RMAF: My favorites, so-so's, and disappointments

Important caveat: These are my impressions from show condition setups. Some of the best sounding systems can sound like crap under show conditions with their tiny rooms, terrible AC, etc.
I chose these speakers because they moved me emotionally - my most important criteria. My favorates, starting from the best and going down the list.
1. Acapella Triolon Excaliber: The best sound at the show. Dynamics, nuance, imaging, staging, transparency, timbre, coherence, bass extension etc. were all there in spades. Coherence was first rate which is surprising given all the different types of drivers involved - ion tweeters, horns, and conventional cone subwoofer towers. They played a recording of a duet on Steinways that was just amazing - the weight of the pianos were very convincing. Big band music was alive and there with ripping brass section. Only $170k ;-). Oh, BTW they were fed by all Einstein tube electronics costing $100k plus. In most shows, these megabuck systems just sound like crap, but this was the exception.
2. MBL 101E: Have to admit, in the past these guys sounded steely to me. But this was greatly tamed this time. Bass was a bit bloated, but the rest was excellent. Not as good as the Acapella but still enjoyable overal.
3. Usher Be-718: These dimunitive monitors impressed me greatly. Dynamics, imagin/staging, clean highs, nice clear warmish midrange, and a kickass bass (but not much below 40Hz) were surprising. I might get a pair.
4. Pioneer S-1EX: Surprise, surprise. Pioneer has come a long way with injection of TAD expertise. Very enjoyable because it was alive and dynamic. Imaging, staging, bass, and midrange was great as was the coherence except for a little zippy high end.
5. YG Acoustics Kipod and accompanying subwoofer: Very clean, pinpoint imaging within a large stage, excellent dynamics, and clean bass. Doesn't do subterranean bass. Given it's $40k+ pricetag, should go lower. But I liked it better than the bigger Anat Reference.

The so-so's, in no particular order.
1. Rebuilt Duetta's with Graz's ribbons: I'm an Apogee fan, having owned the Stages and Centaurs in the past. Although very pleasant with nice tuneful extended bass, smooth midrange and highs, it just wasn't dyanmically alive. The drumb solo was nice, but it didn't get me emotionally. I've heard Duetta's do better at shows. May be it was the Audio Research electronics that mellowed the sound to the point of Valium induced laisse faire. Or may be it needed vinyl or a bigger room. I hope better luck with the new Graz's Duetta.
2. Analysis Audio 4 panel system: Did not fair any better than the Duetta above, although 4x the cost. This is strike 4 for the Analysis Audio speakers - I have never heard them sound good, albeit all at shows.
3. Advanced Ribbon Technologies Metro: Again smooth and nonirritating, but no dynamics at all. My least favorite of the the ribbon bunch.

The disappointments:
1. Beveridge G3 electrostat hybrid: I was really looking forward to hearing these. Was this worth the $50k asking price? NO! At least not what I heard in that coffin rooom. It was claimed to be reach 115dB. Heard a recording with lots of percussion, it started to compress when multiple drums with all the instruments congealing when played at volumes approaching 100dB. The timbre of the intruments were bland, homogeneous. Everything sounded a bit foggy, not the transparency I'm used to from the best electrostats. Low bass was absent. The subwoofer is a TL that goes flat to 30 Hz, but I swear they must have turned it off. Organ music has low bass as a foundation that all other notes builds upon, but I didn't get that from the Beveridge.
2. Scena RLA speakers: Murky, bloated, and dead. Don't remember the amps but the source was the Nova Physics Memory Player. I couldn't wait to get out of the room after 30 seconds.

Some may agree and some may disagree with me like I was your mother-in-law. But hey these are JUST my opinion.
Xiekitchen, let me point out again that my impressions are under show conditions, so some great sounding speakers can sound lousy in hotel rooms. The Beveridge definately was not at it's best in those claustrophobic room. It was just too big for that room. The Acapella was in a large spacious room so it could strut its stuff. Palmetto Audio should have done the same with the Beveridge - If it is your first showing for a new legendary model, wouldn't you have spent the extra cash and get a room that would do justice to the speakers. It would pay off later with more sales, I think.

Opalchip, I didn't get to hear the bigger Usher model at the show because they didn't play them the 3 or 4 times I stopped by their room. If you live in a small appartmentt, the Tiny Dancer (BE-718) is the way to go.
this was my first time to any show and I had a great time.I met some great people and some snooty ones as well. I was very impressed with the LSA room, MBL, also the Ushers. What shocked me was $2500 speakers with $25000 electronics. On the educational side I learned that I love very costly digital sources. I also got home and enjoyed my system even more than before, which I was afraid that wouldn't happen. Looking foward to going again.
The Tiny Dancers were, indeed impressive. I was expecting much less. At the other end of the spectrum of price/performance high-hopes, I found bad sound coming from the Hansen Kings. Having said that, they were set up in a fairly large, tile and cement lecture hall type conference room. You know, the kind with a stepped ramp going up each side of rows along formica surfaces which accomodate about five or six chairs at each level. I fear the Kings were done a grave injustice. The room, with or without speakers, in it echoed all over the place and sounded painfully bright. I would have loved to have heard them in the Wilson room!
It just goes to show you that everyone hears something different and listens for different elements in the sound to communicate the musical message. I found the sound in the Acapella Triolon room to be excessively bass heavy, boomy and very lacking in coherency, Absolutely fantastic tweeter though. Also, I was dissapointed with the Usher BE-718. I went into this room on four different occasions and the sound was always bright and irritating. Last year, every Usher speaker I heard sounded great to me--so go figure. I was impressed with the BE-10's however, which had a much better balanced sound.
I had a couple standout rooms that really impressed me and this is what I looked primarily for. Musicality--the ability to draw me in to the music. Emotional communication--the sound could evoke an emotional response from me, such as head bobbing or foot tapping.
In no particular order or price my favorites were the following--
1) Sonicweld Pulserod w/2 Subpulse subwoofers ($90,000 system). While Darth Vader would probably own a pair of these due to their high tech appearance, the music that flowed from this system playing Josh Groban's "You raise me up" caused a lump in my throat and tears to well up in my eyes. This system dissapeared so absolutely that I was left with only the music. The bass was a little overblown in the small room, but the mids and highs as well as the imaging and soundstage was so realistic that it was almost scary.
2)Proclaim Audioworks DMT-100 ($27,000pr). This 3-way spherical system offers full adjustability of the drivers by
manipulation of it's mounting assembly. This system was extremely dynamic, coherent and had a very boxless type of sound. Incredible bass power and slam with no overhang.
3)Audiokinesis was showing a new speaker ($9500pr). The name eludes me, but it appeared to be similiar to the Jazz Modules that Duke showed last year except this looked like a bi-pole design with identical drivers on the front and back.
Showing with Atmosphere electonics, the sound was very lifelike and had a palpable presence to instruments in the soundstage that maked me sit up and take notice.
4)AV123 LS6 ($2995pr) LS9($3995) These line source speakers have got to be the deal of the decade. Designed by Danny Richie of GR Research these big guys were able to display large scale music effortlessly. The LS-6's were hitched up to humungous Dodd audio monoblocks and the tonality was warm and inviting. At the same time, the system could portray huge dynamic swings effortlessly. The LS-9's
played through Red Rock audio tube mono's had a very see-thru quality that reminded me of electrostatics but with the addition of extreme dynamics. If you have the right room for these, you will be treated to a wall of sound that is coherent and does extreme justice to the music. Incredible
with large orchestral works.
5)Ellis Audio 1801 ($1500-2200pr) These diminutive floorstanders were simply superb. Dave Ellis has managed to bring forth the best sound I have ever heard coming out of the Seas magnesium drivers. The sound while extremely detailed, is at the same time velvety in texture, in other words he has struck the perfect balance. Midrange was holographic and the highs were sublime. Bass response was very surprising giving its size. I asked if there was a subwoofer somewhere and was told there was none. Playing thru a Van Alstine tube dac and Aspen amplifier I could listen to this system for hours. If vocals and small ensembles are your bag, you would be hard pressed to find anything remotely as musically communicative as this setup was. Cheers, Jeff

The Pulserod by SonicWeld was indeed superb in my opinion as well. I have heard it a couple of times before and it was very good but didn't really drop my jaw to the floor like it did this time. Designer Josh Heiner told me that he'd made numerous changes. I didn't get to very many rooms but Sonic Weld would have to top my list. It was the only room that gave me genuine goosebumps, and goosebumps at an audio show is pretty much unheard of (for me at least).

Agree with you also on Danny Rich's line source speakers - at that price, the rest of the industry should band together and have him outlawed. I didn't hear the others you mentioned (well, except for mine).

My speaker is called the Dream Maker, and is nine grand a pair. Thanks for the thumbs-up.