Best of RMAF 2008

For those who attended the 2008 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest this past weekend, what were your favorites? (If you're a dealer or manufacturer, please name products *other* than the ones you sell or manufacture.)

This was my second year attending RMAF, and I found that I enjoyed many of the same products that I heard last year, although there were some new discoveries, and I had some different impressions from hearing the same equipment this year.

Regarding speakers: I was smitten with the Feastrex concentric speaker drivers. They sounded good in the Maxxhorns, but I thought the Feastrex room (particularly the one with the tall Arusha models) really stood apart. They also make their own tube amplifiers and preamp, and those sounded remarkably good. Very natural, balanced tone with good definition and sense of space.

Other speakers that impressed me this year were the large Joseph Audio RM55LE's. I liked their smaller speakers last year as well, so this came as no surprise. What did surprise me was that they sounded so good with the Bel Canto class D monoblocks, which sounded awful last year. Obviously, the quality of the sound those amps produce has a lot to do with the choice of speaker.

I also give kudos to the giant Yokohama Baysidenet speakers. They looked a little bit like space aliens, but the sound was quite good. I didn't imagine they could get that much bass from such a small driver, but if anything, the room was too small for them. Very nice design.

Although there were a number of interesting horn speakers, I'd have to say that my favorites were the AvantGarde duos. Nice neutral sound, good imaging, good bass.

As amplifiers go, I do enjoy the single-ended tube amp sound, and this year was no exception. I think I was perhaps most impressed with either the Feastrex amps, or the Tektron Italia's, which I somehow missed last year. The Tektrons were paired with some nice concentric speakers, I believe they were called Ridge-? Other pleasant surprises included the German-built Thoress amplifiers, which exhibited some of the finest qualities of tube amplification to my ears, although they seemed somewhat constrained by the speakers they were paired with. The deHavilland room had some new Kara Chafee amps, the "KE" models, which I enjoyed very much. I thought they had a somewhat tubier, warmer sound than the standard deHavilland monoblocks, but they were very inviting. Of course, it's hard to go wrong with the Wilson Benesch speakers, although I think I prefer the smaller "bookshelf" type speakers to the uprights.

As usual, there were a number of really excellent turntables on display (although fewer this year than last, it seemed - I hope that trend is reversed next year). If I had to choose a favorite, I'd say it was the TW Acustics 4-armed model in the Thoress room, playing a very fine Ortofon cartridge and tonearm.

As digital sources go, there were a number of nice cd players, but being a Squeezebox fan I was partial to the Modwright tube-modified Transporter.

I may have to amend this list as other items come to mind, but those are my favorites from this year's RMAF.

Some rooms I really enjoyed:

Oswald Mills
Linkwitz (Orions) -- first time hearing them and I was impressed
I liked the Soundsmith room so much that I bought a wood-bodied version of The Voice moving iron cartridge and several 45-rpm LP dups, direct from Peter Ledermann's Neuman lathe.

I'm travelling a lot, so I won't be able to mount the cartridge for a few weeks, but the dups are stunning. If you like guitar based music, check out Ledermann's record company at


I had a Tandberg receiver that I somewhat regret not sending to Soundsmith to get tuned up rather than selling.

Their cartridges and other equipment caught my eye in the process and I have heard some very good things. Will look forward to your assessment!
Yeah, I wish it wasn't going to be so long before I can put it in my system.


Thanks for mentioning our room. I'm glad you liked it, and it was really nice meeting so many of you AudiogoN guys.

We were somewhat apprehensive about the size of the room, but it worked out fine. I suppose all any manufacturer can do is try to plan ahead, and keep his fingers crossed because in the end, it is only the performance in that given space that counts. Overall, we are plenty happy with it.

Also, thanks to those who liked my turntable. I worked very hard developing it, but I admit that as a designer I have always been a bit self-conscious about my work. So, when someone, anyone, appreciates it, I am absolutely beside myself.

Vienna Acoustics " The Music"/ Rowland/ Soundings
Von Schweikert VR-9's/Vac
Von Schweikert VR-5 Anniversaries/Moscode
Joseph Audio RM55 se/Bel Canto
Acoustic Zen Maestro's/Halcro

These are not in any particular order and liked these systems for various reasons. The Vr-5 Anniversaries could have sounded even better with a bit more room.
Kubala-Sosna/Mcintosh/Bryston/Audio Epilog Issa
I would love to upload photos if anyone can make them available for download. Please let me know.

I am going to post a comprehensive show review with a few limitations. The equipment I own I did not listen to. This includes the Highwater Sound room. It sounded so much better w. the Hornings setup in Jeffs place it wasn't worth listening. Also, I didn't listen to any Wilson rooms. I have them so why bother. Also, day 3 of the show is when most rooms truly began to sound their best. The rooms I heard on day 1 (Friday) usually sounded poor.

Going from memory & my pictures:

The 1st day. Me & a few Agon members went together. We all seemed to agree in our sound biases within reason.

JM Lab Grand Utopia EM. In theory these speakers should blow me away. I really like the original Grand Utopia Be but I didn't care for the new ones. Something wrong w. the setup on the 1st day? Or maybe, the associated equipment - Boulder vs. VTL which I love. If they only played the speakers w. an SET since they are so efficient I would have probably fallen in love. As they were used in a controled demo, they sounded dry and my seat, while not bad didn't help.

Vivid Audio Room. Got offered some Irish Whisky by Philip Ohanlon. What a great guy. I couldn't make it due to too much to do & not enough time. But this room was a revelation. They played a simple Luxman 30 Watt Class A integrated amp in a very large room, w. the Vivid speakers. This sounded musical and great. They played CD through a Luxman CD player which also sounded great. And they played some Master TApe. This was incredible. We all loved it. And the CD was very good as well. I love the simplicity of the integrated w. the Vivid speakers. What a room. They were using the Synergistic Research cables & some active shielding. They turned it on & off. Me & my friends all felt it sounded better w. it off when using master tape. Better turned on w. CD. Go figure. The Luxman integrated deserves to be on a short list. It didn't sweat & I could see the meters the entire time.

The Von Schweikert VR9s didn't sound too great. But the next day the new VR3s? sounded incredible. The Hansens (big ones) sounded just like they are described in the review I read on the flight back in TAS. Enough said. I have heard them elsewhere and they can sound better but their character is as described. Nice to know that reviews can be spot on. If you want a summary, slightly bright but nice overall. They were using a Clearaudio Goldfinger that I was interested in. But noone could set it up. I listened to this room a few times. Both w. digital & analogue.

The Oswald Mills room, w. the Slate Table & the Horn Speakers. I actually really liked this room a lot. A beautiful natural sound that was not hifi at all. I don't like the looks of the speakers. I do of the turntable. I can't isolate anything apart, but he was playing the horns w. 2A3 tube amps. So SWEET. I just loved it. Maybe too sweet, but I think I could live with it. A friend tried his amp instead of the 2A3 amps and everything just went bye bye. So as a system I really liked it. And what cartridge was playing? The Voice from Soundsmith. A great cartridge. I wanted to buy it, but I spent all my money on Vinyl. A great collection that I got to sift through. It made my day.

I am at the bottom here and some people will get upset if they read this far, but I didn't care for the strain guage. Every time I hear it I find it thin & detailed. Not my sound. As a contrast I love the Voice. Great body. Sounds like music. People say the strain guage never shows itself off at shows, but no having compared it to the Voice which I heard in a few rooms, I can say it is not the room, but the cartridge. I have heard it in other shows as well. Some might love it as it can resolve detail extremely well, but I want a fuller (more tone) sound. The Voice is one of those great bargains in cartridges. If you want a cartridge to do it all, for cheap get it. $2200 Retail. From what others say, no one wants to say how good it is for fear of hurting sales of higher end cartridges. They just might be right.

Rooms I heard that I remember but left no impression include the RAAL room. Cool speakers, but I was told they had problems when I bumped into them on day 3. Probably true. Atmasphere in any room w. the Classic Audio Reproduction Speakers. My friend loved it. I didn't. I realize I don't like in your face tweeters (and I have Wilsons, what does that tell you.) and the TAD tweeters didn't do it. Any speaker sporting Bereylium tweeters just sounded wrong for me. A little hissy. As a friend of mine explained, like they are spitting. So well put.

Feel free to email w. questions etc.
I would echo Dgad's comments about the Oswald Mills room.. I liked the sound of the speakers (and I'm not generally a fan of horns), but I'm not sure if it was just a good first impression, or whether it was the kind of sound I could actually live with.

I'm also not so enamored of the Soundsmith Strain Gauge. Generally, I found the Soundsmith room hard to assess. Am I the only person who heard their speakers distorting at higher volumes? The tiny space almost certainly diminished the soundstage, but just in general, those speakers had problems.
I bought an ebony The Voice. I think it's a great cartridge.

Finally, I can give my more detailed impressions of RMAF 08,
First off it was a great atmosphere, their is a friendly vibe that CES does not have. I did not have a chance to hear everything but who can, but from what I did hear which was about 70% of the rooms, here are my impressions.


The Saskia Idler is the real deal. It produced the famous Idler PRATT, without the loss of Transparency(tone). This is a very special product, with a big future. Congrats Win! You have raised bar very high.

I liked the Raven in the high water sound room, and the
Sprial Grove in the few rooms I heard it in, these are seriously good tables.


I liked the Classic Audio reproductions room. These are not your fathers Classic Audio Reproductions, these are a whole new animal. I have heard their speakers progress over the years, in the past I thought their older speakers were great rock and roll speakers, with their big dynamics, but thought they lacked the finesse I was used to, this is no longer the case. The new field coil T 1's are still big, bold, dynamic, but now they have the finesse I was looking for. I would love to hear them with a different pair of amps to see if a more iron grip on the bass could be had. Overall GREAT GREAT Room.

The Oswaldsmills room very special. What I find amazing is how enjoyable I found this room, and how enjoyable many others felt it was, under the show conditions. Sure every room is in the same boat "show conditions", but one look at the physical size of these speakers should tell you this is not a speaker for a hotel room. I don't think the pictures I have seen truly capture the scale of these speakers they are 7 feet tall. This speaker system was not heard ANYWHERE near its full potential. The limited listening distance was a huge limiting factor to me, here more than any other room I heard. But still this speaker showed it amazing dynamics and remarkable tonal balance. I would also love to hear these with a more powerful amp. Two watts just can not provide enough bass for any speaker. I would like to put 20 watts on these. I expect these will be SCARY good with a 16-20 foot listening distance so the drivers can "gel", and 8-20 SET watts. These speaker are what SET AMPS are all about. This room was obviously aided by Win's AWESOME turntable. Great Room Guys!!!!

I also enjoyed the Vivid Speakers with the Reel to Reel.
When the tape was playing they were AWESOME. When the turntable was playing they became merely very good ; 0 ).
Source is King, this was further reinforced to me.

Other rooms of interest.

The Da Vinci room and the High Water Sound rooms were very nice sounding, they had sweet, beautiful, balanced tone, only downside not full range.

The JM Labs and Hansen rooms, were cold, lean, thin, and lacked body, horrible displays of big dollar equipment.

The Feastrex room with 5 inch field coil the driver shows potential but the cabinet is still is not right. If this speakers upper octaves were not so sweet and musical I would not bother to complain, but they are. I think their is magic to be had with these drivers, I just have not heard it yet. My complaint the bass is out of step with the music.

The Lansche/Wavac/Continuum room was very musical and balanced, and had great tone. However, it lacked the dynamics of the Oswalds Mill and the Classic Audio Reproductions rooms.

The best small speaker were the little Reimyo Speakers at $6500.00 in the Reimyo Room. I was ready to have them boxed it up, they sounded so good and were so small. I was thinking they would be a great office speakers or for a small listening room. In the limited bandwidth speakers group these are a serious rival to the Magico Mini 2's, and actually better in my mind. How is that for being a great bang for the buck!! Very Very nice.

Just my 2 cents.
I am up to day 2 of the RMAF show. I started at the Hyatt. The rooms on day 2 sounded much better than the rooms on day 1. Goes to show how equipment needs time to settle down. If any of you have done cable comparisons and you notice the system doesn't sound as good after moving your cables. For some reason, cables & tubes & equipment needs to settle. Day 2 was good and there was not enough time to listen on Day 3.

To start, I heard Mastersound 845 monoblocks in a large room in the Hyatt. They were driving a speaker which I really liked. I think it was made in Europe or Turkey but I didn't get the name. Ribbon tweeter on top of speaker cabinet and 3 woofer/ midbass units. One driver facing forward and 2 drivers facing back. The room was large. Very large. And it sounded great. They had lots of blue bottles of water on the table. I didn't listen extensively but it was suprisingly good. Decent dynamics and able to image everywhere. Something to be said for space. The speakers were well out into the room.

I also listened to Acoustic Zen w. Halcro electronics. They had a guitarist playing via the electronics and speakers the night before. Not bad. But for regular listening it wasn't my cup of tea.

I went into the GR Research / AV123 Dodd Audio Room. What a deal for these speakers. $7000.00 for a full range linear array w. a ton of drivers. Talk about getting your money worth. The sound was very good for the money. I have a feeling it could be even better. Something was not just right. I couldn't put my finger on it but they were busy adjusting the room for quite a while w. some crossover equipment.

I then heard the Scaena speakers for the 1st time. They were using VTL S400 amps w. DCS as the front end. These speakers are something special. They sounded excellent, but then again I like the VTL house sound which showed through. The DCS also is excellent. The speakers were easy for me to judge being all the electronics were familiar. 1st of all, these speakers had a custom paint job the looked so cool. 2nd, they are an array w. ribbons. I have a feeling this speaker will only get more poplular over time. They aren't cheap. I also think they might need a touch more development. They are so middle of the road. Basically they did everything well. I gave them a good 1/2 hour & would consider buying them if I was in the market again. But..... there was something missing. I need more time to get to know them.

I will mention a few rooms quickly. I heard the medium Ascendos w. the Behold electronics. They were missing a cable so they couldn't equalize the room. So I was explained. I thought I would love the room, but it was bright. We turned on & off the tweeter in the rear of the speaker but it was still bright. In the end I found a lot of rooms bright. My ears??? Not sure but I am home and nothing is bright & I have Wilsons (which people say is bright).

I heard the Harbeth 40s. I can see why some like them, but beyond the ergonomics, I could hear the box. Mind you the box is musical so some might like it. I also heard Ayon electronics w. Escalante Speakers. They were using a decent analogue front end when I came in. I have heard Escalante Speakers a few times now. They fall outside my taste.

I then headed over to the Marriot. I got lost on the ground floor buying records for a long while and decided to stop and finally listen to more rooms. That will be a 2nd post.
I really enjoyed the Voloce mono's with battery powered preamp. They made the Kharma speakers sound wonderful.
I am back. Day 2 Part 2 & the Marriot is the scene. So many rooms & no time. How do you really get to listen to it all. How do you prioritize. I basically ask others what did they hear that they like. I ended up getting stuck downstairs by a bunch of rooms that were all fairly expensive and a few were surprising in both good & bad ways.

In a theater size room a very large pair of Classic Audio Reproductions Speakers w. TAD drivers that are very expensive, and Atmasphere electronics I was able to listen almost totaly alone in the room. The sound was good. I didn't love it. Found it a little bright. This is my impression of TAD tweeters. Not very mind you, but a touch. Still I wouldn't buy these speakers but some would.

Verity Audio w. Artemis Labs electronics. Not bad but I didn't really stop to sit.

I then heard Analysis Audio ribbon full range speakers and VTL MB450s with VTL phono preamp, VPI TT, and VTL preamp. The sound was excellent. I happen to like these speakers a lot. But I like Apogees of the past. Not huge bass, but good enough. It is very hard to get bass from Ribbon panels. Definitely worth consideration, but getting a bass tower/subwoofer would be amazing. Hard to explain the sound, but full size images that are well defined and with detail but not in your face. The images had nice height and speed and decay of notes was very realistic. Coherence in spades. But to integrate bass and you need a balanced room to make them work. EMM was the other source. I am familiar w. VTL & EMM so I know what I heard as a reference to the speakers.

I should mention VTL's new phono stage. Something very unique in terms of convenience. Full remote control, uses 8 tubes, and has adjustable on load, phase for each channel, gain, RIAA, mono & mute. Quite a nice trick. Has both an MM & MC input.

I got to hear the Big Acapellas w. the Ion tweeter. The electronics were Einstein. A very expensive system. It sounds good but I didn't love the detailed nature of the Ion tweeter. I prefer something more natural sounding, like a well executed ribbon. They are good & I can see why people like it, but there is a certain lack of coherence. Not as seemless as the Ribbons, but definitely more power & effortlessness from the Acapellas. Would love to hear them in a 2nd setup, as the feedback from others was not very good.

I then heard the YG Acoustics, the "best" speaker in the world in its most expensive form driven by FM Acoustics. Not sure what the source is but these are the fastest dynamic speakers I have ever heard. The have a scan speak tweeter which I usually like, but here it sounded a little etchy & hard. It could be anything but I listened to the next size down YG speakers in a different system and the sound was similar.

I bumped into Frank Schroder and asked him a ton of questions. Extremely informative. He really understands all the details of his design and more. It was a great conversation. He & Thomas Woshnick are great designers that are the most approachable. I also met w. Luke & Bea of VTL. Once you get to know them, you understand what it is when you purchase a VTL product. You get a company with dedication for the long haul. They are in it for keeps. I am sure there are more people like this in Audio. RMAF lets you meet with them and know if you want to buy from these people. It is great. I also met Alan Perkins, Peter Lederman, and Reinhardt Thoress (he is a teddy bear personality who loves to keep circuits simple).

I got to listen to the new Exemplar Modified Usher Be 10. Driven by Belles Amplification and w. a Exemplar CD player for source or what appears to be a Feikert Turntable. We listened to both the modified and unmodified Usher Be 10. These speakers are a great value for the money. They just did it all & sounded like music. Something special. Bass, clean open mids, and a Beryllium tweeter that sounds sweet. All this with solid state amplification. A great value for the entire system. These speakers can rock, give detail and just do it all. This is a super system on a budget. The only competition they have is the Horning Speakers which also can do dynamics with detail without excluding bass. I listened to them a 2nd time on Sunday Morning w. the new Berning High Power tube amplifiers. I think they are called Quadrature Z. These can push and sound dynamic. The power on tap was excellent. A great amplifier w. a touch of tube like warmth. Mind you the Belles isn't far off, but there is a magic w.the Berning that was missing. The Berning has a purity that is different than most high power tube amps or solid state designs. I need to listen to it again and I do recommend a listen if you need the power. 220 Watts.

I then listened breifly to the Playback Designs Room w. the Wilson Benesch speakers hooked up to DeHavilland. I like Wilson Benesch speakers but this system wasn't anything special to me. It was a quick listen, but something was missing compared to the Usher Suite just before it. I moved on. I took a close up look of the Playback Designs CDP. It looks nice enough, but definitely not my taste. I like the looks of the Esoteric & even the EMM more.

I started to head up. I spoke w. Allen Perkins about the 3 patents on his new tonearm. It really is amazing. There is an amount of brilliance in the design that gives it potential to be one of the great tonearms of all time. I hope it comes out soon. His analogue setup always sounds great. Something to do with his rooms as well.

I then stopped in to relax in the Horning, Tron Room. Today it settled in and sounded great. I went to the Highwater Sound just to hang out. You can't help but listen to music. Jeff always puts on non audiophile pressings that are way cool. I think everyone who goes there experiences the same thing. The room has the perfect balance between a hifi sound & musicality. You can't believe the bass but each speaker has 4 woofers in a push pull configuration. An amazing design that can rock. Of course the new Tron Phono stage is a must listen. Adjustable RIAA and more features. I don't know the model of Hornings by name, but they are $9000 and worth every penny. They do all the tricks but in a most musical way. Nothing in your face, but in no way closed in. This is a sound I love and I doubt there is much comparable in its price range.

It was getting late, so I ran to the Audiogon meet & greet across the street. I met Cello, PCosta, Danselm and a few others. What great guys. Not enough time in the day or the night for that matter. I wish there was more time. Everyone was tired after dinner and wanted to wake early to get a head start.

Dgad , Excellent description of the sound(s)of RMAF.
So I have been saving the best day for last. This is when everything sounded great. I had to start early to get as much in as possible. Many rooms would be packing up but 3-4 pm.

I went into the Usher Room first. They had a great location. I wrote about it above, but he was running the Berning Amps this time. These are great amps. And the Exemplar Ushers (definitely worthe the extra money for the Exemplar modification) are more detailed and more open sounding. What a deal for these speakers.

There already has been some mention about the Veloce Electronics. Battery Based preamp & amp which uses a Hypex Module. They used them on Kharma speakers. This sounded really good. This is the 1st time I have heard Kharma speakers sound really to my liking. Funny as Kharma has their own Hypex module amplifier. I don't get the price though. If I remember 10K for a Hypex based amplifier is too much. They did sound natural and musical. Almost tube like w. power. A sound I could live with but long term listening is a must as it might have too much of a signature. This is not based on what I heard, but based on the design. They were using an Audio Aero CDP which I have owned and loved. For some reason the smaller Kharmas always sounded better than the larger ones in the shows I have heard them. I heard them large Kharmas with Tenors newest electronics in Germany. They sounded very good, but so did these for a fraction of the price.

I then spent some time listening to the Moscode Room w. the Von Schweikert VR5 anniversary speakers. Something didn't fit, maybe the room. As for the sound, it was very forward and agressive. The smaller Unifield 3 speakers are incredible. I heard the Unifield 3 speakers a little later driven by a Push Pull 300B Audiospace integrated amplifier. What a great system. Got me seriously thinking of trying a push pull 300B or one of the 845/300B combination amps. Something magic in that setup. And it fits in small rooms.

I heard the Focal room w some small Focal speakers driven by Marantz separates. This sounded OK. Not a lot of detail, but musical. I was thinking of a Marantz integrated for a separate system, but now realize it isn't me. The sound is too smooth.

The Emerald Physics / Wyred for sound room was one I wanted to hear. I never listened to an open baffle design. There are some limitations w. open baffles. You can hear the rear wave messing w. the front wave. Also the Wyred for sound amps are class D amps w. the typical class D sound. I find class D (except for the Spectron's newest amps) to be missing something in terms of communicating the emotion behind the music.

I then stumbled on to what I consider one of the best sounds at the show. The Symposium Speakers driven by Emotive Audio top of the line amps running 50 Watts from 2 6550 tubes and the top of the line preamp. They were running real to real. These speakers are big & ugly IMO. They just sound incredible. Something about full range ribbons. I gave them a go w. some familiar music and they did great. They need a long wall for setup which is a problem. They also image incredibly wide w. detail and dynamics aplenty. Plenty of speed. Just missing a bit of the warmth and body. I wish I heard them w. SET since they were using just 50 watts of 6550s. The Vita Mono amplifiers. The preamp was the Epiphinea w. the 300B tube. My friend felt bass was lacking. Tough to tell since it was a show and the bass towers are huge. This speaker could be one of the best if your room can handle it. The best part was the room was empty. Speaking w. the designer he mentioned he uses a Wavac amplifier in the design process. I wonder what more these speakers can do.
I sat in the room for 1/2 an hour. But there were more rooms to go, some on my must listen list.

Red Wine integrated and WLM speakers. A lot of talk about both of these products. I heard smaller WLM speakers before. They were great. These were a size or 2 larger. All I can say is they sounded better in Munich. That also tells you that a lot depends on the setup.

I then heard Tidal speakers for the 1st time. I heard them in 2 rooms. The more expensive speakers w. some electronics I didn't know in 1 room. These are beautiful finished speakers. The wood work is gorgeous. Something special. My other favorite as far as woodwork is Odeon.
Back to the Tidal room w. Ceramic drivers. These were using Tidal electronics as well. The model of the speaker was the Contriva.

Then in the adjoining room were a slightly smaller set of Tidal speakers. These are called the Pianos. These had Lamm M1.2 amps, w. the DCS Puccini as source. I don't know anything about price but this was a great sounding room. As a system it just worked. Both rooms were the same size, but maybe the smaller speaker was better in the room. This is the 1st time I liked the Lamm M1.2s. I love the ML2.1s but the 1.2s always left me lacking at shows w. Kharma. Not now. They sounded great. Dynamic, not dark, but not in your face. Great bass. A nice system. The Puccini obviously is excellent, as many have been saying. A nice liquid sound, that is not to warm and didn't have any bloat.

Now on to another great room. A room I wanted to hear for a while. Lets go down the line, Brinkman table, Lyra Titan (not I), EMM's latest 2 channel w. transport, and Lamm ML3s (one of the world's great amps) and Coltrane Speakers. This room had it all. The Lamms w. only 32 watts put out bass. Amazing. Body, inner detail. It is all there. Another great room. Between the Symposium, & this room I would want .........BOTH. Go figure. A diamond tweeter that I liked. A diamond midrange. The sound was natural........but, I didn't like the sound w. the new EMM electronics. It became a bit bright. Maybe not broken in, but I have never heard an EMM sound bright. I own a Titan I and have heard a Lamm Phono w. Titan combination many times (in fact the Lamm phono was in use in a few rooms, and the Titan I, Orpheus & Skala were in quite a few rooms) Back to the sound w. vinyl. Miles Davis. He sounded in the room. Full scale classical. Sounded real. (I heard Miles sound poor in a room in the Hyatt the day before). And then they played some Stevie Ray Vaughn. Wow!!!!. This is it. Why we go to the shows. To hear great systems strut their stuff. More than 1/2 of them flopped but a few did well enough to make it worth the time.

A little anticlimactic but Daedelus Audio w. Manley sounded good. Musical and natural. I could see how some might actually love the sound.

Next is REference 3A Episodes w. ASL 845 tube amps. Reference 3A is one of the great speaker bargains. I have heard them many times and loved them. This time I didn't love them. I just liked them. Not sure why. Maybe the music. I loved the little ones and still they are probably the best stand mounted 2 way I have ever heard for the money.

Next came another very good room. Actually one of the better turntables. The Spiral Groove. 2 of them. One w. a Triplanar and one w. a prototype Spiral Groove. They don't look it but they are quite expensive. They do sound very very good. I want to try the arm on my Raven AC. The counterweight is unique as is the antiskate mechanism. They were using Sonics by Joachim Gerhard speakers. If any of you remember Audio Physic speakers. The Sonics are equally good and worht your consideration. He is one of the great speaker designers. The room is musical, and has flow. The emphasis is musicality over hifi. A nice balance.

I then heard for the 1st time Spectron Musician IIIse amps w. some speaker that I never heard of. These are quite good. I tried to detect a signature that i find anoying with some of the Class D competition. If anything the sound had warmth and body. These amps are worthy of consideration. I didn't know enough about the rest of the system, but I have heard quite a few Class D amps impose their signature instantly. These didn't. They had these room tweeks all over the place that as usual cost much too much money. Do they work? A little. I just wish people charged reasonable prices and not try to become millionaires overnight.

I am going to finish day 3 later. Still a few more items to go through and some recap.
A link to pictures. All titled RMAF.

Enjoy. And thanks to Mosin for the space to support the pictures.
Time to finish up. Got a lot of other things to do. Please don't use my experience to determine if something is good or bad. Use it to confirm an opinion of the room in question. Too many rooms, as the day wore on (especially day 3) my ears were getting tired. You can only absorb so much.

I saw the new Teres tonearm prototype. Pretty cool looking. Running a ZYX Universe, which I know all to well. The design is unique in that it has a low slung counterweight and a different bearing arrangement. Not a unipivot or a dual pivot. Being a Teres, it has a gorgeous wood armwand. Listening was limited due to time being short and some must listens on the list. But ... I got stuck in some rooms for a little time.

There was this room that was very strange to me. And it sounded pretty good. 2 speakers that were small that looked like tiny table pointing up into a glass diffraction plate. A subwoofer, and very good imaging. I think the speakers were active. But what interested me most is the box that controlled everything. Now folks this is where we are going so it was worth hearing/and seeing.

The box had a screen attached to it. The box contains all the digital processing and more. What does it do.
Digital Crossover, Digital preamp, digital converter, and lastly digital phono equalization. You can plug your turntable directly into a A/D converter (I hope I have this right) and all is handled. Different RIAA curves to choose from. It is all touch screen controlled. No need for a A/D convertor for CDs, just a transport that goes straight into the preamp. And more, there is digital room correction. Basically, we are getting close to the point when it will be a box and a speaker. Especially if you have active speakers. The Company was called Yokohama Baysidenet Corporation. Very cool stuff. Worthy of investigating, especially for the PC Audio Crowd or anyone who wants a hidden system. It was so easy to use from the touch screen.

I then went next door to see the one eyed alien looking speaker. A single driver w. a downward firing horn for bass. The coolest part about it is the driver has no rubber suspension. It is supported by the magnetic structure of the speaker. Sound was OK, but the Cool factor was high, especially if you have a bunch of Trekies for friends.

I was talking about some must see rooms. Well one of the most important was Joe Cohen’s room from Lotus Group. They ran the Feastrex full range drivers in the 50K range for a a pair of drivers. The sound was excellent within the limits of what a single driver could do. There was magic in the room. But....I don't think this would satisfy the rock & roller. Maybe the chamber crowd would be in love though. But, there was another big deal going on in the room. Basically a 7.5Hz (I think that was the frequency) pulse generator. We turned it on & off. It is supposed to make the music more enjoyable. I can go into the theory since I have heard about it before. In short, currently the frequency of our environment is near 10 Hz. This is too high and the earths natural frequency is 7.5Hz. The pulse generator restores this frequency and as such it positively affects us. I am the first to discount a myth, but this did work. Diverging for a bit, I sell a watch called Philip Stein w. a Teslar chip that is supposed to protect people from the spurious frequency being emitted by cell phones etc. Same concept. They have a watch you wear that somehow puts this 7.5Hz frequency on your wrist so you can experience this everywhere. Does it work, well it worked in the room, but wearing the watch gives me a headache. I am not kidding. But roughly 10% of the people have an adverse reaction. Many people I know swear by the watch. I suggest you give the pulse generator a try. I don't think you need it just for audio. The retail was around $400.00

I have been trying for year to listen to TAD speakers. I have heard amazing things about them. Friends at shows raved about them, but they are nowhere to be heard. I then missed them at a NY & at the Munich show. They had the new stand mounted 2 way at RMAF. I listened to them. About 60 seconds. Everyone was seated in a room. I just didn't get what they were listening to. All Bel Canto. The worst highs I heard at the show. It just chased me out of the room. Tizzy is the word. Not sure if it is the digital or the Beryllium tweeters. But I have not been too happy w. the sound of Be. This has proven consistent everywhere but in the Usher room which for some reason sounded good w. both SS & Tube electronics. The room was packed so maybe my ears aren't that great. Give it a try. I will listen one more time.

I then heard a big box speaker w. a single driver that was not too much money. I wish I knew what it was called. But it sounded pretty good for the money if you could handle the looks. Made in the US as well. The tweeter was behind the dust cap of the woofer. It was a warm musical sound. Too much on the warm side, but by that time of the day, I was ready for warm and warmed right up to it.

Before I forget, the night before I heard after hours the Pathos room w. the Aluminum Audia Machina speakers. They look kind of cool. All the equipment looked cool. But the room just didn't snap together. The electronics were new out of the box so probably break in is a major issue. Lastly, they were using the BAT Rex preamp. Not one of my favorites having owned it in the past. It does something to the sound, and it did it again.

Back to Sunday afternoon. A lot of idler drives at the show. The Ridge speaker was being shown at the Robyatt room. The Garrard 301 looked gorgeous in the custom plinth. The turntable was sporting 2 arms & 2 cartridges. The speakers were The Ridge speakers and the electronics were Tektron. One of the cartridges was mounted on a cantilevered headshell on the end of an SME 3012. Pretty cool setup. Not sure if it worked. The system sounded good, but I didn't get enough of a chance to truly listen. From when I entered the room I was being sold a cartridge. Also, I wanted to get to a few more rooms. I know there is good money in cartridges these days. Thousands of dollars for something so small. I am thinking of making my own cartridge line myself. Supposedly someone of "considerable analogue fame" purchased a cartridge. I wouldn't know how to evaluate the sound of a cartridge in a completely unfamiliar system especially in a small room which could never produce bass. But I did hear the Voice in a few rooms and it always sounded good. Got me interested. Mind you the cartridge could be very good and it was around 2 grand. I think it came out for under a grand originally before there was an importer. The other arm had a Koetsu Black if I remember right. That wasn't playing though.

I then heard the smaller YG Acoustics w. Krell amplification and DCS for the digital source. The sound was very close to the sound of the YGs w. the FM Acoustics downstairs. These remain the fastest dynamic speaker I have heard. I am sure some will go nuts over them. I found this room less sterile than the FM Acoustics room w. the larger speakers. The Krell match seemed to work well.

And then on to a true disappointment. I heard the Krell Modulare speakers w. Krell Evolution electronics. These sounded amazing in Germany w. the top of the line Krell Evolution gear. In this case, they sounded so bad that it wasn't worth staying. I thought the Modulare were probably the best Dynamic speakers I heard at the Munich show. (The best speakers in Munich were either the Backes & Muller or the Cessaro Horns) At RMAF I felt the opposite. Tells you how everything I say is system dependant. I still like the Modulare. Everything from the design to the looks. Keep them on your radar especially if you like Krell. Mind you, the people in the room mentioned that not having the higher end Evolution gear could be the problem w. the sound. I wonder, as the rooms were the same size (fairly small) so who needs so much power.

And now for the last room of the show. This room should be one of the best. Many people loved this room. I didn't. The speakers were the Lansche w. Ion tweeters. Wavac Phono & Preamp & Amp. EMM's new 2 channel for digital. And Continuum for Analogue. There really wasn't much time, but the Ion tweeter sounded the same in both this room & the Acappela room downstairs. A little thin and hissy for me. Some love the detail, but I find it too detailed. Both system have tubes and still the thin treble. To me treble has more dimension. I hear these speakers didn't do well in the European market, but just might work in the US. The speakers are gorgeous. They can't possibly sound integrated as the speed of a dynamic driver can never equal that of a Ion tweeter. I hope someone else comments on these speakers as I am at a loss. I expected a lot from this room & it was packed w. people.

Putting an end to this review, I came away with a few conclusions for myself. I like Ribbons and old style dome tweeters. Horns can be amazing if well executed, and finally source rules 1st. If you don't get the source right everything goes wrong. I would take a top end source (Analogue or EMM/DCS for digital), and good 300B push pull integrated, from Audiospace or a Thoress integrated amp on some ribbon speakers or well executed horns. A few friends went away wanting to get Reel to Reel systems and join the tape project. Too much for me these days. Also, something that was missing in the rooms I visited. No 24/192 digital being played. This is the future of high res. It will be available for download and honestly well executed it will be near impossible to distinguish from Analogue as a lot is being stored as such. The big deal is converting 24/192 to SACD does change things a bit.

Very few rooms were playing music for music’s sake. Most played audiophile recordings. A lot of new phono stage are coming to market w. multiple inputs or different RIAA curves. The new Tron is very interesting among those.
The Highwater sound room played great music. And before I forget, I got to listen to a great artist in the Pathos/Audio Machina room. The Peter Asplund Quartet / As Knights Concur. This guy sounds a lot like Miles with his own twist. Great trumpet.
Great pictures.

Thank you.

Agree with Audiofeil. Great photo set. Thank you for sharing them with the group.
Dgad- FWIW we did have 24 bit 192KHz digital in our room on the main floor. The problem this codex is having is that it has no support in a media format, so we were playing the files from a server.

Thanks for all the photos!

I didn't catch it. I know a few record companies ready to release hi res files in the future. Lets see if it happens. From what I understand it will be download mostly.
Thank you for takikng the time for the write up and the pictures. You are doing a very gracious thing for those who did not attend the show.
Thoress amps from Germany were the best sounding amps to my ears, Feastrex drivers (both rooms)with there beautiful Urushi lacquer cabinets and hand made paper cones, Maxxhorn speakers w/ Feastrex drivers, Soundsmith were all that really interested me. The Hansons, Focal, Scaena ultra high end multi driver systems sounded homogenized to my ears. Yeah, they were the big and bold Rolls Royce systems but I find myself enjoying the natural beauty of simple systems that sound natural,elegant and transcendent on an aural level in there understated simplicity. Yes, I missed a lot but I find it easier to stay a while in rooms I really like than running around like a fool all day looking for a fix IMO.
I'm pretty sure the Spectron amps were powering speakers by SP Technology.

I had my camera at the show and entirely forgot to take a photo of our room. Can I use yours?

Jim Riddell
Sounds Real Audio