As you can see, Mytek was here with a range of products including the Brooklyn Bridge for users to try out. Basically this is a Brooklyn DAC+ with the addition of streaming capability including Roon, Tidal and Qobuz capabilities.
The large gray box on the left is their Manhattan DAC II which features the ES9038Pro DAC chip for conversion duties. We then see both black and silver Bridge boxes in the center. I can't remember which model, but they were using some Sennheiser headphones for the demo. As you can imagine, the Mytek DACs have always been good sounding devices so nothing unexpected when I listened.
Qobuz has been a big supporter for RMAF this year. Many rooms (can't say if most rooms or not) featured devices streaming off Qobuz or Tidal. Certainly one of the nice things about streaming music these days is that one can make requests and just type in the song you'd like to hear without needing to bring a CD, memory stick, or LP.
As you can see below, the Qobuz stall featured a dCS Bartók with balanced headphone output (~$15k). I listened with a pair of MrSpeakers Ether 2's. I purposely listened to some 24/192 tracks and noted that there were no buffering issues even through what I imagine would be a very busy hotel ethernet system of limited effective bandwidth.
As you can see below, a few other systems you could listen to at the Qobuz stall included Grado headphones with Manley tube amp and Mytek Brooklyn Bridge with Focal headphones. I chatted with managing director Dan Mackta and was told that they're still working on Qobuz coming to Canada with no ETA (still negotiating distribution rights).
Benchmark products with speakers were demonstrated upstairs as described in my Day 2 post, but they also had some presence among the headphone section. Here's a clear-top picture of the HPA4 reference preamp and headphone amp (~$3k). I didn't get a chance to sit and listen unfortunately.
I chatted with Dana Robbins of Dana Cable to listen to his cable comparison between his design (left) and the stock cable (right) that comes with the two HiFiMan HE1000 V2 (~$2.7k) headphones.
Subjectively, I thought his cable did indeed sound better than the stock assuming the sound of the headphones are otherwise identical. A bit fuller, more precise, and better sense of depth. Not earth-shattering differences of course; more subtle and for the perfectionist audiophile. The idea here is that lower resistance cables (than stock) would improve dampening factor and this could have an effect depending on one's system. The HiFiMan headphones have an impedance rated as 35Ω and the amplifier unit appears to be some kind of custom design and output impedance would be important to know (I think it's the DanaTone Head-Space). In any event, looking online, these are >$500 headphone cables so it would be certainly important to listen and do your own cost-benefit calculations!
Here's a picture of part of the Fostex table. On the right in brown (light African mahogany apparently) are the newer T60RP ($350) and you also see the T50RP Mk3 (~$180) semi-open planar magnetic to the left. I had a good listen to the T60RP and being a planar magnetic, noticed the relative lack of deep bass "punch". Otherwise, it did sound very clean, but be careful with "bright" sounding music as I can imagine some harshness / fatigue.
There's the Astell & Kern booth with a number of different models on the white table to try. Honestly, I have not been keeping track of these DAP machines since I have to carry a smartphone around all day which is a fine music player already. I must say that the workmanship is excellent. The devices feel substantial (so long as you don't mind carrying the chunk of metal around!), and display screens look nice.
|Headphones galore to touch, feel, and even listen to...|
These are the new wireless B&W Formation Duo speakers (I was told $4k/pair). They're self-powered, communicates over WiFi, able to "mesh" with other Formation devices wirelessly including these (also Bluetooth 4.1 capable with aptX HD, AAC, SBC codecs):
There are "WEDGE" devices to the right as standalone speakers. There's the "BASS" subwoofer module (250W Class D inside) to the left. I didn't take a picture of the wireless soundbar on another table.
Then there's this - the Formation Audio (~$700, patterned-top black box on the right):
The music was playing with their Stream Box S2 Ultra ($849, Roon, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, DLNA, probably 100Mbps ethernet, WiFi, standard Bluetooth, USB output to DAC), the little metal box above the LCD screened Pre Box RS2 Digital (dual mono ES9038Q2M DACs with balanced output). John Lee Hooker's "The Healer" was playing. Sounds excellent as one would expect with such speakers and good DACs.
To the left of the RS2 Digital is the CD Box RS2 T which is their CD transport:
Oh yeah, on the lower racks, we see some Amp Box RS monos. These are Class D amps running Hypex UcD (?180LD) modules for ~120W into 8Ω, 180W into 4Ω. They can run balanced and notice that Pro-Ject is using a tube buffer input stage.
Here's a closer look at the CD transport, DAC, and streamer boxes:
Of course, this is Pro-Ject, so I really should show a few pictures of the analogue gear in the room:
|Phono preamp. Lots of options including RIAA and Decca EQ...|
|Top of the line RPM 10 Carbon.|
Very nice looking analogue meters.
The sound was quite good from this set but not particularly memorable. They were playing Charles Lloyd, The Marvels + Lucinda Williams' "Angel". Maybe it's the music...
Of course, we cannot forget the Technics turntables:
Speakers are the Magico S5 Mk.II with an asking price of $47k/pair in the high gloss finish.
Notice what's on the right side:
Yup, playing some reel-to-reel Van Morrison Moondance on the Tascam.
What I heard I believe is an example of very good sounding reel-to-reel playback. The voice was warm and inviting, non-fatiguing, great soundstage, low noise floor (no audible hiss), and no annoying clicks and pops like with many LPs. Really nice.
They opened one of these Delta monoblocks to show off the guts:
Rack of Marantz gear feeding the speakers:
Notice how the chairs were arranged in the room:
|Joseph Audio Pearl3 + Doshi Monoblock V3.0.|