Tyson’s Subjective and Completely Unreliable and BIASED Best of RMAF
It was a crazy 3 days yet again this year. I’m always amazed at how many vendors know and remember us every year. And by how many show attendees we meet that know us and take the time to say ‘thanks’. We might be harried and in a rush, but believe me, your kind words are ALWAYS appreciated!
I’ve got a new category, the Shame Award, for rooms that were particularly bad or were the most striking failures. It seems better to start with them and then end on a positive note.Shame award – Davialet and Kii
THIS is the speaker with all the hype? Seriously? Man it sounded like crap. And it was even in a decent sized room with room to breath. Flat, lifeless, meh. I recommend that no one buy this speaker, ever.
These were even worse than the Davialets! How is that even possible? How can you be worse than the sound of mediocrity? I generally like to hear stuff from new vendors, and reading up on them it seems like they do some cool engineering. But they sounded like crap. Seriously, does no one listen to this stuff before letting it out the front door? Oh, and I should mention that this is another room where the vendor TALKED ALMOST THE ENTIRE TIME WE WERE THERE! Best in Show
Winner of best sound at show – the Kimber Room, can’t get better than a live pianist banging out the tunes on a concert grand piano! Haha, that was awesome. Too bad the live recordings and playback were pretty disappointing.
This year I’m doing things a little different – there were so many great rooms that I can’t really narrow it down to a Top 5. So I’m only doing a #1 best in show award. And of course there’s a tie! One is an old favorite, the other is a brand new whippersnapper. Without further ado:
BEST IN SHOW – OPEN BAFFLE – GRANT FIDELITY
I don’t believe Grant Fidelity has done a show in several years at RMAF, but this year the come back with a vengeance! Using all Grant Fidelity gear and tubes along with speakers from the PureAudioProject, these speakers had it all – superb soundstage, perfect tonality, super open spacious sound that just destroys the walls in the room, all things that great open baffle speakers give you. But, what set this system apart was the laser like focus and lack of “misty” presentation almost every OB speaker has. Plus BASS SLAM. I know you never thought you’d see the words bass slam and Open Baffle ever uttered together. But there it is. I am an OB lover, it’s what I’ve run in my home system for years and years and so I’m a bit jaded about them. But this room raised the bar substantially over every other available OB system I’ve heard. Massive congrats to them for this achievement.
BEST IN SHOW AND LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – BOX SPEAKER – VAPOR AUDIO
OK, I have 2 things I need to admit – the first is that I’m not really a fan of box speakers. They always sound closed in and artificially forward in their presentation. The second thing I need to admit is that I’m a big fan of Vapor. “Wait, that doesn’t make any sense”, to which I respond “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” Hat tip to W.W.
To resolve this apparent contradiction I’ll offer this additional info – I hate the way MOST box loudspeakers sound, but Vapor is the exception to that rule. Why? I’ll quote from my room notes:
“Ryan and Co are one of the very few vendors we see that really and truly try to push the envelope for their products. Separate bass cabinets, stacked ply construction, huge roundovers to avoid diffraction, acoustically asymmetric and optimized interiors, and clearly some of the best drivers in the world all add up to THE most consistent and best room at every show. I’m giving Vapor my lifetime achievement award. Yes, I just made that award up right now on the spot. But dammit, they deserve it.”
No longer content with being precision instruments that merely reproduce music perfectly, they are going for a sound that is better than life. Bigger, cleaner, grander. Go big or go home. Large speaker systems from other manufacturers have officially been embarrassed.
Vinnie did Red Wine for a number of years and they were decent but never really good enough to get onto our best of list. Last year he had a new company and a new product but I was sick with the flu and didn’t get a chance to really hear it. This year I finally got to give it a whirl and boy was I impressed. Man, let me tell you this place was a musical oasis in the middle of the cacophonous assault on the senses the rest of the show represents. I cannot imagine a more dramatic demonstration of the value of being off the grid entirely than a show like RMAF where every other vendor is using (and polluting) the power at the hotel. But not Vinnie’s room. It was like a cool clear stream on a warm spring day. Natural, beautiful, invigorating. The LIO is the real deal and obviously a game changer.
I love IEM’s, and in fact I use them almost every day, since I have a busy household and an 8 year old daughter. But I have odd shaped ears that don’t allow me to get a good seal from any custom fit IEM’s. Unfortunately all the best IEM’s are custom fit! So I am stuck with these shitty ass universal jobbies like Etymotic or Shure or Ultimate Ears. Which sucks, spending your life listening to subpar crap when you know that better stuff is available. I saw that Alclair had a pair of IEM’s that worked like custom fitters but had a universal fit. Popped them in at the booth and YES THANK YOU GOD FOR GIVING ME MY PRIVATE LISTENING BACK. Bought them on the spot. If you have any idea how tight I am with my money at these shows, you get some idea of how incredible these guys sound.
Andrew Jones, for a guy that’s so reserved and generally low-key in person, seems to have a ton of recognition around the audio industry, I’ve noticed. Maybe it’s because the guy is a flat out genius when it comes to speaker development. He had already designed 2 of the best speakers in the world for TAD in the price no object arena. After he left TAD I guess he didn’t want to do another set of “price no object speakers” with Elac. I think his design goal was “Best speaker for Best Buy money you will ever hear”. And he succeeded gloriously. For $279 each, the F5 towers are stunning engineering achievements. How he gets such amazing sound for so little lucre is unfathomable. But he does it, and he makes it look easy. Like I said before – “OK, now Andrew is just showing off!”