It's very hard to pour through all the rooms you hear and come up with something that you feel really stands out. You would be surprised how many people say 'I don't know.... hmmmm' when you ask them 'What rooms did you like' If you ever go house shopping and see 16 places in one day all the houses start looking alike. Now imagine seeing more than 50 in three day... Add booze, late nights, and jet lag into the equation and you might start to see where we're coming from. None the less it is important for me to highlight the rooms that I felt really stand out.
I want to point out that we did not take price into consideration on any system but one in which the manufacturer had listed the price very prominently (that vendor didn't make the list anyway so it's a moot point) So without further adieu..... In no particular ordermost surprising in showZellaton room
Wide band driver huh? Metal driver (vendor assured us it wasn't just metal)... Wow can you get any worse in my mind? Wait... Holy cow... These are phenomenal!!!! As I said imaging was incredible and they were soulful... Just really really great roomEmotiva
This is one of the best in show because they just sounded so wonderful and probably among the best 5 bookshelf sized speakers I have heard at this show ever. That's saying a lot as this show is saturated with bookshelves.Voxativ
What can I say, I know these won't make Tyson's list, but this is truly the first single driver speaker system that made me say 'I get it' It may not do everything perfect nor really blow my mind with tonal balance but they sounded very nice.swankiest roomVivid Audio room
This wasn't the best in show for sound, but the atmosphere they created in this room was just so damn retro cool I couldn't help myself, I had to make special mention. I'm not saying the sound was bad, it was actually pretty good. But when it looks this good it doesn't need to make any sound at all. Best in ShowAnalysis Audio room
Easily the best 3D imaging period. Felt like you could walk out on the stage. Vapor Audio room
The legends were true these are bad ass! Daedalus Audio Day 3
The day 1-2 Daedalus room was pretty rockin', but it wasn't until the Argos were put into the main system that my jaw dropped. Refinement knob was cranked to 11. These speakers have finesse and grace, but also will kick your ass if you want them to.Tri/Acoustic Zen
other years this room has made the list and this year is no exception. Gorgeous sound very romantic without being tubby or strained. Power like you wouldn't believe, yet grace that will melt your heart. They did it again this year, but bested every other year.
HUGE SCREWUP!!! I forgot to mention AMR!!!AMR/Avatar
This room did everything soooo well! The reason I think I forgot to mention this room is because it was almost my best of the best until I heard the Odyssey/GIK room. Any way these guys blew it away this year. They really deserve kudos.BEST OF THE BEST
There can be only one. Normally I spend some time really contemplating 'well this room did this really well, but is that enough to trump this other room which did this well?' but this year one room stood head and shoulders above the rest. Price point be damned, magic hocus pocus BS on a spec sheet be damned, and most of all excuses be damned.
This years absolute best of what I saw at this show is:Odyssey Audio/GIK Acoustics
This system absolutely hit it out of the park. The equipment setup was superlative, the room treatment went above and beyond ANYTHING I have ever seen at these shows. And the equipment was absolutely gorgeous... That said gorgeous equipment was everywhere at this show and no that's not what I am basing this off of. What struck me was how I just melted into the music and felt an elation that is hard to describe no matter what I was listening to. The emotion just took over and I found myself truly enjoying the music. Not the gear, not the traps, not the lack of bass over hang or slap echo or the perfect tonal balance. It was just me and the music washing over my being. If someone took me into this room and said 'This is my system, I have been building it for the last 5 years and this is the final result' I would have been blown away, but Odyssey and GIK accomplished one of the best sounding systems I have ever heard PERIOD at a trade show no less, where setup time is limited and the rooms are small and oddly shaped.
Congrats guys you created something special here that I will remember for years to come. Tyson's Picks
Unlike Jason, I'll just have a boring top 10 list, and not any of his fancy schmancy categories. I do feel that there were 3 rooms that were sort of head and shoulders above the rest, so I will note them separately. Otherwise the list is in no particular order.Top 3
These are the rooms I thought were particularly spectacular this year. Again, unlike Jason, I have a hard time picking a clear winner as I thought they were all phenomenal. Not that they all sounded the same, far from it. They each had their own strengths and weaknesses (but mainly strengths). Without further ado:Odyssey and GIK
I put both Odyssey and GIK in the title for a reason. Every year we go to the Odyssey room and every year we like it. It's a good "rockin'" room. But every year it lacks in soundstaging, clarity, detail compared to the very best systems. It's never cracked our top 5, let alone number one. And every year there is little to no attention paid to room treatment. That changed this year. Dramatically. Bringing in GIK Acoustics was a game changer. I've said it before and I'll say it again - EVERY vendor sound be a GIK customer (and every audiophile should too, for that matter). They are the Rolls Royce of room treatments. Putting their stuff in your room is like upgrading your DAC, your amp, your preamp, your cables, AND your speakers, all at one time. We always felt the Odyssey gear was being held back by the room and this year proved it. Imaging, soundstage, detail, tonal warmth, microdynamics, emotional engagement, all were there in spades. Congrats guys, this room makes the Best of RMAF with a bullet!Zellaton Room
Every year there is one room that comes out of nowhere and knocks us on our butts. This year it was the Zellaton room. They contain every single element of speaker design I normally hate - single wideband midrange driver, no tweeter, metal based drivers, a recipe for disaster, IMO. When I sat down I was ready to trash the room and bolt out the door. Then they put on some music and the magic happened. Imaging, soundstage, clarity, coherence, focus, they did it as well or better than any other speaker. Without being shouty, without being spitty, with a wide sweet spot. While I would not say they were "warm", and they certainly aren't the most dynamic speakers around, I will say that they were an almost perfect window into the recording and the music. Great stuff!Avatar Acoustics
AMR, First Sound, and Avatar are certainly a winning combo! Perhaps the greatest "all-rounder" room we heard at the show. Nothing stands out over anything else, because this room did great in every single category I can think of. They have been an excellent room for several years not, but this year they got it all dialed in and it took them right to the top of the best at show. Great job guys!Top 10
These are the final 7 vendors that made Best of RMAF this year.Cabasse
Jason did not like this room at all, but I loved it. They just sounded so BIG and mean and muscular. Like a big muscle car, effortless torque and oozing power even when just idling. And it's a quad concentric design - 4 drivers with the same physical/acoustic center, how cool is that? Maybe not a perfect system for everyone, but if you are the type that listens to music "from the gut", these are definitely worth a look.Vapor Audio
"Oh, you have to go hear the Vapor audio room". Oh, do I? I always sort of want a room to suck when everyone is raving about it. Not sure why, maybe a personality defect. Or as Jason might say "It's because your a dick". Anyway, that's how I was feeling about hitting the Vapor room this year, after missing their after hours RMAF debut last year. But the proof is in the listening. And the Vapor room just killed it. Phenomenal room and easily makes my Best at RMAF list.GR Research
Hey, what can I say, I'm a GR Research customer (bastardized V2's baby!), and thus am a fan. I love the room every year (Super V's up till now). But the Super 7's do well everything the Super V's do well and then seriously raise the bar in the areas of transparency, speed, clarity, imaging and soundstaging. If you heard them on Friday or Saturday, you did not hear them at their best - there was a setting in the DAC that caused them to sound bright. But that was fixed by Sunday and they were back on the Best of RMAF list, with ease. Don't let the pics fool you, these are BIG speakers, and best of all they SOUND big in all the best ways.Analysis Audio
We never like this room. Big Apogee clones always sound sterile and lifeless. In fact, last year we didn't even bother going to their room because we'd had such consistently bad impressions. But this year we went on a lark and they were glorious. I think they did a lot more to treat their room this year. Regardless, the soundstage was spooky real. Like "walk into it" real. And the tonal balance was not the normal thin/metallic sound we normally hear. Bass was still "light" but that's pretty much par for these big panel type speakers. But the strengths FAR outweigh the weaknesses, IMO.Emotiva Audio
They could have cost $10,000 for all I knew. That should answer those questions of "Was it good for the $$, or just great, period?" They were just great, period. The fact that they are so inexpensive (which I found out later) is just gravy.Estelon
Not as great as last year, when they just crushed it. This year was the next-lower-down model in their lineup and the room was still great, just not AS great. I still think it's one of the coolest looking speakers around.Daedalus
It's the same every year with Daedalus - progressively better sound each day at the show. This year saw not one but 2 new speakers debut. I thought the Orpheus was good but the Argos speakers that were set up on Sunday were phenomenal. Daedalus makes the list based on what we heard on Sunday, for sure. Also a shout to Lou, who's one of the coolest guys in audio.Special Award - Best DBTPrecision Transducer Engineering
They had actually set up blind testing, taking an analog signal from a turntable and digitizing it. One input had the original analog signal and the other had the digitized version. We had scorecards and everything. After a few minutes of switching back and forth to acclimate, we were ready to take the test. We had to mark if the signal was analog or digital, and it might change between switches, and it might not. End of the test I'd missed one, which kinda bummed me out, but they told me that I had done "excellent", and only one other person at the show had been able to hear the difference to that extent. That's cool. I love this type of stuff
I think the guys running the room and giving the test were dismayed that some people (a very few, evidently) could hear a difference. I suspect that they, themselves, could not.