33 Two-Channel Audio Discoveries from RMAF 2015

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33 Two-Channel Audio Discoveries from RMAF 2015

Merging Technologies

Merging Technologies’ groundbreaking NADAC (Network Attached DAC) ST2 ($10,500) was matched with an Ayre Acoustics KXR Twenty preamplifier and MX-R Twenty power amplifiers, plus German Physiks Carbon MkIV loudspeaker for what was, hands down, one of the best sounding demo systems I heard at RMAF 2015, regardless of price.



Instead of providing increasingly common USB inputs, the Merging NADAC provides AES/EBU and SP/DIF optical and coax inputs, but is really geared to receive high-res digital audio files (PCM at up to 32/384kHz rates and DSD 64/128/256) via Ethernet using the open standard Ravenna/AES67 protocol.  The NADAC communicates with computers using ASIO in Windows environments and CoreAudio/DoP on MacOS systems. Finally, precise communication clocking is driven by the NADAC through the IEEE 1558 Precision Time Protocol, which is said to yield “a clock resolution of one nanosecond.”

Merging’s approach may seem unorthodox at first, but no one can argue with the sonic results. Based on a brief but extremely compelling listen, I was struck by the NADAC’s extraordinarily vibrant, lucid, transparent, and highly three-dimensional presentation. Watch for an upcoming review of the NADAC in Hi-Fi+.

Nola

Carl Marchisotto of Nola Loudspeakers always puts together a fine RMAF demo and this year’s presentation was no exception. Highlighted in the demo was Nola’s new KO2 floorstander ($12,000), which is a significantly revised version of the firm’s original KO loudspeaker. 

The KO, and now the KO2, stands as a sort of transitional model in the Nola range—a model placed at the very top of the firm’s ‘Boxer’ range of speakers, but that is, both conceptually and sonically, quite close to the firm’s more costly and exotic ‘Reference Gold’-series speakers. Setting the KO2 apart from the original KO are a series of modest changes that together have a big impact on the speaker’s sound. Among these changes are new carbon fibre midrange drivers, revised crossover networks, re-tuned low frequency chambers, and more extensive use of Nordost monofilament silver internal wiring. The result is a more open, nuanced, and expansive sound—areas where the original KO was already very good.

Nola’s system, fed by an Audio Research CD Player and a VAC valve-type integrated amplifier was one of the two or three best I heard at the show.

Nordost

RMAF 2015 marked the arrival of Nordost’s new flagship Odin 2 cable fable, which was on demonstration in the Nordost room and in a few other top-tier rooms at the show. Although I didn’t get to hear Odin 2 for long enough to form an in-depth impressions, my initial thought was that it was impressive not so much for any one group of things it does, but rather for its uncanny ability to step completely aside to allow the personalities of associated components and recordings to shine through.

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