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Discussion Starter #1
Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) 2014 Show Coverage

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Reporting from the beautiful Denver Marriott Tech Center for HomeTheaterShack.com, equipment reviewers Dennis Young (Tesseract, left) and Wayne Myers (AudiocRaver, right) are on the scene bringing you highlights from the show.

Index Of Room Reports:

It is finally here!

A few highlights from our first afternoon:

Sponsors Angel City Audio and SVSound both have new speaker offerings at the show.​


Audio manufacturer Light Harmonic is developing a power amp that they claim will put big, expensive monoblock performance into a small, affordable form factor. The class A-B amp will have some interesting little tricks up its sleeve. Product name Keep, part of the LH Labs Geek series.​

Much more to come.

The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2014 thread will continue as the open discussion thread.
 

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Another day down, one more to go.

Highlights from yesterday:

From Can Jam:​

$5500 Ear Speakers. Not for everyone, but it was difficult not to drool.​

HiFiMan flagship HE6 model sang nicely, but is to be replaced in 2015.​

RHA in-ears, from across the pond - comfortable and accurate enough that one could easily forget they were in-ears. Hand-polished!​

oBravo cans with AMT tweeters from across the other pond.​

Serious Bluetooth cans for the audiophile who will not be tied down.​

Sennheiser HD600, HD650, HD700, HD800, in normal and differential configs, set up for A-B-C-D-E-F comparison.​

More to come.
 

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Wow, what a weekend. Speaking of "Wow," I have awarded four Wow! awards for the rooms that really grabbed me, plus two I Want One awards and a Most Dynamic Speaker award.

My Wow! awards go to:
  • Linkwitz Lab - Siegfried Linkwitz's speaker designs come in DIY kit form from Madisound - after you buy the plans from Linkwitz for around a hundred bucks plus change - all extremely affordable and easy to build. And they sound phenomenal!
  • Seaton Sound - Mark's rooms always manage to give me chills. The Catalyst 12C pair did it this year, with assistance from miniDSP and Dirac Live room correction.
  • KingSound - Their Prince III full-range electrostatic panels made my ears say "I am home." Lyngdorf room correction was assisting. I was so enthralled I forgot to take pictures.
  • GoldenEar - The Triton One setup was simply awesome.
The I Want One awards go to:
  • KingSound's Prince III electrostatic speakers.
  • Spacial Audio's Hologram M1 dipole speakers.
And the Most Dynamic Speaker award goes to:
  • Seaton Sound, for note-by-note dynamism that stood out in a field of very dynamic competitors.
Linkwitz, Seaton, KingSound, GoldenEar, Spacial
 

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Oh, boy... what a show! I don't recall any rooms that sounded bad by any means. Of course, some were better than others. I'll start off by showing one of my absolute favorite rooms, the Classic Audio Loudspeakers/Atma-Sphere/Purist Audio Design/Tri-Planar exhibit. This room also shows the price of admission to having top notch gear. It's well beyond my means, but am glad I got to experience what they had to offer.

This system portrayed the largest soundstage I've ever experienced from a strictly two channel system. I've heard bigger from multi-channel setups, but this was like sitting second or third row from the front of a real stage. Of particular note were vocals on the various tracks played, most life-like I have come across yet.

If I could somehow afford this system, and had a room large enough to accommodate it, happiness would be ensured for a long time.

I meant to go back and get me one of those Nipper dogs that were for sale, but with the excitement of the show, I forgot.

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Wayne's Comments

There are those who "see a horn and just keep walking." But there are those who have discovered some fine sounding horns, too, and the midrange horn in the Classic Audio Loudspeakers Project T-1.5 is definitely one of them.

Maybe it is the way a horn couples with the room's air that can give it the power to reach out and captivate you without warning. Listening to music on the Project T-1.5 was a very personal experience, like that horn was projected the soul of the music directly into your heart. The wide soundstage and precise imaging delivered a female vocalist who seemed to hover in the air a foot in front of the speaker plane. It felt like she was there to sing for me and me alone.

The Project T-1.5 uses a custom horn design and field coils replaced permanent magnets for all drivers to reduce distortion.
 

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The drive home from Denver took us most of the day, we just arrived home a few moments ago. There will be more 2014 RMAF show coverage to come!
 

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Jackpot! I hit a Goldmund room! First thing I asked upon entering the room, "Is this an all Goldmund system?" Why yes, yes it was.

I was just passing by, and Goldmund was not one of my intended stops. I wasn't even aware they would be exhibiting. So, I did not get the name of this particular speaker. Looks like Prologue+ on the backside?

I did get a little insight into what makes the system tick. I was already aware that Goldmund has been putting active crossovers and amps in their speakers for years. Now, they also put the DAC inside and transmit the wireless signal from the preamp. Simply plug whatever source you like into the preamp/hub, and listen to the all metal enclosure speakers work their seamless, well integrated magic.


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Linkwitz Lab


  • LXmini (kit, with DSP, plus pipe and fittings, without amplification): $690 per pair
  • LX521 Constant Directivity Reference Monitor (kit, with DSP, without amplification): $3,058 per pair
Siegfried Linkwitz has been spreading the good word about audio via his Linkwitz Lab web site since 1999, and has been an audio experimenter and a contributor to the field since the '50s. Part of that good word seems to be Good sound does not have to cost an arm and a leg. His innovative speaker designs are sold in kit form along with a purchase of the plans directly from Linkwitz Lab.

His rooms at the last two audio shows I attended for HTS were always crowded, and I had never made it to hear what all the fuss was about. This year I committed to make that room a priority. Some of my thoughts in the past have been along the lines of How good could they really be? Now I know the answer.

To put it simply: very, VERY good!

When I entered the room, there was only one chair empty in the back, and as at shows gone by, I started to leave. But Siegfried's lovely wife Eike directed me to sit, and obediently I did. Luckily the front-center chair opened up a moment later.

I had been listening to the LXmini speakers, and was already impressed. They seemed not to need a carefully-centered listening spot to cast a grand soundstage. The tiny LXmini consists of two drivers, a LF driver mounted at the top of a damped PVC pipe, providing an omnidirectional pattern up to 700 Hz, and a Mid/HF driver facing the listener in front of a smaller section of damped PVC pipe, providing a rear-diffused dipole pattern above 700 Hz. A miniDSP unit provides an active Linkwitz-Riley crossover (yes, Siegfried put the Linkwitz in Linkwitz-Riley) and equalization for the two drivers. Four channels of amplification are required, two per LXmini tower.

Note that the positioning of the two drivers helps create crossover directionality in the acoustical realm. The Linkwitz Lab web site, and undoubtedly the purchased plans as well, give a wealth of theoretical information about the design in a readable style targeting the DIY hobbyist.

How did the LXmini sound? The room easily garnered on of my Wow! awards for the show, and I had not even heard the bigger LX521 monitors yet. I started listing descriptors without embellishment, as though the LXmini had as much right of ownership over those descriptors as their designer had over the crossover type named after him:
  • Virtual Point Source
  • Full
  • Even
  • Flat
  • Clean
  • Precise
  • Unified
  • Dynamic
  • Honest
  • Natural
  • Humble
In normal listening positions, especially the front-center LP, the room was filled with sound that emanated from space in the most real and natural way possible, creating a huge, deep soundstage with pinpoint imaging wherein those humble, rustic little PVC-mounted speakers completely disappeared - Don't need to show off visually, 'cause in the audio realm I've got it nailed. Not intended for high-volume listening, they appeared capable of delivering 80 to 85 dB average listening levels in the medium-sized demo room. Moving closer to one tower allowed one to hear its point-source unity, unsurpassed by any single-full-range or small-two-way design that I have heard, with the soundstage-producing advantage of omni-directionality at LF and dipole characteristics at HF. I am curious what a similar design with crossover at around 200 Hz would perform, putting all of the critical soundstage- and image-producing frequencies into the dipole driver's range, but it is difficult to imagine it sounding significantly better than the LXmini.

LXmini plans cost $105 from Linkwitz Labs. The LXmini materials are available in kit form from Madisound for $525, including the miniDSP unit and program, to which the builder adds PVC pipe and standard fittings, plus 4 channels of amplification. It is a Wow! of a DIY project if I ever heard one, attention-getting in its elegant design and arresting in its audio impact.

The LX521 Constant Directivity Reference Monitor, a four-way fully-dipole design, performed much as the LXmini had done, hinting at shared ownership of the list of descriptors above. A dipole bass unit consists of two 10-inch drivers, V-frame mounted in a push-pull baffle. A bridge over the bass unit isolates the mid- and tweeter-baffle from LF vibrations; the mid/tweeter baffle can be aimed independently of the V-frame nestled below it. The LX521 added DEEP bass - the deep booms on Stravinsky's Firebird had shake-your-seat impact - and filled the room with a completely natural soundstage and flawless, pinpoint imaging. The LX521 could pump out much higher volumes and appeared entirely capable of being classified as a reference speaker.

Kit price for all CNC-cut wood pieces, ready to assemble and finish, along with the 12 SEAS drivers and an assembled and tested custom analog signal processor (using a miniDSP unit is also an option) adds up to $3058, a pricier setup to be sure, but one that will please the most particular of audiophiles. DIY-ers: on your marks, get set.....
 

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Funk Audio


  • Funk Audio 8.2.P Loudspeaker: $7,205 passive, $9,735 active with amplifier, per pair
  • Funk Audio 21.0 Subwoofer: $6,720 each
  • Funk Audio 0.5kW x4 M1 Power Amplifier with Active Crossover: $3330 each
We did a lot of noticing and talking about tweeters at RMAF. The less you notice a tweeter, the better. The Funk Audio tweeter stood out in its being unnoticeable.

While listening to the 8.2.P, there were times that the frequencies covered by the large planar tweeter were recessed, very laid back. But when something really happened in that range, like the harmonics of a female voice, it was right there with all the strength that was called for, and with perfect clarity. It was an interesting presentation, almost hiding when not needed, but reminding you at times that it had been there all along in its own very unobtrusive way. I said as much to the designer, who took it as a great compliment, saying he had put a LOT of time into that tweeter.

The soundstage was nice, imaging was somewhat soft but very stable. The huge subwoofer did some serious floor shaking when called upon. It could be felt far down the hall in other rooms.
 

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Wayne told me at last year's RMAF that he came across a plasma tweeter or two, and that I should make time to hear one. Well, it took another year, but I made a point to give time to the experience. And I am glad I did.

Nothing in particular stood out while listening to the Aaudio Imports/Hartvig/Lansche/Stage III/Thales/Ypsilon system in the Larkspur room, the sound was very good, just as most other rooms I visited. Nothing, that is, except for the most perfect reproduction of highs I have ever heard. No moving mass, zero, just air being excited in the most natural manner.

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Wayne's Comments

If ever there was an invisible tweeter, the plasma tweeter is it. Ducking in this room at the end of the show, I only listened briefly, but the absence of all things tweeterish - except pure, effortless, flawless, sourceless high-frequency vibrations - was conspicuous.

I was a little disappointed - but also completely understanding - that Lansche Audio opted to bring a smaller speaker to the show this year. Last year's imposing model, the No.8.2 (>$250,000 per pair - not a typo!), was a real attention-getter in all that it did NOT do audibly. But the tweeter was what I came to hear, and to my delight I could not hear it at work at all. Specs state a -3 dB rolloff at 150 kHz, a smidge above my hearing limit, but this is high-end audio we are talking about, where super-human perceptions are assumed and products are made to suit.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Madisound


It is always refreshing to visit the Madisound room. Tables were covered with speaker components for the audiophile DIY speaker builder, including parts for the Linkwitz Lab kits mentioned elsewhere, and a couple of finished examples standing by ready to be heard.

I enjoyed the assembled SEAS Exotic bookshelf pair on display, a two-way including a Hypex plate amp with DSP driver tailoring pre-programmed by SEAS. Cabinet design was by Tyler Acoustics of Owensboro, KY, where one can obtain plans, parts, or finished enclosures, even with exotic woods and finishes. The sound was very even and nicely balanced. The 35mm soft dome tweeters were easy, very natural.
 

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SVS Sound







  • Prime Tower: $499.99 each
  • Prime Bookshelf: $249.99 each
  • Prime Center: $349.99 each
  • Prime Satellite: $134.99 each
SVS Sound introduced their Prime series of speakers at RMAF, including Tower, Bookshelf, Center, and Satellite models. With the home theater buyer in mind, the models are all priced individually, not in pairs.

SVS Occupied two adjacent rooms. The home theater demo room ran an action sequence from the movie Drive, including gunshots, roaring engines, crunches, and crashes galore. The surround setup consisted of a pair of the Prime Bookshelves, a Center, several Satellites, and one of their large cylindrical subwoofers. The sound quality had impact when you wanted it and clarity for dialogue and the nuances of quieter scenes. The same system then played parts of a recent-vintage Sting concert and had no trouble delivering the music with an inviting warmth and clarity. Considering an entire Prime Satellite 5.1 surround system, including SVS's 300-watt SB-1000 subwoofer, can be delivered to your door for under $1,000, including shipping, return shipping if you should happen to change your mind, and customer service that is fabled to be second to none, the Prime components pack a lot of bang for the buck.

I also spent time with the Prime Towers in the next room, even comparing them to the $1,000-each SVS Ultra Towers. I suspect that the SVS engineers have been working on the Ultra tweeter over the last year. When I first heard it at RMAF 2013, it presented a high end that seemed carved from steel, not harsh, but definitely hard. I heard it again a few months later and it came across with a much softer feel. I am told by an Ultra Tower owner that it was tamed even more when he received his pair earlier this year, and that was my perception when I heard them alongside the Prime pair, still able to punch it out when called upon, while remaining extremely music worthy and unobtrusive. And that is a difficult balance to achieve. Kudos to the SVS team for getting there (if the assumed changes did indeed take place).

The Prime tweeter comes close to being worthy of the same praise, if still retaining a slightly firm edge in its voicing. But this is easily forgivable at the price point. Playing my test tracks, string picks and strums were lively, and vocals were smooth and airy. I enjoyed them enough to ask for a pair for a full upcoming review.

My perception of the Prime series was that they are not ashamed to be seen or heard, and welcome the chance to be compared to any other speaker in their class that is made to deliver impactful cinema and/or beautiful music on demand.







 

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LH Labs



Project KEEP

LH Labs, a division of Light Harmonic, makers of the GEEK OUT Class-A USB DAC/Headphone Amp series and Da Vinci DAC series, introduced a small group to a concept power amplifier they are developing. If you look at the two photos above, it is intended to deliver high-end monoblock performance - like one might find in a large, heavy floor-sitting unit pictured in the first photo - in a smaller, more WAF-friendly form factor - possibly looking like the small stacked power supply and power amp units pictured in the second photo.

The group was shown and allowed to hear a prototype of the forward-thinking KEEP amplifier, a fully-balanced 120 W Class-A/AB amp, which will have 3 bias points for the complementary-device output stage, automatically switched among as program levels demand. The idea is that the high-bias-current setting, with its high heat production, is rarely needed by most program material, so why waste power, heat up the output devices and room, and drive a large, heavy package with huge heat sinks, just to be always ready for an event that rarely occurs? The result will be super low distortion with super low heat dissipation - in normal use. Innovative specsmanship and test methods will need to be defined, too. The minimalist approach will also feature ultra-wide bandwidth and an ultra-low noise floor.

I liked the idea, as did the group as a whole: Monoblock performance in a tiny package for under $1,000 (my guess, actual price TBD). LH Labs, a small company "dedicated to creating affordable high-resolution audio," embraces crowdsourcing and "crowdfunding as a platform for product development and launch." Innovators at all levels, I like them more and more.

Keep your eyes on LH Labs, these guys are out-of-the-box thinkers who aim to deliver "the most advanced music amplification system ever developed." Project KEEP. I will be watching LH Labs for sure!
 

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The Peachtree Audio/Zu Audio room was the most fun room for me at the 2014 RMAF show. Especially at night, with the DJ's spinning records until 1 AM, the crowd gathered to listen, dance, socialize and enjoy the great sounds.

Vinyl sources only, driven by the powerful Peachtree Audio 220 SE integrated amplifier, the high efficiency Zu Audio Druid towers combined with the Undertone subwoofer pair were a formidable music machine. The speakers were placed w-i-d-e and the resulting soundstage was h-u-g-e, with the Druids filling in the 18 ft. space between the speakers with ease. The volume level the exhibitors chose was just perfect, not too loud or too little.

The sound was not the most detailed, did not have the most accurate imaging or soundstage. What it did have was a warm, rough, raw, toe tapping sound that was completely addictive. I sat and listened in the sweet spot several times times over a two day period, and each time I had to peel myself up unwillingly out of the chair. Sometimes I gave the chair up to another show goer, encouraging them to sit, just to watch their reaction as they got a really good listen at to how well the system was able to convey the emotion found on the records the DJ's were spinning. Such fun!

I really do not know how to define it other than to say it was the best party system I've ever heard. The mood in the room seemed to suggest that is exactly what this system was designed for.

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The Angel City Audio (ACA)/M&G Audio/Melody Valve/Skogrand Cables/Jupiter Condenser room debuted the latest ACA loudspeaker creation, the Seraphim.

The Seraphim loudspeakers were very popular, with the prototype selling within a few hours of the show's start. The MTMM trapezoidal tower features a narrow baffle, deep cabinet, SEAS tweeter and custom woofers.

When listening, I perceived an intimate soundstage, medium sized, as was the room and distance between the speakers, but extending slightly beyond the edges of the left and right of the speakers. Images were diffuse and large, and the Seraphim unraveled the complex NIN hi-rez tracks I heard with ease. Most impressive, and I asked to hear more.

The Melody Pure Black 101 remote controlled tube preamplifier and behemoth Melody MN 845 monoblock power amplifiers provided plenty of grunt and were as beautiful to look at as they were to listen through.


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Wayne's Comments

Dennis led me to this room as I was getting started, and it was a great way to get into the show. The Seraphim were attention-getting speakers, and the first notes I made were that they were set up properly and that I could listen to them for a long time.

Last year I had noticed how many rooms seemed to not receive proper attention to careful setup. This year the opposite seemed to be true, and the Angel City Audio room was the first of many wonderful rooms that benefited from the TLC of careful speaker setup and some room treatment.

The Seraphim projected a great soundstage with excellent imaging. They were very transparent, disappearing altogether in the room. The soundstage extended back from the speakers far beyond the front wall of the room. The nature of their sound was very detailed and whole, with a dynamic snap that I liked. The acoustic version of Hotel California was played and almost sold the Seraphim on the spot. Upper-mids and highs simply sang out - a celebration - extra-present but not over-emphasized.

The imaging was not perfect, not quite pinpoint, but was very good, very solid and stable. Tonality was perfect on female vocals, orchestra, brass, acoustic guitar, and a triangle strike was truthfully and sharply defined. Toward the end of our listen, an orchestra strike illustrated the dynamic punch of the Seraphim, BAM and then GONE so completely it was as though the sound had been sucked from the room.

The new Seraphim did not have an official price yet. I told Hugh that it felt like we had been listening to $10,000 per pair speakers. He said he had heard that number several times already.

What a great way to kick off an audio show.
 

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Sound Science/King's Audio


  • King's Audio Kingsound Prince III Full-Range Electrostatic Speaker: $9,995 per pair
Sound Science/King's Audio

I can not knowingly walk past an electrostatic speaker without stopping to give it a listen. When I saw the tall Prince III electrostatics by King's Audio in the Sound Science room, I was drawn to them. Thirty seconds after I sat down to listen, my ears said, "I am home."

The Prince III electrostatics easily got a Wow! and an I want one! from me. They had been set up with care, including judicious room treatment, and benefited from Lyngdorf room correction. At AXPONA last spring, every room I had heard that made use of room correction had an odd, unnatural feel about the sound presentation. At RMAF 2014, the two rooms I entered using room correction both sounded completely natural and at ease. I credit both excellent technology and carefully executed setup mic patterns by technicians who knew what they were doing and made sure the result was sonically true-to-life. It is almost not fair that speakers must be set up mere mortals who do not always get things just right (self included), but that is reality. All we can do as listeners is report what we witness and do our best to assign the credit where it is due, dividing it between the technology and the people who put set it up to unleash upon us. In this case, speakers, upstream equipment, room, and room correction were all in perfect harmony, no doubt largely a result of careful attention to detail by the folks from Sound Science.

The Prince III electrostatics projected a soundstage that stretched well beyond the confines of the room. imaging was pinpoint perfect, and the big panels completely disappeared in the soundfield. The presentation as open, airy, snappy-fast, and just plain clean. I do not mind a speaker that is a little on the bright side if that brightness sounds extremely clean and displays very smooth frequency response. The high end of the Prince III did both.

On the Broken Bells Perfect World test track, the centered kick drum had the most concentrated punch of any speakers I heard at the show. Another track that put imaging to the test was was Pulse, by Todd Rundgren. I only used the ending with sampled xylophone, every note mixed to its own spot in space. The Prince III were once again best at the show in terms of defining each note clearly, precisely, and with impact. The Prince III electrostatics simply were not there, but the music certainly was, as near-perfect as I heard it during the weekend.

Each of the Prince III electrostatics consisted of seven panels, each of them with a small tweeter section and a larger mid-woofer section side by side. At one point I did see mid-woofer panels flexing quite a bit with deep low-frequency content, which bothered me a bit, but I heard no ill effects from it. No doubt a subwoofer and appropriate crossover could relieve the electrostatic panels from those excursions if one desired. The response to this idea by Neal Van Berg, owner of Sound Science: "The sound of true Electrostatic Bass would be hard to replace with conventional woofs." No argument. As I said, I heard no ill effects, no holding back or bottoming out or "fuzzing out" as a result. Perhaps this is a good example of the wisdom in not trying fix something where nothing is broken.

Witnessing the performance of the Prince III electrostatics was a high point for me at the show. I did not make it into any of the super-expensive rooms, yet it seemed like I had not missed anything. Thank you Sound Science.
 

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Spatial Audio


  • Spatial Audio Hologram M1 Speaker: $4,000 per pair
Spatial Audio

When I hear someone make a claim like, "Box speakers are finally obsolete," my reaction is that marketing hype can state pretty much anything. Then again, it is hard to argue with real results.

I was initially drawn to the Spatial Audio Hologram M1 speakers by their shape, a 36" high by 20" wide rectangle with grill material revealing a pair of 15" drivers, the surface leaning back to point up at the listening position. The M1 is a dipole design, two-way, with two 15-inch mid/woofers and a 800-Hz-and-up compression tweeter concentric with the upper 15-incher. The soundstage and imaging were excellent - the soundstage was simply HUGE, and image clarity was razor sharp. Frequency response was exceptionally smooth and natural. I commented that I could not hear the tweeter at work at all. Clayton Shaw, the designer, was proud of his work on the custom 1.75 inch compression tweeter, with its soft polymer surround and ferrofluid damping. The result was an extremely life-like upper-mid and high end.

The more I listened, the more impressed I was by the M1 pair. I ended up adding them to my I Want One! list., one of two items at the show to earn that award. They almost completely disappeared in the room, were exceptionally clean and natural.

I asked Clayton to crank them up, and they delivered higher volumes effortlessly, with a sense of supreme control over all aspects of the sound. And they went and deep into the bass range. The design is entirely passive, requiring no DSP or active crossover, which is not a huge deal to me either way, but the sense of unified integration was particularly enthralling for an all-passive design (dipoles seem to often need a DSP boost of some kind to get all components working together just right).

The dynamic range was also noteworthy. Clayton talked about his preference for high-efficiency designs, that they are better at giving the same response and sonic qualities at all volumes as a result of lower power dissipation and heat build-up and of greater amplifier headroom availability.

Years ago I looked askance at dipoles and and panel speakers as unnecessary oddities. It is speakers like the Hologram 1 that swayed me to the other side. I want one! Make that a pair.
 

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The Core Audio Technology/ Hawthorne Audio system really hit my hot button.

The $15k Hawthorne Audio Rainier speakers use a folded ribbon AMT driver loaded into... get this... a dipole waveguide. Why isn't this concept more popular? The waveguide is made of cultured marble and holds directivity down to an amazing 350 Hz, allowing the pattern controlled AMT to handle the specular duties while handing off modal duties to the open baffle woofers. What a great idea! Sensitivity is stated as an extremely high 102 dB, with bass augmented by separate dual "Augie" woofers. The extremely stiff baffles are strengthen by a rear mounted support pole that can be filled with sand or shot.

A Kryptos Music Sever S1 and Merging Technologies HAPI Preamp AD/DA handled the sources, with active crossovers and processing by DEQX and JRiver, feeding the Kratos MK III Direct Digital amplifiers. A fully digital signal path all the way up to the speaker cones.

Playing Chris Jones "Darlin' Cory", the bass was weighty, but lacked any excess bloat. Surprising, too, were the male vocals, lacking any sense of chestiness at all. Very commendable from a system with such prodigious low frequency output.

The ubiquitous show demo song of late, Nils Lofgren's "Keith Don't Go", was loud, yet smooth, with the micro dynamic sounds of fingers on strings easily perceptible amongst the macro dynamic attacks as the piece picked up tempo and then settled again. Soundstage and imaging were superb as is expected from a well thought out dipole design.

Darrel and Diana Hawthorne were very friendly, answering all my questions fully and eager to demonstrate this wonderful system. This room was one of my Top 5 favorite exhibits of the 2014 RMAF.

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Discussion Starter #20
JTR Speakers


  • Noesis 215RT Reference Tower: $3,499 each
JTR Speakers

The purpose of the JTR room, with its imposing pair of Noesis 215RT speakers (two 15-in woofers plus a horn-loaded compression mid/tweeter in a Reference Tower), was to show that the JTR powerhouse speakers, made primarily for home theater use and capable of reaching eardrum-ripping SPLs over 130 dB, could hold their own just fine as 2-channel speakers, too. And they did.

The soundstage and imaging were not quite as refined and focused as I recalled them being with the Noesis 215RT pair back in April at AXPONA, but were very good all the same. They revealed inner detail very nicely without any obvious frequency response peaks designed to do that. A trumpet, with its breath and lip sounds, was very complete and intimately presented.

Upper-mid and high-frequency response was very smooth, with one little area of emphasis that showed up on certain vocal tracks. In talking with HTS member Michael Boeker, who helped set up the room, there was a small amount of manual EQ applied, just the right amount for my taste. The 215RT were allowed to be themselves, but restrained from misbehaving.

With the Broken Bells track, Perfect World, that emphasis stood out slightly on the male vocals. It was barely noticeable, not worthy of a complaint. The compression driver was almost as smooth as most of the specialty tweeters at the show. Imaging was nicely concentrated, and there was no trouble at all in delivering punchy dynamics where they were called for. Leave it to a set of 15-inch woofers to deliver scary amounts of solid bass when you need it.

The mids and highs were never harsh. On some tracks the soundstage stretched out much farther than one would expect from speakers like this. The sampled xylophone notes on Pulse were very precise and punchy, and the 215RT tied for second best speaker in this regard at the show.

Very impressive. The home theater enthusiast who chooses a pair of Noesis 215RT mains to double as two-channel speakers will be very happy with the outcome.
 
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