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This year’s Rocky Mountain Audiofest featured more new digital products than ever before. I counted over forty introductions including DACs, CD players, network players, and other digital devices. For many manufacturers RMAF has supplanted CEDIA as the place to debut new products that will be shipping by CES. So, without further ado, here’s what I saw that’s worthy of your attention.
Audio Limits from Colorado Springs got the best sound I’ve heard from the Primrose room. Using the $5990 BMC BDCD1 belt-drive CD player/transport tethered to the $6200 BMC DAC1 PRE, the $90,000 Venture Grand Ultimate speakers produced superb dynamics and image focus.
Parasound showed a prototype of its $5000 Halo CD 1 player at the 2011 CES. Now in production, this dedicated CD-only player was designed to be a state-of-the-art legacy device that will remain in service for many years. With a proprietary read/compare circuit, the CD 1 achieves virtually zero CD read errors.
In the Devore Fidelity’s room Tone Imports LLC showed its $4995 AcousticPlan DriveMaster CD Transport and $4995 DigiMaster vacuum-tube USB DAC. Capable of 192/24 via asynchronous USB using its own internal clock generator they sounded wonderful through Devore’s new $5000 Gibbon 88 speakers.
Dynaudio now distributes T+A products in the United States. In Dynaudio’s rooms I saw the $4200 E-series CD player, network player, 1260 R1 CD player, MP 1260 R1 DAC, and network client player.
MBL’s $9200 Corona CD Player is part of MBL’s new more affordable Corona product line, which includes its $11,800 Radialstrahler 126 speakers. The Player also has an SD card reader along with S/PDIF, TosLink, and USB inputs.
Denmark’s Vitus demonstrated its new $13,000 RCD-100 CD Player. Besides playing Red Book CDs, the RCD-100 supports USB and S/PDIF inputs. With a 192/32-bit architecture it can play 192/24 music files via all inputs, and looks beautiful while doing it.
Empirical Audio made quite a statement with its new Overdrive Ultra DAC ($10,000 to $15,000). Coupled to a pair of Empirical Audio-modified Parasound JC-1 amplifiers driving YG Acoustics Kipod II Signature speakers ($49,000) the overall sonic presentation was even better than last year when Empirical placed among the best sounds at RMAF.
Shipping in January, the $12,000 Sonus Veritas Modena DAC has no coupling capacitors in its signal chain. Instead the Modena uses Lundahl transformers for coupling between stages. With a built-in tube-life monitor, this DAC was designed to be an heirloom component.
Avatar Acoustics from Fayetteville, Georgia, unveiled its new $4995 AMR DP-777 DAC. It features AMR’s Gemini digital engine, which uses two distinct chip sets – one for Red Book and the other 32-bit chip for high-res files. Its USB input is fully USB 2.0 compatible for up to 192/24 files.
The $3995 Resonessence Invicta DAC not only has provisions for USB 2.0, but also TosLink, AES/EBU, and BNC inputs. The Invicta boasts a greater than 125dB dynamic range and includes RCA and balanced XLR outputs as well as a remote.
Hegel presented its new $349 HD2 and $2000 H20 DACs. The two units can be combined in series so the clocks in both units work together to minimize time-domain errors. The advantages of this dual-clock system were amply evident in the demo.
On the 11th floor tower the new $6495 EAR DACute sounded impressive. Combined with the $4499 Music Vault Diamond music server, $7995 EAR 834 integrated amplifier, and $6500 Marten FormFloor speakers the system imaged superbly in the less than acoustically benign hotel room.
Oracle premiered its latest DAC, the $9500 1000 Mk II. It employs an AKM 192/24 capable DAC with fully discrete balanced analog outputs and two USB 2.0 inputs along with S/PDIF. It sounded suave playing the Blue Mind CD from Oracle’s featured performer, Montreal-based singer/songwriter Anne Bisson.