My impressions of RMAF

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Tyson

My impressions of RMAF
« on: 12 Oct 2004, 12:16 am »
RMAF - wow, what a cool weekend.  This was my first audioshow and it was a blast, but it was also exhausing and a heck of a lot of work.  I spent a big part of 2 days (Saturday and Sunday) going from room to room, listening to the test tracks on my compilation CD's.  

I'm going to post some impressions of some rooms, mainly about rooms that sounded particularly good, or rooms that didn't sound as good as I know they could have (ie, I've heard the equipment in other settings that sounded better than the rooms at the show).

Before starting, I should point out that after hearing a slew of digital amps, I DO NOT LIKE THE WAY DIGITAL AMPS SOUND.  That means any room with a digital amp in the chain is going to get, at best, a thumbs sideways vote (most get thumbs down).  This is strictly my personal opinion, so take it for what its worth (not much, obvously).  I also have a preference for large speakers, and tend to dislike horns and single-driver speakers.

First room I hit was the Bolder/VMPS room.  I'm a friend of Wayne, and I helped do some of the initial setup (Hagerman tube preamp, JaZZ digital amps, Trinaural processor).  I came back by on Saturday after the system had been tuned by Brian Cheney (VMPS Prez & Owner).  I thought it sounded pretty bad, not nearly as good as it sounded back when I heard them in a stereo setup a week before.  I figured it was just the Trinaural setup screwing everything up.  But I was wrong.  Came back the next day after all the equipment had been on for 24 hours and the sound was "much" better.  I'm still not convinced about the Trinaural setup being an improvement over stereo (especially in a room as small as the hotel's), but it didn't sound worse than the stereo setup I'd heard the week before.


One room that was a big disappointment - the Rowland Design Group, with Rowland digital amps (the 201's, I think) and Cabasse speakers (the ones that look like War of the Worlds aliens).  Sounded terrible.  Not the worst sound of the show, but not far from it either.  Vocals alternated between chesty and nasaly.



A room that really stood out to me was the SP Tech room.  They had a HT setup in one room and a 2 channel setup in another.  The 2 channel setup is what really got my attention.  These things could play LOUD and CLEAN.  Very dynamic (macro and micro) and very smooth.  They were the most impressive speakers at the show.  My only criticism would be a touch of hardness in the 1khz-2khz region.  Overall I was very impressed.  Pic borrowed from zybar :-)



The Boulder amps and Avalon Acoustics room sounded good, but the dynamics were rounded off.  It was certainly a musical and pleasant sound, but quite phasey sounding (ie, backup vocals sounded like they were in a seperate room from the main vocalist, etc).  Some people might really like this ("Wow, listen to that HUGE soundstage"), but I thought that particular aspect was pretty unnatural.



My vote for most musical room of the show goes to Red Rock audio, they were running ESP loud speakers (really excellent speakers, IMO), and their own Renaissance Power Amplifier.  Normally I'd consider the sound too laid back for my tastes, but it was so involving and seductive.  Superlative sound.



The room that gets my vote for 2nd most musical and overall best value goes to the Odyssey rooms (both of them).  The big room running all Odyssey gear (Stratos, Tempest, SL CDP and SL turntable, and a pair of Lorelei speakers) was very musical and involving and way, way cheaper than the Red Rocks room. And to top it off, they had a 2nd room with speakers (Epiphony), amp (Khartago), preamp (Etesian), and cables (Groneberg) for under $1500 total that was almost as good as their main room.  My non-audiophile friend who I brough along said point blank he liked the sound of that room better than anything else he heard.  

Pic borrowed from zybar :-)





The Modwright room was a disappointment, running his Truth modded Sony 999 player into the new line stage, to a pair of Channel Island digital monoblock amps and a pair of GR-Research Delucio speakers.  I'm pretty sure the hashy and fairly unmusical sound was due to the CI digital amps as I've heard the Delucio's sound excellent in another system, and the warmth of the tubed CD player did not come through at all.  Replace the amps and I have no doubt that this would have been one killer sounding room.



Speaking of GR-Research, I got to hear both of their rooms.  Both were using Dodd Audio Electronics and GR-Research speakers.  The AV-2 Speakers in their "small" room sounded really excellent.  Not quite on the level of their excellent Delucio's, but very good none-the-less.  But, the big shocker for me was the Alpha's.  I've heard the Alpha's before at a local Denverite's house before and I thought they were seriously flawed and I could hardly listen to them.  But at the show, with more room treatments and being run off 120 watt Dodd Audio tubed monoblocks they sounded fantastic.  Every criticism I had of them before was gone except for the lack of extension in the very high treble.  But other than that they were very musical, very natural, and had GREAT dynamics - my kind of speaker!!!  The sound of the Dodd and the Alpha's really embarassed a lot of other very expensive rooms using very, very expensive tube amps and preamps.



The Audio Federation room was a very pleasant sounding room running Edge Amps, Marten Design Coltrane loudspeakers and Nordost wiring, but I didn't think it sounded appreciably better than a lot of other rooms running much less expensive gear.  Very smooth, very musical, but a bit lacking in microdynamics and a bit slow on macrodynamics.  Not worth the $150k or so price tag....



The Usher Audio room had absolutely beautiful looking speakers, superbly finished.  The sound was good but not great.  In the same price range I think the Odyssey and GR-Research speakers sounded better (but the Usher's win on looks).


Tyler Acoustics was a bit disappointing.  Not sure if it was the small room, or the tube amps, but their Woodmere speakers sound much, much smaller than they were.  (zybar's picture)



I was also disappointed in the AV123 room.  At least when I was in there, the RS1000 had bright highs and very boomy bass.  But the bass problem was most likely a room issue.  And I have to say the midrange was remarkable smooth and free from the ringing I thought the metal driver would have. (zybar's pic)



The Cherry Creek Audio room was a room I liked a lot.  They were running Magnepan 20.1's of a pair of Krell monoblocks.  The sound was very good overall.  My only criticism would be that there was definitely some ringing to the sound, and there was far more room/speaker interaction than I like.



I heard the Daedalus Audio room on Saturday, and I thought it was pleasant, but a bit lacking in drive and dynamics.  A little soft sounding, but very nice and easy to listen to.



I skipped the JMLabs room and the B&W rooms because I know from past experience I don't like either of those speaker lines and there was too much else to see & do at the show.

The Kharma/Carey room was also a bit disappointing.  Not that it didn't sound good, it did (sounded pretty similar to the Marten Designs Coltrane & Edge amp room), but it was just a bit soft on microdynamics.  Tonal balance and smoothness were very good, but honestly overall it was a bit boring sounding.  



I'm sure I'm forgetting some rooms (I'll check my notes when I get home), and there were quite a few rooms I didn't get to go into, but that's a pretty good list of my impressions.

Other notes, it was very cool to meet my fellow AC'ers (you know who you are) and the various manufacturers, many of them putting on a good show and all of them gracious (they let me play my "room-clearing" music :-) )

Also, I found that there was absolutely NO relation between price and performance.  Some very, very expensive high end gear did not perform any better than some much more reasonably priced gear, and that is despite the fact that the expensive gear usually was in bigger and (acoustically) better rooms.  My advice to everyone is to listen to as much equipment as possibe and form your own judgements.  Some highly touted (and very expensive) gear at the show sounded terrible, and at the same time some relative unknowns sounded excellent.

I also didn't hear any speaker or setup that I liked as much as the RM40's I have at home.  The speakers at the show that had the smoothness of the 40's didn't have the dynamics or resolution, and other speakers that did have the dynamics didn't have the musicality and smoothness of the 40's.  Of course every piece of gear in my system has been bought based on my personal preferences, so the fact that I like it so much should hardly come as a suprise ;-)

jqp

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My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #1 on: 12 Oct 2004, 12:27 am »
Excellent impressions - gave me a taste of the show from way over here on the east.

mcgsxr

My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #2 on: 12 Oct 2004, 12:37 am »
Glad to hear somebody say - you don't like the sound of digital amps at all, ever.

Cool.

Not my opinion, but honestly great to hear it expressed, with all the love going around for them.

I happen to dig it, and am persuing single driver speakers...  Guess Tyson and I are across the fence from each other - hey, the grass looks good over there too!

Thanks for the write up, and expressing your opinions, that is what makes this place fun! :D

Mark in Canada

Chris_B

My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #3 on: 12 Oct 2004, 12:57 am »
Tyson - did you get a chance to stop by the Green Mountain Audio room and hear their new monitors?

Tyson

My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #4 on: 12 Oct 2004, 12:59 am »
No, that was one room I missed and I'm pretty upset I didn't get to hear them (just ran out of time).  I've wanted to hear Green Mountain speakers for a long time :-(

ted_b

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My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #5 on: 12 Oct 2004, 01:11 am »
Tyson, great synopsis.   Thanks.

Tell us more about the SP Tech room.  They are getting unanimous approval from all the roving AC reports, but no one has detailed why.   What kind of music did you bring with you, and how did it sound....that kind of thing?  (Listen to me...I feel like I'm demanding a review...sorry....but it's like....Tyson gave us the best review, let's ask Tyson!!)  :)
Thanks,
Ted-B

P.S.  Very disappointed to hear that the Modwright room was digitally harsh!  I absolutely love my Platinum 999ES and looking forward to good things from Dan's linestage.

Tyson

My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #6 on: 12 Oct 2004, 01:19 am »
Synapse review of the SP Tech room, using Natalie Merchant and Nine Inch Nails:

Merchant's voice was smooth, but still showing the texture that conveys emotion.  Very good coherency to the sound, leading to good "boogie" factor (my toes were tapping hard).  Very good bass texture and impact.  Great tracking of microdynamics.  Great imaging.  Good high end resolution (Cymbals shimmered and decayed properly).  Best thing was that you could move to almost any point of the room and they sounded 90% as good as the sounded in the sweet spot, and tonal balance did not change (that's pretty remarkable).

Nine Inch Nails sounded sinister, just like it should.  Part of the track consists of him whispering, and then backing his own vocals with more whispers.  The SP Tech speakers let you hear this.  When the song got loud, fast, and crazy, the SP Techs kept the instruments seperated and kept a coherent presentation.  They weren't the most "musical" speakers at the show, but they were the most impressive.  If that touch of hardness in the 1-2 khz range could be ironed out, they would have been best of show for musicallity too (and given my RM40's a serious run for their money, IMO).

Jay S

My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #7 on: 12 Oct 2004, 01:28 am »
Thanks, Tyson.  Great, very frank comments.  

What don't you tend to like about digital amps (esp when you've heard them powering more conventional multi-driver speakers)?  

Too bad you didn't get to hear the Modwright 999ES powered by an amp you were familiar with - I would have been very interested in your impressions.  

Cheers,

- Jay

Chris_B

My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #8 on: 12 Oct 2004, 01:31 am »
Thanks anyway Tyson.  So you like the Odyssey Loreleis.  They are also on my potential new speaker list.  Did you get to listen to them much?

zybar

Re: My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #9 on: 12 Oct 2004, 01:39 am »
Quote from: Tyson
RMAF - wow, what a cool weekend.  This was my first audioshow and it was a blast, but it was also exhausing and a heck of a lot of work.  I spent a big part of 2 days (Saturday and Sunday) going from room to room, listening to the test tracks on my compilation CD's.  

I'm going to post some impressions of some rooms, mainly about rooms that sounded particularly good, or rooms that didn't sound as good as I know they could have (ie, I've heard the equipment in other settings that sounded better than the r ...


Very nice Tyson.

I am working on a similar write-up, but I spent most of the day sleeping (my body got all screwed up from being in the UK and Denver all week).

I didn't spend anytime in the Rowland room, but I obviously feel very different from you when it comes to the 201's.  But that is a great thing about this hobby - very few absolute rights and wrongs.

Sounds like I should have made it back to the Alpha room.  What I heard on Friday was so far removed from what you described.  

The Daedalus room was sounding very dynamic on Sunday and improved a lot each day.  This was achieved with a little better placement, room treatments, and placing Sistrum platforms under the speakers.  This room more than others showed what can be achieved by paying attention to the details.

Great meeting you.

George

Scott F.

My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #10 on: 12 Oct 2004, 02:15 am »
Quote from: Tyson
Synapse review of the SP Tech room, using Natalie Merchant and Nine Inch Nails:


OK, I'm dying to know which NIN track you were using  :lol:

Just so happens I just got done listening to Pretty Hate Machine at absolutely insane SPL's (my wife was at the store). A few days ago I was doing the same thing with The Downward Spiral.


Oh, NIN are getting ready to release a new album...on vinyl :mrgreen:

Tyson

My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #11 on: 12 Oct 2004, 02:19 am »
The sound of the Rowland room might have been the fault of the speakers, as I also heard the Cabasses in another room (driven by tubes) and they sounded just as bad.

It was definitely cool meeting you, next time we'll have to drink a lot more :-)

Also, your experience with the Daedelus room and my experience with the GR-Research room  and the VMPS room just go to show that the vendors with rooms at a show are learning and tweaking to their rooms as the show goes on.  What is heard on Friday or Saturday may not be what is heard in the same room on Sunday.

Tyson

My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #12 on: 12 Oct 2004, 02:22 am »
The NIN track was "I'm Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally" off The Fragile CD.  Great track.

zybar

My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #13 on: 12 Oct 2004, 02:39 am »
Quote from: Tyson
The NIN track was "I'm Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally" off The Fragile CD.  Great track.


Tyson,

What was the cd that had Johnny Cash singing "Hurt"?

George

BradJudy

My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #14 on: 12 Oct 2004, 02:42 am »
Quote from: zybar
Quote from: Tyson
The NIN track was "I'm Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally" off The Fragile CD.  Great track.


Tyson,

What was the cd that had Johnny Cash singing "Hurt"?

George


That's Johnny Cash's American IV: The Man Comes Around

zybar

My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #15 on: 12 Oct 2004, 03:04 am »
Thank you.

George

sunshinedawg

My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #16 on: 12 Oct 2004, 03:49 am »
Quote from: Tyson

Also, your experience with the Daedelus room and my experience with the GR-Research room  and the VMPS room just go to show that the vendors with rooms at a show are learning and tweaking to their rooms as the show goes on.  What is heard on Friday or Saturday may not be what is heard in the same room on Sunday.


I couldn't agree more.  I thought the Alphas sounded no where as good on Fri at the show compared to how I remembered them at Turk's place a few months ago.  In my opinion the DA-1's got bettered every day and i was lucky enough to hear them all 3 days

I listened to a lot of the different rooms. There were too many to recount but I will list my standouts.  My favorite 3 rooms top to bottom were:


1.  Daedalus:  DA-1's being driven by the Bultler's

On the last day of the show the DA-1's were sounding very, very good.  I had heard track 2 off of The Bad Plus's 'These are Vistas' cd on just about every system I auditioned at the show.  No where else did the piano sound more pleasing and for lack of a better description, sound like a piano.  The upright bass sounded more natural and real than on any other rig. These speakers are extremely dynamic and powerful.  They do something that really draws me into the music,  which is come as close to imitating a live performance as possible.

2.  SP Technology:  Revelations

These speakers sounded great from the first day.  They do a lot of things right.  They image well and have a large sound field.  They are very aggresive and powerful.  The bass was the tightest and cleanest I've ever heard.

3.  Odyssey: both rooms

I really just enjoyed these rooms.  I wasn't so worried about opinions or perceptions here.  Two people were overheard using the phrase "I feel like I've come home" when desribing this room,  a perfect desription of the sound.  These rooms were the easiest to listen to.  I can't really think of anything audiophile to say about these systems, they were just pleasing with no fatigue.  Like everyone else has already said,  they are the best bang for your buck without a doubt.

Sean

lonewolfny42

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My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #17 on: 12 Oct 2004, 04:01 am »
Thanks for all your comments....great info !!! :)

CIAudio

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My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #18 on: 12 Oct 2004, 04:17 am »
I didn't make it to the show, but curious about Tysons comments.
Maybe you assume you don't like the amps since they're the component you're least familair with, or just the fact that you don't like "digital" amplifiers (actually, they're completely analog).
I didn't get to hear them with the associated gear, so I really don't know what the system sounded like as a whole, but the amps are simply the best I've heard with my VR-4jr's. Albert Von Schweikert and Dan Wright are the only others to hear them before the show. Albert thought they were amazing and Dan seems to like them as well. Did anyone else hear them at the show? Would love to hear your comments.

Dusty_V

Rob Babcock

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My impressions of RMAF
« Reply #19 on: 12 Oct 2004, 04:53 am »
I'm also scratching my head over Tyson's comments about hating the sound of digital amps, given his raves for the Boulder Modded Panny digital receiver.  Perhaps you could elaborate/clarify, Tyson? :scratch: