Favorite Speakers at RMAF

Ridge Street Audio Sason LTD/SI:

Wow! What can I say about these beautifully crafted speakers? They completely disappear with wall to wall soundstaging and naturally precise imaging. They are oh so smooth, detailed, and utterly nonfatiguing. They were about the only speaker at the show that I could just relax and listen to hours on end. You just emotionally connect with the music through these transducers. I had Robert of RSA play Somewhere Over The Rainbow/It's A Wonderful World by "IZ" a Hawaiian singer who lost his battle with obesity at a young age. It almost brought me to tears.

They were being riven by all Fi gear including their 20 watt(?) SET amps, DAC, and transformer volume control. All RSA wiring too. I would have loved to hear the Sasons with more power, like the 100 watt Atmasphere MA-1 amps. I had the pleasure of meeting Rhythmace4218 who already owns a pair driven by MA-1. He confided the MA-1 will give the Sasons real bass impact which surpasses a highly respected 300 watt solid state amp.

The upgraded SI version is 5 inches shorter than the standard version because they moved the Xover into the base stands. The stands are now necessarily taller to keep the same overall height. IMHO, the SI version looks much better because they look more proportioned. The older version looked a little pot bellied with the wider base and shorter stands. Just awesome aesthetics.

Let me just add that Robert and Steve are first class acts. They are genuine music guys who are down to earth and easy to talk to. Kudos to both of you.

Podium 0.5 Speakers:

I must admit I was sadly disappointed with the sound of the their flagship P1 speakers at the '97 RMAF. It's treble was very grainy and irritating, and the presentation just didn't seemed right. This year their smallest speaker produced some of the best sound at the show. It was hooked up to some very expensive electronics (Art Audio Jota 22 watts? at $18k, Esoteric digital, Memory player, etc). But the synergy was there in spades. The presentation was similar to the Sason's, but slighty cooler sound with wonderful imaging and staging. Because they are crossoverless, the have a very coherent sound - as coherent as the Sasons. Piano and vocals sounded natural as one can hope for. Bass was very tuneful - stand up bass was in your room real, but lacked the deep extension of cones. But what do you expect from a panel speaker? But there was one quality that bothered me. The treble was still ever so slightly grainy and irritating. I'm not sure if I could listen to these for hours on end if the music contained a lot of treble energy. These speakers can still draw you into the music like the Sasons. Overall, these were my second favorite. And the price is still reasonable at $6k (but going up to $8k in couple of months) in terms of performance, but not really in terms of aesthetics and build quality. The Sasons take top honor for that IMO. Peter, the dealer/distributor for these speakers, was a real gent.

Sorry, these were the only two speakers that really stood out in the end for me. I heard the mega expensive speakers from Acapella and Lansche (both using ion tweeters), YG acoustics, Hansen, etc. None of them could emotionally draw me into the music like the Sason and Podium.
'97 RMAF? I thought this was only the 5th year(starting in 2003) that this show went on?
Interesting take.

I've spoken with 3 of what you'd call "highly regarded" participants in these forums who heard the Sason at the show. The basic consensus is a very nice appearing speaker but quite ordinary sounding and very overpriced.

Funny how opinions are so diverse.
How did you (do you) determine that a particular component (this time speakers) is the cause of what you are hearing in a system (room included)? This is an honest and serious question. People do it all the time, and I've never found it works very well in my own experience.
Since when does Fi make 20W SET monos?

Don makes the 2A3/45 monos/stereo and a (single) 300B mono (8W).

Has he got a parallel 300B or 211 or 845 now?
Audiofeil Wrote:
...but quite ordinary sounding and very overpriced.
Are you kidding!? LOL! Unfortunately I know you're not.

Aside from insulting the senses of well respected and keen eared manufacturers who've heard the Sasons - including Ultra Fi who partnered with us at the show - and 99% of the folks we've heard feedback from directly and indirectly over the last three years, all I can possibly say to that is "WOW!!!"!

Since when does Fi make 20W SET monos?

Don makes the 2A3/45 monos/stereo and a (single) 300B mono (8W).

Paul, RSA was showing the Sasons with ULTRA FI electronics, which has no connection with Don Garber...
Audiofeil, have you actually listened to these speakers instead of relying on "highly regarded" participants (whatever that means)? Have you ever seen these speakers in real life instead of pictures? If you were there, you would understand what I was talking about.
Undertow, I meant '07 RMAF.
Mr. Feil doesn't sell those speakers, so...
Jfz, good question. The speaker is the final common pathway so I can only make somewhat of a valid assessment of the speaker, not the upstream components. I can't make any real valid assessment of the upstream components unless I already know how the speaker sounds (ie, something I own and listen to). Eventhen, room interaction screws things up. It's a mess in reality.
Maybe it's just me, but while I found the RSAD speakers nice enough at RMAF2008, they didn't come anywhere close to justifying their asking price to me.

Whenever you commit to a speaker of that size, regardless of what the package offers otherwise, you are giving up the foundation of the music. It seemed you're first and foremost paying for a cabinet that requires a lot more work than most other products. On my own cost/benefit scale, that money is better spent in other areas, but hey, that's obviously their raison d'etre. They were far from being the only manufacturer I failed to see the value in.

The other thing I want to say is that they, along with "the best loudspeaker on earth, period" folks employ those velvet ropes to cordon off their loudspeakers. There were some really competent and/or exotic loudspeakers from the likes of Krell, Maxxhorn, Acapella (horrible sound, but $200K), etc. that you could go right up and put your fingers all over - and I did. Did YG and RSAD really feel it so important to keep the great unwashed away? Again, maybe it's me, but it comes off as the height of arrogance.

All that being said, I spoke to the speaker designer in the room, and he was truly a gentleman.
Trelja, everyone has their set point for value. Obviously, I think Sasons are high value given the amount of manual work and quality of the components that goes into making a pair.

I thought the Ultra Fi 20 watt SETs were not the best to show off the Sasons low bass - "foundation of music" as you put it. The Sasons I am told by Robert, Steve and Sason owners will go down to the low 30s. But I would have to hear that for myself.

I don't think their cabinet is their only "raison d'etre". Seems like a lot of thought and work went into the crossover parts, wiring, speaker/cable interface, and customized drivers as well.

Yea, I agree with you about the velvet rope thing. But I think the electronic did not belong to RSA and the speakers were Roberts personal pair. I touched the speakers but Robert has no problem with that.

Sound and musical taste is a highly personal matter. For me, the Sasons and Podiums just let me listen to the music and enjoy. Unfortunately, I couldn't say that for Acapella, YG Acoustics, Scaena, etc... hi fi explatives galore like "You can hear that bell way off to the side!, but couldnt enjoy the music through them.
Paulfolbrecht wrote:
Since when does Fi make 20W SET monos?
The amps used for the show were a pair of customized Daytona monoblocks by Larry D. Moore of Ultra Fi. About 12 watts a side. Normally you wouldn't partner Larry's Daytonas and RSAD's Sasons together but these amps are amazing within their limits - which definitely bellies their 12 watts. I like the amps and as far as dynamic/multi driver speaker designs go, Larry likes the Sasons. I have the amps here for a while until Larry sells them. I intend to write a full review of these beauties if I'm able to get enough time under my belt with them here. I already know this: I'll be sorry to see them go.

In a room size of what we had at the show and playing music at realistic levels consummate to the recording venue, listening distance from the speaks and room volume, it worked out very well for the show. For folks who prefer and are locked into "hi-fi spectaculars", the RSAD/Ultra Fi room probably wasn't for them. Nothing wrong with that preference mind you, just not what we wanted to present.

Hey Paul, I mentioned in another thread before the show I hadn't forgotten you. If you're still interested, now we can set up a time for you to visit at your convenience. Shoot me an email or give me a call. It would be fun.


Thanks for the response, Dracule. I'm not sure what you meant by the speaker being the final common pathway, but I've always thought it's a mess in reality too.
Sorry Robert, I stand corrected about the amps. Getting Fi and Ultra Fi mixed up. 12 and not 20 watts - I'm a little numerically dyslexic.
Trelja wrote:
...employ those velvet ropes to cordon off their loudspeakers. There were some really competent and/or exotic loudspeakers from the likes of Krell, Maxxhorn, Acapella (horrible sound, but $200K), etc. that you could go right up and put your fingers all over - and I did. Did YG and RSAD really feel it so important to keep the great unwashed away? Again, maybe it's me, but it comes off as the height of arrogance.
I understand what you're saying Trelija. As you experienced with Steve, we really ain't snobs. (Right Darren?) As a matter of fact, the stanchions were purposely not in front of the speakers but back and off to the insides of the speakers so they could be inspected and all. Believe me - they got touched (is it wrong? LOL!) The stanchions served two purposes: 1.) Not my amps / Big tubes / high voltage - you get the picture. 2.) They did dress up the room pretty nicely. To me the aesthetic of the room environment is an important part of the whole playback experience. I hoped we provided a comfortable setting to enjoy what we presented.

Dracule1 wrote:
Sorry Robert, I stand corrected about the amps.

No worries Drac (Michael?). I get a little dumerically nyslexic sometimes myself. ;)


Robert, good guess. You are correct.
Jfz, "final common pathway". Think of your speaker as the faucet in your home and the water comming from it is the sound. The water travels from the cloud, to the mountains, gets collected in multiple steams, rivers, to the aquaduct, to the reservoir, to the treatment plant...to your home faucet. Like the faucet, speakers are where the final music (water) comes out of. So it's hard to judge how upstream component sounds - it's like trying to determine where the water came from upstream. All you hear is the speaker in the end, so that's what I can make a valid assessment, unless like I said I already know the sound of the speakers beforehand from personal experience. Sorry, but that's the best crappy analogy I can come up with.
Thanks again, Dracule. I understand (and understood) the analogy. Seemed confusing to call it the "common" pathway, though; i.e., if one switches speakers, there's no commonality at that (final) point anymore. My point wasn't at all about whether it's hard to judge upstream components, however - which of course it is. You were talking about speakers in your initial post, and I didn't see how you judge *them* independently, given diffences in upstream components, rooms, etc. I personally don't see how one makes a "valid" comparison of two different loudspeaker systems unless everything else stays the same. Even then (as I'm sure you know), there are combinations that work better together,etc. In the end, I guess, I disagree with "All you hear is the speaker in the end...".
Jfz, I agree with much of what you said. I can't see how anyone could evaluate an upstream component at a show. Perhaps I should have titled my post "My favorite SYSTEM at RMAF".
Ok, they look nice but pretty conventional.

Lots of speakers I've heard sound equally as good, properly set up, at least from what I can tell from the description.

What makes them so spectacular?

Were they maybe just particularly well set up and matched with the accompanying system?
To put things into perspective, let's compare the Sason to another highly regarded 2 way speaker - the Magico Mini. I have heard these speakers at a dealer in Massachusetts within a dedicated treated 2 channel audio room (cost for the room alone topped $200k) with some of the most expensive electronics known to man (Boulder, Spectral, Nagra, etc). The Magico Mini has impeccable build quality, but the sound IMO was not as open and natural as the Sason. Now they cost almost 3x the cost of the Sason SI. Obviously, a valid comparison is a side by side shootout using the same electronics, but very few are able to do that.
Mapman, what you say may be true. But I don't think lots of speakers will sound as good as the Sasons - not in my 23+ years in this hobby. Synergy is very important, but very difficult to achieve by the consumer unless he/she has the cash to try many combinations. My last speaker was purchased based on audition at the '04 Stereophile Show in NY. It was the Hyperion 938 which I love to this day. It sounded great when I set them up in my home - different room and electronics. A speaker that is not so finicky in set up will sound good in most rooms and gives credit to its designer.

What made them spectacular? Simple. It was the most enjoyable listenng session I had in a long time. So it's highly personal.
I wasn't at the show to hear the new Sason SI to provide any further commments on the sound
But I have heard the Magico Mini in a similar room to mine with very good electronics and much prefer the Sason (which I currently own)

For the money, the Original Sasons were ridiculously underpriced and the Mini would be overpriced imo
"Synergy is very important, but very difficult to achieve by the consumer unless he/she has the cash to try many combinations. "

Synergy is key.

Focusing on this at all times in the end will cost you less to get to a good place than otherwise.

Without it, the best individual components alone may also be the biggest waste of money.

That's why its called a stereo "system". Its the overall combination of components (including the listening room) and how they synergize together that matters most.

"So it's highly personal"

As is always the case.
If you liked them, your opinion is just as valid as those who thought they were "ordinary". It's a personal thing and that's all that matters despite what those highly regarded persons thought. I sure wouldn't worry about it! That's my opinion!
i was not able to attend rmaf, but given what i've seen over the last decade at ces and t.h.e. show, there is an ever widening divide between the fun, practical, well engineered stuff, and the shiney-happy-weird-as-hell stuff that never quite 'makes it' in the sonic 'or' business sense.
I wouldn't put too much sense into what others think
If your ears like it that all that matters

I'm a big fan of Ridge Street Audio Designs and everything i've heard from them thus far has been a home run. I'm sure the newer Sasons in a correct setting will impress those who thought they were "ordinary"
i thought one of the better sounding speakers there , were a brand called AYRA by raidho acoustics, pretty expensive stuff, but a top rate presentation of music played through some lindeman gear , that if i won the lottery would purchase.
Naw..differences in opinion doesn't bother me much. But people who form opinions on components based on what others say and not having heard them themselves do bother me.
>>But people who form opinions on components based on what others say<<

Passing along information based on reliable sources or trusted associates is not forming a personal opinion.

You're reading between the lines but there is nothing there.

I hope that helps you understand a little better.
My favorite speaker at RMAF 2008 was the Oswald's Mill horn speaker. But I didn't attend the show.
I was there, and was really hoping to meet you, Macrojack.

The Oswalds Mill speakers were one of my favorites as well. Thankfully, I'm only an hour from Jonathan Weiss, and have been fortunate enough to attend his annual Tube Tasting. He's a great guy, and it's a really great time.
Trelja - I've spoken with Jonathan on the phone and would concur that he's a great guy. If I ever return to N.J. by car, I'll certainly make a point of stopping by New Tripoli for a look.

Apparently, from what you've said here, you have good familiarity with the speaker in question. What does it sound like, in your estimation, and how does it compare to Oris, AvantGarde, Acapella, Haigner and any other large horn system you can think of?
Macojack, I happen to stop by the Oswald room. Very unique lookin huge horn speakers, but I liked the sound. I was clear and dynamic but obviously needed a bigger room for the sound to open up. They sounded much more natural than the AvantGarde at the show. I think Jonathan (or whoever was showing off the Oswalds) went to the AvantGarde room to listen. When asked by the AvantGarde people what he thought about them, I think he answered "they sound interesting". The huge Acapella sounded bloated in the bass.
Macrojack, I really, really liked the Oswalds Mill horn loudspeakers at RMAF. In fact, it was easily one of my favorite rooms. My only problems with the design were the extreme looks/low WAF and what must be an absolutely stratospheric pricetag, though Jonathan assured me I could afford it.

As far as sonics go, the Oswalds Mill horns were the most natural sounding loudspeaker of this type I have ever been around. They combined the immediacy/suddenness along with large variance between quiet and loud that a horn should provide, with the lack of irritating or unnaturalness. I felt it truly to be a coup of not small measure. Given their extreme looks and the poor quality of the rooms at RMAF, that surprises me. I have no idea how much they cost, but if I had the money, I would most definitely make the drive up to give them another listen.

The Avant Gardes seemed to have an "amplified" nature about them, where even acoustic music took on the feel of being played through electronics, along with that feel you get when you listen to a Victrola. It wasn't necessarily a bad sound, and oftentimes, it worked. Just that when you are listening to some music, because of it, it leant kind of an unnatural quality to the sound.

Personally, I thought the Acapella room was the worst sound at the show by leaps and bounds. Other than their ability to completely dominate a room and make a visual statement or play at jet engine volumes, I have no idea what anyone could see in such a product.

I don't have any experience with the Oris or Haigner, so anything I would say in relation to them would be a lie.
I don't get the Acapella design. Seems like a lowest common denominator design, a mishmash of horn and dynamic drivers that would compomise the best qualities of each.

This is just my impression from what I have seen and read about them. Never actually heard a pair.

In comparison, at least Avantgardes are pure horn designs that have a chance of doing something exceptional with the distinct merits horn technology provides.

Just my impressions....I could be way off base having never heard either.
Having heard both, I'd say you're way off base.
Trelja - Thanks for the assessment. It is consistent with everything else I've read. All comments indicate natural, effortless, dynamic, smooth, etc.

I saw a Stereophile blog that put the price at $53K/pair.

Wouldn't surprise me having never heard either, but why?
Doesn't matter...

...I never should have typed a response in the first place...
the whole horn party ran outa beer a long time ago.
Jaybo, that's true, but then they went out and got more.
>> 10-20-08: Atmasphere
>> Jaybo, that's true, but then they went out and got more

yes, just like the vinyl party! :-)
Atmasphere (Ralph?)

Just thought I let you know. Robert of RSAD says MA-1 driving the Sasons is the best he's heard from his speakers. Do you do custom finishes on your amps? The look is a little too industrial for me.
Can anyone else who heard the Lansche comment? I would love to hear those sometime.

Any comments on the Scaena's? I have heard those on a few occasions (not at a show) and found them to be possibly the best speaker I have heard.

Comments on both under the Best Of section, RMAF thread. Buried in there.
Emailists, I did hear that system on two occasions, both times analogue sources. Sounded very natural, warm and smooth but lacked imaging and staging. Considering all the god awful expensive electronics (Wavac, Continuum, etc), I expected a much more but I think it needed a much bigger room. The plasma tweeter does emit a lot of heat - the speakers are ventillated at the top where the tweeter sits.
Emerarld Physics CS1
Thanks, Dracule1. Yes, we have done custom finishes in the past. We have several options on the power supply panel, which is normally polished. The chassis can be done in a variety of finishes also, but the lead time is usually longer.

Nice to hear about the Sasons!