Bel Canto Black EX separates
Vinnie Rossi's new monoblocks and DHT preamp
Martin Logan Neolith & Dan D'Agostino
Bel Canto Black was quite nice
Raidho room very good sound
Elac was everywhere.
Vandersteen/VTL room was awesome
TriangleArt room was also very nice and good music. I'm impressed by the TriangleArt turntables.
I was looking forward to hearing Constellation, but was disappointed because the music was very dry. Couldn't make a decision.
Atmosphere's room was very nice. Finally got to hear Ralph's equipment with some decent music.
I have to say, that some rooms had outstanding music. much of which I've never heard before, but, I noted every one and ordered them. Examples were, Fink Perfect Darkness album, live union chapel
London Grammar, If you want.
Gregory Porter, holding on
and I have to tell you, that one room played Boz Scaggs, Thanks to you. It was quite nice. Very good music.
RMAF on Saturday wasn't nearly as crowded as last year and was very manageable. Went to the 11th floor first and walked down the stairs to each lower floor in order.
I can't recall one room where the demonstrators weren't friendly. Each and every one was nice, in my opinion. They didn't look me up and down and conversed openly and friendly.
I was quite happy with RMAF 2018. The rooms were bad, but the demonstrators did the best they could and the audience had to take the room into consideration.
more to follow.
I mostly went to checkout how various Speakers sounded. Though the equipment is quite different I liked Sanders electrostatic speaker system and how magnificent they sounded in the small and cramped room. Quite comparable to Sanders system I found Legacy Audio room sounded fantastic(Signature SE(no room correction), Focus SE and Aeris). Actually I was so impressed that I went and brought the set of Aeris speakers with Wavelet processor. I A/Bed Focus SE and Aeris and decided to go with Aeris instead of going with Focus XD.
I have heard Joseph Audio, Vandersteen(briefly , too crowded and out of my price range), Dynaudio Contour 60, Focal Katana 2 and Utopia?, Qln, Analysis audio, PBN audio M2!5, German Physiks and PS audio and others.
I was disappointed with how many come ill prepared to demo stuff.
I have talked to Rogers?(Sanders system) and Bill Dudleston (I had no idea who he was) both of them had a proper engineers perspective to sound and execution, both had proper room correction etc. I believe either of them are great value for money both vary in presentation somewhat but close in the fact you can almost call them full range musical speakers and I believe from my perspective tremendous value for $$.
I have been living with used Paradigm Studio 40v3 for last 13 years btw, so my expectations were not that high :).
I have a very unique preference on my sound. Unfortunately, most of all the rooms at RMAF seemed to have two categories.
1. Colored or extremely colored tube electronics
2. Very smoothed over high Class A amplifier sound
That being said, there were two notable rooms in my opinion:
1. Most "real" sounding room - Interestingly enough, this was the Modwright room. It was all Modwright phono stage / preamp / amplifier that were played through a set of Studio Electric bookshelves. Now, the Studio Electric are not super high resolution speakers, but they put on a Ray Charles record (co-sung with another male singer I couldn't identify). As soon as the vocals started, I just had to point to the speaker and said "That's Real!!!". Of course, the system did not have the high frequency resolution and air, and when things got busy we did have a loss of "separation of instruments", but I would have no problems sitting their and listening the entire day. It was like Ray was sitting there in front of your singing and playing!
2. The other "most real" sounding room with dynamics - was the room with the huge AlsyVox ribbon panel speakers driven by Omega Audio Concepts electronics. I could not exactly grade on "how real" it was compared to Modwright because they were playing a very dynamic classical piano solo piece. But the accuracy and reality of the tonal definition was just out of this world! The depth and soundstage of the system was absolutely amazing -- and the room did NOT have any acoustic treatments at all!!! The bass strength for these panel speakers were actually very strong. If I could have heard vocals through these, I would be able to better grade, but the piano I heard - I could tell these were something very special. They just were not special enough to spend $86,000 on them!! lol.
Ryan was there. They played their monitors, which sounded great.
Bel Canto Black EX was wonderful with Tidal speakers.
YG Acoustics, Eggleston, Vandersteen all terrific but expensive.
I agree with the comments on the Studio Electrics, but think they are more detailed than you suggest.
The Joesph Audio room convinced me to keep my Perspectives for the foreseeable future.
In the $10k and under, I had two items I could mention.
The first was the new Revel Performa Be (beryllium) speaker. I heard these on two different systems. The Lenvison integrated (which I totally hate because it’s way too lush and liquidy for my tastes). I also heard it on the new Parasound JC5 amp with JC2 preamp. The Parasound was definitely a warm voiced system. However, in both cases, I could tell that this speaker was an excellent performer and would really shine with a higher resolution amp. Possibly the Parasound with fuse upgrades or something like the Classe Audio "Class AB" monoblocks. The Revel come in at exactly $10k. Another note - the bass on these Revels were totally amazing - extremely strong, deep and with excellent resolution!
There was a room that had JWM Acoustics speakers - Alyson AML II Large Monitor for $8500 a pair. It was an MTM with an offset tweeter. These sounded pretty damn amazing. But again, it could be the extremely high end electronics as they were played through some very expensive Aries tube electronics. I recognized that the JWM used the higher end Scanspeaker paper woofers and softdome tweeter (which are also similar to Wilson Audio).
I thought the best sounding room to my ears was the Vinny Rossi gear playing Harbeth speakers (can't recall the model name) This room really stood out to me.
Another speaker that impressed me with its immense depth of sound stage was I believe Amphion electrostats. I could be wrong on the manufacturers name but they were what appeared to be a gel coated gloss red frame, real gaudy looking but they sounded fantastic! Looked like Magnepans sort of. It didn't matter where you were sitting in the room, the speakers disappeared. Maybe another attendee can verify the manufacturer?
i also was impressed with the Tekton speakers.
Lots of pretty amps and turntables but it's hard to really evaluate those at the show compared to the speakers.
We visited every room over 2 days and it became overwhelming but was a lot of fun. Some really excellent systems on display that make my stuff sound like a clock radio but I did hear some systems that sounded inferior to mine so I haven't thrown my stuff out yet🙄
This is a great thread. It’s very interesting to read posters opinions and details of their experience at RMAF.
Regarding the DeVore Reference, I stumbled across this interesting video of them. Her measurements and high level of detail is refreshing to me. There was a great deal of effort made to create this video.
There were so many great sounding rooms, but the most memorable to me was the Vimberg room. Vimberg is a new, more "affordable" line of German speakers from the makers of Tidal Speakers. The Vimberg Mino($30k) on demo was just making gorgeous music, and is actually physically larger than the entry level Tidal model, the Piano G2. The Vimberg line does not employ the same level of proprietary and exclusive components as the Tidal line, but are said to still use better parts than most other high end speakers, and they sounded like it. Smooth, extended highs, beautiful mids, and really deep, controlled bass. Just amazing and I want me some! Maybe in a couple years they will start to show up on the used market.
Definitely the best show in comparison to the last couple years. My 15th year and I think the best part of the show was the announcement that they are moving it to the new Gaylord. Not sure that moving the date to Sept is a better time, but getting it out of the DTC Marriott is great. Hopefully the Gaylord will have more elevators and more than 66% of them working.
As for the show and my picks the list is long. The biggest impression was the MBL room. The room with the Wilson TuneTots was biggest surprise. Such magnificent sound out of such little boxes was hard to comprehend, great set up! As mentioned the Vandersteen VTL was as impressive as always, but begs the question, is it the electronics or the Vandy’s. My opinion the Vandersteen 7 will sound great with just about anything driving them. But a moot point with my budget, but sweet dreams are made of these. I wanted to get a better audition of the Focal Kanta and Sopra but the display more akin to a boat show than speaker demonstration. I have actually been considering the Kanta or Sopra but the dealer doesn’t display the Sopra 2. There was another room with them on display but the room was crowded and didn’t get a chance to give them a good listen.
Also as mentioned Legacy had a great display and I got some good information from Bill Duddleston and hope to get a chance to further investigate his Signature and Focus lines. Some of the best looking cabinets at the show as a bonus to the sound.
I wanted to investigate DAC and Phone Pre possibilities but really didn’t find any good information on products in my price range.
One other thing that seemed to stand out for me, was the lack of pressure from salespeople that I had experience at previous shows. Much more relaxed atmosphere and much more enjoyable. Can’t wait till next year, and only 11 months to go and a much shorter drive for me.
Unfortunately, the Schiit room was one of the worst sounding rooms at the event. I'm not sure what exactly happened here, because the Freya shouldn't sound like that. I'm wondering if it was a bad mismatch with the speakers or that the Vidar amps were too much on the Class B side of the Class AB biasing. Not sure, but it was very solid-state and very harsh sounding.
I'm not being an audiophile snob here as there were many low budget rooms that sounded great (for the money). In the $1,000 budget room, the Vanatoo Transparent One for $599, which for all intensive purposes is a sound bar that has been split into two speakers, was extraordinary good sounding for the money. All the Elac rooms (from bargain basement to mid level) sounded excellent for the money as well!
I'll also comment on the MBL room, which was extraordinary as well. So much DYNAMICS! and everything hit with authority! There was definitely a sense of air and space, like the musicians were playing inside the room with room echo/acoustics. Did you notice the massive amount of Q7d diffusion panels lining the entire left/right side walls around the speakers? That's partly what gave you the huge dynamics and soundstage. However, the speakers did not seem to have the resolution of other speakers I heard - I am talking the micro-details in the texture and resolution of the music/instruments. Not a bad thing, but just calling it like it is.
I will agree that the Legacy Audio room on the first floor was very nice. I listened to both systems, the front system and the big one in the back. You definitely could tell this was a very refined and high priced system. However, given that it was all Raven Audio tube amps and electronics, the sound was definitely on the mellow side, but still very refined. I would love to actually hear the Legacy speakers in a higher resolution amplifier.
In Paul's Post today, Paul McGowan states:
"I remain flummoxed by the sound I heard in some rooms at RMAF: sound that was so bad it reminded me more of the noise a cat makes when you grab their tail or nails on a blackboard. No, really.
The owners of the equipment believed their sound was worthy of public demonstration. There’s merit in that system I am not hearing. That pains me."He does not name any names. I'd be interested in knowing if any attendees share his reaction to some of the rooms they visited.
As we all know, sound is so subjective. I'd bet the exhibitors that PS Audio Paul is referring to truly believe their rooms are likely to win best room!
Kind of like my neighbor and me. He's an ex-major league pitcher with a decent job, good looking wife, and a very nice pick up truck. The only problem (for me at least) is the souped up exhaust system. That rumble pains me similar to what PS Audio Paul was saying (pull a cat's tail and nails on chalkboard). My neighbor loves that truck and the douchey rumble.
It would be one thing to lay down a lot of quid for a room at the show if it helped sales, but as an exhibitor can it really be good for business when the sound sucketh? I guess they must feel compelled. They would almost certainly do better with static displays and free beer and buffalo wings. Come on, guys!
”If you want to wind up with a small fortune in the high end audio business start off with a large fortune.”
Anyone impressed with the Devore Fidelity room? Did they have speakers other than the Orangutan prototype set up?I sat down and listened in that room for a while. Excellent sound. Nice integration with the new subwoofer. A very large SET was driving the top end; the combo is his new flagship. Very tube friendly.
Other rooms with very good sound- Audiokinesis, who was also showing a system that employed subs, part of which was a modified Swarm. Very convincing bass all over the room. Duke is a master at getting good sound at very reasonable prices! Images floated easily in space- very convincing.
Voxativ showed their flagship single driver system (field coil powered) with sub. Also very impressive! Again, a very easy load, 99-100db 1 watt/1 meter.
The ESD horn system was something to see! Amazing workmanship on the carbon fiber horns. Very nice soundstage; lacking the bottom octave from about 35Hz and down; slight sheen on top which I attribute to their electronics (with 5-way crossover, quite seamless). Overall though easy to listen to, not sure I'm up for the price- I like my speakers at home a bit better :)
The better sounding rooms were having no problems with soundstage- Tekton did pretty well; good sound in the USA Tube Audio room, even ARC had a nice presentation (I have often felt they have a certain 'house sound' that is usually a bit dry, but it was no-where in evidence).
Sorry I didn't take more notes, but overall most of the rooms I entered had really decent soundstage, without a lot of brightness that is so common at shows. In that regard, I think I was most critical of our own room- it was too easy to crank the volume up and just totally overload the room. I had to keep an eye on the volume control and keep taking it down a notch but I was not in the room all the time. We had good soundstage, but really didn't plumb the bass like I know those speakers can, although the Conifer room was better than the room we had a few years back (it does have sizable bass traps consisting of a side false wall and a rather flimsy back wall- I'm glad the show is moving). I get a lot better bass and less harshness at home... hate it when that happens... despite all that we got a lot of complements. It matters of course what you play, and to retain sanity I stopped playing Diana Krull and other audiophile recordings a long time ago.
I think that strategy also hurt some of us. I was there last year and returned this year and our strategy was to start on the 11th floor and go floor by floor taking the stairs down.
We took a lunch break after the 5th floor and returned. By the time we got to the lobby, we were pretty tired and probably didn't give the lower floor enough time. I have to try a different approach next year at the new venue.
I did get to hear Ralph's (atmosphere) equipment this time. The sound was very nice and I was very comfortable with the equipment and sound in that room.
Some rooms demonstrated their equipment with some very bad (too me) music, that it actually drove me out of the room.
I have to say that the Tidal room was very, very nice. The dealer (Doug White, I believe) played some outstanding music on the system and it was wonderful. didn't want to leave that room.
The ESD room with the ridiculous horn system was not only stunning, but sounded very nice.
Again, Vandersteen, Audio Research, VTL, Martin Logan (neolith), and several others were just outstanding.
I can't think of one demonstrator that wasn't friendly and open. No arrogance and unlike last year, most discussions were taken outside the room, so people could hear the music and systems.
I talked to Jeff Rowland and he was very adamant that although he does use class D on some of his products, he will keep the Class A/AB style designs and said to me that his model 8T amp is still one of his best. I believe that is true also. What a monster.
Missed the Gryphon room entirely. sigh!
Constellation room was very dry and uninviting. I know the equipment is better than what I hear, so it must have been the room and the music.
I saw Ralph (atmosphere) but he was engaged with several people and I didn't want to interrupt.
I went to almost every room. Overall, it was a decent show. I’ve been to many shows over more than a couple decades so it really takes a lot for something to standout or be memorable.
Some things were memorable just on a visual basis....but only one room was memorable on both sound quality AND visually....
1. Alsyvox speaksers and Omega electronics
Nothing else was really close soundwise, but it’s a personal preference. I prefer line array planar drivers versus all these point source speakers shouting at me.
Visually, they were beautiful and the electronics were exceptionally designed (internally and externally). The server (not hooked up) actually served as base of a stand which was brilliant. They didn’t even bring their top of the line CDP which is amazing looking. Red cables were like arteries supplying blood to the equipment -- although it kinda looked like a crime scene with all that red behind the gear.
If I were to rank things that were visually memorable...
1. ESD horns
2. 100lb outboard $20k crossovers with Deulund capacitors for Troy Audio horns
3. Wilson Benesch using Isobaric clamshell for bass
For those that like horns or conventional point source speakers, I’d give a shoutout to these rooms.
1. High Water Sound - It’s not my cup of tea, but I can appreciate what they were doing and their audience. Played great music and I understand they sold their $60k demo speakers. They were tucked in the corner and really made their room like a retreat and unique. You felt you were in somebody’s apartment listening to good music together. Nobody was talking...just listening...which is a positive sign.
2. Elac - They consistently embarrass all these mega dollar rooms with superior sound at reasonable prices. It’s not just good for the money...it’s good period.
3. Audio Solutions speakers - The second Highend by Oz room had massive 250lb speakers that would appeal to the Magico crowd. I felt these were superior with a unique location of the tweeter below eye level. The thing that stood out most is that they were only $15k, which is still a lot of money, but most 250lb speakers nowadays start at like $50k or more.
4. Audiokinesis - I know Duke from back in his days living in NOLA. Great guy and his speakers never sounded better. They don’t shout at you like most point source speakers and don’t sound as boxy. They give a more realistic and natural presentation. You feel like you are listening to music versus speakers. He probably needs to work on making them sexy looking to entice the mainstream, but those who value good sound will appreciate what he is doing.
5. Reel-to-Reel content by Nagra and Joseph Audio rooms...also Alsyvox did master digital tape demos
Other things that caught my attention....
1. 64 Audio Tia Fourte in-ear headphones - I’ve never heard ANY headphones sound better period. Those headphones with a simple cell phone sounded FAR better than virtually any room at the show. It wasn’t even close. It’s amazing what can be achieved with headphones nowadays, and you also have the advantage of taking the room out of the equation. I’m now an owner of these headphones and couldn’t take them out my ear the entire flight home from RMAF. Pricey but where else can you get this performance???
2. Kirmuss - I’m not even a vinyl guy, but this guy was interesting to talk to and tireless in doing demos of his record cleaner. You got to give props to guys that will tirelessly explain their product, give details, and not just sit back doing nothing. He was also offering to clean/restore any record you brought him. I learned a few things which is rare after going to decades of shows and visiting countless rooms. Decent price on his product too. I actually picked up a set of his speaker cables just for kicks. I’m not even a big cable guy, but Jena Labs made a similar design that was the bees-knees back in the day, but it cost > $5k. These were super reasonable, and I got them even less than the show special.
I can answer questions about other rooms, but I don’t like to say anything bad about a room (except for snake oil stuff like SR). Show conditions are tough...plus it’s far too hard to make conclusions unless you spend a lot of time and get the sweet spot.
Overall, the sound was decent for show conditions. There was only one room that I found a super disappointment and had no excuses. Ironically, someone earlier in this thread claimed to like them, so I won’t say anything.
@markalarsen ... I feel the same way about my relatively new Pulsars. I've heard a lot of 2 way speakers since I bought the Pulsars in March, and have not heard anything that comes close to that JA sound. Guess that's why there are few, if any, JA speakers for sale used ... folks like 'em and keep 'em.
I did not hear every room but of those I did visit, Gryphon was my clear Best-of-Show.
On another note, I was very disappointed in Qobuz. Not because of SQ but because I could not find them! No one was manning their booth on the Mezzanine and none of the rooms listed in the directory had them streaming. Several of the rooms that were listed as Qobuz rooms had never even heard of Qobuz! And they were supposed to be one of the show sponsors!
My favorite room was the Von Schweikert Audio with VAC electronics. Analog and digital both sounded flawless to me. Transcendent.
Least favorite was Verity Audio. $1,000,000. Really? I went in with a friend who is interested in the turntable they used. Sound was screeching using both digital and analog.
Harbeth 40.2 with Vinni Rossi was excellent, Raidho was excellent. MBL, as always, excellent. Gryphon excellent. Found Legacy showing with Raven tubes. Quite lovely sound and a good demo of the Legacy Wavelet room correction.