Attended my 1st RMAF this year. Here are a few brief notes on what I considered to be the best rooms. I did not listen to everything, by a longshot, but I listened to a lot. (I will not comment on the poorer sounding rooms... especially the poorer sounding rooms with well over $50K of equipment.)
Below is the stuff that impressed me. I've been quite happy with my current system of Hyperion 938s, Consonance 845 SET monos, a Shanling source and a TVC linestage (AudioZone). I'm happy to be able to say that the only stuff I found significantly better-sounding than my gear was also far more expensive.
BTW, I was too stupid to figure out how to load pics. Clicking on the link only provides an empty [img] tag pair. Somebody clue me in and I'll do it.
1) Wilson Beneech/deHavilland
Had never heard of these speakers and don't recall the model #- $12.5K. Driven by a deHavilland pre and their GM70 monoblocks. Don't recall the source. Also had a very well-integrated sub-bass system.
Amazing, sultry, glorious single-ended triode sound in this room. Speakers completely disappeared and that SET magic was very much present. Spent time here Friday & Saturday.
2) Amber Wave
Sound was good here (not fabulous) - I'm including this room for 'most awe-inspiring amps'. If you think you've seen large monoblocks before, you need to see these. 200lb, but they look like they weight much more. Push-pull 200W using a bizarre power tube I've never heard of 304 something. Apparantly NOS pairs go for about $1000. $42K for the amps.
3) Green Mountain Audio/Flying Mole
I'd heard good things about GMA before, and now I know why. The Continuum 3s here driven by Flying Mole electronics provided what may have been the best sound in the show. Completely amazing. Extended, very tight bass, ultra clarity, perfect imaging. Just everything 'right'. Hearing these speakers and the nearly as good Thiel 3.7s has really made me a believer in the time-and-phase coherence thing.
Since I own the Hyperions which are constantly compared to the WATT/Puppys, I had to listen to them in this room. To those who say the Hyps are the equiv of the Wilsons - I don't agree. I'd say the Wilsons are perhaps 20% better. But they cost six times as much. Very, very good sound in this room, though. The Wilsons clearly also have that very alive dynamism of their cheap Chinese clones.
Also amazed by these speakers. At a show full of some ridiculously overpriced gear, these speakers are clearly worth every sent of their $10K. They are huge, heavy, with top quality parts throughout and impeccable workmanship. And they sound incredible.
6) Audio Note
AN was definitely one of the very best-sounding rooms, but not winning any price/performance awards. We're talking well over $100K here. But, hearing what was probably the smoothest and most analog-like digital I've heard made me a believer in their non-oversampling, no-filtering digital mantra. I may look into an AN front-end at some point... not the $21K one I heard there. I really do respect their 'tiered' pricing structure - few manufacturers would be so upfront in letting you know that you're getting 20% better sound for 10x the cash. They do. They were showing their parallel 2A3 SET amps ($50,000 pair) and some VERY modest-looking $40,000 two-way speakers with external crossover. Lush, pure, extended, perfect sound.
Those were the highlights for me. I may sell a kidney (or both?) and buy some GMA speakers.