OK, back for more! Since I'm posting this at the end of the day, I can make a few comments right up front. First, the show is bigger than ever, more vendors, more rooms, or at least it seemed that way to me. And more cool stuff. My rule today - only hit the cool rooms. Which means that things like bookshelf speakers with a 6 inch midwoofer and a 1 inch dome tweeter are gonna get skipped. However, a speaker with a 6 inch mid woofer and a horn loaded ribbon tweeter will definitely pique my interest. I hooked up with Wayne and believe it or not we managed to hit every interesting room on every floor of the whole damn show. Some sounded great, some sounded meh (or bad). I'm only going to put up pics and comments of the rooms I liked the sound of.
There were more good sounding (and fewer bad sounding) rooms this year than in recent memory. Manufacturers are upping their game. I think shows like RMAF allow vendors to cross-pollinate in a way that's not possible otherwise..
Enough rambling, time for pics!
NOU speakers and CI Audio - the CI audio gear always surprises me with how tiny it is. Big sound, and the drivers in the NOU speakers are serious (and beautifully engineered):
Is it just me or do these speakers look like owls? This was the first room today (but not the last) where I look at the equipment and think "there's no way that can sound good". But then it does sound good. Very very very good. One of the best sounding rooms at the show. And in a quirky, cool design:
ELAC. Price to performance - off the charts. Its' almost boring going into their room nowadays, they are so consistently excellent. New year, new speaker, same incredible sound:
TUK, a company that wants to muscle into the price/performance area that ELAC has staked out the past few years. These are self powered speakers and sounded better than they had any right to. Better than ELAC? Not IMO, but close. Very close.
Vaughan Loudspeakers and Wavelength Audio, always contenders for best sound at RMAF and this year was no exception.
So, the Owl speakers above were a bit of a surprise, but no where near as big a shock as the Klipsch Heritage audio room. I've heard a ton of Klipsch speakers in my life and HOLY SHIT these Forte III speakers sounded AMAZING!!! Smoooooth, and punchy. Great mids and real soul. Loved it!
Now for a little Danish flare. These Borresen speakers might have been the deepest imaging box based speakers at the show. And smooth/delicate highs. Not sure I'd pay $66k for them though:
Tekton speakers. File this under "that makes no damn sense", there's no way a speaker like this can sound good. But yet it does. In this room it did everything well except for being fairly sibilant. I thought that a good tube amp and preamp would address this, so I'm mentioning it with a qualified endorsement based on what I think it'll sound like with different gear.
While we are on the topic of taming sibilance, here's an example - ceramic midrange Gershman acoustic speakers, tamed very nicely by the beautiful VAC tube amp. Great sounding room. And super cool looking too:
The TIDAL room - I forget the price of these speakers and gear, but I do remember that it was low. Shockingly low for this level of quality. We truly live in a golden age when freaking streaming digital can get this level of sound:
Maggies! Love OB speakers, and these sounded so big and impressive and the value is off the charts. Only nitpick is the bass sounded a bit hollow, especially compared to the spectacular midrange and highs:
Avantgarde room sounded amazing. Best it's ever sounded at RMAF, I think because they finally got the smaller speakers dialed in (instead of bringing the Trios). These are flat out beautiful in person. And it's yet another horn based speaker that does not sound shouty at all:
So this room was good but not great sounding, but it was a lot of fun. IMO this is a "Bose killer" lifestyle system and could be a 2nd system in a high traffic room that would just make you smile every time you heard it. Big, bold, beautiful sound:
Here's that crazy speaker again, only this is the smaller version. If anything, this sounded EVEN BETTER than the larger speaker. Really first rate sound and I'm still shaking my head, because it looks so odd. But the sound was stellar:
The Niam room. I kept waiting for this speaker to do something wrong, but it never did. It did everything extremely well, even managing to sound big. I wish it were taller but overall it was a very refined great sounding speaker/room:
Cesaro Horn speakers. These sound more like traditional horns. Very lively, very dynamic but also fairly aggressive sounding. The neat trick they pulled, though, was never getting shouty, even with the more aggressive upfront presentation. Nicely done:
Sonus Faber speakers. Static display, didn't get to hear them. But I'm posting the pic because they are so damn beautiful:
The Vinnie Rossi room, a perennial favorite! This year we got to hear the new L2 preamp/DAC and amps. In previous years the sound with the Harbeths was excellent, but maybe a little soft. This year? Not soft at all. Clear. Super clear, see through transparency. It takes the VR sound and ratchets it up several notches:
Didn't listen to this one either, but thought it was a fun way to display a cable:
Vanatoo - this was in the "good but not great" category, but it was also in the "wait, how cheap is it???" category too. Really big sound out of these tiny, self powered speakers.
Spatial speakers and Vinnie Rossi electronics. These are the self-powered bass speakers. Best soundstage, best imaging and best bass at the show. Easily.
AudioKinesis, another longtime favorite. Loved this room. Again, you look at a horn and think it'll be shouty. Nope. The opposite. This might be the most refined speaker at the whole damn show. And with the Swarm sub setup the integration into the room was top flight. Loved this room. There, I said it twice, because it deserves it:
JBL - I only went into this room because Wayne insisted that we go in. Rolled my eyes. JBL? Give me f'ng break. But they sounded good. Really good. Classic rock and roll sound, but no etch or shout or ear bleeding aggressiveness. Clear, forward and punchy. Really liked this setup:
PureAudioProject speakers. Every year I like this room. These are modular speakers. Which means you can mix and match drivers in different sections to get the sound you want. I'm not a fan of "full range" drivers and no tweeters. But I'll be damned, they do it and they make it work. And the bass! May be the best upper bass slam of any OB speaker I've heard. Having dual 15 inch woofers per side probably helps
As I mentioned, you can pick different midrange drivers:
PBN Loudspeakers - Another horn speaker that sounded great, I think were seeing a theme here
Wayne loved this room more than I did, but I actually liked it quite a bit. Very dynamic sound, but also quite refined. That's a neat trick to pull off:
The sound in this room was good but a bit colored toward the metallic side. I'm still posting it because it is such a cool design, I love the look of it - reminds me of a Japanese room divider.
Back to great sounding speakers.... The Falcon room was maybe the smoothest sounding room at the whole show. The sound just invited you in it was soooo enticing. Of course, when the bass hit, it would also punch you in the gut.
Piega speakers. Good sound but a bit aggressive and slightly overbearing highs. But holy crap is that a cool looking speaker. I've never seen anything like it:
Posting this just because it looks cool:
OK, last room that blows the doors off my preconceptions. This was a Focal room. And it sounded good. What? Wait, don't you hate Focal, Tyson? Yes I do. Until I heard these. They replaced the midrange drivers. Now they no longer rip my ears off. They sounded good. Refined. Pleasant even! Here I always thought it was the tweeters that were like icepicks in my ears. But no, it must have been the midrange drivers. Cause they sound great now. And they look beautiful. Best finish of any speaker at the show, easily. Love the pop-art look of them. Especially in the brighter colors:
TriPlanar room, sounding fabulous as always:
Last but not least I had to go back to CanJam and get another shot of my favorite headphone setup: