS W26 woofers handled the low frequencies below 60Hz. The system was actively bi-amped with a First Watt F3 for the 16-ohm Lowthers and a Pass Labs XA30.5 for the woofers. Even though this speaker is still a work in progress, the results are very promising. This open baffle with small 10" woofers proved to do the work 'off the deep end' without any complaints. Dipole bass? You bet.
A bigger room and an evenly bigger system was assembled around Quicksilver amplification, Galibier turntables with Tri-planar arms and Artisan cartridge. The large horns are the Azzolinas.
Green Mountain Audio brought the Calypso speakers to the show. This year Green Mountain's Roy Johnson teamed up with Jaton and used their Operetta AP2140A modular amplifier. It proved a lucky combination that showed how amplification need not be expensive to sound good as long as the speakers are right. [Calypso review with Paul Candy upcoming - Ed.]
Tri Amplifiers and Micropure loudspeakers were next. The ultra-lightweight Kotaro speaker cabinet houses muRata super tweeters. Sakuji Fukuda showed the Kotaro with a big smile that telegraphed pride in the sound and his cabinet maker's work.