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Discussion Starter #1
Reporting LIVE from Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2016 at the Marriott Denver Tech Center:

Dennis Young and Wayne Myers will be heading to Denver to report on the show at the Denver Tech Center Marriott Hotel. With the assistance of Todd Anderson posting on the news side and Facebook, we will bring you the highlights from the show.

As we have the last few shows, we will be reporting

LIVE FROM RMAF 2016!

Once our reporting is complete, this thread will be opened for your questions and comments. In the mean time, feel free to join the discussion on the discussion thread.
 

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The SVS exhibit features their latest SB16-Ultra beast of a subwoofer and the new Prime Elevation surround/height monitors. Prime Towers, Center, Bookshelf round out the 360 degree 5.1.2 system. Total speaker package including subwoofer is under $5k. Source, AVR and HDTV kept the demo system price under $7500.

The versatility of the Prime Elevation leads to easy system integration, the angled baffle can be mounted and directed as necessary, especially nice for height applications, with the potential to sound better than in-ceiling or ceiling-bounce speakers.



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Wayne's comments:

The SVS room is our first stop. Their new sub is immense, awesome, and huge.

All of SVS's speaker lines have been voiced together for maximum flexibiliry in combining them as desired/needed in a system.

The new SVS Prime Elevation adds a whole new dimension to that flexibility.

Gary Yacobian: The amp is like a pro amp, really robust.

The demo system we listened to was under $5,000 for the SVS components, including the new SB16-Ultra sub, a 5.1.2 system.

The recent Mad Max movie demo was incredible.
 

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Did they crank that sub for you guys?

Edit: Oh yeah, I was expecting a ported demo, but the sealed rocked the room, and a few adjoining rooms as well, I'm sure. - Dennis

Edit - Edit: Sorry to crash the report thread. I'll head over to the discussion thread. ;-)
 

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Lenbrook America shows the new PSB Imagine Mini w/dedicated extruded aluminum PFS-27 stands, SE 450 subwoofer, NAD C 368 integrated amp and CA 568 CD player.

A refreshing take from cost-no-object systems, this system brings attainable high-end sound in small form factor. Sound is signature PSB, all-day-listening smooth.




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Moon Audio, Eva Cassidy on the new B&W 802 D3. Imaging is very natural and quite sharp, just a little soft in the sibilant range but very enjoyable.

The B&W 802 D3 speakers have been extensively redesigned, virtually every part is new, drivers, baskets, cabinets, yielding improved resolution and the $22,000 per pair price point.

Moon Audio, a privately-owned company, provided the amplification and DAC. Moon Audio is a Montreal-based company which has been in business for 37 years. All design, machining, fabrication, soldering, every part of the work is done under one roof in Montreal.

The Evolution 700i amp, at $14,000, puts out 175 W into 8 ohm, 350 W into 4 ohm, doubles down again into 2 ohm, is stable clear down to 1 ohm, is made of aircraft grade aluminum, has a 10-year warranty, as do all of their products.

The 780D Streaming DAC uses 32 separate DACs internally in fully differential configurations covering every imaginable combination of inputs. It is network UPnP capable and uses a hybrid power supply design for efficiency and ultimate performance. Price is $15,000.

Their aim is to design products that are as soundless as possible. Recording studios and mastering rooms are among their loyal customer base.

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Discussion Starter #6
The folks at Audioengine like to pour a lot of quality and versatility and sound - amounting to a whole lot of VALUE - into small packages. Their newest offerings are the tiny HD3 powered desktop speaker with wireless and USB inputs and a high-performance headphone amp, and the HDP6 passive version of the HD6..

The HD3 with sub support would make a worthy desktop system. The DAC/headamp is based on their D1 design, which I was really impressed by. The Bluetooth design is based on the B1. With headphones, the HD3 really sounded nice.

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Wandering the halls of the Marriott Denver Tech Center, I heard a dynamic presentation going on in Room 7007, so I popped in for a listen.

The image was tall, soundstage appropriately sized, action happening a foot or so behind the plane of the Neat Acoustics Iota ALPHA mini floorstanders ($1995). The side mounted midrange works with the horizontal radiation pattern of EMIT planar tweeter, which lends to the larger than expected sound. A bottom firing 6" woofer brings up the bottom end.

Signal and electrons supplied by the Audio Flight FL CD Three ($2895) and FL Three S ($3995).

The best listening descriptor I can come up with is, "FUN". This system is just so much fun to look at and listen to. I would love to have a pair of these little guys for a second or third system.



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I made a quick stop by the AIX Records kiosk to pick up some ear candy from chief engineer and company owner, Mark Waldrep.


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aThe Burwell and Sons horn loaded speakers, $80,000 per pair, including FREE prototype subs, were fun to listen to. I will not say that the frequency response was perfectly flat, but there was a nice sense of dynamics and inner detail, especially on vocals and percussion. Paul McCartney's early solo work was good material to demo them with. Vinyl and digital sources were at work.

It felt like kicking back with buddies for an evening of chilling with good friends and great tunes.

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The Peachtree Audio and Zu Audio room hopping, the $30k Experience floorstanders rocking out a Sweet Vinyl DSD needle drop from Donald Fagan's Nightfly "Ruby, Ruby" with seemingly unlimited dynamics.




The subterranean bass contained within Le Michel Jonasz "Le Temple Passe" was weighty, the active subwoofers at the cabinet bottom pressurized the large room with ease. Any combination of amplifier/active crossover can be used to feed the dual Radian 18" subwoofers, in this case, dual 400 watt each Submission Mk.1 subwoofer amplifiers. The 300 watt per channel Peachtree Audio Nova 300 ($2300) handled input duties while powering the passive top array with aplomb.

I left the room reluctantly, wanting to take the Nova 300 and Experience with me.





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Von Schweikert Endeavor E5 Speakers, among the best at the show, I have no doubt, at $35,000 per pair. A 3-way system, the EA E5 is extremely neutral and natural. After spending a halr hour in the room with them it was starting to get hard to leave them alone. A single Von Schweikert Shockwave V12 sub, $11,500, supplied the low end.

There is not a whole lot to say about the Von Schweikert E5 / V12 combo, because there very little that they did to color the source material. A really special set of speakers and a pretty decent value on top of that. Very nice.

Only day one, so it is early to declare Best In Show type awards, but the Von Schweikert set is definitely nominated.

Supporting:
  • A pair of Signature 200 IQ amps by VAC, $14,000 each, stereo amps operating in mono mode, capable of supplying 200 W each into 4 ohms.
  • Signature 4 Rosewood turntable by VPI, custom built to fit two 12-inch tone arms and Soundsmith Hyperion cartridge, all for $7,999.95.
  • VAC Master Preamp with phono pre, $40,000.

    Room treatments by GIK Acoustics.
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Room 6030 contained quite a pleasant surprise. The Aurum Cantus V3M monitors, with stands and free freight delivery for a mere $2000! The sound is right up my alley, ribbons and 6.5" woofer loaded into a minimal area, slanted baffle. Erring only toward the warm side of neutral, possibly and most likely due to the room, with a mid bass presence that belied their size. The ribbon is capable of high output, showcasing the bite of the saxophone on the Paul Burner Band's "That's All Right".

Tunes were offered up by the Music Vault Diamond server (($4995), digits decoded by a Benchmark DAC2 DX ($1995) and amplified by the lust-worthy Wells Audio Majestic integrated amplifier ($3599).

The Aurum Cantus V3M, in a short, had absolutely no problems representing the upper echelon gear that fronted them.






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Wayne's Comments - Audiophile Direct - Aurum Cantus VM3 Speakers.
Roger DuNaier, owner of Audiophile Direct gave me the rundown on the Aurum Cantus company, one of the biggest makers of speaker components in the world. The $2,000 price point for the a pair of speakers with ribbon tweeters and stands, sounding as transparent and accurate as te VM3, while also being dynamic and fun, is almost unheard of. Roger and I agreed tha the tweeter can make or break a speaker. In this case the Aurum Cantus (Latin for Golden Song) definitely make it. The VM3 seem to pop out at you, yet are very easy on the ears, very non-fatiguing.
 

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Seaton Sound:

Mark Seaton has been refining his speaker designs both evolutionarily and revolutionarily very consistently over the 5 years since I first heard his offerings. His new F18+ Subwoofer design, with an 18 inch driver and a 4,000 W amplifier that can drive up to 3 F18 slave units, is an impressive addition to his product family.

The Catalyst 8C design has been around awhile, and I have heard several iterations of the design as it has been refined along the way. The latest iteration makes use of an improved co-axial compression tweeter which has improved off-axis response. The design has been optimized to capitalize upon this factor, and the result is a sound that is quite refined through the mid and high-frequency range, rivaling systems costing many times what Mark asks for his.



When I first sat to listen to the 2.1 setup, although I already knew there was a phantom center channel in play, I involuntarily opened my eyes to verify that the clear, concise center image was indeed not coming from a hidden center channel speaker.

The imaging was uncanny and extremely satisfying, crossing into the rarely-approached dimension of concise depth acuity. You just don't hear that very often. Imaging through the mid and high ranges was excellent, allowing me to pick out images that stood only inches apart in their respective mixes and hear the empty space in between. Lower-mids were not quite as near-perfect, but that can take a lot of fine tuning in a dedicated environment. Overall, the sytem, which can sizzle and satisfy a true home theater buff, would make most picky 2-channel listeners lust for a Seaton Sound system of their own and wonder how Mark manages to coax such sound from modest components. Extreme attention to detail is the secret, and short conversation with Mark about the design is all it takes for you to realize that he (1) knows his stuff (2) loves discussing it, both as an engineer and as an experienced high-end caliber listener, and (3) stays well away from any perception of hand-waving or claims that you have to be special or part of some "inner circle" to understand what he does and how his products sound so great. The room, with GIK Acoustics treatment, boasts imaging and soundstage performance that very well might be the best at the show.

Mark's room system, retailing at a little over $8,000, delivers such value that it probably makes many of the exhibitors at RMAF blush.

Mark's systems are always a treat to hear. I had a hard time tearing myself from the room, a good sign every time. Systems that can blow the walls out yet have the refinement to let you enjoy subtle detail in dynamic music tracks, that is Mark's specialty, and he just gets better and better at what he does.

Okay, now I am gushing. But I am not embarrassed and I stand by every word. This is a GREAT sounding $8k system.

Dennis' impressions -

What else can I add to this? My immediate and lasting impression is that Mark did a fantastic job of making left and right speakers disappear completely, they never, ever called attention to themselves. Hard background vocal pans from an acoustic version of Seal's "Kiss From A Rose" were never directly from the Catalyst 8C, but from a plane behind the speakers.

The subwoofer was truly an iron fist in a velvet glove, as with the loudspeakers, I was totally unable too localize it's physical position, the F18+ was the perfect companion to the Catalyst 8C pair.

Ending my demo, a Shuttle launch containing 8 Hz content was played, massaging the room with ultra low frequencies, the flame scorching the air with cracks and pops. Such fun!
 

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Here, I am enjoying the new Technics Grand Class SL-1200G playing 78 rpm. Pictured is a quick cartridge change that took less than a minute to swap out. Good 'ole Victor Herbert, in mono, takes me back to a time prior to my own.

The $1700 SB- C700
monitors remind me how much I liked them the first time heard, helping to transport me back in time to an era of sound reproduction decades gone, while sounding better than any loudspeaker of the 78 rpm era could.

Room 1121, next door, contained more R2R fun, showing off the statement SB-R1 ($28,000), playing Yello "Out of Dawn", there were some percussion strikes on pipe that, as I was typing this sentence, made me take pause and listen more intently. The immediacy available from reel to reel listening has that affect.



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A quick stop into this exhibit gave an A/B comparison between the DEQX "room compensation", as they prefer to call it, and none, demonstrated by playback of Metallica "Enter The Sandman" like I have never heard it before. Playback sans correction sounded very familiar. A very convincing demonstration of the power of DSP addressing room anomalies.

Another demonstration was given between the actively driven VAF Signature loudspeaker's 6th dB/octave driver crossovers and 96 dB/octave (!!!). The exorcism of driver intermodulation was stark, a night and day difference. What a wonderful product DEQX has created in the HDP-5.




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The Sugden/DeVores Fidelity room has it going on, as I always find. I have an admitted bias against dome tweeters, preferring ribbons and planars, but the Orangutan O/93 speakers have me questioning the validity of my opinion.

A blues piece by Skip James, "Hard time Killing Floors Blues", played through the Well Tempered Amadeus turntable and tonearm/DPS power supply, EMT TSA MC cartridge, Sugden Masterclass PA-4 phono preamp and Sugden A-21 SE Pure Class A integrated amplifier, had me pinned to my seat. Soundstage was deep and wide, yet the speakers seemed not to be there at all, as should be. The Orangutans sonically disappeared completely, the beautiful booked marked flat cut maple baffles containing the tweeter and woofer the only indication that I was listening to a stereo and not a phantom band in a smoky dive bar.





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Sitting down for a rendition of "La Lorona", the female vocal piece captivated me with the effortless reproduction of the combination of Christina Pluhar's soft spoken and forcefully sung voice.

The Nils Lofgren Band "Bass and Drum Intro" plucked strings remained easy to hear in the background despite the bombast of percussion, such is the ability of 3-way ELAC Reference Series FS 507, which features a cool adjustment knob on the back to physically align the tweeter in relation to the midrange.

The ability of a ELAC towers to "lay it down" and maintain composure was cemented with the playing of "Seeya" by Deadmau5 Feat and Colleen D'Agostino.

Want a sultry rendition of Diana Krall "Temptation"? The ELAC floorstanders can handle delicacy and subtlety, too.

A plethora of Audio Alchemy gear piped the music to the FS 507 pair.




Skipping over to Room 4032, the Andrew Jones designed 85dB sensitivity UniFi UF5 Slim ($1500/pr.) showed that, with the same "Seeya" track, it could indeed trade sensitivity for the gain of deep bass and still hit satisfying volume levels with the mere 40 w.p.c. supplied by the ELAC DA101EQ-G amplifier. The decision to trade sensitivity for bass did not make the Debut B5 render male voice with excessive "chestiness", as evidenced by Fink "The Trouble You're In".

Completely bowled over, for the money I am finding this all ELAC system to be THE budget system of the show.





ELAC UniFi UB5 Slim ($750/pr.) & S10EQ subwoofer ($499).





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Wayne's comments:
The minute you sit down to listen to the Elac FS 507 Reference Speakers, you feel like something special is going on. I heard Elac's offerings for the first time at AXPONA last spring and was quite impressed. My impression seems to vacillate between I don't hear anything particularly special, which means they are doing their job effectively with Swiss-perfect neutrality, to Whoa, I like how they handle THAT passage, which means they are working hard to deliver difficult material while making it sound like it is easy work. Good job.

Metallica's Black album, cranked, remained an easy listen, no harshness, very neutral, very clean, very even, very easy. The coaxial mid/tweeter is sonically nearly invisible. Then the same Metallica performed by Scala and Kolacny, choral version, was a real treat.
 

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Some speakers you have to sit in the sweet spot to tell there is something special about them. The Wilson Benesch A.C.T. One Evolution P1 Ettore loudspeakers had me from the doorway. At $40,300 per pair, playing Dean Martin from vinyl, sounded pretty much unbeatable. A 2.5 way design, driver integration is impeccable. Piano, vocals, ESPECIALLY VOCALS, no, pretty much everything, just unbeatable. Another sure nomination for best of show in my opinion.

The cabinet design is aluminum and carbon fiber, and uses the same dense foam material used in aircraft cargo holds, and is so rigid and inert that internal bracing is unnecessary. Internal volume is maximized. Drivers also are Wilson Benesch, also aluminum and carbon fiber. During a demo, a subwoofer driver cone was lain on the floor and the demonstrator, a thin man, stood on it, causing no deformation. Undoubtedly, a heavier man would have had the same result.

This is one impressive set of speakers. Neutral, easy, they make you go I want a pair of these. Even after hearing the price tag, that feeling does not fade.

There is a very lively presentation, yet it remains uncolored and neutral, and completely non-fatiguing.

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Dr. Hsu is coming out with a new coincident loudspeaker. The 6 ohm CCB-8 pre-production prototypes units I heard are nearing design completion.

While not wholly apparent during music playback (with VTF-1 MK 3 subwoofer), I did notice a "boxiness" quality made apparent by spoken voice during a 5.1 demo (with the VTF-15H MK II subwoofer). Knuckle rapping on the CCB-8 enclosure gave a hollow sound and caused the yellow woofer cone to vibrate. Let's hope that the post production models are better damped.

Off axis imaging remained anchored between speakers, one of many benefits realized from concentric drivers. The sweet spot was huge, I walked around and found it spanned from wall to wall.

All in all, it was a good, fun demo and had people amazed at the 2.1 quality of sound delivered from an $1100 total for CCB-8 and VTF-1MK 3.



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Entering the room, the first thing that catches your eye is the large, bright red floorstanding loudspeaker pair, in sharp contrast with the tiny, ripe cherry colored amplifiers. Intigued, I was eager to hear what JTR Speakers and the Digital Amplifier Company had brought to the show.

Warming up with Fleetwood Mac "Gypsy", the accompanying singers were spread out alongside Ms. Stevie Nicks, neither behind, nor in front of her. Leslie Buckingham's guitar solo took place on the right, far toward the back of the stage, Christine McVie's keyboards taking front and center from Stevie Nicks at the song's end. I expect going further into the audition of this system, this type of soundstage and imaging are to be a theme...

...and I was not disappointed. Hiromi "Wanderer" starts of with cymbals splashing and crashing wide, the centrally located piano dead center, not drawn a seemingly 9 ft. wide as many systems do. Depth is clear to the back wall and a bit beyond at times, 4 ft. or more behind the plane of speakers.

The miniscule Digital Amplifier Company Maraschino Cherry amps (w/external power supplies) are as deceiving in their ability to power these large NOESIS 210RT towers as they are fun to look at, delivering a surprising 400 watts to the loudspeaker's 4 ohm nominal impedance.

Transport duties were handled by the OPPO 95, with D/A handled by the cleverly named Digital Amplifier Company DAC DAC. The decision to use miniDSP DDR 22D Dirac Live room correction, to me, is as important as treating the room, which was done properly with 6 well placed GIK panels and 4 sizable corner bass traps. This really brought out the system's capabilities, pushing aside the listening room, allowing the recording venue to be transported to our location.



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