My RMAF feedback

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ted_b

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My RMAF feedback
« on: 16 Oct 2013, 04:33 pm »
Just returning from the tenth annual (my 6th or 7th I think) RMAF I find it difficult to add much to the already tremendous discussions that have taken place, led by the now-always-amazing Tyson-and-Pez instant unbiased room-by-room reviews.  Wow!  I was there (and in some cases in the room while they were doing some of their bashing-er-reviewing   8) ) and they easily captured the tone and feel of the different rooms.  Very amazing indeed.

One aspect that I haven’t seen widely published is, frankly, my number one headline from the Show….and that is, the precipitous drop in attendance.  Some exhibitors said they felt it was nearly a 50% drop.  Elevator access was plentiful, hallways were almost always easily navigated, and Saturday was the only day that I found rooms where I had to come back for a seat.  Sunday’s experience was a ghost town one.  Fine, indeed, for us consumers, but I feel badly for some of the new exhibitors who traveled a long ways to experience what has always been the premier show.  As my buddy Rob surmised (and I gotta assume as well) the growing maturity of newer shows like New York, Capital, Newport and Chicago-Axpona (among others like CES Venetian) has attendees picking their battles. 

I used to attend these shows to listen to music, and would bring my own demo discs, etc.  Whether its old age or being a little more a part of the industry itself (writing, moderating, volunteering) I have changed my perspective…and for me I get much satisfaction.  Meeting new industry people, catching up with old friends and acquaintances, or finally meeting that audio buddy you’ve been chatting online with for the past years…..the shows are more about that than anything else for me.  With that in mind I am so happy I was able to spend time with ACers like MGalusha, Woodsyi, Tyson, Pez, Tom S, Poseidonsvoice, VinylLady, etc.  The dinner that Rim (Woodsyi) put together in memory of ChairGuy was a definite highlight for me, and I felt privileged to be invited.  It also allowed me to finally meet and get to know Klaus (Odyssey) and his wife and son, and his partner Alex.  I hope Rim didn’t get too stiffed by all of us rounding (down) our bills.   :D

I also was pleased to see my old industry friends like Rob (Channel D), Dan (Modwright), George (exaSound), Michal (Mytek) and finally meet others whom I have new relationships with like Jared (Channel Classics), tailspin (Tom Caulfield), Bruno (Grimm, NCore), Matt (JRiver), Philip (OnAHigherNote) among others.  The low attendance actually helped this aspect as I was able to spend considerably more quality time chatting and learning (these people are way smarter than me).

OK, so what about the rooms.  Well, again…old age and audio show experience tells me that the best sounding rooms have as much to do with the designers setup knowledge as they do wioth the actual equipment being used.  No way would I base an individual purchase on the sonics of a system…even the great ones….but the great ones at least give you a nice view into their potential.  And the great rooms in this years RMAF were designed by Klaus (Odyssey), Andrew Jones (TAD) and Dave Wilson (Wilson).  Yes, I said it, Dave Wilson.  I have NEVER been a Wilson fan, as much for the elitist attitudes as for the perceived brittleness of the top end (at most shows)….let alone the value prop.  And the questionable value prop remains…but their Hyatt demo, although formally scheduled and somewhat elitist in nature, was freaking amazing.  And it should be…for about $500K in an embarrassment-of-riches setup.  But WOW!  Dynamics rivaling real life, with no hint of running-out-of-the-room brightness/edginess.  I guess Dave and gang did some pre-Show scouting, etc…..it clearly paid off.  If I was a 1%-er I’d have a lot of ‘splainin to do to the wife as we prepared to dump huge cash.  Me, I had no issues living vicariously.   :thumb:

Andrew Jones is a freaking genius as we all know, but I got a better sense of what he’s all about (yes, bad British humor is one thing) due to the ability to spend more time with him.  He told great speaker setup stories (the mattress and Ikea story is priceless) and explained what he had done in this standard RMAF hotel room as well.  Helps to have killer equipment, but other rooms showed off TAD to a MUCH lesser extent than this one.  At first I blamed the expensive TAD electronics, but Andrew’s comments made me realize that these great rooms are almost always differentiated by the step in the critical path called “attention to detail”.  I mean, there was no real treatment in the room, yet it presented a soundstage that rivaled my best setup at home..easily.

Then there’s Klaus and his Odyssey room.  Sitting almost nearfield, speakers not quite symmetrically toed straight, great GIK treatments (again, they were in other good sounding rooms but nothing approaching this), and a whopping $6900 of total Odyssey investment….the soundstage, depth and specificity of image, and overall tonality rivaled the TAD room.  Not equal, but at freaking 3.5% of the investment (Andrew said his setup was about $200k, although the speakers could be had for around $19k of that) it is startling what Klaus and team accomplished.  Oh, and the light show and In A Gadda Da Vida was very cool too (pity it wasn’t after Jan 1 2014 or the room would have been a sweet smokey Colorado haven   8) ).

Most of the other great RMAF posts have talked about the other good sounding rooms, but I wanted to make sure I mentioned Dan and Lou’s IRIS room (great speaker improvements and nice proto DAC!), the Lawrence Audio Double Basses (only pair currently in US and going to a dear friend for review…I will listen in his room and report back), the James Romeyn-designed Duke speaker room (tonality to die for), the looks-like-it-would-be-bright-but-wasn’t Scaena room, the always-calming-warm-musical Harbeth/Fidelis room, and of course Ryan’s incredible dual sided Hyatt ballroom.  I loved everything about the Vapor Nimbus presentation, and would include them in my personal best-of, but felt the images in that room were too big for me.  Nitpick, yes.  My biggest regret is to not go back Sunday and hear the Joule system.  Regardless, huge commitment by Ryan..he has always built great speaker systems.

I’m sure I’m missing some room feedback and some points I wanted to make….I will add if I can finally remember.  Oh, and thanks to dear friend Rob (questfortone) for putting up with me as roommate and traveling partner.  We had a blast.

CES is next…if I win big at the Let It Ride table I will buy the TAD’s.    :)

bbaxter

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Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #1 on: 16 Oct 2013, 04:49 pm »
Hi Ted -- I enjoyed meeting you in the TAD room & agree it sounded awesome!  Only wish I had gotten to meet Andrew Jones.  Like you, I was also impressed by the big Wilson Alexandria and Scaena rooms at the Hyatt.  Also high on my list were the smaller Emerald Physics, Soundlabs and Von Gaylord rooms.  Give me a buzz so we can get together to compare notes!

dlon

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Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #2 on: 16 Oct 2013, 04:52 pm »
i think implementing a few basic vendor rules regarding demos would go a long way with attendance


DaveC113

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Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #3 on: 16 Oct 2013, 05:29 pm »
Nice report Ted, thanks!  :D

jtwrace

Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #4 on: 16 Oct 2013, 05:32 pm »
i think implementing a few basic vendor rules regarding demos would go a long way with attendance
Really?  I thought it was the economy.   :scratch:  Perhaps being able to print off your attendance pass or having them mailed (for an extra cost) would make it more attractive for some.  Also, I know it's painful for the exhibitors but starting at noon on Friday kind of stinks. 

poseidonsvoice

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Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #5 on: 16 Oct 2013, 05:35 pm »
Great seeing you Ted! And finally meeting Woodsyi, he's an absolute trip. A man who knows HOW to live life. Much I have to learn from him. He's like the Yoda of finer living.

See you next year, or perhaps Axpona...

Best,
Anand.

jtwrace

Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #6 on: 16 Oct 2013, 05:35 pm »

Zero

Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #7 on: 16 Oct 2013, 06:14 pm »
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences Ted.  :) 

liddown

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Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #8 on: 16 Oct 2013, 06:20 pm »
Hi Ted, Good read thanks... Please do let us know what you think about the Double Bass after you get a chance to hear them.. I was rather impressed with them at the show, but can't find anyone else who heard them, or are commenting about them... Thanks again!

ted_b

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Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #9 on: 16 Oct 2013, 06:43 pm »
Hi Ted, Good read thanks... Please do let us know what you think about the Double Bass after you get a chance to hear them.. I was rather impressed with them at the show, but can't find anyone else who heard them, or are commenting about them... Thanks again!

Will do.  I am very familiar with the line: the Cellos, the Violins and the Mandolins.  Mr Lawrence has succeeded in creating a musical instrument line of speakers that all have the same general presentation, each larger model having "more of the same" as it were.  Wonderful at each level.

Part-Time Audiophile

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Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #10 on: 16 Oct 2013, 06:52 pm »
I do wonder how much the Bronco's had to do with Sunday's attendance. 

And it was great to see you there, Ted! (And yes, I really am going to send you that DAC asap. Promise!)

James Romeyn

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Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #11 on: 16 Oct 2013, 07:30 pm »
Ted,
It was a great pleasure to meet you at this show, my first visit to RMAF, and hopefully not the last.

I can only echo your sentiments about the AC community and its members.  This appears to be the most educated group of audiophiles in the world.  Add in the friendly personalities and it's a rare combination.

It's also interesting to note the similarity between your ears, Pez', and Tyson's.  I had two similar experiences.  In direct AB of two digital rigs, I noted one "sounded mechanical" followed immediately by a close friend of Duke's from New Orleans named Jim saying it sounded "etched."  I feel certain we both heard the same but merely employed different labels. 

Later another AB test occurred.  We both identified a similar difference even though our preferences did not match. 


questfortone

Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #13 on: 16 Oct 2013, 10:22 pm »
For those that don't know me I live near ted_B in Westlake, Oh. I have had the pleasure of watching his system and room evolve to near perfection.  I'm pretty lucky that I get to listen to his system as much as I can. It's really amazing!!   And because Ted and I have very similar likes and dislikes, I won't rehash what he's already said as his favorites,  (which also are my favorites too). There are a couple of more rooms that I listened to that Ted didn't get to because he was in the DSD seminar. The big Volti horns sounded wonderful again and the Devore Orangutan's were really nice and the Woo Audio mono were amazing.  The highlight show for me  was the TAD room with Andrew Jones. What a great guy (I own his Pioneers) and funny storyteller too. But the best part of this years show was all the people that we met and spent time with. The AC dinner on Saturday night at Shanahan's was a night to remember and sitting between Pez and Tyson was a real trip (you gotta love those guys) and of course hanging out with Ted, was the best.

tonyptony

Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #14 on: 16 Oct 2013, 11:02 pm »
Hi Ted -- I enjoyed meeting you in the TAD room & agree it sounded awesome!  Only wish I had gotten to meet Andrew Jones.  Like you, I was also impressed by the big Wilson Alexandria and Scaena rooms at the Hyatt.  Also high on my list were the smaller Emerald Physics, Soundlabs and Von Gaylord rooms.  Give me a buzz so we can get together to compare notes!

Interesting thing about the Scaena room. I'd heard Scaenas in the past and was always mightily impressed with what they do. No, they are not absolute perfection but they do so many things so well. I stepped into their room at around 3:00 on Sunday and was... underwhelmed. They didn't have that glorious, organic yet clear super dynamic sound that I was used to. They actually sounded a bit flat and grainy. About 20 minutes in a friend of Alan and Sonny walks in and says "they're available". Sonny walks out and helps drag in a pair of prototype Triode monoblocks from I can't remember who. But it was accompanied by (I think) a German fellow who seemed to have something to do with them. It was at that point I saw the Scaenas had been getting driven by an ARC 75 Wpc amp. I wondered.

The new Triodes were single ended only, and there was a warning there could be some ground hum. Sure enough when the system was flipped back on there was hum, but we all talked briefly and we were interested in hearing these new jobs even with the hum. Alan, in particular, encouraged the test. Since the last track we had played previously was "good old" Autumn Leaves, we played it again. The difference was astounding. These 40 Wpc monos brought the Scaenas to life - hum be damned. Clear, smooth, dynamic, soundstage to beat the band... everything you could want or expect. When the track was over a few people got up and clapped! I made the mistake of yelling out (yes, I was caught up in it) that crap ARC amp should have never been hooked up to those speakers. Little did I know at the time Sonny himself uses Scaenas with an ARC amp. :oops: I'm only a little sorry I said it, but the improvement was so obvious it wasn't funny. We listened for close to another hour, way past closing time for the show.

Yes, I will retract my insult here, knowing that in objective terms the ARC is considered a darn good amp, but it should have never been used with those Scaenas. What we heard was the definition of synergy. Frankly IMO anyone who heard the Scaenas with that ARC amp missed hearing the real deal.

standub

Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #15 on: 16 Oct 2013, 11:02 pm »

One aspect that I haven’t seen widely published is, frankly, my number one headline from the Show….and that is, the precipitous drop in attendance.  Some exhibitors said they felt it was nearly a 50% drop.


I wonder what the number is verses say Axpona/Newport/Capital.  Also I have to wonder if those 50% drop guys were the consistently bad room ones, I know i've scratch a few off my list.

TomS

Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #16 on: 16 Oct 2013, 11:14 pm »
Axpona Chicago was 4,000 people 90 exhibit rooms in the first year. They plan a significant increase for 2014 with a bigger venue.

I agree with Ted, it seemed really light, especially in the Hyatt where there were some major goodies.

Vapor Audio

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Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #17 on: 17 Oct 2013, 12:16 am »
Interesting thing about the Scaena room. I'd heard Scaenas in the past and was always mightily impressed with what they do. No, they are not absolute perfection but they do so many things so well. I stepped into their room at around 3:00 on Sunday and was... underwhelmed. They didn't have that glorious, organic yet clear super dynamic sound that I was used to. They actually sounded a bit flat and grainy. About 20 minutes in a friend of Alan and Sonny walks in and says "they're available". Sonny walks out and helps drag in a pair of prototype Triode monoblocks from I can't remember who. But it was accompanied by (I think) a German fellow who seemed to have something to do with them. It was at that point I saw the Scaenas had been getting driven by an ARC 75 Wpc amp. I wondered.

The new Triodes were single ended only, and there was a warning there could be some ground hum. Sure enough when the system was flipped back on there was hum, but we all talked briefly and we were interested in hearing these new jobs even with the hum. Alan, in particular, encouraged the test. Since the last track we had played previously was "good old" Autumn Leaves, we played it again. The difference was astounding. These 40 Wpc monos brought the Scaenas to life - hum be damned. Clear, smooth, dynamic, soundstage to beat the band... everything you could want or expect. When the track was over a few people got up and clapped! I made the mistake of yelling out (yes, I was caught up in it) that crap ARC amp should have never been hooked up to those speakers. Little did I know at the time Sonny himself uses Scaenas with an ARC amp. :oops: I'm only a little sorry I said it, but the improvement was so obvious it wasn't funny. We listened for close to another hour, way past closing time for the show.

Yes, I will retract my insult here, knowing that in objective terms the ARC is considered a darn good amp, but it should have never been used with those Scaenas. What we heard was the definition of synergy. Frankly IMO anyone who heard the Scaenas with that ARC amp missed hearing the real deal.

Those SET's were the Arte Forma Due Volte monoblocks that they stole from our room.  While Scaena was using them, we ran the Nimbus on a 3.5wpc 2A3 integrated amp, and they filled the room pretty easily. 

tonyptony

Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #18 on: 17 Oct 2013, 12:44 am »
Those SET's were the Arte Forma Due Volte monoblocks that they stole from our room.  While Scaena was using them, we ran the Nimbus on a 3.5wpc 2A3 integrated amp, and they filled the room pretty easily.

That's the name. Thanks for that info. Yes it did seem like there was talk they were "borrowed" from you.  :)

Pete Schumacher

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Re: My RMAF feedback
« Reply #19 on: 17 Oct 2013, 02:10 am »
I gotta say that Sonny was a real treat.  Sunday night after the show, we went to Garcia's up the street and guess who was already seated?  I invited myself to Sonny's table and we proceeded to laugh for a good hour telling stories and jokes, making insults and political jabs.  Food was good, company was great.  Those Scaena guys are a really fun bunch.  I was thrilled that they wanted to try out the monoblocks, and even more excited that they ran them for as long as they did. 

The "German" guy was Konstantin Gregg-Saad, a high end dealer in Nashville who "donated" the monoblocks for the weekend.  He's a friend of Sonny and a new dealer for Arte Forma, the first in the U.S..  So if anyone in the Nashville area wants to audition that gear with some really nice accompaniment, head over to Atelier-13 and check them out.  http://www.atelier13-usa.com/

Say HI to Konstantin for me.