DaveC's RMAF Reviews

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DaveC113

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DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« on: 14 Oct 2013, 12:59 am »
I had a great time at the show this year, even ran into Tyson and Pez in a couple of rooms, great to meet you guys and hear the tracks you were listening to.  :thumb:

I tried to take pics without a flash to capture the ambiance of the room and not annoy other folks too much.

Test tracks are stuff I like... I made one track with ~1 min clips of several different things... Infected Mushroom - Becoming Insane, Thievery Corporation - Lebanese Blonde, Beats Antique - Daze, Bonobo - Walk in the Sky, Bela Fleck - A Moment So Close (from Live at the Quick), Cassandra Wilson - Another Country.

Here we go!









HiFi Imports room with Venture speakers and Thrax electronics. Very nice system, easy to listen to... big $100k+ speakers that do everything pretty well. Not as dynamic as some of the huge speakers, but good tonality and balance. One of the better systems at RMAF for sure. This system did a good job on all of my test tracks.







Aaudio Imports...Lansche Speakers, about $1/4 mil.  When I was there, there was a big symphonic piece playing at moderate volumes and the speaker cones were barely moving. These speakers obviously have the ability to fill an auditorium sized space effortlessly. I didn't get to hear my test track but what I heard was excellent. The presentation was more on the bright side, but not harsh or annoying. The plasma tweets are really good, Vaughn also used plasmas and I like them. 


DaveC113

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Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #1 on: 14 Oct 2013, 01:18 am »






Daedalus and Modwright. Beautiful speakers with high end sound to match. One of the better rooms at the show with the exception of some room acoustics playing havoc with the bass response. There were similar issues with the bass last year too... Playing my test track, I noticed very strong dynamics and great tone... I would love to hear this system with a better room set up. In any case, good value for what you get and these should be a contender for anyone looking at speakers in this price range.







Classic Audio Loudspeakers w/ Atma-Sphere amps. Did not play my test tracks but I liked the speakers. Big sound, big dynamics, and refinement to boot. Good job!





Wilson Alexias, one of two rooms featuring these speakers. I liked this system better than Wilsons I have heard previously... I got to play my test track and it handled it all really well. I find the tweeter in Wilsons to be slightly annoying but not horrible. No way would I spend the cash on them with companies like Vapor and Daedalus around offering far better value for the money on big speakers that can play anything. But, this was a good system and the acoustics in the room was tolerable... they clearly spent some time getting the setup right.

Vinnie R.

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Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #2 on: 14 Oct 2013, 01:21 am »
Hi Dave,

Nice pics - thanks for posting.  The Modwright / Daedalus room looks really good! 

I wish I could be there this year... I'm shooting for 2014!  :thumb:

Vinnie

DaveC113

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Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #3 on: 14 Oct 2013, 01:31 am »






Tannoy speakers with VAC amps. I got to play my test track and was very impressed. One of the best big systems at the show, very dynamic and engaging sound, it is just fun to listen to. Not as accurate and precise as some, but I prefer the presentation to most of the other big systems.







Zu! Honestly, I have never liked Zu speakers until now. Still not the last word in refinement, but they aren't nearly as annoying as they used to be. They still sound like PA speakers, but with less annoying artifacts and harshness than I have experienced in the past. This system was VERY dynamic and a lot of fun to listen to. They will fill an auditorium sized space like a massive speaker but they aren't as big or expensive... they will pay at concert level SPLs effortlessly, if you want to recreate a rock or electronic music concert in a large space without spending 6 figures or having it sound like crap these are a great option. The Druids with the subwoofer are about $9k. For what they do this isn't a bad price... I would love to have a pair for when I really want to crank up the volume!


DaveC113

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Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #4 on: 14 Oct 2013, 01:57 am »








AudioKinesis, it was great meeting Duke and James, thanks for taking the time to play my test track and talk about your speakers. The Dream Maker system did everything really well, and some things incredibly well. In particular, the way it handled the live Bela Fleck track was one of the best at RMAF, it is a very loud, complex and cluttered track that really doesn't sound very good on most systems. But the Dream Makers unwrapped it and laid it all out with a depth of soundstage unmatched by anything I have ever heard before. The effects speakers is really well done and surpasses a typical bi/dipole to a large degree. That said, the tonal balance is not to my personal preference, it is laid back and a little on the dark side, where I prefer a bright/forward presentation as long as it's not harsh or fatiguing... something that isn't easy to do. The AudioKenisis speakers do not lack detail though, just my own personal preferences... I do think the highs are a bit rolled off at the extreme high end though. The room setup was good but not perfect, there were still some bass issue, but minor ones that did not detract from hearing what the systems can do. In any case, if you are looking for a system in this price range these are well worth putting on the short list.







Salk / Van Alstine. I listened to the stand mount speakers, they had a fairly high level of refinement and do a great job on some music, but the speakers really didn't like my test track... nevertheless I do appreciate any room that will play test tracks brought in by attendees. I also appreciate the system for what it is, but I really didn't like it. For the kind of music I listen to and my own personal preferences it just didn't work.

DaveC113

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Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #5 on: 14 Oct 2013, 01:58 am »
Hi Dave,

Nice pics - thanks for posting.  The Modwright / Daedalus room looks really good! 

I wish I could be there this year... I'm shooting for 2014!  :thumb:

Vinnie

No problem Vinnie, I hope to see you at RMAF next year!  :)

DaveC113

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Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #6 on: 14 Oct 2013, 02:24 am »








SST Audio amps and Volti Speakers. OK, this is a great room, I really liked it a lot. It featured FOUR 813 SET monoblocks making 40 wpc at $62k for a pair. The speakers are 99 dB sensitivity and combined with the huge SET amps makes for effortless dynamics. One of the more enjoyable systems to listen to at the show for sure, it did a great job with everything I threw at it.







TAD speakers and Zesto electronics. OK, but seems like a bit of a mismatch on the speaker/amp pairing. Decent, but the all-TAD system using the same speakers was much better. The TAD amps are over $60k for the pair so maybe not a fair fight...


DaveC113

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Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #7 on: 14 Oct 2013, 02:36 am »






MBL downsized for the show this year, but the sound was certainly recognizable as MBL. I like MBL stuff but the way it images isn't my personal preference, they are larger than life, float a bit and aren't as precise as some. Tradeoff is a huge sweet spot, they sound good everywhere in the room. Very cool speakers...





King Sound 'stats. Really nice system, I enjoyed listening to it. Didn't play my test track as the room was a little crowded when I stopped by. Well worth checking out, all the benefits and tradeoffs of a full range 'stat. This one is better than most, but if you're looking at 'stats the Sanders are head and shoulders above the rest imo.

Pez

Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #8 on: 14 Oct 2013, 03:39 am »
Dave, it was really great to meet you finally. I had a great time chatting with you as well as reading your coverage here.

DaveC113

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Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #9 on: 14 Oct 2013, 03:40 am »






Odyssey. Probably the best value for the money of anyone at the show. The room was one of a small handful of expertly setup systems and I got to play my test track so I got a good feel for it and was blown away by what I heard. It does everything really well, no matter what you throw at it, with a level of refinement you'd expect from a system 10x it's cost. Odyssey is one of a half dozen or less speakers I'd consider in the under $10k range, but unlike all the others Odyssey offers affordable amplifiers optimized for their speakers as well, taking the guesswork out of the crucial speaker-amp pairing. Tonal balance is also to my own preferences, the beryllium tweeter does a good job of providing a detailed, open and slightly forward presentation without being annoying. It's a great tweeter and I dislike most tweeters. Although this year there were a lot more really good tweeters than in years past, I think they are getting better in general.









Vaughn and Wavelength, another really great system at RMAF. The speakers use a tube modulated plasma tweeter that was expertly blended with a Fostex wideband driver to make some of the sweetest mids and highs I've ever heard. The system did a good job on everything, was very lively and fun to listen to, but the bass and low end impact were a little lacking. I wonder if the low end was dialed back because of difficult acoustics in the room, which seems likely... the low end is supplied with a sub/plate amp built into the speakers. These speakers aren't cheap at $15k but they are unique and the tweets offer a level of performance and refinement rarely found in any speaker regardless of price.

DaveC113

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Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #10 on: 14 Oct 2013, 03:47 am »
Dave, it was really great to meet you finally. I had a great time chatting with you with you as well as Reading your coverage here.

Thanks, you too... wish we had more time to hang out.  :green:

DaveC113

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Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #11 on: 14 Oct 2013, 04:08 am »








Tidal and Audio Power Labs amps. Tidal speakers have a very different presentation than most, I'm not sure why or if I really like it, but it is very unique. They are not bipoles and have no "ambiance" drivers but the way they image it sounds like it. At first it throws me off but after a couple minutes I get used to it and appreciate it, in many ways the sound quality of Tidal is incredible. They are really clear and well balanced with plenty of detail and full high frequency extension, yet are also not forward sounding or bright... they are relaxed and easy to listen to. The soundstage is a little further back but not recessed, my only nit is the images aren't sharply defined, the boundaries are a little softer. They are seriously good speakers and I'm sure they will have an audience with some, but wouldn't be in the running for me.





GR Research... this is a very, very cool system. It's also fun to listen to because of the effortless dynamics, but it's not my style. The way line arrays image can be a little wonky and I'm not a huge fan of the planar tweeter panels. But, they are still an amazing speaker and a good value for what you get... I'm sure a lot of folks love them. Also, they have a decent selection of music and take requests but can't/wouldn't play my test track, which is both on CD and USB drive .wav format... same issue as last year. It's impossible to get more than a vague idea about the system without being able to play music you are very familiar with. I may have loved the way it handled some of my music but I'll never know.

DaveC113

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Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #12 on: 14 Oct 2013, 04:27 am »




Nola. I didn't like the Boxers last year and I don't like these either. At some things they are just plain bad. The guy running the room was talking loudly over the music being played. He kept the volume on the low side and removed my test track 10 seconds into the Bela Fleck track because it sounded so bad. And it did, it sounded terrible. Sorry.







TAD. Hands down the best system at RMAF and the best system I've ever heard. Speaker manufacturers selling speakers over ~$25k should acknowledge the vast superiority of TAD over their product and throw in the towel. Manufacturers selling less expensive gear should invest in a TAD system as a reference. In so many areas, most speakers can't even come close. I've heard systems that can match the TAD system in one area or another but nothing that does EVERYTHING at such a high level. Dynamics, impact, tone, clarity, detail, imaging... literally every aspect of a speaker's performance is  done at world class levels. While not cheap, TAD tops out under $100k for speakers and the amps were ~$65k. You can spend more money on a system but you will be paying for equipment that is clearly inferior to TAD. So in that respect it's a good value, but unfortunately still out of the budget for a vast majority of folks.


DaveC113

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Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #13 on: 14 Oct 2013, 04:36 am »






Jeff Rowland. Beautiful gear, sounded good but I honestly don't remember much. I used to have a photographic memory for stuff like this but I'm getting older.  :scratch:







HUGE Cessaro horn speakers. The room was pretty full so I didn't ask to play my test track, but a large scale symphonic piece was playing and it was VERY impressive. Limitless volume and dynamics, great tone, great imaging. I wish i could hear my track on this system, but with larger more crowded rooms sometimes I don't ask unless the folks running the room are clearly asking people if they have requests or material they want to hear.

DaveC113

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Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #14 on: 14 Oct 2013, 04:40 am »
More later... still have Vapor, Scaena(?), Wilson Alexandria XLF, Linkwitz, Sanders, dc10, PranaFidelity and a few others to post up.  :D

Tyson

Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #15 on: 14 Oct 2013, 04:50 am »
Damn son, you are killin' it!

And it was really great to meet you.  Glad you are posting impressions - I love reading this stuff!

worldcat

Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #16 on: 14 Oct 2013, 02:08 pm »








AudioKinesis, it was great meeting Duke and James, thanks for taking the time to play my test track and talk about your speakers. The Dream Maker system did everything really well, and some things incredibly well. In particular, the way it handled the live Bela Fleck track was one of the best at RMAF, it is a very loud, complex and cluttered track that really doesn't sound very good on most systems. But the Dream Makers unwrapped it and laid it all out with a depth of soundstage unmatched by anything I have ever heard before. The effects speakers is really well done and surpasses a typical bi/dipole to a large degree. That said, the tonal balance is not to my personal preference, it is laid back and a little on the dark side, where I prefer a bright/forward presentation as long as it's not harsh or fatiguing... something that isn't easy to do. The AudioKenisis speakers do not lack detail though, just my own personal preferences... I do think the highs are a bit rolled off at the extreme high end though. The room setup was good but not perfect, there were still some bass issue, but minor ones that did not detract from hearing what the systems can do. In any case, if you are looking for a system in this price range these are well worth putting on the short list.







Salk / Van Alstine. I listened to the stand mount speakers, they had a fairly high level of refinement and do a great job on some music, but the speakers really didn't like my test track... nevertheless I do appreciate any room that will play test tracks brought in by attendees. I also appreciate the system for what it is, but I really didn't like it. For the kind of music I listen to and my own personal preferences it just didn't work.


What kinda music do you like.  I have a friend that love the Salk Exotic speakers.

Art_Chicago

Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #17 on: 14 Oct 2013, 02:30 pm »

music tracks are listed in the OP.

BobMajor

Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #18 on: 14 Oct 2013, 03:56 pm »
Thank you. This wonderful coverage is very much appreciated. Did you do it all by yourself?

DaveC113

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Re: DaveC's RMAF Reviews
« Reply #19 on: 14 Oct 2013, 06:28 pm »
Hi Bob, Yep... just me wandering around looking for bright shiny things for a a few days.  :green:


@worldcat, I've heard Salk/AVA a few times and it's just doesn't match up with my preferences. It was one of the worst at playing the live Bela Fleck track, and just doesn't match up to what I value in my audio system. Any non-mega-$ system must make compromises...