Audio Federation Rm 557

This year we were in a smaller room than the previous 6 years – having unexpectedly lost our large 9030 room.

We will NOT get this room next year and we do NOT recommend room 557 to anybody else. The soda machine and ice machine outside in the hall generated a 60dB noise floor in our room with the door closed at their quietest and 65 to 70dB at their noisiest. Considering that one of the special things about the system we had setup is its incredibly low noise floor and ability to generate very, very subtle details [as most listeners can still attest] this sucked.

We would like to thank Kevin for helping staff and tear down the room [thanks Kevin!] and Mike Latvis [of HRS] who I hear also staffed the room for a bit [:-)]. Steve, who often helps staff our room, instead helped setup and tear down HRS racks in several rooms this year. Also thanks go to the PTE (PRECISION TRANSDUCER ENGINEERING) guys for helping us get the speakers to the show and up to our room (and back again. Thanks guys!).

We always pay for the entire room for our mixed system room – owing no allegiance to any manufacturer so that we can freely design whatever system we want to take to the show. This year was somewhat unique in that we asked many of our [very charitable] manufacturers for the loan of equipment for the show in order to build this particular system – which we had prototyped a year or so ago but no longer had all the components to build.

Our many and grateful thanks go to Peter Qvortrup (Audio Note), Dan Meinwald (Marten), Shahin and the entire Mietner clan (Emm Labs), Mike Latvis (HRS), and Michael and the entire Nordost clan.

People we sorely missed: LCBIII [GWS!], M Mallory, R Halterman, P Strain, Danny K., Jody, J. Hilton, J. Miller, and J. Rebman. PQ, Vince, Vladimir and Elina – you guys are soooo lame for never making it to this show [;-) yeah, yeah, you all have your very good reasons. Still lame :-)].

Neli and Fred Crowder on one of the several quiet moments on Sunday


This system is designed to be a medium-scale EXTREMELY high resolution, EXTREMELY accurate, yet EXTREMELY musical system. Starting at the source:

* The Emm Labs XDS1 player playback is at a very, very low noise floor and high resolution but, uniquely for having such a high resolution, does not sound artificially ‘detailed’ but like how music is supposed to sound

* The 2 Nordost Odin power cords delivered instantaneous power in response to a components needs that is experientally quite important for components in order to retrieve subtle details that were, amazingly, on our source material all along. Similarly with the Odin interconnect – it delivers more of the signal from source to destination than anything else we have heard.

* The famous Audio Note Ongaku integrated… is at heart a very clean and honest amplifier that knows just how to woo speakers into doing what they are supposed to be doing [bested in this aspect only by the AN Kegon Balanced and Gaku Ons. Seriously, 99% of your amps out there are real wimps and let the lazy ass speaker do whatever it wants most of the time during each note attack and decay] .

* The Marten Coltrane speakers are one of the most honest and even handling and revealing speakers in the world – and at only a 104lbs and bottom ported, are one of the most room friendly speakers.

* The components were sitting on HRS M3x platforms and amp stands, which prevents vibrations from stealing our hard-earned resolution from us – everything from subtle details to slam.

* Finally, Jorma Design ‘Prime’, very high resolution, harmonically transparent speaker cables finishes our equipment list.

As with most of our systems at these shows, each component is either best in class, or best in all the world in the pursuit of reproducing Music.

[I can hear [not really, my ears aren’t THAT good :-)] a couple of you saying to yourself “Oh, there he goes again – talking about how great their system was. Guess he has to do that for the business”. For one, I always talk about the pluses and MINUSES of the sound in our room. Second, people that actually heard the sound in our rooms can read what I say, and they can use this to calibrate what they heard against the way I describe things and extrapolate that to the other rooms I describe. Third, just look at the caliber of ALL the components in our room and compare it to any other room. Fourth, its not like we designed or built this stuff – we only lug it in and set it up – we are just giving credit where credit is due.

We put these supremely excellent components in a system of other components of similar excellent quality – allowing them to actually be heard and not shadowed by inferior components [cables too, of course]. Why this is, by and large, so very, very uncommon is a complete mystery to us. The room we setup SHOULD be the best of show with respect to the type of system we are going for – it would only be news if it was not.

This is the system that *I* want for my office. And I’ve wanted it for over a year now – and that is a long time for someone like me who has access to a lot of toys here. Not so overpowering that I get blasted out the windows [or somebody calls the police 🙂 But seriously, I do not want to just make a lot of loud noises, i.e.a Muscle system, certainly not in my office – nor do a want a Technical Marvel system – my job makes high end marvels look extremely quaint. I want a Practical system, a small Audio Note system would be great, or This One], but with the ability to plumb the deepest depths of musical angst and heights of musical joy, a vehicle which can take me away and provide me with a very, very rich universe to explore of musical atoms and melodious molecules and entire worlds of harmony and galaxies of compositions. Then, to bring me back refreshed so I can get back to work and stop telling the computer (Windows, Comcast, etc,) it is a POS (and worse! ;-)) quite so often.]

As we whined about so much on Thursday and Friday (the 1st day) the Coltrane speakers had only been used once, 10 months ago at CES, driven by the flagship, yet still quite laid back, Cary amps. And even though the Marten factory uses special hardware to break-in their speakers – the speakers were for the most part very stiff after sitting in crates for all that time and for all intents and purposes were still unbroken in.

So this system did not *quite* live up to our expectations [we prototyped this system about a year or so ago, so we had a good idea what to expect +/- 10% say] but by Sunday, it was 80% there [i.e. perhaps 80% of the people who heard it could probably understand what we were trying to do]. On Friday it may have been, justifiably, only about 20-30%, using the same metric.

Overall, we were very happy – for most of this year we were so upset about losing our big room, 9030, that we were not going to show at all. But we pulled this together at the last minute, and we got to hear one of our very favorite systems for a few days and we got to see a lot of our friends.

It was a blast.

Part 2 forthcoming…