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RMAF show, anyone here? Anything that blew you away?

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I just thought I would start a thread. I've spent the last two days listening to everything under the sun that I couldn't possibly fit into my house, well maybe I could fit that over there......

I need to sort my thoughts a little bit, Its been an onslaught on my senses. It was my first time, and you really can get a lot of ear time without driving a million miles. A really special extravaganza that I recommend to all of you. I was really impressed with much of the integration of Computer audio and analog, and how many different ways of doing it was presented!

Absolutely loved it!



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noticed from this years show:


YG speakers: I used to think that these speakers were on the lean/analytical side of things, perhaps tending towards being bright and even harsh. At this years RMAF there were a lot of these speakers in very different systems. Now I am of the opinion that the YGs are just very, very, transparent; and as such, one must be very careful as these speakers will reveal (rather than cover up) any flaws in the partnering electronics.


Vitus Electronics: very expensive amplification, which I have heard in many system contexts over the years. I am always impressed by the Vitus gear. If I could afford it, Vitus would be my amplifier of choice.


SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 512-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical with Well Tempered Clock--DIY DSC-2 DAC with SC Pure Clock--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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The SoundSmith (Turntables) room was amazing. What was ever better is that they were using a Tandberg 3006A Power Amp that had been discontinued 23 years ago and really isn't the greatest amp (I know because I have one in my crawl space). Taking that into account the sound coming out of the bookshelf speaks was crystal clear and I can point to the source are the most important factor.


The Dan D'Agostino room with his amps (about $45,000 and Wilson Sashsa speaker ($26,000) with Transparent speaker wire (about $30,000) was amazing. I think I liked it the best. Just before I left I shook Dan's hand.


Sanders speakers ($13,000) http://www.sanderssoundsystems.com/ Comes with speakers and 1 amp (you would need 1 more amp these are the best bang for the buck I I was really impressed. Locally made too. The downside is that you really need a very specific room and it really is meant for 1 person. Now saying that, my system has a sweet spot only for 1, but it isn't that bad outside of the sweet spot.


As for music. I think it is better to go with someone else and get their impression. Also get a reference system (like the D'Agostino) and have that as a comparison. Some of these guys can really do wonders with a room and so you have to be careful. Such as the Sanders room. It was so well set up and that made the system really shine.


The biggest disappointment was the Pink Floyd Demo. Someone measured it and it was louder than 110 decibels. I typically listen loud, but that is still under 90 decibels.


As for the YG room with the Anat speakers. For $450,000.00 (Yes, that number is correct) I would hope the system sounded good. I was not impressed. The others listed above moved me more.




Crystal Clear Music Tweaked Mac Mini / Yosemite -> JRiver 22 -> Ayre QB9DSD -> Bryston BP26DA -> Bryston 4BSST2 -> B&W 802Di | Transparent Reference XLRs, Transparent Super Speaker Cable, Maple Shade USB cable

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Sorry I missed you today, bud. Hope you're feeling a bit better!


I have to agree with you about the YG sound, but I'm not sure you were mistaken in your earlier opinions -- they've actually done something to their sound with the latest changes/mods in their line. It's surprisingly good (ok, surprising to me)! And we RMAF attendees should know -- I think there were something like 6 (or more) rooms with YG speakers in them.


I heard some fun things, some good things, some bad things, and some surprising things. But I have to sort through my notes -- I seem to have sort of jumbled everything up in my head a bit. I blame the altitude.


I thought the Brodman room was surprising. For a speaker line with no internal bracing and actively resonating external panels (by design!), the sound of the tiny stand mounts was just superlative. Rich, warm, and very musical.


I really liked Todd Garfinkle/Chris Sommovigo's room. Todd's music played back through the Davone speakers was just great. I love that retro look. Chris kept calling it "Jetsons", but I was thinking more 60's hi-fi looking. Just loved that look and the sound was great. I could be happy with that sound and with that integrated.


Vitus sounded good. So did the big Sony speakers. I really liked the look of the prototype Jones Audio preamp and their amps are fantastic. I'm a huge fan of Veloce and those battery-powered hybrid tube/Class-D 400wpc monobloc amps looked and sounded great -- I found myself wondering how they'd do with my Maggies. The Analysis Audio room was very inviting, and the triple-power-supply computer server from Command Performance was totally awesome and thoroughly over-the-top. dCS was everywhere. As was AMR. Everytime I saw either, I knew I was in for a treat.


I could go on and on. And I probably will ....


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I really enjoyed talking to folks like Socrates7, Ted_B, and Chris at the CA get-together, as well as later on. It's very disarming and rewarding to get to know these really cool people and their erudite and unique approach to this hobby that we all love.


I agree with Barrows about YG. They were in 6 different rooms. There is a reason why they were the most represented speaker. They can be very great. The best YG room was Mark Conti's Veloce room with the YG Kipod, the worst was Steve Nugent Empirical Audio's room with the Kipod and the weirdest was the Kipod in Synergistic Research's room. I heard nothing from the Anats that made me not want to own them at some point in the future. They are what they are. The room is what the room is. I will own them, some day. :-)


The most interesting speakers I heard was the Voxativ. I didn't like any of the horns I heard, but the Voxativ don't sound like any other speaker I have ever heard. They take a little getting used to. They were really fun to listen to.


Brodmann speakers were really cool for the price. If I had a very small room, I would give them a listen for sure (colored yet compelling). I would also give the Evolution Micro One a listen (very deep soundstage and excellent dynamics for a $2,000 speaker).


Vandersteen 7 sounded much better this year than last year. I finally get it.


Vivid B1 were excellent, but the soundstage just wasn't all there like last year with the Giyas, which I loved.


TAD was excellent in both rooms. I TOTALLY understand why some folks love these speakers. I just couldn't relax listening to them; It's not you, it's me.


The Magico Q1 is a good 2 way. I still don't understand Magico. I don't understand why so many reviewers gush over them. I had the same impression of the Q5 last year.


Ray Kimber is incredible and his room truly reflected that. He had a 4 Sony AR1 surround demo run from a Sonoma machine. The point of the demo, I think, was to demonstrate the IsoMike. I don't understand how this relates to any product I could buy, but I loved it just the same. Ray Kimber is miles ahead of all of us and we will just have to catch up somehow. The Sony AR1 sounded awesome for sure.


MBL is incredible in the higher frequencies but the rest doesn't seem to integrate as well as some others I have heard. They are great nonetheless and I really enjoyed them.



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I noticed more mainstream loudspeaker companies exhibiting their wares this year, including Polkaudio, MartinLogan, and Hsu Research. I thought the Polk LSiM 705s performed well above their price point of $3000/pr.


At previous RMAFs I wasn't impressed with the JBL DD66000s (and I'm a horn enthusiast), but this year their distributor had them set up on the longer room dimension, with some top-of-the-line Mark Levinson electronics, and they sounded much better.


Several exhibitors were showing "value" systems that I thought performed very well. Of particular note was Emerald Physics' $5000 complete system -- speakers, amp, powered sub, and DSP crossover.


Overall my favorite rooms, in no particular order (and I didn't get to every room) --

Joseph Audio


Home Audio Sound (JBL Everest + Mark Levinson)

Emerald Physics

Volti Audio



Von Schweikert (VR-33 and the ones with the built-in amp -- VR-11?)

Benchmark / Studio Electric

Analysis Audio



- Bill



Ubuntu box (mpd + custom control software -> BruteFIR software XO) -> MSB MVC-1 volume control -> Outlaw 7075 amp -> Klipschorns

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You state:


"I still don't understand Magico. I don't understand why so many reviewers gush over them. I had the same impression of the Q5 last year"


Well when THE biggest cheerleader of Magico is a very respected reviewer who claims "if he had the money he would buy the Q5". Yet he has had the Q5's for over a year (maybe close to two), not having paid for them and it is like pulling teeth to get him to admit that he never paid for "his reference" which still resides within his "listening room". Given that he has significant sway over the buying public, I think the answer to your question is at least, in part, answered.


This same reviewer, while reviewing Scaenas, couldn't stop talking about Magico, released a "mini-Review" on the Q1s based on his "trip" out to their factories, before any review of Scaena review has been released-still waiting. In fact, the same reviewer gave the Q1s the "most important new product" status at a show he never heard them-and you question WHY??


I could go on about the conflict of interest by some of these reviewers but I think you get the picture.


Unfortunately, this happens too often and the manufacturer is more concerned about pleasing these types of reviewers, rather than the customers.


With few exceptions, I rarely listen to what a reviewer has to say, and more what my ears hear.


To Chris' credit, I was pleasantly surprised to see a review (I think it was the Esoteric DAC) where he gave a critical and somewhat negative review). Amazing in this day and age.


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This was my third RMAF (i think).

My intention was to get new power cords for my AV receiver but, as everyone who've been there, plans often change in ways that are not easy to explain.

So I ended up purchasing an Amarra software for my MacMini. It was my introduction to their product and after listening to it at home, hallelujah! This was the missing link for me.


I'm new to this forum and just wanna echo what was previously said about the the emergence/ascendance of computer audio with products that I didn't expect to find at RMAF.


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I think the best part of the show was getting acquainted with some old favorites, and making some new friends. I went to the show interested in hearing what was new and exciting, but I ended up being overwhelmed by all the flavors presented.

I really had a good time at the can jam. I've never been a headphones kind of guy, and still won't, but I was mighty impressed and spent more than three hours there. Really nice, and many flavors to absorb.

Speaking of old favorites,

Brystons room with the PMC speakers was really something I could live with. Just flat out great sounding top to bottom. Haven't had any of their stuff for years, will have to look into them next time.

Audio research once again blew me away. Disclaimer, I have had at least one of their pieces for the last thirty years, I'm biased. The music was so involving, I didn't want to leave. The powered sub vandersteens would not have been my first pick, but they were very nice. And at this show, I actually found ARC prices to be a bargain! Never thought I would say that!

Harbeth sounded very very nice, and I can see why so many people love them. I just play too many styles of music to be able to live with them.

Vienna acoustic's kiss speakers were a piece of art, and they sounded really good too. Absolutely stunning, it and it's bigger brother are something everyone should give a listen to. That was one price tag I forgot to check.....

Dan D'agastino came to the gun show with a howitzer. And it was a joy to have him as my personal DJ for a while. Big grin on his face the whole time. I wonder if there is anything left of those Sasha's after he was done with them. Now there was a display of current. I wanted to hear Frankie goes to hollywood's welcome to the thunder dome! Slam, and then some.

Newer stuff I hadn't spent much time with and enjoyed.

Once again, Brystons media player and dac, top notch.

MSB's room, I could definitely live with, with the silver line monitors. Better than I thought it was going to be. Big sticker shock!

DCS's representation was more than I expected, and their stuff is really that good, always has been!

Focal, I really enjoyed. Very nice speakers, just don't know if I could live with them.

Yg, hometown group disclaimer. Nicely done, warming up to them fast.

MBL sounded really good, but not my cup of tea.

I could go on and on. And I missed a lot of rooms due to time constraints and work. But I made a point to keep my negative comments out of this. Everything above I thought had good merits and would make a lot of people really happy. Like the Rega line which I forgot to mention that I could really live with. I was very unhappy with some rooms that I put down to poor setup and equipment synergy. And some things I just didn't get.

I went primarily to get a listen to some s.e.t. Amps, and was let down every time. So I gave up and let my ears lead the way. Many times right past doors that I would normally enter. The quality and prescence of computer audio was the thing that was truly inspiring. Thumbs up to a great show!





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Sorry I missed ya on Sunday, thanks, yes I was feeling quite a bit better after resting up all day Saturday.


To be clear on YG: I was not impressed with the big guys in GTTs room with Tenor amplification. I was impressed by the Carmels paired with Vitus though: I felt the natural warmth of the Vitus electronics were a great match for getting the Carmels to sing musically.


The big TADs with VTL dissappointed me as well: muddy mid bass, and the images were overblown in proportion: ten foot tall singers, gigantic acoustic basses, etc. Weird, because I have heard the big TADs in Ayre's listening room on occasion, and in that set up they sounded fantastic, and I usually like VTL electronics as well...


The little Magicos... I had to run from the room, as the sound was just sooo dry, they needed some help via some different electronics. There was a lot of dry sound at RMAF, the typical "HIFI" sound.


DeVore, of course avoided the dry plague, with the new Gibbon 88s sounding detailed AND musical.


Scott: I have heard good things about matching up Maggies with some of the better class D solutions. You might be a little patient, as there is some new class D tech coming from genius designer Bruno Putzeys (of hypex/UcD fame) which will be incorporated into a few different brands in 2012: some of these amps may debut at CES, but they might not be ready yet. The hype on this new design is very extreme, but I am interested enough that I will probably try building an amp for testing with the DIY version of this new design. (They will be producing a DIY module, and a then a different module exclusively for OEM use). The new design is called nCore.


SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 512-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical with Well Tempered Clock--DIY DSC-2 DAC with SC Pure Clock--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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Let's not get too excited about YG being in 6 different rooms. They are a local company (i.e. 15 miles from RMAF) so it is very easy for them to lend others their equipment.




Crystal Clear Music Tweaked Mac Mini / Yosemite -> JRiver 22 -> Ayre QB9DSD -> Bryston BP26DA -> Bryston 4BSST2 -> B&W 802Di | Transparent Reference XLRs, Transparent Super Speaker Cable, Maple Shade USB cable

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One of the best rooms in the show was right across the hall from Magico: Triode from Japan... simply spectacular, musical, fully engaging. I wanted to feel some [...any] magic from the Magico room, but there was nothing there for me, no soul, even playing vinyl. It was just "OK" and there were so many other really great rooms (especially playing vinyl).


The biggest surprise were the amazing Sonas Faber speakers playing in a room on the Mezzanine. I was expecting a syrupy sound, but was blown away. It was one of the best rooms in the show.


I wanted to like the MBL and German Physics rooms, but didn't feel it in either room (could have been the rooms I'm sure).


Estelan speakers (from Estonia) sounded wonderful! The Focal Utopia/Soulution room was also stunningly great I thought.


A few of the YG rooms were interesting, especially the Carmels in the Synergistic Research room which had great soundstaging and imaging. I agree that the variety of electronics showed off a wider range of the YG speakers than I thought possible.



www.vincentborrelli.com[br]Mac/Lynx AES16e, NAS, Pure Music, BADA, Pass amps, Genesis speakers, StarSound Sistrums, Synergistic PCs & I/Cs.

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I'm just full of them.


I have to say, I'm a big fan of Robert Lee. I've yet to hear him set up a bad room, but that said, this wasn't his best showing, I thought. I did get to have a fun few moments watching him and his team sort out some computer audio issues. Just so incongruous amidst all those glowy bits and big burl-veneer speakers. Made me grin a little. Okay, a lot.


I loved the Estelon speakers. A great big sexy look and a great big sexy sound. I have to look up what was driving them, but as to their WAF appeal, the very attractive woman showing them off said the look was "very Euro", which I guess is good. My wife would probably have nothing to do with them, but then, her taste in speakers is more along the lines of "invisible", so take that for what it's worth.


Speaking of Accuton drivers, I was quite taken (yet again) by the dCS + Tidal room that Doug White set up. Those Piano speakers are great, and the Puccini+U-Clock combo was very compelling as a front end to the Tidal electronics.


I did finally make it to the Voxativ room early on Sunday and was only able to stay for about 10 minutes before I left the room, shaking my head. I really am just not a Lowther kind of guy, I guess. I still have no idea why those speakers cost anything like their asking price. But my SET friends tell me (regularly) that I'm insane, so what do I know.


Speaking of low-power rooms, I loved the Zu room this year. Last year, they went for classy. This year, they went for sinister. The Def Mk 4 is a totally badass speaker. I guess if I'm going to go to a flea power friendly speaker, I'm going to be looking for powered subs. Freaky tunes flooding out of this room. Undeniable power. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get them to play a single tune I was even remotely familiar with, so I have no idea what this set up actually sounds like in comparison to anything else, but I had one thought as I was leaving the room. The Kronzilla designer? I think he's compensating. Just sayin'. Biggest. Tubes. EVER.


Speaking of compensating, did anyone catch the Cessare horns in the High Water Sound room? Whoa. Talk about enormous. Stone and wood to Acapella's gloss and sheen, but both seemed cut from a similar cloth. The sound from those horns, driven by mad tubes and crazy vinyl was a highlight of the show for me. I remember (I think it was Friday) when someone came in with a test pressing of Holst's "Mars", and Jeff cued it up on the TW Acustic Raven Limited. The room was full of people, about 20 or so, and I watched all the side conversations cease in a spreading ripple from the front seat all the way through the room. Jeff Catalano practically froze. Thomas W. (of TW) leaned forward, as if into a stiff wind and Mr Thorens (the guy who designed the phono pre it was all playing through) practically started dancing on his tiptoes. Not a single peep came from anyone in the room until the cut cleared. The sound was astounding. I now understand the word "dynamics" when applied to music. Holy cow.


And now for something completely different -- I have to say, I have no idea what was going on in the Synergistic room. The room acoustics weren't really working for me and the ART System demo left me confused instead of impressed. Were those little cups in front of the woofer actually doing something? According to Ted, who was very actively flipping them onto and off of their bases, they changed everything. To me ... well, maybe I was just tired.


I'm not a fan of mbl. German Physiks was more fun, but I'm not a big fan of them, either.


Speaking of things I'm not a fan of, or rather, the other way around, I feel bad about giving the new marketing guy at Amarra such a hard time about their pricing structure & feature competitiveness. Whoops.


I was hanging out in the Marriott lobby at 4pm, watching the crowd ebb and flow, feeling good about what turned out to 500+ "keeper" photos when none other than JV himself came storming by, cursing rather theatrically into his cell phone about some evil that Stereophile had committed. It was hilarious. A few minutes later, I actually stopped him and Robert Harley for a photo.


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I was also really smitten by the Estelon speakers. The woman you mentioned is designer/owner's daughter, who has been around music and her dad's audio obsession since she was a child, and now helps on the biz side. The speakers are made from a marble dust composite, are very heavy and expensive (the Diamond shown was $67K I think). I thought they were just amazing. As I recall, the source was a wonderful bargain of a turntable by Hanss. The speaker designer from Estonia worked in the field for 37 years before striking out on his own with this speaker line.


On a digital audio note, I heard a demo in the AudioQuest room of some USB cables, which included an A/B of the external USB spinning HDD on the platform and on Sorbothane, tiny tube-like shaped, footers. The footers (much to my surprise) made a very noticeable difference especially in the low end frequencies... I was kind of shocked. How can that be? huh? I heard the demo several times and it was for real.


www.vincentborrelli.com[br]Mac/Lynx AES16e, NAS, Pure Music, BADA, Pass amps, Genesis speakers, StarSound Sistrums, Synergistic PCs & I/Cs.

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