Sunday Morning Hi Fi #7

Rocky Mountain Wrap Up

Headphone amps and amp/DACs
Sunday Morning Hi Fi #7

Sunday Morning Hi Fi #7

Welcome back to the seventh installment of Sunday Morning Hi Fi. With Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, things were definitely crazy and hectic, so I wanted to touch on a few other things that happened at the audio show that didn’t make it into the show reports. But first, I wanted to share the “album of the week” that I’ve been listening to this morning.

Album of the Week: World Kora Trio – Korazon

I first heard World Kora Trio at the Montreal Audio Fest when a consumer brought it in and demoed it on a system. When this album was played, the room instantly fell silent, and everyone wanted to know what this music was—including myself. This album is very well recorded, the noise floor is very low and the background is dead silent, and the music is hauntingly beautiful. It’s an interesting fusion of African sounds with a modern take on Gregorian chants blended with Indian rhythms. Or, at least, that’s my take on it. It’s difficult to classify world fusion music because of its many influences, but this album is wonderful in so many ways.

Fronted by Eric Longsworth, an American cellist who resides in Montreal, World Kora Trio is an international project. Cherif Soumano from Mali plays the kora, a 21-stringed instrument that resembles a banjo in some ways, and Jean-Luc di Fraya from Marseille is the voice and percussion for the trio. I think the standout track is the eponymous “Korazon,” but the entire album is good for the right mood.

RMAF 2014 Happenings

TAS Booth

We sold print and digital subscriptions at RMAF, as well as the beautiful Illustrated History of High-End Audio, Volume One: Loudspeakers. If you haven’t seen this book, then you definitely need to. It’s simply amazing, and I’m not just saying that because I work for TAS. Even my mother, who isn’t into high-end audio whatsoever, opened the book and browsed through it for an hour. Point is, the beautiful photos and the amazing history of loudspeakers is fascinating to even those who aren’t in this hobby. You can see more at

PS Audio Sprout

I’ve talked about it in my RMAF primer, but the PS Audio Sprout ($799) is one sweet little integrated, and is the perfect starter integrated for those just getting into the high end, or for those who want something small, compact, and easy to use.

Moon Neo 430HA

The next addition to the Sim Audio Moon reference series is the Neo 430HA headphone amp with DSD DAC ($4200 w/ DAC). If you are a serious headphone person, the Neo 430HA might be your ticket to sonic sweetness. The 430HA outputs up to 8W of power into 50 ohms, or 667mW into 600 ohms, so you can drive just about any headphone out there with this thing. Plus, you have analog outputs to send to your main system, so you can enjoy the best of both worlds without purchasing a separate DAC and headphone amp.

Polymer Audio Research MKS-X

Daniel Khesin, the man behind Polymer Audio Research, is young, determined, and taking the high-end speaker market by storm. An official review of his MKS-X speaker ($60k) is in the works, so keep a lookout for that in the coming months. These speakers have the deepest soundstage of almost any point-source speaker I’ve heard, and the almost complete lack of distortion makes these speakers super fast and accurate. Simply wonderful to listen to.

EnKlein Cables

Dave Kleinbeck of EnKlein cables is making some serious high-end cables, and is doing more than just slapping on a pretty dielectric sleeve on some standard copper cable. He’s been engineering state-of-the-art telecommunications cabling for many years, and has translated that expertise into the high-end audio market. As you can see from the photo above, he takes a moment to explain his David Power Cord (prices vary by length) to two beautiful young ladies outside the Polymer room.

Rogers High Fidelity PA-1A

I love the Rogers EHF-200 Mk2 ($15k) tubed integrated amplifier that Roger Gibboni builds (I’ve been using that amp at home for about five months), but he also builds one of the best tubed phonostages on the market, the PA-1A ($7500). I’ve mentioned this phonostage before, but it’s a must-audition for anyone who really wants an extremely low noise floor when listening to their vinyl.

Focal, VAC, Esoteric Room

The partnering of the Focal Grande Utopia EMs ($195k) with VAC preamps and tube amps, and some high-quality Esoteric digital front ends, made for one of the best sounding rooms of any show. Now, the only issue is that you will need about $650k to build this system, but if that’s feasible for you, this system is built to blow you away. For me and the majority of us, we can simply dream.

Odyssey Lorelei

Do you know the story of the Lorelei? Think of the Greek Sirens, except in the Rhein river. Shipwrecks and all that stuff are rumored to be the cause of this mysterious beauty who resides on a giant rock in a bend of the Rhein. Look it up, it’s quite interesting. Anyway, the Odyssey Lorelei ($2700) sounded pretty darn good for the price, though maybe not the lowest bass extension, if that’s your thing. But they sang sweet sweet music, and seduced me with their song.

Bryston Middle T

Bryston was showing of its Middle T ($4600/pr.), which are some great alternatives if the Model T Signature is too big of a speaker for your room. Plenty of bass for the small room, and a generous soundstage that was plenty deep and wide for my liking. These aren’t going to reproduce a huge sound, but they are definite auditions for anyone looking in this range.

Next week, we will get back to our regularly programmed schedule and talk more about acoustics.

Until then, happy listening!