If ’tables seemed to be in almost every room, there was also an abundance of tape machines. The VTL room included mastering engineer Piper Payne playing some of the Tape Project’s reels, which, more often than not, sounded dynamic and translucent via Luke Manley and Bea Lam’s imposing Siegfried II monoblocks, which are priced at $65,000 a pair, along with the $20,000 7.5 Series III preamplifier. Tape was also featured at Alon Wolf’s Magico Q1 demo. The Nagra tape machine fed the $25,000 Q1, which sounded smashing—exceedingly nimble and transparent. But the most memorable cut for me was listening to Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder” at United Home Audio’s room on a $17,000 Phase9 Tascam machine, which boasts, among other things, capacitors with silk as the dielectric. It sounded amazing. The “Sidewinder” recording, which Morgan cut for Blue Note, was a surprise bestseller in 1964 and features some of his most sizzling playing. I was quite smitten with the $6000 200-watt Fusion monoblocks that Michael Allen, head of Jolida, Inc., has developed and based on the venerable 211 power output tube.
Still, it was vinyl that ruled the day at RMAF. In the main lobby were Nick and Jennifer Atocha, who are marketing attractive custom wood cabinets to hold LPs and CDs—another sign of the vitality of the black disc. Indeed, as United Home Audio’s Greg Beron remarked to me, “I stand by what I said.” What he meant by that was, as I reported last year, that vinyl has, by and large, played a pivotal role in reviving the high end. As I stood near Chad Kassem’s opulent Acoustic Sounds vinyl display, I heard one of his vendors remark to a customer that business was so brisk that, “We had to fly in fresh pressings from the plant last night.” For vinyl lovers, it cannot get better than that.
Analysis Audio’s Omega loudspeaker system had all the classic planar virtues in spades coupled with superb resolution.
The Signal Collection’s integrated hybrid Partenoppe and Davone Ray with Black Cat Morpheus cabling was visually and sonically enchanting.
The Foxl v2 pocket-sized music system sounded surprisingly realistic and fetching for $199.
The Goldfinger Statement phono cartridge sounded superbly dynamic and delineated.
Tape machines are once again becoming a prominent feature of the high-end landscape.