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33 Two-Channel Audio Discoveries from RMAF 2015

33 Two-Channel Audio Discoveries from RMAF 2015

At this year’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I divided my time between the vibrant CanJam (that is, headphone and earphone orientated) section of the show and visiting a select handful of 2-channel audio manufacturers. Consequently, what follows is by no means a comprehensive show report, but rather a series of audio ‘core samples’ captured in order to show what I regard as pleasant discoveries from the show.

As always, my apologies to worthy manufacturers I was not able to visit or cover. The omissions are not intentional but rather reflect significant time constraints, as in: “Too much show, and not enough ‘me’ to cover it all.”

Enjoy.

2-Channel Discoveries from RMAF

Aesthetix

Aesthetix showed its elegant and accomplished new Atlas Saturn Eclipse Stereo hybrid valve/solid-state power amplifier priced at $15,500. The Atlas Stereo Eclipse is essentially a significantly upgraded and improved version of the Atlas Stereo power amplifier reviewed by Roy Gregory in Hi-Fi+ 107. At the show, the Aesthetix amp was (ahem) vigourously driving a pair of Focal Sopra2 floorstanding loudspeakers (not shown).

Audio Physic, Dr. Feickert Analogue, IsoTek, Primare, Transparent System

Vana Ltd. demonstrated the lovely new Audio Physic Avanti tower-type speakers ($8,000/pr.) in their US debut. The Avantis were part of a well-balanced system featuring Primare electronics backed by an extensive group of IsoTek power conditioning and delivery components. The slender Avantis delivered a much bigger and more refined sound than I expected given their size and comparatively modest price. In fact, I felt they captured much of the overall ‘feel’ and character of the larger and more costly Audio Physic models, but in a more compact and accessibly priced package, which is saying a lot.

Audioengine

The value-minded company Audioengine debuted its newest self-powered standmount monitors: the HD6 monitors priced at $749/pair. The HD6 are targeted toward discerning music lovers on a budget, and feature optical, Bluetooth, and analogue inputs. Interestingly, pairs of HD6s are configured so that one speaker acts as the master (because it contains both the left and right-channel amplifiers), while the other serves as a ‘slave’ that receives power from the master unit. Both in terms of physical styling and overall sound, the HD6s reminded me of some of the classic small monitors I have heard and enjoyed from the UK (for example, some of the classic small monitors from Epos and others).

 

AURALiC

If you visit enough audio shows, it becomes apparent that a number of high-end manufacturers have embraced AURALiC’s full-size ARIES wireless streaming bridge ($1,599) as their preferred vehicle for adding streamer-like/server-like capabilities to most any DAC-equipped system.

But RMAF marked the US debut of AURALiC’s impressive new ARIES MINI ($599), which can be viewed as a dramatically cost-reduced version of the bigger ARIES, but with several important twists: in contrast to the original ARIES, the ARIES MINI incorporates a built-in DAC, add Bluetooth connectivity and an improved tri-band Wi-Fi interface, supports an expanded range of streaming services (including Tidal, WiMP, Qobuz, Deezer, Pandora, Rdio, SiriusXM, SoundCloud, Spotify, and more), options for adding internal HDD/SSD music storage, and even comes with a free 1-year subscription to Tidal (a $240 value). In short, the ARIES MINI offers a huge amount of functionality for not a lot of money.

Important Note: UK, European, and other international Hi-Fi+ readers will want to be aware that the free Tidal subscription offer mentioned above applies only for AURALiC ARIES MINI units sold in North America. 

In practice, users can create simple and highly cost-effective audio systems by combining a music library storage system (for example, a NAS drive or USB drive) with an ARIES MINI and a nice pair of self-powered speakers—dramatically reducing the entry-price for access to legitimate high-end sound quality

Aurender

Aurender was showing two of its newest music servers at RMAF, the upscale N10 ($8,000) and more affordable and surprisingly compact N100h ($2700). Both models, and in fact all Aurender models, exude a certain fineness of fit and finish that only serves to reflect the careful attention to detail that Aurender lavishes upon the insides of the units.

Ayre Acoustics

Ayre chose to highlight its versatile new Codex preamp/headphone amp/DAC ($1,795) at RMAF, creatively configuring its demo room to look something like a recording studio control room. Then, Ayre use the Codex as the centrepiece of two systems: one set up to drive a pair of compact KEF LS50 monitors (as if at a studio control console) and the other set up as a headphone station. My sense was that the Codex offers sonic sophistication that belies its comparatively modest price—a brief observation I would like to put to a longer test, perhaps in a future Hi-Fi+ review.

Boulder

Boulder bowled over RMAF attendees with its gorgeous, ultra top-tier model 2120 DAC ($65,000), which both looks and sounds terrific. In simple terms, the 2120 is Boulder’s challenger for top honours in the unspoken competition for the title of ‘best DAC on the planet, ever.’ Can it deliver the sonic goods? Only time will tell, but it certainly sounded promising at this show.

 

Cambridge Audio

Many audiophiles are familiar with Cambridge Audio’s top-of-the-range Azur 851-series components, but for RMAF the firm was giving greater emphasis to its somewhat more affordable CX-series components. In particular, the focus was upon Cambridge’s CXN Network Player ($999) and on its new-for-RMAF CXU Universal Disc Player ($1,299). What I discovered at the show, though, is that the CXU Disc Player actually incorporates a large portion of the functionality of the CXN Network Player—something that isn’t immediately apparent at first glance. When you stop to think about it, then, the multifunction CXU seems like quite the bargain in that it can happily play just about any type of disc known to man, while also serving up DAC/network player functionality on demand. Cool, no?

Core Power Technologies

CPT is a new player on the stage in the world of high-performance power conditioning and the firm’s first three products, called the Equi=Core 50 ($499 and up), Equi=Core 150 ($599 and up), an Equi=Core 300 ($799 and up), are simply fascinating. CPT describes the Equi=Core models as ‘AC Balanced Power Sources’ that can be used wherever high quality power cords would normally be used. The only differences between the three Equi=Core models is the maximum power output they can sustain, and I was told that even larger Equi=Core models are already in the works.

What’s an AC Balanced Power Source? A company spokesman described the Equi=Core as a specialised type of AC power cord in the centre of which is fitted a rather large, ‘black box’ device that converts normal AC into balanced-mode AC, which in turn can be fed directly to audio components or to a high quality AC power strip. The advantage of this balanced-mode = AC approach, said the spokesman, is that it inherently cancels our any/all induced noise on the AC lines, yet without requiring complicated or expensive AC regeneration or filtration circuitry. As a result user can enjoy noise-free AC power and hi-fi systems that will benefit from very quiet backgrounds.

dCS

dCS joined forces with VTL (Vacuum Tube Logic) and Wilson Audio to assemble a demonstration system that, among other things, served as the US market rollout for the new dCS Rossini-series Player ($28,499), DAC (not included in the demo system, but priced at $23,999), and Master Clock ($7,499).  In a pre-show session held just for press members, dCS spokesman Martin Reynolds explained the many ways in which the Rossini components leverage design insights and technologies borrowed from the firm’s premier (and far more costly) Vivaldi components.

In the actual listening, the Rossini components performed beautifully, as we have come to expect from dCS, with a sound that was dead neutral in its overall balance with sumptuous amounts of inner detail and textural and dynamic nuances aplenty. What was particularly striking, I felt, was the Rossini components’ collective ability to delineate and differentiate between good, very good, excellent, excellent+, and downright superb recordings, which left me (and other listeners) with the sense that Rossini components can and do show precisely what’s going on in the recordings at hand.

 

Digibit/S-Booster

The Digibit Aria Mini music server (reviewed in Hi-Fi+ 122) was on demonstration at RMAF, but with a twist, as it was being fed by an S-Booster power supply from the Netherlands. The basic concept calls for taking already good-sounding components (e.g., the Aria Mini) and then making them even better by adding a quieter and more muscular power supply from S-Booster. 

S-Booster offers high-quality outboard power supplies to complement a very wide range of components, with prices that often range from about $400 – $440 (though as you would expect, pricing varies from application to application).

Emerald Physics

Emerald Physics makes open-baffle, controlled directivity, dynamic-driver equipped loudspeakers that enjoy a reputation for delivering terrific openness, transparency, and powerful dynamics, yet at very affordable prices. For RMAF, the featured model was the firm’s KCII loudspeaker (starting at $2,499/pair in a black powder-coated finish, with more exotic finishes available at extra cost).

Emerald Physics speakers are essentially sold factory direct under the auspices of the famous international audio dealer Underwood HiFi (headed by audio retailing veteran Walter Liederman). Underwood is passionately committed to selling high-performance/high-value systems and to this end the firm offers a number of specially priced ‘bundled’ systems based around the KCII (and other Emerald Physics) loudspeakers, combined with products drawn form other brands that Underwood represents.

The RMAF show system, for example, featured a deluxe-finished set of KCII speakers, Emerald’s own 100Wpc EP-100.2SE stereo power amp, a DSPeakerDSP2.4 digital crossover, a pair of Gallo Classico CLS-10 powered sub, a Wyred4Sound MS-1 Server, a Cambridge Audio CDP disc transport, Wireworld cables, Core Power power conditioning, and—significantly—an Exogal Comet DAC.  The core system (speakers, subs, amp, and DAC) was offered for a special bundled price of $6,995, which—given the sound quality on offer—certainly qualifies as a screamin’ good deal.

UK readers might wish to note the Emerald Physics/Underwood HiFi now offers special ‘delivered-directly-to-your-door’ pricing for British audiophiles who would like to sample the Emerald Physics sound.

German Physiks

German Physiks showed its Carbon IV omnidirectional loudspeaker ($31,350/pair) at RMAF, presenting the speaker in a demo system comprised of the Merging Technologies NADAC, an Ayre Acoustics preamp and power amp, with all components connected via Purist Audio Cables. The speaker derives its name, in part, from the fact that it is based a carbon fibre version of the firm’s signature Walsh-type DDD omnidirectional driver and from the fact that its distinctive octagonal-footprint cabinet features carbon fibre sidewalls. Quite frankly, I felt the German Physics/Merging Technology/Ayre system was one of the two or three best I heard at RMAF; the sound quality was simply breathtaking.

I have heard German Physiks speakers before, some larger and other smaller than the Carbon IV, but my take on things was that the Carbon IV was not only best all-around speaker I’ve yet heard from German Physiks, but that it was also one of the finest omnidirectional speakers I’ve heard at any price. Omnis can sometimes sound a bit too diffuse for their own good and thus can seem to lose track of small but critical low-level details—especially details that provide spatial and other imaging cues. Happily, though, the Carbon IV did not seem to have these problems; it offered rich, full, and complete delivery of low-level musical information while also doing a remarkable job of conveying a believable sense of place and placement on good recordings.

Harbeth

RMAF 2015 marked the US debut of Harbeth’s new flagship loudspeaker: namely, the 40.2 Monitor ($14,990), which was being driven by a Vinnie Rossi LIO preamp/ phono stage and Stereo VR120 power amplifier.

My thoughts upon encountering the 40.2 were, succinctly, these:

  • They’re beautiful; the art of fine British woodworking is alive and well at Harbeth.
  • They’re big—really big; when you see them in photographs, the 40.2s don’t seem nearly as large as they do when you actually see them in person. This is the sort of monitor that you can use in a mid-size room, but that I think could and would very easily fill much larger spaces with sound.
  • They sound like classic BBC monitors that A) have gone off to finishing school for added sophistication and refinement, B) have gone off to graduate school to attain higher levels of mastery than other speakers of their ilk, and C) have been working out with a world-class rugby team so as to add muscle, agility, and all-round sonic athleticism.

My one-word take on the 40.2 would be this: Wow.

 

IsoTek

For RMAF, IsoTek took, as is their habit, a ‘systems’ approach to power conditioning in a demonstration that featured an Dr. Feickert Analogue Woodpecker turntable feed Primare electronics, which in turn drove a lovely set of Audio Physic Avanti loudspeakers. Serving as a foundation for the entire system were a coordinated set of four complementary IsoTek components:

  • The EVO3 Sigmas full-system mains conditioner ($4,500),
  • The EVO3 Titan power amplifier mains conditioner ($5,000),
  • The EVO3 Syncro SE DC block cable ($2,450), and
  • A number of EVO3 Optimum power cables ($995/each).

As mentioned above, the IsoTek elements most definitely helped the Audio Physic Avanti speakers put their best sonic foot forward.

Jeff Rowland Design Group

In a ‘pull-out-all-the-stops’ move, the Jeff Rowland Design Group took the opportunity at RMAF 2015 to introduce its spectacular new Daemon super-integrated amplifier to the US market (the amplifier had debuted earlier this year at Munich 2015). The Daemon offers over 20 user-definable inputs, including an accomplished optional MM/MC phono section, an optional HDMI module, an optional Wi-Fi Streaming module, an extensive set of balanced and single-ended analogue inputs, and an elaborate range of digital inputs. The Daemon can deliver a staggering 1,500 Wpc at 8 Ohms or 2,500 Wpc at 4 Ohms. The price is approximately $39,000, but can vary depending on options selected.

The Daemon sounded promising indeed in a demo system where the super amp was paired with a set of YG Acoustics Sonja 1.2 floorstanding loudspeakers.

 

Lampizator

The Polish high-end electronics firm Lampizator was well represented at RMAF, with a pair of its valve-powered monoblock amplifiers and one of the firm’s The Big 7 DSD DACs ($7,000 – $11,000, depending on configuration) on static display, but with a sample of the firm’s flagship Golden Gate DAC ($14,500 – $21,000 depending on the configuration).

Rather trying to describe the sound of the Lampizator Golden Gate, which is chockfull of sonic potential, let me encourage readers to wait for an upcoming Hi-Fi+ review of the Golden Gate, which should prove an entertaining and eye opening read.

Lumin/S-Booster

The famous music server builder Lumin used its RMAF 2015 demo to focus attention on the firm’s most accessibly priced model: namely, the Lumin D1 streamer/renderer/DAC ($2,000). The D1 supports playback for PCM files to 32/384kHz resolutions as well as for DSD 64 file.

The D-1 was supported and enhanced through use of an outboard S-Booster power supply from the Netherlands (typical prices for add-on S-Booster power supplies ranges between about $400 – $440).

M2Tech

M2Tech showed its three-piece family of mini-components including the HiFace Evo Two 384/32 and DSD D-to-D converter ($650), the Evo Clock Two precision clock generator ($650), and the Evo Supply Two low noise power supply ($550).  Our readers from Germany might wish to note that, in the German market, these same components are marketed under the Manunta brand name.

Also on demonstration from M2Tech was exciting Joplin MkII analogue-to-digital converter ($1,700), which is capable of converting incoming analogue signal to digital files at resolutions up to 32/384kHz.

 

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.

 

Peachtree Audio

Peachtree introduced its upcoming new class of high-end ‘super lifestyle’ products in the form of the sleek and compact new Sona DAC ($1,299), which offers both single-ended and balanced outputs, and the companion 150 Wpc Sona Amp ($999).

PS Audio

At RMAF PS Audio introduced the audiophile community to its impressive new Bascom H. King designed BHK Signature 300 Monoblock amplifiers ($14,998/pair), while previewing a prototype version of the BHK Signature hybrid valve/solid-state preamplifier (price TBD). Feeding these amplification components was a PS Audio PerfectWave Memory Player disc transport ($3,999) running through the firm’s critically acclaimed DirectStream DSD DAC ($5,999). Power for the system was supplied through a set of three PS Audio P10 Power Plant Regenerators ($4,999/each). The entire PS ensemble was in turn used to drive a set of YG Acoustics’ flagship Sonja 1.3 loudspeakers ($106,800/pair), with cabling supplied by MG Audio.

The system was more than capable of indicating the terrific performance potential of the BHK Signature 300 amps and of YG’s Sonja 1.3, while the Perfect Wave transport and DirectStream DAC served as terrific sources. On the basis of what I heard, I believe the BHK Signature 300s will definitely invite comparison to far more costly top-tier amplifiers.

My only reservation about the demonstration system involved speaker placement, which I suspect limited the YG Sonja 1.3s (and thus the associated BHK Signature 300 amps) to ‘very good’, when I suspect that both the Sonja 1.3s and PS Audio’s new monoblock amps are capable of even more performance. Further listening is indicated.

Quad

New for RMAF were Quad’s beautiful new Artera Play preamp/DAC ($2,199) and associated Artera Play Stereo power amplifier ($2,299), which look exceptionally handsome when grouped together. According to the US distributor, MoFi, the Artera combination punches far above its price class in terms sheer sonic performance, and manages to look good while doing so.

 

Raidho

At recent shows, the Danish loudspeaker-maker Raidho has gradually been introducing new members of its slender X-series loudspeaker family. First came the compact X1 monitor and then the much taller but no less slim X-3 tower ($29,500/pair), but for RMAF 2015 introduced a new wrinkle in the form of its new XT-3 floorstander ($36,500/pair). Visually, the XT-3 looks nearly identical to the X-3, but with a thin coating of titanium overlaid upon the X-3’s ceramic mid-bass drivers. Sonically, difference between the X-3 and Xt-3 is very much analogous to the difference between Raidho’s C 1.1 monitor (which uses a ceramic mid-bass driver) as compared to the firm’s almost identical-looking D-1 monitor (which uses a ceramic mid-bass driver with a diamond/carbonite coating).  In both cases already excellent loudspeakers becomes even better.

Given how slim the XT-3 and X-3 towers are, one perhaps could be forgiven for wondering about maximum output levels, but Raidho put such concerns to rest by playing—purely for the fun of it—a raucous Rammstein heavy-metal track at absolutely ludicrous volume levels. The XT-3s seemed to like this a lot, as did the enthusiastic listeners in the room. 

Russ Andrews

For RMAF 2015 Russ Andrews introduced a good/better/best range of power conditioner/power distribution products collectively know as X8 Power Blocks (so named, I think, because each model offers eight AC mains sockets).  The X8 Power Blocks are offered in three forms: the Enthusiast model ($1,878), the Professional model ($4,785), and the aptly named Perfectionist model ($10,153).

Synergistic Research

As has been his practice at the last several audio shows I have attended, Synergistic President Ted Denney was showing his undeniably exotic and unorthodox suite of room/component tuning accessories, many of which appear to hover right on that grey and oh-so-fuzzy line between advanced technology and the audio equivalent of outright wizardry or magic.  Among the products on display were Synergistic’s Atmosphere power cord, the Black Box LF Resonator Array, the Atmosphere multi-channel signal generator/acoustic wave generator, and multiple sets of the firm’s tiny HFT high-frequency transducer devices.

Frankly, Synergistic’s tuning products stray so far from the beaten path that it would be tempting to dismiss them out of hand but for one thing: they work. They really work, and in fairly obvious, repeatable, and readily demonstrable ways. The fact is that visiting the Synergistic Research room at an audio show is a bit like witnessing a truly first-rate magic act; you walk away wowed by what you have just seen and heard, but without having any concrete idea as to how the results were accomplished. For obvious reasons, further serious investigation is indicated.

Vinnie Rossi

Vinnie Rossi thinks outside the box and as a result his audio components offer desirable combinations of features and functions not found anywhere else. For RMAF, Vinnie Rossi was demonstrating a system based an Acoustic Signature turntable, on his own LIO ultracapacitor-powered, ‘modular hi-fi’ system ($4,875 and up) and on his new, also ultracapacitor-powered VR120 power amplifier ($4,995), plus a set of Harbeth’s new model 40.2 monitor-type loudspeakers.

This LIO is not so much a singular component, but rather a flexible audio component platform that can be configured as an integrated amplifier, a valve-type preamplifier, a phono preamplifier, a high-res DSD/PCM DAC, a headphone amplifier, or virtually any combination of the above. But the LIO defining, signature feature is its patent-pending ultracapacitor power supply design, where the LIO incorporates two banks of ultracapacitors with one bank powering the unit while the other bank recharges. An extremely fast and low noise switching mechanism allows the LIO to alternate between banks of capacitors in real time, ensuring that the LIO has a continuous, consistent, and very low-noise supply of power that is capable, where necessary, of delivering large quantities of current on demand.

New for RMAF is Vinnie Rossi’s 120 Wpc VR120 power amplifier, which uses an even more beefy version of the LIO’s ultracapacitor power supply (Rossi has named this the PURE DC-4EVR power supply). According to Rossi, the supply means the VR120 enjoys silent, “black” backgrounds without any need for “expensive power filters, power cords, or conditioners.

 

VTL

VTL teamed with dCS and Wilson Audio to offer a suave and sophisticated demonstration that highlighted the firm’s TP-6.5 signature phono stage with MC step-up ($12,000), TL-6.5 Series II signature linestage preamplifier ($15,000), and MB-185 Series III signature valve-type monoblock power amplifiers ($17,500).

Interestingly, both the VTL and dCS components in the demo system represented offerings ‘one click down’ from their respective manufacturer’s top-of-the-range products, but you really wouldn’t have guessed this from the system’s sound (well, unless you had the top-of-the-range models on hand for direct comparison). Even so, my thought was that these ‘one step down’ models might represent true sweet spots in their manufacturer’s product lines, offering near-mountaintop performance at an expensive but significantly lower-than-mountaintop price.

Historically, Luke Manley of VTL has a gift for configuring demo systems using Wilson loudspeakers (in this instance, Wilson’s comparatively affordable Sabrina floorstanders, priced at $15,900/pair), that deliver a well-balanced, revealing and sophisticate sound and this year’s dCS/VTL/Wilson system proved no exception. Nordost Odin 2 cabling no doubt helped in this venture.

Wilson Audio

Wilson Audio teamed with VTL (Vacuum Tube Logic) and dCS in a demo system highlighting one of Wilson’s least expensive loudspeakers: the three-way, $15,900/pair Sabrinas. The Sabrinas have been out long enough at this stage that they perhaps no longer qualify as being truly ‘new’ products, but I must say that every time I hear them I walk away thinking that they might well be one of Wilson’s most musically communicative and seductive offerings, as the dCS/VTL/Wilson system once again demonstrated.

Wyred4Sound

Wyred4Sound was showing a very exciting prototype of its new 250Wpc Statement amp ($4,000) and its new Intimo headphone amplifier/DAC, which will be offered in both single-ended ($999) and balanced-output ($1,500) formats. 

YG Acoustics

Having spent the past year and a half in promoting their Carmel 2 and Hailey 1.2 loudspeakers, the firm felt it was time to direct attention to YG’s flagship speaker: the Sonja. Sonja’s are offered in two forms: the two-module/channel Sonja 1.2 and the considerably larger three-module/channel Sonja 1.3 ($106,800). Both models were featured in three different rooms: GTT Audio’s YG/Audionet room (featuring Sonja 1.3s), Jeff Rowland Design Group’s Rowland/YG room (featuring Sonja 1.2s), and PS Audio’s PS Audio/YG room (based on Sonja 1.3s). 

I was only able to visit two of the three rooms (the Rowland room and the PS Audio room). In both those setting the speakers ably served the purpose of showing (most of) the potential of the new flagship electronics components used to drive them. However, based on prior listening experiences with the Sonjas, I felt that even though these demonstrations of YG’s top-of-the-range loudspeaker showed substantial performance potential, they still had even more to give.

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