Rocky Mountain Audio Fest - RMAF - Show Report 2015 - Page 2 - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #11 of 31 Old 10-03-15, 03:53 PM Thread Starter
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Wayne Myers
 
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Spent the morning in can jam listening to headphones. Started out with the Sennheiser HD 800 for a reference check. These used to be considered about the best headphones you could get, but they have a huge amount of competition these days.



At the HiFiMan booth, the new $3,000 planar-magnetic flagship HE1000. One of two 'phones that really impressed me this year. Where most 'phones pull back the mids a bit, they are strong with the HE1000, providing detail galore - and as clean as any sound you ever heard. Highs and lows are extended - go on forever? - and are FLAT-FLAT-FLAT. A candidate for ultimate reference 'phone.


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The $299 Oppo PM3 in new colors. Jason, who is over the engineering team, was fun to talk to. Oppo is one of those companies that just does everything right.


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Audeze LCD3 - $2,000


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Audeze LCD4 - $4,000 - their planar-magnetic flagship model, the other really impressive 'phone I heard. Strong, scarey-clean mids and electron-microscope detail. Extended highs and lows like you never dreamed of - and are FLAT-FLAT-FLAT (yep, these too). Another candidate for ultimate reference 'phone.


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post #12 of 31 Old 10-03-15, 04:08 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Rocky Mountain Audio Fest - RMAF - Show Report 2015

I spent a very special, very private, almost intimate hour with the Vapor Audio Perfect Storms last night after hours. A re-review is in order.



Vapor re-designed the crossover, and I was anxious to hear the result. When I walked into the room, music was playing that caught me off guard and for some reason I did not want to hear them like that so I left. When I came back later, the room was quiet and we (the Storms and I) had the room almost to ourselves. I had a full CD of tunes for them to delight me with.

The Perfect Storms are far more than what they might look like to some. The design might appear like a three-way on a subwoofer, but in reality it is a carefully integrated 4-way design making use of the some of the highest-performing drivers available in the industry. A woofer that delivers distortion in the 1% range clear down to 20 Hz is not easy to find or deliver operating at a reasonable efficiency level. A subwoofer with anywhere near that kind of performance is pretty much unheard of - perhaps only dreamed of. The Perfect Storm is designed to utilize the full efficiency of its two most efficient drivers and carefully tailor the other two for the smoothest possible transitioning between drivers at crossover points. There are no "rough edges" in the drlivery. Smooooooth, natural sonic quality is heard in every note and tone.

The straightforward guitar-oriented rock of Kurt Vie had an easy-going nature that could be enjoyed at any volume level. The sometimes rough quality of his recordings is not hidden or covered over, nor is it over-emphasized. "Here you go," is the straightforward delivery style from the Perfect Storm (PS). The folk sound of the Wailin' Jennys calls for a delicate, detailed touch and the PS drivers can do delicate with dynamics and finesse. Inner details of vocals and plucked guitar and mandolin are a delight. Atoms For Peace, Put Together Pieces, with what I can only term "micro percussive" sounds - a click or pop often serves as a percussion sound instead of a drum - demands instant responsiveness and cohesive timing, and the PS accompllish this easily.

I have fallen in love with the properly recorded tone of the Overs piano, produced in Australia. Rachmaninoff's Lilacs by Scott Davie on the Overs has piano tones that are as delicate as just about any instrument tone recorded that I know of, and they have never sounded better than on the PS. When Muse comes crunching through on the next track, there is no need to pull back on the volume, the PS have immense reserves when it comes to playing loud and doing so effortlessly. The tube amps in use had no trouble with high volumes. I have heard the PS driven by 300W class-A solid state monoblocks, and the clean volume available from them is truly a little frightening and exciting, like a pyro's first experiments with big, hot flames. I should probably put this out. Or I could let it get just a little bit bigger.

Civil Wars - guitar with male and female vocals, then string ensemble playing Gayne Ballet from 2001, both call for more delicate tonality and detail delivery, spot on again. Getting a speaker to completely disappear in a room is a difficult task, involving near-perfect driver matching, mercless insistence on crossover design and matching perfection, solid cabinet design, freedom from diffracting edges, and careful room setup. A show room at any show like RMAF will throw tough challenges into the mix. The PS almost become invisible on some tracks, just peeking out from behind the soundstage on others. The width of the design might make the task a little tougher. Internal cabinet bracing is unmatched with the PS, daring a microvibration to even think about leaking out anywhere but through the driver surfaces. Finishes are particularly beautiful, and fit and finish are obsessively perfected by the Vapor team.

Midlake's dense mix, Nickel Creek, Todd Rundgren - Compassion - with delicate high bells and beautifully sampled cymbals, no challenge for the Perfect Storm drivers. I thought the upper mids and highs might be a smidge - no more than a dB at most - laid back compared to what I heard in July. Ryan was pleased with the improved smoothness of integration at crossover frequencies, and it showed in the complete sense of effortless delivery I heard, although they sounded pretty sweet before. Tower of Power brass and Mindy Smith's clear, glossy vocals further confirmed the seamless nature of the mids and highs. A final high-volume CRUNCH from Devin Townsend had to repeated just for fun.

And that might be a good nick-name for the Vapor Audio Perfect Storm high-performance speakers, Just For Fun. They are fun and accurate and make everything seem easy. The best speakers make it seem like speaker design must be the easiest job on the planet. I kinda doubt it, even though the Perfect Storm seemed to insist that Ryan and Pete and team did very little. They have a life of their own, and I fell in love with them for the second time in a year. I have to stop listening to them, walking away gets harder every time.

Sunday Update: GREAT NEWS! One of Vapor Audio's amps melted down in the night! How is that good? The amps were replaced by an excellent Jeff Rowland Design Group solid state amp.

My immediate impressions (I listened for awhile to be sure):
  • The high end was back up to the level I remembered it, and I liked it there.
  • The performance seemed tighter, more together, more succinct.
  • The soundstage separated from the speakers more completely than before.
  • Overall, I liked them better than with the tube amp.
My vote is drive the Perfect Storm speakers solid state, every time.
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post #13 of 31 Old 10-03-15, 05:34 PM
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The Neat Acoustics Momentum SX7i speakers captivated me with a new vinyl pressing from Intervention Records of Joe Jackson's Night and Day album. The system's realistic portrayal of tone and timbre supercedes the average, keeping me pinned to my chair.

Anchored by the TW Acustic Raven GT SE 'table, Ortofon TA-110 arm and Cadenza Black cartridge an powered by the Audia Flight FL Three S w/DAC and built in phono pre, the Neat Acoustics room was a joy to spend time in.
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"I left in love, in laughter, and in truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit." - Bill Hicks
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post #14 of 31 Old 10-03-15, 05:52 PM Thread Starter
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I missed the PSB room at AXPONA. The iMAGINE T3, at $7496/pair, performd very nicely. It is clear why they are highly regarded in the price range and class.


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They deliver a very solid, natural sound, go deep without a subwoofer, and easily disappear in a very large soundstage.

I find myself thinking of the PSB Imagine T3 as a speaker that does everything very well. You can spend a lot more and not get much benefit, and it is versatile, being equally well suited for two-channel or home theater (with a subwoofer).
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post #15 of 31 Old 10-03-15, 06:42 PM Thread Starter
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Linkwitz Lab and Madisound are holding build seminars for the Linkwitz 521.4 and LXmini kits. I picked up some good pointers for the LXmini kit I will be building and reviewing, to be used in the next HTS GTG/eval event in November. Oops, did I say that out loud? Guess we have to announce it now.





The unassuming little speaker will not play super loud, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. The sound quality rivals that of speakers costing well into the thousands.

I will be doing a detailed build thread, including a YouTube video, a detailed review, and at the November get-together the evaluation panel will use them while evaluating DAC performance.





Madisound is a regular at these events, and always has some fun built-up kits to listen to. They pack a lot of value into a box of parts if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and plug in your soldering iron and jump into DIY mode.
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post #16 of 31 Old 10-04-15, 11:50 AM
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The system in Room 1021 spun vinyl on a Triangle Art Concerto turntable, handing the signal off to a Pass Labs XP-25 phono stage, and the wonderful new Pass Labs INT-250 integrated amplifier. That's right, Pass has finally given us an integrated amp.

A nice, warm, lush, full sound, with a soundstage larger than the room, aided not only by the Usher Audio X Tower's large size, but also by proper placement within the confines of the small room.


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"I left in love, in laughter, and in truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit." - Bill Hicks
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post #17 of 31 Old 10-04-15, 12:30 PM
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I've heard the larger Blade before, in a crowded room, sitting way off axis. Still impressive.

Today, I got a chance to sit and listen to it's little brother, all proper. Now, the KEF Blade 2 is one of my favorite all time speakers.

Wyed4Sound has resurrected the old GAS (Great American Sound) Ampzilla name and design, with the SST Thebes II preamp and Son of Ampzilla II powering the KEF loudspeakers. Source was the Wyred 4 Sound MS-1 Music Server.

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"I left in love, in laughter, and in truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit." - Bill Hicks
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post #18 of 31 Old 10-04-15, 01:28 PM
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There is just a rightness to the sound of Vandersteen Quatro Wood CT loudspeakers w/optional M5-HP passive subwoofer crossover circuit, certainly a product of the effort to bring all drivers together in time and space. Toe-tappingly enjoyable, this is the type of sound that gets my blood flowing.

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"I left in love, in laughter, and in truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit." - Bill Hicks
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post #19 of 31 Old 10-04-15, 01:50 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Rocky Mountain Audio Fest - RMAF - Show Report 2015

The Eclipse TD712MK2 bullet shaped speakers did not look like they would be good down to 35 Hz. The first recording I heard sounded shallow, but the next showed how far down they could reach. Paired with the accompanying TD 725SWMK2, the system could reach 20 Hz flat.

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As one might expect with such a design, imaging was pinpoint sharp. One very special quality I noticed was well-defined depth acuity, or depth of soundstage. It is rare that a speaker naturally creates a soundstage with well-defined depth qualities. The Eclipse did this better than any other speaker I heard at RMAF.
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post #20 of 31 Old 10-04-15, 01:55 PM
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I have never, nor will likely ever again, hear Neil Young's "Needle and the Damage Done" sound so good. The trumpet from Ella and Louis "A Foggy Day" on vinyl surprised me, a former horn player, with the dynamic capabilities of the Wilson Audio Alexia juiced by Dan D'Agostino monoblock amplifiers. Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride " was spacious in both width and depth, great fun to listen to, as well.

No equipment list was available, so I can not detail the gear, but this was simply one of the best systems I have heard, period. I had to reluctantly peel myself out of the chair and move on to other rooms.

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"I left in love, in laughter, and in truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit." - Bill Hicks
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