RMAF 2019!

Just got home from a long day at RMAF.  I had a great time!  The venue is spectacular this year but definitely spread out.  Get ready to walk :-)

Some rooms you should check out are (in no particular order):

Vandersteen, Joseph Audio, Salk, Revel, Classe, Jeff Rowland (Vivid Speakers), Kii Audio (Bryston Room), Mark Levinson, YG Acoustics,

There were some I missed and some that I didn’t mention that sounded great but the ones I mentioned above all sounded really nice and are definitely worth checking out.   Hopefully my little list will help someone out Saturday or Sunday.  Enjoy the Show!!
Sanders Sound Systems by far the best sound. The only speaker I wanted to take home. The least impressive looking room.

Focal Scala Utopia my next favorite speaker.

The Sigma Acoustics/AGD room was where I spent the most time. Sounded mostly beautiful but the soundstage was enormous, as was the speaker, and occasionally I heard a little stridence in the upper treble. I couldn't decide if I liked them a lot or not at all.

Most of the other rooms were perfectly acceptable with the following exceptions:

P.S.Audio. I was expecting a lot. I didn't care for what I heard at all. Way too tilted towards the middle bass.
Alsyvox/Omega Audio. Too hard and grating for me. I was not expecting that, don't know what the problem was.
Kii. A lot of bass out of a little box. Tonally they were fine but the imaging was not. I would have blamed the room, but these are supposed to correct for room problems.
Klipsch Cornwall. Too soft at the high end, although I suspect this room was way too small for this speaker.
Troy Audio Hellena Mk II. Not bad per se, but disappointing. They are based on the Great Plains/Altec drivers. I made myself a horn speaker with Altec drivers, and I love them. The Hellenas have a horn tweeter and they sell for $80,000 with internal crossover, $120,000 with the external crossover. My speaker cost $4,000 with an active crossover (half of that was the tweeter, I could have built them for less). My speaker is better. Significantly better.

I am a rank amateur, I should not be able to cobble together a speaker that is better than most of what I heard at RMAF, but apparently I have done just that. I made the speakers just to go with my 2 watt amps. I went to this show because I have heard pretty much none of the new gear that everyone talks about here, and this was a chance to hear almost everything in one place. Except for perhaps the Sanders Model 10s, ($17,000--with a Sanders amp! Possibly the best value in the show) there was nothing that made me want to throw away my Altecs and my Sound Labs (O.K., I have two really good speakers), my Levinson ML-2s and my (handmade, the first by me) single ended triodes. The speakers are 1960 vintage for the Altecs, with a new RAAL ribbon tweeter, and 1983 vintage for the Sound Labs. The ML-2s are from 1978. The triodes range from 20 to 2, but they could have been built in 1930. I have long contended that there has been no real advancement in audio technology for a long time. I stand by that statement.
I've gone to countless shows over the years since the 90s.

The Polk SDA demo is one of the most impressive I've ever heard.  I can't even believe I'm writing those words, but it's the honest truth.  Every room I went into after that demo was boring and way overpriced for far less performance.

In terms of the big rooms, Alsyvox and the YG/VTL setups were as good as you will find at a show.  That's 2 years in a row that Alsyvox caught my ears and I suspect it will continue.

Elac still makes awesome gear for budget prices that embarrass the big boys.

A few companies with new speakers were duds (i.e. that point array speaker that looked like it had a tumor growing out of the cabinet and especially the room with the midcentury modern style speaker was as bad as I've ever heard at a show).  I won't name exact names of those companies, but you can figure it out.

One guy that's always at the shows and finally caught my attention with something was Steve Norber of Prana Fidelity.  His new speaker with DSP sounded REALLY good although it is way overpriced.
I attended the show with my kids, so I will make some comments from their perspective.  

They wanted to spend most of their time in the headphone area - they loved the HiFiMan Headphones.  They also thoroughly enjoyed the new Manley Headphone Amp.  We met EveAnna Manley, who was super nice and patient - she knows how to relate to the younger generation.

On the way out we stopped in the PS Audio booth - I saw Paul, the PS Audio celebrity walking around, answering questions and being extremely cordial.   Scott McGowan came up to my son who was looking at the Sprout.  Scott was super, patient, answered all objections well.  The merchandising in that booth was exemplary.  My kids earn their own money, and the price of the Sprout is A LOT for them, never the less, they bought it.  My son received his new Sprout 3 days later, brought it over a couple of days ago and is ecstatic with the purchase.  I almost forked over for some of their gear - but really wanted time to listen.  My kid said the Manley was the best sounding headphone amp by far, but could not afford it.

I am kind of looking at a streamer/dac and was looking at the PS Audio stuff - but I noticed almost every room was using the Blue Note - they must know something I don't - I am going to check them out.

I forked over for an Astell & Kern high res player.

We were all let down in the Wilson room, we have Wilson's and were expecting something better.

Magico was a letdown. 

We all like Klipsch (we have their speakers in our movie room) but I think we have all outgrown them - they just don't sound good except in a multi-channel movie type application.

The new Vandersteen's were blah.

I am not a Focal fan, but the big Focal speakers were simply stunning - I have never heard them sound so good.

My kids dragged me into the Parts Express room saying "you have to hear these" - they were playing music off a phone, through a $30 tube amp from Amazon, through a pair of $350 DIY speakers - IT/THEY SOUNDED INCREDIBLE - THE BEST BOOKSHELF SPEAKERS I HEARD.  And if the RMAF show is the cream of the crop, then these are the best bookshelf speakers made.  Of course, they wouldn't sell them.

Some of the best speakers we heard were the Warfedales - they were not out yet - were like $2500 for the pair - sounded GREAT.  I am going to find the dealer and go listen to them, I can see purchasing them.

We all agreed that most rooms need to expand their musical tastes - there is plenty of good, contemporary, well-recorded music out there to demo.  Hearing Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Diana Krall, and Kind of Blue and the same sounding jazz - some did not have anything available to play other than dead people.

We had a ball and will go again next year.


I had forgotten about the Polk room. You are correct the Polk SDA
imaged amazingly well and sounded great.  Don't know what they cost.
They were playing in one of the suites at the end of a hall, big room.
The only weirdness was there were only four chairs and they were in
a line front to back (one row four deep).  So, it appears the sweet spot
is very narrow.  Several show goers attempted to move one of the chairs and the "gentleman" running the room rather gruffly told him to "put it back".  I tried to talk to the "gentleman" and he was totally disinterested.
Not sure what was going on.  Just calling it the way it happened.