A Portrait of an Audio Circle Junkie at RMAF 2011

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woodsyi

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Re: A Portrait of an Audio Circle Junkie at RMAF 2011
« Reply #20 on: 2 Nov 2011, 11:54 am »
It's been really busy for me at work and the weekends have been busy too. :duh:  This kind of writing requires a little bit of effort to get the right words and tone, you know.  I have time to write quick replies elsewhere on AC but I need time to compose on this one.  I am following Jeff Dorgay's rule -- not writing anything pointedly bad.  I will just abstain from commenting if I didn't like a room since conditions vary and anybody can have a bad day.  It's a hobby for me and I try to make it fun sharing my experience but it is a livelihood for some and I don't want to bring negative impact from some casual comment I may make.  Not that I can make much difference but why risk it...

I will get some more coming soon.  Heck, I am only on Friday.... :oops: 

etcarroll

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Re: A Portrait of an Audio Circle Junkie at RMAF 2011
« Reply #21 on: 2 Nov 2011, 12:07 pm »
Did you at least come home with a new phono pre?

woodsyi

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Re: A Portrait of an Audio Circle Junkie at RMAF 2011
« Reply #22 on: 2 Nov 2011, 12:57 pm »
Did you at least come home with a new phono pre?

I am getting ahead of myself but yes.  It's not just a preamp as a cartridge comes with it -- the cheapest of the Soundsmith Strain Gauge line, SG400.  It's another reason why I am delayed writing this.  It takes time to properly install and optimize a new cart/phono preamp.  Vinyl Lady and Scottdazzle will be coming over tonight to compare it to my other conventional set up. 

bpape

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Re: A Portrait of an Audio Circle Junkie at RMAF 2011
« Reply #23 on: 2 Nov 2011, 01:06 pm »
Now you're just making me jealous.  I LOVE the Soundsmith stuff....

Bryan

woodsyi

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Re: A Portrait of an Audio Circle Junkie at RMAF 2011
« Reply #24 on: 2 Nov 2011, 07:35 pm »
First thing I noticed were the tubes glowing on the McAlister monoblocks.  That  surprised me since I was expecting Tommy’s Cherry Ultra amps.  Then I was told about the DAC amp’s synergy issue with the VSA VR-44 active (woofer) speakers.  Well, this is why you have backups.  I like tubes and I was thinking this could be good since the woofers were biamped.  I was in a good mood after another free beer and was enjoying the music from Wolf Tracks:  RAVE selections 2006-2009.  What I noticed and remember on this occasion is the impactful bass and good tonality on the midrange.  I was feeling too good to register much on the treble.   I periodically checked this room throughout the show and I was there for a long time at the closing on Sunday.  On couple of the occasions I manned the room for Bill and Joe since they were being pulled every which way to meet important industry people.  As a disclosure, I will say that I know how to operate the remote since I have one just like it at home.  For those of you who don’t know, I bought last year’s show special preamp (Silver Statement) from Bill and Joe.  So I am predisposed to like the preamp which is a newer and more expensive version of mine.  I won’t say better, yet, because I am not sure.

For some reason, the sound didn’t have the same magical cohesion I heard last year with Rethm/RAAL supertweet combo.   Then on Sunday near the closing time, I had the room to myself and I played around with the volume.  From low volume to a certain level below 80dB or so, it was gorgeous.  Everything was in balance and treble was sweet.  Sound stage locked into a holographic depth.  At louder volume the treble started getting rough and imaging fell apart.  At 90dB or higher, the bass boomed and overpowered everything else.  There was one gentleman who was a prospective dealer who insisted on listening at 90dB + and it was not pleasant to me.  He was bobbing his head up and down and obviously enjoyed the boomy and shouty sound  – different strokes for different folk, I guess.  Ted B.  brought over a room measuring kit and I helped a little in setting up the mike.  What I noticed was clearly a distortion coming out of at least one speaker if not both.  Albert later attributed that to a faulty amp and/or the tubes.   From what I heard at low volume, I am guessing the tube amps behaved nicer when they weren’t pushed.  Albert also mentioned that much of Saturday the crossover profile for the active woofer was at a wrong setting creating a suckout at midbass.  It was corrected late Saturday before the Kronzillas arrived.

I was preoccupied Saturday night and missed the Kronzillas but I really would have liked to have heard them driving these speakers.  So, it appears that I haven’t heard the best of this Purity preamp/VSA VR44 combination yet.  I am hoping I get to hear them together in an optimum setting soon.  The promise is there;  I just need to hear it happen.  It would also be nice to AB the Silver Statement vs the Ultra GT.  I don't doubt the Ultra GT is better but I want to know if the higher cost is justifiable to my ears.  8)  As for my digital source research, I found out that Windows based whatever Joe was running is problematic.  It would recognize my flash drive but showed it as empty unable to see any of the flac. Files.  Joe was on his tummy on the floor rebooting the labtop but it still wouldn’t recognize flac. files after restarting.  I have had some issues with Windows that sometimes wouldn’t see a flashdrive.   I think I am going Mac or at least non-Windows (Linus?) when it comes to running my digital tunes in the future.   BTW, Joe was on his tummy because they found that shorter USB cable made better sound.  So they ditched the little table with a stool and place the labtop on the floor right in front of the equipment rack.  Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. 

This to me is a microcosm of what must go on at these audio shows.  From the room size/shape, hotel supplied electrical power to individual components  every vendor is trying to make the best out of less than ideal conditions.   It absolutely does not help that different manufacturers teaming up cannot test their gears together until the show time.  The advantage definitely goes to rooms that have had experiences of having the ensemble together beforehand.  Some succeed and others fail.  This is why I don’t  want to say much about a room that doesn’t sound good at the short time that I was there to listen.  By the same token, I am very impressed when I hear good sound.
 
Back to Friday night,  Hugh then took me down  to his Angel City Audio room….  Oh, and Joe kept Chris’ CD because he wanted to use it.

Scottdazzle

Re: A Portrait of an Audio Circle Junkie at RMAF 2011
« Reply #25 on: 2 Nov 2011, 07:43 pm »
You shared a room with Scot???????????????

Good God, I hope you had a lot of wine!  :wink:

And what exactly are you implying?   :wine: Hic.

woodsyi

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Re: A Portrait of an Audio Circle Junkie at RMAF 2011
« Reply #26 on: 17 Nov 2011, 09:10 pm »
I had a nice time listening to Melody electronics and ACA speakers.  I think monitors are the way to go in the small rooms at the show.  It really takes much of the room modes out of play and room gain actually makes them sound bigger.  Hugh is a cool dude and he offers good value at affordable price.  I promised to get back when I was feeling a little less euphoric but I never did get back.  Part of the reason was that there was no SOTA digital playback  and I am typically not a monitor guy.  I like big sound with deep bass.  I use 4 subwoofers to augment my RM 40s just to give you an idea.  I don’t want them booming but I want the full sound if a recording has it.  Anyway, I will have to make a point to get back to ACA room next year. 

I started Saturday at the AVA/Salk room.  It was good to see Mary and chat a little.  Jim is a lucky guy to have Mary.  She is so sweet and good looking too.  I had brought my daughter who had just turned 7 to the Capitol Audio Show in Rockville a couple of years ago.  My wife had a girls day out concluding with an 80’s hairband concert and I had a father/daughter bonding thing going on at an audio show.  I met both Jim and Dennis in a cavernous room and was chatting away about the sound and acoustics and forgot to pay attention to my daughter.  When I came around and looked, I found Mary and my daughter chatting away like they were buddies.   They were having a great time.  Mary was very impressed with my daughter who speaks a little better than her age and still asks me about her whenever I see Mary at a show.   My daughter asks about Mary too.  We are definitely going to set a side time to attend next year’s Capitol audio show and hope Salk Audio comes with Mary.  They may be getting too big though for such a small show in DC.
 
Mary told me that the show pair of SoundScapes was already sold and they would go on to sell two more pairs by the end of the show.  3 pairs of $15K speakers in a weekend!  There must be something  about these speakers.  I heard them two years ago at the DC show and I also heard them in Dennis’ house.  It sounded the best this year but still they are not perfect.  By that I mean that I don't think I heard them at their best yet. I believe I would like to hear them bi-amped.   The more I hear RAAL tweeters in different speakers, the more I am convinced that tubes are the best match for these incredibly precise and unforgiving drivers.  I am not talking about just the signal tubes either as in some hybrid amps.  I think they sound the best with triode output tubes.  But the tubes wouldn’t do justice to those big aluminum woofers.  I had brought my Bill Baker modded ASL Hurricanes to Dennis’ house and 85 watts from 4 pairs of push pull KT88s a side couldn’t control the woofers like my 1000 watt ICE amps.   And trust me in that you don’t want to hear the shrill sound ICE amp can make with RAAL tweeters or the ceramic mids for that matter. 

I am sure Dennis can incorporate  an active woofer unit with passively filtered mid/tweet.  I mean VSA just came out with one and Vandies are active.  Roger Sanders incorporates active crossover to separate his TL woofer and the panel.  A lot of good things happen when you relieve your amps of the woofer driving duty.  I know because I actively bi-amp. So I am biased. I wonder what an active woofered SoundScapes would sound like with a pair of Kronzilla amps....

woodsyi

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Re: A Portrait of an Audio Circle Junkie at RMAF 2011
« Reply #27 on: 18 Nov 2011, 07:50 pm »
Be that as it may, I sat down to listen to the speakers driven by AVA electronics.  Frank has added some thickness to his faceplates.  They look good.  I asked Jim to play a song from my thumb drive and he was able to down load my track and play it.  It was the uncompressed version of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet with Aram Khachaturian conducting an Armenian(?) orchestra  that was recorded by Russell Dawkins.  Nathan M went goo goo ga ga over the Dance of the Knights track which prompted me to get the recording from Russell.  It’s an excellent track to check dynamics on any speakers.  SoundScapes can do dynamics alright.  For this orchestral music, the AVA/Salk presented wonderfully impactful music the kept up with dynamic changes.  It was pretty impressive.  The bass was the best I have heard where I did not detect any looseness.   I was going to ask Jim to download and play a 24/96 Auld Lang Syne track from R. Pidgeon’s Retrospective album but other people started coming in and I did not want to monopolize Jim.  BTW, I finally got tired of Pidgeon’s Spanish Harlem and started using her Auld Lang Syne instead to check vocals.
 
Then I got a call on my cell phone and  it was time to take possesion of a new toy.  I made an arrangement with a gentleman in Denver to buy a used Strain Gauge phono cartridge/preamp system, SG400.   Both John (TCG) and Laura (Vinyl Lady) were very impressed with the SG system last year and I was too.  I just wasn’t sure I wanted to plunge into getting a pick up that requires an exclusive preamp of its own.  I saw an opportunity on Audiogon  a couple of months ago and made an offer and got a deal (after a couple of counter offers) I couldn’t refuse.  It also helped that I could actually see the product before forking over the money although I need not have worried as Chris turned out  to be an outstanding audiophile well established in Denver.  He was manning the registration desk on Friday.
 
Strain Guage is different.  It took me a couple of weeks to fine tune the set up after I got back.  I mounted it on my Oracle Delphi 5 table with SME IV arm.  I had received the unit without the manual but Mark Whitters from Soundsmith was very helpful and promised to send a PDF file to me after the show and he did.  Kudos to Mark and Soundsmith for excellent customer service even when I didn’t purchase the unit from them.   I generally find the SG to be precise and adroit almost to the point of being facile at the expense of weighty depth.  This is in direct comparison to my other set up consisting of  Teres table, Graham Phantom II arm, Asthetix Io (partial Eclipse) pre-amp and Koetsu Urushi cartridge.  I have tweaked this set up to give me the most robust and full midrange as you can get to listen to mostly but not exclusively operatic female vocals.  So, I expected the SG 400 to be “leaner” but there is more to it than that.  I find some recordings to be better with one set up and others with the other.  Both Scott (Scottdazzle) and Laura (Vinyl Lady) heard a couple of weeks ago how recording dependent a vinyl system can be.  I am guessing that  the non-RIAA compensation on the SG may not agree with some recordings.  Anyway, it’s nice to have two very different vinyl playback to play around with.  Speaking of which, I found out at the show that I must upgrade my Oracle Table…