Pursuing the Ultimate Music Experiences

Audio Federation High-Fidelity Audio Blog

Acapella at Munich Hiend 2022

The new Hyperion loudspeakers [most notably 15 inch woofers, and reportedly even more efficient than the Apollon speakers] and a prototype of the new Acapella amplifier (the current amplifier is a hybrid – with small gain stage tubes inside – so my guess is this one is too, but the tubes are now easier to change :-)). [I am sure Neli will correct all my mistaken facts and guesses when she reads this, but I wanted to get these photos up tonight :-/]. Acapella is showing at Hifi Deluxe, held at the Marriott in Munich.

Hermann Winters and his partner Alfred Rudolph, of Acapella Audio Arts

New Acapella Audio Arts “Hyperion” loudspeakers

The Hyperion speakers are the new penultimate speaker from Acapella – styled like the Apollon, but with four 15 inch woofers per speaker, instead of four 10 inch drivers (Apollon also has two 10 inch isobaric drivers per speaker). I think they took some lessons learned from the 18 inch woofer in the flagship Sphaeron speakers and reportedly the efficiency (and immediacy)  of the Hyperion is also quite high (nearly as high, as the Sphaeron).

There is a “review” of the new Hyperion speakers on a Chinese website (if you need to translate it, use chrome and select the ‘translate’ icon in the right side of the chrome address bar).

It is not really an in-depth of the Hyperion speaker’s sound, however, mostly a technical overview of Acapella in general and some good technical details of the Hyperion, with photos!

Hyperion Acapella Hyperion speaker in-depth evaluation (full)

The couple who owns our rental in Palo Alto has decided to sell [and, no, we can’t afford to purchase this nice little $3.8M Eichler ranch home] so we are moving. Since we have to crate our Apollon speakers anyway…. it’s a good time for someone to make us an offer so we will then have space for the Hyperion.  🙂

 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to audiophiles everywhere

I have been reflecting lately on communicating audiophile concepts with other humans.

When I meet someone for the first time [we actually had quite a few people here recently listening to various systems before Omicron hit], I have taken to approaching the description of the quality of audio by reducing it to three simple dimensions:

Resolution

Dynamics

Musicality

The idea is that unsophisticated audiophiles will understand more or less what these mean, and more experienced audiophiles will recognize these as big topics that prepare the groundwork for deeper discussion.

Problem is that, with mask-muffled conversations and COVID-fear reducing the length of unnatural socially-distanced conversations, when I say “resolution” – for example with respect to large mid-century horn speakers lacking same – some might immediately assume I mean hyper-detailed sound versus what I really mean: sufficiently realistic and nuanced sound as to help suspend disbelief that this is just a reproduction.

So, in the interests of not having to explain exactly what I mean with respect to these dimensions in the future as we await these dire days to disappear in the rear view mirror:

Resolution

The dimension where modern technology has the best successes and yet this dimension can also be the most misunderstood of them all.

Details, yes. And even details can be themselves be detailed [i.e. not just clearly defined notes, but the notes themselves can be quite complex in and of themselves].

And resolution includes harmonic resolution. The ability to not just get the primary frequency right, but the subtle over- and undertones. Add in the details with respect to the micro changes in harmonics.

Not stopping there, detailed dynamics itself can either be absent, or malformed, or exaggerated, or early or late. So high resolution dynamics gets these things correct – or more correct than not, anyway.

Dynamics

In its crudest form, this means slam.

How close is the reproduction to true life dynamics?

And, for this discussion, dynamics means not just macro dynamics, but midi and micro dynamics.

My [albeit limited, never having lived with them] experience is that mid-century horns do better at macro dynamics, not so bad at midi dynamics, and poorly at micro-dynamics, for example.

On the other hand, I think all music reproduction systems really suck at reproducing true life dynamics, especially in the midi- and macro levels. I mean REALLY suck. [This is why Neli and I favor high-efficiency speakers like Audio Note, and Acapella horns, and Audio Note amplification chains using massive custom transformers that CONTROL that speaker, and EMM Labs MTRX amp’s ability to instantly apply power when needed, etc. etc. AND the fact that they do not sacrifice Resolution nor Musicality as they seek to come closer to true-life dynamics than other solutions].

Musicality

Hard to describe this – and perhaps this is just a catch-all for high-quality of reproduction that dares to compare itself to real music.

Here again we are required to talk about nuance and performance levels.

Base case, people “recognize the melody” and decide that, yes, it sounds like music.

Or that is sufficiently loud, Or it has sufficient bass energy. Or that their toe starts tapping.

I think there is more to it than these things. And that it does start with self-examination, becoming aware of how you are reacting to the sound.

If you believe, as I do, that music is an expression of deep experiences – human to human communication of what it means to be alive – then musicality is then the measure of how impactful the sound is.

Does it affect you? To what degree?

Yes, this does depend a lot of the song being played, your state of mind at the time, many things. But in aggregate, over time, how often does your system affect you personally, calling forth both emotional and intellectual responses?

This is musicality.

Cool thing is, the definition allows for our music reproduction systems to have more musicality than real music :-). That they can affect us more than the music would have when it was being played live.

Then again, sometimes we are competing against sitting in front of Jimi Hendrix being Jimi at 100+ db.

Or [something I reflect upon as Neli plays a morning of Christian Christmas choral music] sitting in a huge medieval church of outlandishly lavish architecture listening to wondrous singing and organ music louder than anything anyone had heard, at the time, outside of the occasional serious thunderstorm.

Happy New Year… 2022… everyone!

 

Updates …

We will NOT be showing at Capital Audiofest this weekend.  Although D.C. looks good at the moment, previously quiet places like the Bay Area and Colorado are seeing Covid upticks and we just think it is too soon to be gallivanting through hotel rooms crowded with friendly audiophiles in such unpredictable times. To say nothing of spending several hours in an actual airplane to get there and back. We send our apologies to all our East Coast friends, and to the wonderful Capital Audiofest show organizers, and hope to see y’all next year.

We currently have three systems up and running here in Palo Alto and are occasionally hosting masked audiophiles who we have good reason to believe aren’t completely daft.

New toys: Audio Note Fifth Element / Fifth Force DAC, Audio Note TT3 turntable with PSU3, Audio Note Meishu Phono Tonmeister Silver 300B integrated, Audio Note CD4 CD player, Audio Note M3 linestage.

Acapella Apollon loudspeakers, Audio Note U.K. Gaku-on amplifiers, Audio Note U.K. DAC 5 Signature, Audio Note M9 Phono preamplifier, EMM Labs NS1 Streamer, Triangle Art Master Reference Turntable, and HRS VXR equipment rack with M3x2 isolation bases as shelves.

 

Acapella High Cellini loudspeakers, Acapella integrated amplifier, EMM Labs DV2 DAC/volume control, Audio Note U.K. CD4 CD player, Audio Note U.K. Kegon amplifiers, Audio Note CDT-5 transport, Audio Note S9 Step-up transformer all on vintage RixRax equipment stand.

Audio Note U.K. AN/E SPe HE loudspeakers, Audio Note U.K. OTO Phono SE Signature integrated amplifier, Audio Note U.K. M3 Phono preamplifier, Audio Note TT2 Deluxe and TT3 turntables, Audio Note Meishu Phono Tonmeister Silver integrated amp, Acapella Audio One music server, all on a HRS SXR equipment rack.

RMAF 2021 Cancelled… Forever

That RMAF 2021 is cancelled comes as no surprise. Stereophile, the largest and, one could say, most level-headed trade magazine, bowing out last week and announcing that they were not going to be able to cover RMAF this year due to the continued surge in COVID was a sign that we weren’t the only ones looking with alarm at the news of hospitalizations and the graphs tracking the infection rates. Indoor shows being cancelled like this is smart – it is a barrier that protects good people from the ravages of the biological civil war being waged out there.

The “forever” though? But perhaps not so surprising either. As I understand it, the Denver Tech Center Marriott, where the show was held at up until the last show, was not as hospitable after their yet-another-remodel as before. And, knowing Marjorie, the Hyatt next door, which served overflow exhibits in years past, must have also not been as welcoming as they could have been. The current hotel, being much more expensive, way the heck out of Denver at DIA, with the exhibit rooms being so spread out, was, by all accounts, an imperfect solution in 2019. All to say, RMAF didn’t have a real home (hotel) these last few years.

But “forever forever”? I fully expect the gauntlet to be picked up by another industry stalwart and RMAF to live again… someday. I am sure that the RMAF-to-be will have the support and benefit from the significant experience of everyone who was involved with the RMAF-that-is-no-more. Including us.

Audio Federation grew up with RMAF. We exhibited at the first 9 shows or so, usually in one of the larger rooms upstairs. Little ole us, exhibitors! We met many lifelong friends those first few years. It was the first and only show we had exhibited at for many years [only later to exhibit at T.H.E. Show and CES, etc etc etc]. Part of us, Neli and I, dies along with the end of Al and Marjorie’s show. As we all age, we all see landmarks of our childhood disappear in a poof of “what was” smoke. We can both relish and treasure the memories and mourn their passing at the same time. No, the memories weren’t all rosy, but they were all certainly passionate and exciting and heartfelt expressions of that Audiophile Craziness.

Thank you, Marjorie, for carrying on the show after Al. It must have been simultaneously wonderful and hellish and so many other things those first few years. But you kept the tenuous local community together and became one of the best people in the world at running these kinds of shows and one of the most important people in the evolution of our little Industry [ such as it is 🙂 ].  Neli and I wish you our very best – and hope to see you lurking at the shows again…. after this awful Storm passes.

We are deeply saddened to report the following from RMAF: A year and a half ago, our hearts were aching as we made the hard decision to cancel our 2020 show. Back then, we somehow imagined that as a country, we could band together and transcend COVID-19, and our lives could return to normal. We hoped we could ride out a year in isolation and emerge healthy and ready to gather again. Here at RMAF, we spent the year improving our business by producing new room layouts with all the outlets marked, and created a handbook to guide exhibitors as they learned yet again to navigate their exhibitor accounts. We imagined ourselves enthusiastically greeting our audio industry friends in a few weeks, and we’ve held onto that dream in spite of our nervous fears and scary news reports.

Even though some parts of the United States are fully open, the number of people contracting the virus, and the number of deaths attributed to it are still rising, and the CDC is projecting an even more deadly Lambda wave this fall. We are frightened on behalf of our friends in the audio industry on many levels. The very worst thing that we can envision is for someone to fall ill because they came to our show, whether as an exhibitor, a journalist, an attendee, or a volunteer. Good health is a precious gift, and we are learning that although recovery is possible, the residual effects of COVID-19 and its variants can be profound, and we are unwilling to risk even one case. Up until now, we have held onto the possibility that our October show could be produced as planned. After reading and listening to the news concerning the Coronavirus pandemic, and watching the cancellation of numerous other shows, we no longer hold that hope. In spite of our initial optimism, we have read and listened to all of your thoughtful comments and then looked at the numbers and made the difficult decision to cancel RMAF 2021.

As is our policy, RMAF will be issuing refunds to those exhibitors who have made payments for their rooms. We understand that in times such as these, finances can be a delicate balance, so you may expect to see your refund within the next 7 to 10 business days.

This has been a wrenching decision, and along with it comes the added impact of deciding that we are no longer able to envision RMAF as our hearts delight. RMAF was our founder Al Stiefel’s dream, and we’ve done our best to nurture his vision for 12 years, along with help from the Colorado Audio Society and all our volunteers from around the world. Now, we are off to new adventures! And so it is with both sadness and anticipation for the future, we announce that the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest as we have all known it will be no more. It has been our very great pleasure to have served this community of audio professionals. We have learned so much from you! Thank you for 17 years of friendship and support. It has meant more than you can possibly imagine. 

We offer you our heartiest wishes for good health and great happiness.

Your Friends,
Marjorie Baumert and Marcie Miller
Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest

Show News: RMAF and Capital Audiofest 2021 a go; Seattle and Munich cancelled

As of this moment in time:

We will be showing, with Audio Note U.K. and Peter Qvortrup, at RMAF: Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2021 in Denver, CO OCTOBER 8, 2021 – OCTOBER 10, 2021

We will be showing at Capital Audio Fest in Washington D.C. 2021 November 5th – 7th, 2021 — with Acapella Audio Arts, and Hermann Winters.

We will NOT be showing at T.H.E. Show, Los Angeles next month: June 11-13 in Long Beach. We think it is still too soon. About 1% of the typical audiophile-aged American population has died of COVID [let us never forget] and for a significant percentage of people, that still looms large enough to sway them from attending a hifi show with crowded [in the best(?) case], stuffy [the ventilation turned off because it is too noisy] hotel rooms. [and, practically speaking, the associated return on investment may be even less than the average, near-zero ROI of the typical show ;-/. Then again, this may be the same argument used by those exhibiting – the ROI is usually so close to zero, anyway, why worry about it? :-). [many of us go just because it is fun, we get to meet many friends, and to try and expose the general public and new audiophiles to much-better-than-average high-quality music reproduction].

Pacific Audio Fest [a late surge in COVID in Seattle at the last minute during planning and scheduling] and Munich HighEnd have both been cancelled for 2021 – but both are good to go next year, 2022.

We are so happy things are getting back to normal…!

 

Pacific Audio Fest – Seattle July 30 – August 1, 2021 (Cancelled)

Got our (first) jabs [10M+ people and hardly anyone died here (compared with most areas, percentage-wise) with one of the most serious lockdowns anywhere (a lot of smart people here in Silicon Valley) – but we think we are one of the last on the vaccine lists because… almost no one died here].

So, finally, we’re signed up for the new audio show set up by Lou Hinkley (Daedalus Audio) and Gary Gill (Capital Audiofest).

“The Pacific Audio Fest is the first major audio show promoted by exhibitors and music lovers for music Lovers and exhibitors!”

Neli and I met Lou back in the early days of RMAF in 2004, 2005. We’d be unloading, or loading, our audio-laden overloaded vehicles together at the Denver Marriott… or listening to each other party until the wee hours as he had the exhibit room right above ours [and we had the room right below his :-)]

And Gary Gill has been running CAF for a few years and has one of the most amazingly welcoming and friendly (to audiophiles and exhibitors, both) vibes for any show at any times.

Promises to be a great show. And we’ve never been to Seattle, so that will be fun too.

[No one seems to be able to make a decision whether the word[s] Audio Fest has a space in it or not. So we won’t either :-)].

Happy New Year 2021

Can we have a less crazy year this time? And with fewer crazies? Pleaseeeee…?

We have all heard about cranking it up to 11… to drown out the world outside. But we are about to need a ’12’ … 🙂

 

Happy New Year everyone!

-Mike and Neli

 

Audio Note M9 RIAA Signature Phono Stage (photos)

We have a ton (100s) of Audio Note M9 RIAA Signature Phono Stage photos. Some made it into the awesome Fred Crowder review over on Dagogo: Audio Note M9 RIAA Signature phono stage Review.

A lot didn’t…

I am going to spread them out a little. Sometimes something awesome looking gets to be overwhelming when presented all at once. At least, that is how it is for me!

 

 

Too bad the edges got cutoff – but this is the best photo that shows the inside of the two boxes side-by-side with their labels still being visible

Audio Note U.K. Belt-driven CD transport

Audio Note U.K. Belt-driven CD transports are in the works and reports are of significant improvements over the previous level 6 transport [we have the level 5 CDT-five transport, which is amazing…].

Some photos have been posted and we thought they were worth sharing here – because they show the immense lengths and out-of-the-box thinking that goes on at Audio Note [maybe this is why they sound better than what we have heard anywhere else – and cost more too :-)]

The ‘wood’ is panzerholz (which is bulletproof. You know, just in case. But seriously measurements and listening tests show that panzerholz ranks among the very best regarding its acoustical damping characteristics -see Google for more audiophile scuttlebutt). Called Permali at Audio Note because the former name is apparently trademarked.