LSAF 2013 - Listening Impressions and Comments

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Jonathon Janusz

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LSAF 2013 - Listening Impressions and Comments
« on: 3 May 2013, 10:26 pm »
I thought I would do my best to follow the lead of others here on AudioCircle in providing some thoughts and impressions on the sytems displayed at the Lone Star Audio Fest 2013. Okay, I can't quite do real time updates like some overachivers  :wink: but I've got enough gear to update a few times a day as the show goes on.  Please forgive my pics sometimes as best you can.  I just ran out of time in regards to sorting my camera situation before leaving, so I'm doing my best with the phone. . .

After making it through Friday, I've picked up on the feel for this show.  It is pleasantly informal - really feels like a get-together that just got bigger than any one person could put on at their home.  The industry professionals I spoke with all have mentioned how much they enjoy doing this show, and the rooms I have been able to visit so far have been just as much a group of good friends catching up over music as showing a system for the public.  It has been nice thus far to really get to chat with the people at the show and get the extra time needed to pause, take a breath, and enjoy the process of learning about what everyone has going on that sometimes got rushed a bit in my mind at the whirlwind that was RMAF.  Twenty of us driving around town to settle on a good, family-style chicken dinner was just the right kind of ending to the day.

That said, folks have told me that traditionally Saturday has been "the day" for this show, so back to work I go!  :thumb:

Because it needs to be clearly said these days, please remember that everything I say regarding a room is my personal impression of what I hear at this time, in these rooms.  Mileage may vary, for what it is worth, and all that. . . 8)

To wrap up the introduction, I want to make a point of note regarding the rooms.  I know from taking a walk around to see the rooms as they were getting set up, that there is a mix of industry professional rooms and rooms presented by passionate, talented, everyday folks like me.  :D  It is a pleasure to spend time in the company of people really enjoying what they are doing here.  In that spirit, and as a show of my respect for the quality and calibre of work put into the displays at the show, please accept my commentary and impressions of the rooms on an even footing - hobbyist and pro alike.  I want to tell it as I hear it, walking into every room the same, and I believe everyone putting the effort into being here and putting something out there for everyone to see deserves no less.

At RMAF, I ran around with a roughly five minute demo cut CD, along with a mix of full songs that I played more or less for fun.  This time around, hearing on the wind about the relaxed vibe at this show, I brought my RMAF mix along with putting together a new mix for this LSAF.  I put all but one of the full songs on the RMAF demo CD on the LSAF mix, just to have some common ground when I needed it, along with some odds and ends to keep things. . . different. . . than the average show soundtrack.  :green:

To bring everyone up to speed, the LSAF Mix:

"Is Your Love Strong Enough" - How to Destroy Angels
"Remain Nameless" - Florence + The Machine
"Night Flight" - Tan Dun & Yo-Yo Ma, from the soundtrack, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
"Whitefall Book" - Greg Edmonson from the soundtrack, Firefly
"Nothing Else Matters" - Apocalyptica
"Teardrop" - Massive Attack
"Misty Mountains" - Richard Armitage & the Dwarf Cast, from the soundtrack, The Hobbit - an Unexpected Journey
"Gone" - Ionanna Gika
"Glycerine" - Bush
"Hurricane" - Theory of a Deadman
"Zombie" - The Cranberries
"Richman" - 3OH!3
"Want" - Disturbed
"Vilify" - Device
"Hold it Against Me" - Britney Spears
"Patiently Waiting" - 50 Cent featuring Eminem
"I Came to Party" - Deuce

. . . and the RMAF Mix from Denver, 2012:

“Breath of Life” - Florence and the Machine
“Pennies in My Pocket” - Emilio Estefan
“Cumbersome” - Seven Mary Three
“Not Strong Enough” - Apocalyptica featuring Brent Smith
“Love Bites” - QED
“Come Undone” - My Darkest Days
“Innocence” - Halestorm
“You’re Going Down” - Sick Puppies
“Danse Russe” - Hurt
“Guilty” - Gravity Kills
“Black and Yellow (G-Mix)” - Wiz Kalifa featuring Snoop Dogg, Juicy J, T-Pain
“Still D.R.E.” - Dr. Dre
“Sam” - Massive Attack
“Darkness” - Disturbed
“Touchin’ On My” - 3OH!3
“Comin’ in Hot” - Hollywood Undead
“Perfect Insanity” - Disturbed
« Last Edit: 6 May 2013, 05:29 pm by Jonathon Janusz »

Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Friday Impressions
« Reply #1 on: 3 May 2013, 10:31 pm »
Legacy Audio - Aeris speakers running Coda/Oppo front end.  Plenty of weight on the bottom end, but it seems to fall short of the AMT tweeter.  Played "Nothing Else Matters" by Apocalyptica and "Gone" by Ioanna Gika - the air on the female voices and the delicacy is very, very nice.  Playing Theory of a Deadman - rainfall was detailed but the soundstage was a little collapsed.  Violins were very well presented in focus and size.





Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Friday Impressions
« Reply #2 on: 3 May 2013, 10:33 pm »
High Fidelity Cables - Balanced sound, nice texture on drums, highs are not the absolute in air but have a strong presentation and clarity. Speakers are well sized for the room - Also nice to see bass traps and treatments!  Wadia/Allnic/Voxotiv with Magnetic Conduction technolgy cabling from High Fidelity throughout. Only thing I can fault them is that the ambiant room noise from the AC system wasn't doing any favors in helping them demonstrate the low-noise properties of the cabling.





Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Friday Impressions
« Reply #3 on: 3 May 2013, 10:35 pm »
Bamberg/Emotiva/MG Audio Design (running a Sherbourn cd player) - I was very excited to see these speakers at the show - I've wanted to hear them for a while now.  The tweeter adjustment switch on the monitors was a welcome feature - when they were dialed down one setting, the balance was better for this room - the higher setting had more detail but got a little etched (again, "in this room. . ." and all that).  Bass from the stands was refined but maybe a little. . . polite for the monitor.  Not a very wide soundstage but a lot of depth, center image locked in tight and clean - as expected from a quality monitor. Again right size speaker for the room!  When they can get together the treatments they were looking for pre-show, they will be in even better shape.  The Emotiva gear did well, but I am left thinking the speakers were outclassing it a bit.

"Whitefall Book" - nice tone to the acoustic guitar with the bass cabinets doing well, but they ran out of steam a bit on the low piano notes. 

"Remain Nameless" by Florence + The Machine - had the depth in Florence's voice but was lacking a bit in the intensity - explained with an admitted challenge in the 40-50Hz range.  Makes my other observations make sense.  I liked the bass better with a little refinement rather than bumped up closer to what I would normally think is "right" - in this room, with this setup, with these speakers. . .  I was told to stop back tomorrow when some new front end gear will be in place.


« Last Edit: 6 May 2013, 04:35 pm by Jonathon Janusz »

Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Friday Impressions
« Reply #4 on: 4 May 2013, 12:06 am »
Soundfield Audio - The VSFT-2 Active Version tower playing currently (horn loaded planar tweeter, open back cardiod dispersion woofer, and the 1812's on standby. Computer source/Audio Electronics by Cary/MG Audio Design cables/Unison Symphonia amp with 27 watts going into 101db sensitivity.  Plenty of sound in a big room with very little.  They are getting close on getting the room set up and dialed in so I snuck in for a quick listen and to chat with the guys.  I REALLY like the tweeter on the VSFT-2.  I'm going to stop back later to this room once they have things 100%.  I'm not helping by distracting the hosts. . . ;)



Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Friday Impressions
« Reply #5 on: 4 May 2013, 12:08 am »
Pi Audio - Denon Bluray player/Passive pre/Oddwatt amps on a pair of 4pi and a pair of subs.  Very relaxed, smooth sound.  There is something just "right" going on for me in here.  This is another speaker that I wanted to hear, and I'm glad I did - really changes my thinking in regards to horn speakers.  Also, I think something I'm learning is that I like the way "big" drivers do what they do.  I'm also really liking the basic, retro-looking walnut cabinets - reminds me of the system I had before I got back into the audio hobby - understated and classic. 

"Is Your Love Strong Enough" from How to Destroy Angels - not absolute extension, but rock solid imaging, detail, clarity, the subs really fill in the low notes nicely and balance the big speakers well.  As the heavy bass line picks up, the big speakers hang nicely.  The speakers play clear and clean without the subs, but the subs really add depth to the whole piece. 

"Glycerine" by Bush - I just played this because I thought it would be fun on these speakers - thick, crunchy, rock guitar. 

"Vilify" by Device - Sorry. . . I'm just having fun.  This system just laughs at heavy, hard hitting industrial.  The very cool thing about the speed and clarity on the tweeters is that the vocals - which run fast and get lost on lesser systems behind the rest of the music - are still hear clean and clear.  I will be back to this room throughout the weekend to have fun and. . . play. . . :D


« Last Edit: 6 May 2013, 04:36 pm by Jonathon Janusz »

Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Friday Impressions
« Reply #6 on: 4 May 2013, 12:13 am »
GR Research/Dodd Audio/P.I. Audio Group/Serenity Acoustics. . .  :green:

More to put in here later when I get a chance to do a real demo in this room. . . but for now, PICTURES!







Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Listening Impressions and Comments
« Reply #7 on: 4 May 2013, 05:02 pm »
Raven Audio - Playing the infamous custom LS9.  Came in listening to another listener's music - light, female vocals.  Air, delicacy, detail.  Moving on to some light jazz, there is a speed and taught presentation to the bass there are very few speakers can do.  I've heard the LS6 before, and I know the LS9 has been desribed as "more".  I get it now, and I know others have said it before, but this specfic pair is just a singulary spectacular build - both beautiful to look at and an absolutely immovable foundation from which the sound can launch.  I need to come back to do a real demo.







Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Listening Impressions and Comments
« Reply #8 on: 4 May 2013, 05:03 pm »
AudioFred - Dayton 8"/Eminence Alpha OB 95db sensitivity with a light parts count filter and plate amplifiers on the bass attached to Cambridge CD player and an Oddwatt integrated.   Fred spent a few minutes describing his build process and design thinking in building his speakers, quality audio recordings, music. . . passion that shows and I really take away his enthusiasm for chasing maximum bang for the buck! 

Played some blues first - the Dayton driver set up open baffle like this sounds good, the speaker at first glance looks a little big for the room but plays "just right".  This is the kind of speaker a person could enjoy for a long time in a small living room.  This is my first chance to hear the OB/alpha setup and it has a nice texture and again I'm enjoying the "big" driver presentation - no replacement for displacment exemplified.  The bigger Oddwatt monoblocks were in place, but I think the little amp did very well in this room - good everyday listening volume/dynamics listening to an organ sample, which the bass drivers handled admirably but the fullrange drivers started to give up a little bit, and didn't quite have the size/scale to keep up with the alphas. 

"Whitefall Book" - nice, acoustic guitar and when the heavy horns came it the alphas again did well. 

"Gone" - not a very deep soundstage, good center imaging, gave up a little on the high end as expected and the sweet spot is kind of small, but overall still nice and a lot of speaker for $500 in parts. 

"Zombie" (after an amp change to the monoblocks and a Parasound pre) - good up top but a little rolled off, good down low, showed up something missing in the middle of the frequency range - could be the room or the monos needing to warm up.  Vocals started to get some nice depth with the front end change.  Pleasure to hang out in the room for a bit.  :)


« Last Edit: 6 May 2013, 04:37 pm by Jonathon Janusz »

Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Listening Impressions and Comments
« Reply #9 on: 4 May 2013, 05:04 pm »
Found Music - Chatted with the owner/builder on a small, inexpensive half-watt system with an integrated DAC on a pair of small single drivers.

"Misty Mountains" - this is a small system but the soundstage is really great!  Voices in the ensemble all had their individual places, nuance and detail were good - very, very cool!  Also gave me a demonstration on a CD treatment chemical - I wouldn't have believed it until I heard it, but it did add some body to the music, smoothed things out a bit, but it did lose just a little of the soundstaging and fine detail. 

"Gone" - again, very neat to see depth in the placement of voices in the soundstage.  This is a "budget" system that is going to make Found's client very happy for a quiet little system.


« Last Edit: 6 May 2013, 04:37 pm by Jonathon Janusz »

Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Listening Impressions and Comments
« Reply #10 on: 4 May 2013, 05:05 pm »
Brines Acoustics - 12" single drivers in ply/walnut veneer MLTL cabinets, connected to an M-Audio DAC, I was impressed to hear that the whole speaker loaded and ready to play only weighed 26lbs.  Again, an understated classic look that I like.  Strong attack, speed, sounded a little recessed in the low-mid for my liking.  I liked the tone of the low-mid, just felt overpowered by the mid and upper ranges.  The room wasn't any help to these speakers, and these speakers were wearing on me as much as the conversation about other speakers wearing on folks was to be had.  I'm glad to have heard them, just not my thing.



Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Listening Impressions and Comments
« Reply #11 on: 4 May 2013, 08:20 pm »
Manzanita Audio Solutions - Manzanita Ultra Plus, Oppo 95/modified Music Angel integrated running pentode (can be triode).  Big, beautifully built open baffles with a pair of 15" woofers and SEAS 8" full range. All for less than $6K quoted by the designer.  I'm really getting another theme of the show - KISS systems, reasonably priced, high value. 

Size, scale, presentation of trumpet (horns) was just spot-on.  Audiophile female vocals had a forward presentation - common so far to the open baffle designs I've heard at the show, and a little peaky in the highs.  Pulling the couch in the sweet spot out from the back wall a bit might have helped.  Was fun to hear on another listener's sample music the big OB woofers push just past the room's limits - hearing sealed speaker weight in a room with the clean delivery of OB bass - nice.  It was also nice to see a big OB speaker fully passive; for some folks, I can very much appreciate the ease of having just a pair of speakers and one integrated amp - without having to manage a pair of amps actively driving the bass for a lot of real-world installations, 

"Night Fight" - wide soundstage, not very deep, handled the deep bass most admirably and the full range driver shined keeping the accompaniment of the drumsticks and stage theatric sounds clear and separate from the drums, without either having those little, detail-focused sounds get lost in the bass or the bass having to play back seat - no "forest for the trees" going on.  About as turn-key as OB can get, enjoyable sound, realistic pricing.  Just work the room a bit to get the highs in line if you're into female vocal tracks and enjoy.  This is yet another room I wasn't expecting to see, but was on my to-do list of speakers to check out.


« Last Edit: 6 May 2013, 04:39 pm by Jonathon Janusz »

Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Listening Impressions and Comments
« Reply #12 on: 4 May 2013, 08:20 pm »
Bamberg, Round 2 - Now by popular request, with room treatments! ;)  Phil spent Saturday morning unloading some bass traps and absorption panels, and adjusting his room.  I ran into him on his way from the truck in the morning, and he asked that I stop by and give it another listen.

"Is Your Love Strong Enough" - rock solid center image, the backbeat is nicely framing the solo vocal - the bass has the behaved refinment from yesterday but has a little more body to go with it today.  Still able to hear the gentle, shaking emotion in the vocal even through the electronic distortion effects.  +1 for bass traps and the first reflection panels. 

"Glycerine" - again, rock solid center, vocals and guitar cleanly separated, has that polite/refinement to the sound I remember from yesterday but again a little more body.  Not quite as much as I would prefer on the electric guitar, but that is really just my personal preference for a thicker sound.  Reminds me of the Merlins, with a little more grunt behind them.  Violins came in with their own space back and to the right, clean and clear. 

"Hold it Against Me" - the dubstep/synth vocals really cut this speaker in two - the clean/clear/powerful monitor, and a different animal down low.  The synthesized bass reverb effects were played with an impressive depth of soundstage and musical articulation.  The bottom still just did not quite keep up in size/scale with the top  Adjustable, sure, but really dependent on where you happen to be listening in the room.  In the back seat in the room, a different show. 

Phil said it best that these speakers really divide your music collection in two - the "great" and the "not so great" recordings.  Nice again that they are adjustable to make either end enjoyable.  Bottom line, improved on the challenges found yesterday and better sound from the room.  Very nice chatting with Phil about his ideas about crossover modeling technologies and how he applies his philosophy to real-world production processes.
« Last Edit: 6 May 2013, 04:40 pm by Jonathon Janusz »

Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Listening Impressions and Comments
« Reply #13 on: 4 May 2013, 08:22 pm »
Affirm Audio - Lumination Feastrex fullrange speakers/KR Audio/Emia with a massive bass helper, and either digital or vinyl front end.  More than plenty of sound. . . too much unfortunately.  The big band music playing had signature single-driver coherence, the scale was doing just service to the horn section, and the drum had that kick in your lower chest weight that lets you know it is there. The highs in the fullrangers just overwhelmed the room.  If not in a larger room, treating this one would have done better service to this system.  I was disappointed that this was the first room that I couldn't hang around for long in - the highs just hammered my ears.



Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Listening Impressions and Comments
« Reply #14 on: 4 May 2013, 08:23 pm »
Evolution Acoustic - Micro 1 speakers, BMC Inegrated, Playback Designs SACD/USB DAC, MIT/Analysis cables.  We were sampling different sampling rate music files by way of the DAC.  Female vocals were a little etched, but the middle of the piano sounded very pretty - delicacy and the depth of each note was what I was reading.  Horns were etched a bit like the vocals.  If the sound just had better balance. . . right size setup for the room volume, the equipment just deserved more from the space.  I've also been seeing a trend in the upper floor rooms to have the listening position up against the back wall to put some more space between the speakers and listener; again just missing the mark, in my opinion. 

The amp is a really cool looking piece of kit.  When the system was switched from 44.1 files to DSD, the system really changed colors - the highs got a lot better, but the piano lost some of the delicacy that I was enjoying earlier.  So tough to tell in show conditions whether what I'm hearing is a result of different/higher resolution files, the room acting up, or just how the DAC either likes or dislikes different file types.  I'm guessing the system/gear is really optimized for hi-res playback - it really was night and day noticeable with the change.




« Last Edit: 6 May 2013, 04:42 pm by Jonathon Janusz »

Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Listening Impressions and Comments
« Reply #15 on: 4 May 2013, 08:27 pm »
Soundfield/MG, Round 2, Part 1.  I stopped back in the room to say hello, and AJ told me that the discovered the integrated they were running yesterday was compressing/distorting the sound they were getting last night.  They switched front ends and I can tell the difference.  The soundstage got wider, and there is just an absolute effortless presentation to the sound.  It was a little distracting in a good way that at times I was questioning how well the speakers were disapearing, only to have to remind myself that the drum kit I was listening to just happened to be on the right side of the soundstage in the recording, right on top of where the speaker cabinet was physically sitting.  The system was lacking in some depth to the soundstage, and I got to wondering a bit about how this setup would have sounded pulled out another ten feet or so into the room.

Soundfield/MG, Round 2, Part 2.  AJ was kind enough to switch out to the 1812's so I could hear them.  Still huge, effortless sound, center image locked in tighter, I am really liking the coherence from the coaxial driver up top.  It sounds maybe a tick less extended way up top and a little recessed compared to the other speaker's presentation, but for my tastes although I really enjoy the planar tweeter, I think I like the overall balance of this speaker better just off the cuff.  The horn section of the orchestra was just awesome with these. . . After talking about them for a bit, I knew I recognized the sound from this coax - I had heard it before at RMAF last year - smooth, relaxed sound that I liked very much and true enough, I really like these.
« Last Edit: 5 May 2013, 01:32 pm by Jonathon Janusz »

Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Listening Impressions and Comments
« Reply #16 on: 5 May 2013, 01:37 pm »
Departure Audio  - Green Mountain Audio Chroma bookshelves/Bryston digital/Blue Circle Audio integrated with DAC and a Blue Circle stand alone DAC/Yamaha CDP.  Right sized system for the space, and a speaker/system that doesn't at first jump out at me with any "wow" notes, but isn't doing anything wrong.  good soundstage with some depth that has been lacking in other rooms, speakers disappear nicely, not the last word in microscopic detail, but a touch laid back and easy to listen to.  If I had to pick on something, the backlit Blue Circle logo on the front of the integrated is cool looking, but I could see be distracting long-term if I were to own it. 

"Gone" - Solid center image, the male vocal presented a raspy detail I hadn't heard at the show yet - very nice.  The overtones of the female vocal are pleasing, but it is a little veiled compared to some other rooms, but it did pick up some breathiness that I hadn't heard elsewhere, so again, a little good a little less. The orchestra came in with some good weight, but again was a little muddy. 

"Nothing Else Matters" - I chose the cello piece as something this system would shine with.  Good weight, these speakers really got the emotion of the music right - dark, heavy, with brief glimpses of light.  I'm glad I stopped in.


« Last Edit: 6 May 2013, 04:43 pm by Jonathon Janusz »

Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Listening Impressions and Comments
« Reply #17 on: 5 May 2013, 01:42 pm »
Oddwatt - I wanted to at least put up the picture I took in this room.  They had their full assortment of completed integrateds and monoblocks along with a protoype phono preamp connected to the small cone-hybrid Martin Logans.  The guys were working hard at trying to throw a lot of info at me in a short time, and I really wanted to get a demo in this room, because I heard the MLs at RMAF and like them (maybe more than the bigger models, actually).  The room was busy and a lot of conversation going on, so I hope I can make it happen before I have to head out Sunday.



Jonathon Janusz

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Re: LSAF 2013 - Listening Impressions and Comments
« Reply #18 on: 5 May 2013, 01:45 pm »
GR/Serenity - I got to do a few demo tracks and hope to pick up a few more before the show is done. 

"Whitefall Book" - Reverb on the acoustic guitar is tuneful and clean - no grunge or overhang on the notes.  The low piano comes in strong.  Improved layering against the completely black background. A deep sound stage that just hangs in the air. 

"Nothing Else Matters" - Each cello has its own clear space, Even sound top to bottom, but a little lacking for my tastes in impact on the bottom most notes as set up in this room (compared to the bass I heard at RMAF of the same setup).  High notes are clearly separated to the front of the soundstage. 

I talked to Danny, comparing this room to the one at RMAF.  With a minor adjustment to the diffusors, he changed the soundstage - originally it was extraordinarily deep, layered, dense, and had an intensity, but stopped in width about a foot to either side of the speakers.  After the change, the stage widened out about ten feet either direction, maintained some but not all of the depth, and relaxed the whole presentation of the room,  Preference for me would be a matter of individual musical selections.  This brief demonstration showed the understanding and control of this system, the room, and how the two work together that folks rave about year after year.
« Last Edit: 6 May 2013, 04:43 pm by Jonathon Janusz »

Nick77

Re: LSAF 2013 - Listening Impressions and Comments
« Reply #19 on: 5 May 2013, 03:05 pm »
Enjoyed your coverage, thanks!  :thumb: