A few systems heard at the Rocky Mntn. audiofest

I sure didn't hear them all, and I'm not about to say that my fave is the show's best system, but here are a few observations.

1. Most rooms I didn't even walk into as they were either too crowded or were playing diddeebopper trash that I RUN away from.
2. The Intuitive Design speakers room was playing an acoustic-bass recording that sounded EXCELLENT. It was closely miked and the bassist was doing lots of whacking and clacking, and the bass really did sound real. Didn't hear anything else there. Their literature reads as if their 2 systems will be QUITE expensive.
3. Herron was demoing prototypes of new, big speakers and subwoofers, and the short piece of the Reference recording of the Rutter Requium sounded VERY good.
4. North Creek's new Advanced Ribbon Technologies Division was playing their new Metro hybrid ribbon system. Only about 3' high, it used a single MR/treble ribbon and a 7" vented woofer. The system had almost no bottom-octave energy and a little too much treble for my taste, but it sounded VERY coherent. Too bad it'll retail for some $7 - $8K/pair.
5. Bruce Thigpen of Eminent Technology was demoing his new Thigpen Rotary Woofer (TRW) system. This thing is going to be a hit with well-moneyed home-theater fans, as it'll generate high SPLs with VERY little distortion at frequencies as low as ONE Hertz! Several of us heard continuous tones at 16Hz.; below that I felt rather than heard the energy. At 2 Hertz it was flapping the room's door about an inch peak-to-peak! 'Only' $13K.
6. The only ABSOLUTELY GREAT-sounding system for me was AvantGarde's Duo horn-based system, driven by Thor tubed preamp and amps. WOW!!!!!! I've never heard big, expensive, horn-based systems before, and it literally had me in tears with, again, the Rutter Requium. I played a lot of my CD of the EMI/Boult Holst Planets, and I was truly amazed at the tonal naturalness, soundstage size, imaging specificity, etc.
So, J, I take it you're saving up for a horn :)??

At least you won't need to spend giga$ on kW class A amplification to drive these...
They weren't even playing music through the horn it was all noise and I don't see there being a practical use for that thing any time soon. Even people with a big house would need an addition for the tunnel system that was setup in the next room.

RMAF sure sounded better than CES and the people were nicer too! One of the best rooms was the Sonus Faber room with fairly inexpensive gear. The retail was about $10,000 but it bettered some big buck rooms.

More comments to follow...
1. Greg, no, I'm not, even if I already have a pair of great amps (ASL 805s, 50-Watt SETs) to drive them. I'm VERY happy with my Eminent Technology 8s, biamped, with Quicksilver V4s on the MR/treble drivers.

2. "They (sic) weren't even playing music through the horn (sic) it was all noise and I don't see there being a practical use for that thing any time soon. Even people with a big house would need an addition for the tunnel system that was setup in the next room."
Huh? It appears you're thoroughly confusing AvantGarde's horn system with Eminent Technology's Rotary Woofer. Those were sine waves, Nrchy; never heard any before? Yes, the Rotary Woofer requires another chamber to operate from, but that's just the price for SOTA bottom-octave and infrasonic bass. I HAVE the room; if only I had $13K to blow on a woofer system!

The 'noise' I heard at RMAF 2005 was all that diddeebopper trash that was thumping and screetching in so many rooms.
You're right, I didn't read your thread closely enough, or maybe having gotten up at 4AM to fly home has something to do with it. I have LPs and CDs with sine waves, what I was getting at was the idea that it would have been helpful to hear something that could be recognized as something 'musical.'

There were some instances of poor musical selections. Vetterone and I were talking to one of the guys from the B&W/Classe room when the guys across the hall opened their door and started playing some truly repugnant country type music - loudly! After a minute or Steve went across and gently slammed the door shut. I'm still laughing!

Anyway, you were right and I was wrong - again!!!
Jeffrey, who was demonstrating the AG horns?

Specifically, was it the manufacturer, the US distributor or a particular dealer?

Nrchy, no problem. :-)

I think Bruce needs to increase his promotion efforts including bringing a full ET-based HT system to these shows.

We'll see.

The AvantGarde horn system still sounded WONDERFUL.
A dealer, Alpen Audio, with Thor electronics.
Why let the music chase you away?

I don't get it, are you there to listen to music and hear systems and components or dump on other peoples' musical tastes?

There's a good chance that the music playing was a request from a visitor to the room, who happens to like that type of music. The exhibitor will politely let the visitor play a song, and if the music was, um, less than pleasant to the ears, it will go off quickly and the system is open for the next song.

Chances also are that the exhibitor will welcome your request.

In otherwords, don't sh*tcan the room because you heard a song that YOU personally do not like. Another person might roll their eyes at YOUR selection, but that's no reason to reject the exhibit room.

You're also the loser because you didn't have the patience and tolerance to wait it out for a couple of minutes. You may have missed a great system!
I agree with Golden ears.
Golden ears and Plelko,

Respectfully, I must disagree with your assumption. I did bother to sit and listen in many rooms and wasn't given an opportunity to choose the software. I'm not sure what these folks were trying to accomplish except showcase some sonic attributes of their gear but they were not playing music. My impression is that many vendors were reluctant to offer up real world music which covered a large frequency range. So, I was trained by the very people that wanted to sell to me to not bother sticking around.

I'm very sympathetic to the setup constaints these folks faced in these smaller rooms. Perhaps the source material used was a result of failing to overcome the room problems. The thing is, those that did know how to overcome these issues were fearless in what they presented to the listener. These were the rooms that I enjoyed most.

I could be wrong but it seems that many vendors were unprepared for showing their wares. That's not the listeners fault.
Mr. Behr, I want to thank you for your response to our demo. It was a joy to have you in our room. I love to see people get emotionally engaged with the music. You seemed to truly enjoy it.
Hi Lugnut,

I'm glad to hear you were well enough to make it to the RMAF, and I hope you enjoyed it.

My experience is that there are very few rooms at CES events where I have not been able to go in and ask them to play a CD that I had.

You said that you were not "given the opportunity to choose the software", which is ambiguous. Does that mean you asked and were refused, or that no one offered you the opportunity, which is an entirely different thing. One has to speak-up if they want to play something.

The only time that this is difficult is when the room is being exhibited "presentation style", like the way Jeff Joseph does it. But even he will let people throw a disc n the player between "shows". I know there are exceptions to the rule, but most rooms will let you play a CD.

I have seen more intolerance in room visitors at shows, the guys that peek inside, shake their head and walk away like they are some kind of expert or something. (What were you looking-for anyway?) Or the goofs walking down the hall bitching about the type of music playing in a room after not even hanging around for more tha a minute to see how things really sound. Or the narrow-minded twits who think Classical music is the ONLY type of music, and absolutely refuse to stay in a room that plays anything else, and are rude enough to say-so and everybody around hears it.

These shows are great - our chance to hear almost everything in one place. If someone is REALLY interested in hearing things that they have not heard before, and compare them to other components, this is their opportunity. How many times do we read threads on Audiogon, where people are offering their "opinions" and advice, informed or not, about the difference between different components? Here is a chance to actually take some time and listen.

So why avoid a room just because you don't like the music playing? It'll only take a couple of minutes to wait it out, and then try something yourself!
Golden ears,

Thanks for the support for my visit to FMAF. As perhaps you can guess I was not in a position to assert myself. Not even in this thread. My post honestly said it all.

Having spent a lifetime earning my living in retail sales I know how to behave if I want to peddle something. I also have a profound understanding of sales behavior when one is less than confident in their product or themselves as salespeople.

For myself the over-riding factor in not being assertive (beyond my physical limits) was there were plenty of other rooms to visit where my needs were satisfied. Perhaps at a different time I would have worked harder to get them involved in my interests.

I'm not upset with anyone there showing gear. These were just my honest observations. I did not shake my head nor bitch about the music being played within earshot of anyone and I certainly don't consider myself any kind of audio expert. I got as much out of this event as I wanted. Nothing more, nothing less.

One point where even my critics will support me is that Lugnut is never ambiguous. If I take the time waiting to sit in the sweet spot, with my wife no less, and no interest is shown in me as a potential buyer then I guess I'm guilty of being less than physchic in answering questions that are not asked of me. If one is in sales it behooves them to understand, meet, greet, qualify, demonstrate and close unless the customer is supposed to be responsible for everything.

There is nothing more ambiguous than standing there having nothing to say to a customer. But then, perhaps I'm a dinosaur.
Golden, I wasn't there to hear every system in every room. I was there to see and re-meet a couple manufacturers who have turned into friends over the years, to attend several seminars that looked (and were) worth my time, and to hear some systems that seemed worth my time. I also think I was looking for a little validation of my goals in reproduced music. For instance, does my system really sound as good as I think it does? Have my tastes tilted the frequency balance* significantly? I had no responsibility to listen to all or even most systems there--I'm no reporter trying to cover everything and perhaps discover a jewel among the stones. I was there to enjoy myself, and 'enjoy' didn't include entering rooms with obnoxious music playing at too-high levels. We didn't walk the halls bitching about anything, we just went down the hall to the next rooms.

I found the people in the rooms I got into to be friendly and accommodating.

* My biamped system is HIGHLY adjustable in frequency balance, and I love to tweak, so 'adjustable' can be as much for the worst as the better.
I think this thread is very useful and potentially even more so if we can get past the personal issues. I'd appreciate other people sharing their listening strategies.

I find that I'm unable to assess an audio setup when the recorded music is amplified, synthesized or highly processed in its origin, since in that case it is much harder to know what the original performance (if any) would have sounded like. Therefore, I'm also one of those people that won't stick around unless the audition software is classical or acoustic music of some kind, played at a natural volume. How many people feel the same way about evaluating equipment, even though their listening tastes might embrace a much wider selection of recorded music?

Even in the case of classical and other acoustic music, modern mixing practices often result in a sound picture that is significantly different from the live performance. Especially in the categories of "soundstage" and "balance", what you hear is partly the recording engineer's re-interpretation or manipulation of the sound. I sometimes have trouble knowing what the playback equipment is doing or not doing in those areas, even when listening to what I consider to be an optimal source for evaluation, such as chamber music or a jazz ensemble.

Feedback welcome from anyone who has worked through any of these issues.
One way to eliminate one variable--an unfamiliar piece of music or recording--is to bring your own. That's what I did. The Rutter recording played in the Herron room sounded very nice, but I had NO idea what it sounds like on ANY other system.

Because I am HIGHLY familiar with the recording I brought, the first 10 seconds in the AvantGarde room gave me a good idea how that system sounded, and 15 minutes of it told me the system sounded VERY good. This Boult/Holst Planets is simply my favorite piece of evaluation music--I LOVE the work AND the performance AND the recording.
I went to the show as well.It has been many years since I went to one.approx.10 years ago at a Stereophile show in S.F.CA.
My reference is live classical music since thats what I've been playing in our local symphony for the past 15 years as a bass trombone player for The Skagit Symphony.
I had spoke briefly to Albert Porter about my lack of enthusiasm I heard with the sound of most the sytems at the show.
Almost none of them generated any true acuarate deep bass or mid bass foundation to the music.Most sytems were tipped up on the top end,and lean and light in the mid bass and non existent in the deep bass with a couple of exceptions.
The Herron room presented music with its proper weight in this area as well as the Sumiko room with the 5k Rel Sub in the corner of the back wall.One fellow asked to play a chinese drum CD I beleive and the whole room was shaking and vibrating with so much undistorted dynamic slam.What a treat it was to hear and feel that.
I was dissapointed with the sound of the ZYX Universe.I know I might be stepping on peoples toes by saying this,But it just was not acurately portraying the acoustic trail of the reverberation surounding individual instruments or voices.Oddly the cartridge sounded lean and bright in the upper mid band with the sound to forward sounding even more so on the ZYX 3B.It also lacked power and depth in the deep bass and midbass.But this is coming from my trained ears as a musician for 35 years.If you want high fi sound then I guess that is what this cartridge does,But IMO I'm a Raul converter and just simply love the Dynavector XX by a very wide margin over the ZYX Cartridges.
But I still had a great exausting time at the show.I had the 3 day pass and needed all of the 3 days to hear a little from most the rooms.I missed the AG horns .I guess I need to go next year and hear that.
The other room I liked was the Oracle V Turntable with their own special made preamp.The Oracle table sounded so much like real music being played.It had the coerence from bottom to top that all the other tables were missing by a wide margin IMO.
Well if next year is anything like this year they will need to extend the show and extra day and getting larger rooms would help acostically the systems being shown.

Your impressions mirror mine regarding the lack of full frequency source material. To everyone else, I don't take exception at all to what Golden_ears suggests. Also, I didn't take his post as a criticism of me nor was my reply meant as a response to a supposed personal attack.

Also, you won't go wrong with a Dynavector doublebass. Be aware though that the first Airy 3 S SB I saw at the show had some kind of problem that was glaringly apparent to me with the first note I heard. It appeared to be mounted correctly or at least close enough. Maybe it was loaded improperly. What I heard was exactly what you describe. I can't remember the name of the room but I did tell them upon leaving that I owned the exact cartridge they were using and they had a problem. I'm only sharing this if this is the same cartridge you auditioned. Again, I love the Dyna's too.

I listen to more live music than most people I know. My preference is for jazz, blues and bluegrass. Realizing that this type of music is usually amplified vs. classical which is not causes some conflict in audiophile circles about comparrison of components. I honestly fail to see a difference here. One simply needs to listen to a source you're very familiar with backed up with experience as a live listener of that source. For myself I don't concentrate on audiophile recordings upon audition. (just to be clear, I consider many generic first pressings to be superior to their re-issued counterparts) I've enjoyed the advantage of knowing a lot of good musicians and have jammed with them for several decades, using mostly acoustic instruments, unamplified. I'm very familiar with the voices of these instruments and feel that it's a very valuable asset to bring into the auditioning of any component. To my ears you can bring as much value to the audition with experience such as mine vs. intimate listening experience of classical. Certainly, it is easier to evaluate anything if you have a live reference.

I have a few vocal benchmarks of artists I've heard many times. I worked with the Kingston Trio three times for three week stretches each, two performances each day. I know Bob Shane's voice. Willie Nelson and Neil Young are artists that I've heard many times and who remain faithful to the recordings when playing live. These are the voices I use during audition.

Listening at various volumes is an often overlooked aspect of auditioning. Take charge of the volume control. I try to buy components that portray accurately what I'm listening to at any volume. If I don't hear the details or bass response at lesser volumes then I develop the opinion that I need to find something else.

Back in the good old days when I had a really great local high end shop I could audition components in my home for extended periods. Under those circumstances I could tell more when a piece is removed from my system than upon first listen. If this were still a common practice I'd likely continue to buy retail.

I hope one can gain a little from my eperience here. Auditioning is a real challenge. I recall fondly those individuals throughout my life that helped me develop a modicum of skills for auditioning. Best advice? Work on your audio memory of live events. If you go to a rock concert then come home and listen to the same material. Do the same thing with any live music you attend, even if it's just to compare your memory of a tenor sax live vs. a recording you know well of the same instrument.
Thanks for your response.I know I have seen posts previously on the Audiogon about how outstanding the ZYX is,But I was really taken back from what I heard at the show,and did not consider the musical presentation true to the live source.It was as if someone had eq'd up atleast +6 db from 4K to 15K and then -6DB from 16k to 20K.Thats how the ZYX Universe sounded to me,and the ZYX 3B was bright,hard,brittle,lean in the bass and no bass fullness or power.I'm wishing that these cartridges properly set up don't sound this way.
My experience with anything cryo treated should reveal in a musical presentation deep bass,and a very natural extended top end,with a huge wall to wall soundstage with layer depth of field eteched throughout that soundstage.
Having exhibited at the shows for some 16 years now, I have found that the only way to survive the show is to play the music that I like personally. My taste is not that of the average audiophile- I like new material a lot, from ambient to punk, metal to classical and a lot in between. I especially like things with big bass, 'cause I just do.

I've heard the female vocals with light jazz backup a little too much in my time and so I don't bring any to shows. Exhibitors have to live with the music they bring and I get tired of ripping my fingernails while trying to climb the walls :)

I don't doubt that someone passing by would not like everything we play- I'm a big fan of Porcupine Tree and King Crimson, but most people don't even know who Porcupine Tree even is. Shame on you if you don't know King Crimson- they've only been around for 36 years. Islands is a real treat on a good system with original vinyl...

Anyway, if you are at a show- bring your own LPs or CDs and if the exhibitor will not play your selection *then* leave- not before! If their system is really all that great, they will be happy to show it off.

You may have to be patient, as a previous request may already be playing. IOW if you go through all that trouble to get to an audio show, and then are put off by a cut someone happens to be playing, you could be shooting yourself in the foot.
Golden ears, just to clarify my statement about being put off by someone's music. Steve and I went to the Classe room to talk with one of their sales people to get some specific information. I have one of their amps and had to know something about the construction. Since there were people in the room listening to the system, we retreated to the corridor. We were getting some very good information and advice when the room across the hall began playing some poor sounding music at loud volume. The music interfered with our ability to converse.

If the people in the room were enjoying the music, good for them. They could enjoy it just as well with the door closed. We could not conduct business with their music blaring, and yes, the conversation led to a sale.

I was not walking down the hall closing doors indescrimately because I did not like the music. There was a specific reason for not wanting to listen to the music in one room.

I'm not disagreeing with Mr Atmasphere. We are not talking about the same thing.

I'm not familiar with that King Crimson LP, I might have to look for it.