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Discussion Starter #21
Well Rounded Sound showed their unique 2-way loudspeaker, the EXP SE with stands for $5,000 a pair. That seemed a little steep, but the pair boasts a unique cabinet construction that took several years to develop.

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The cylindrical cabinet design is basic to all their models. The two-way approach delivers very nicely following the point source design approach.
 

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Discussion Starter #22
The German Physics Carbon Mk IV at $31,350 per pair is a mature implementation of the unique Walsh driver. The soundstage is one you can walk around in. The ability of the omni driver to elicit detail cohesively is something you need to hear.

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Dennis' impressions - I, too, noticed strong central images even when standing well off center. The Walsh driver was well balanced from it's shimmering highs to a hefty bottom end.
 

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There has been a lot of hype built up over the latest ELAC budget speakers, chiefly because of Andrew Jones' hand in the design. I am here to tell you that the reputation is earned. I expected the price of the towers to be around $750-800 pair, which my ears tell me would be a fantastic value, but my guess was way off. The ELAC F5 towers are only $279 each.

From Friend and Fellow "Covered" to Rage Against the Machine "Killing In The Name", these loudspeakers handled all, punching well into the territory of 4 figure speakers, I dare say.

I included a shot of the ELAC S12-EQ subwoofer, but it was not in use, nor was it needed for music.

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I walked into the RIVA room and was treated to a little wireless speaker making a surprisingly big sound, the RIVA Turbo X.

The mini speaker has two modes, Normal, which I listened to, and Turbo mode, which adds a combination of EQ and compression to simultaneously boost output up to a claimed 100 dB while keeping the drivers out of the danger zone.

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Discussion Starter #25
The Audiomachina Maestro GSE, at $80,000 per pair, is another speaker that pulled a good disappearing act. The TechDAS AirForceTwo turntable, a massive machine, ran into Einstein preamp and amps. Even in the off-center seat, the soundstage came free of the speakers.

Once I thought I heard the tweeter standing out slightly, but if I stopped thinking about tweeters and just relaxed and enjoyed the music, it all came across smooth and sweet.

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Discussion Starter #26
Audioengine is a company I have grown to admire for budget audio products with great performance and value. Their new HT6 powered monitor, not yet shipping, will retail at $750 per pair, and features bluetooth, optical, and analog inputs. Amplification is class AB. Their 24-bit DAC and and a hefty power supply are part of the design. A remote is also included, The sound was balanced, full, and clean. A full review is in the works.

 

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Discussion Starter #27
The Vapor Audio Nimbus was also at the show. The Nimbus is a three-way design with woofer, and a pair of midrange drivers and RAAL tweeter in MTM configuration. I have heard the Nimbus before, but it has been awhile.

The Nimbus performed as complete a disappearing act as any system at RMAF. They simply were not there. I love when that happens. Their sonic delivery left me little to say, it was that near perfection. Huge, open soundstage and pinpoint-sharp imaging from the MTM configuration were flawless.

It can be argued that a two-way design has a simpler lobing pattern and therefore is a more ideal point source design, allowing some setup flexibility. But I keep loving good MTM designs, with care given to placement, especially height and vertical angle to the listener, as was the case with the Nimbus (they were just a hair low). The imaging was truly pinpoint, the sound was concise and impactful, they did everything right, and I can say that without reservation.

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Kickstarter upstart, U-Turn, featured a novel idea for entry level turntable playback. Begin with the Orbit Plus 'table, outfit with options as needed (acrylic platter and cue arm included, here) add RIAA EQ and boost the signal with the U-Turn Pluto phono stage and top it off with A5+ powered speakers from Audioengine!
 

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Avantgarde Duo Mezzo provided effortless (can one find the bottom of a 107 dB efficient loudspeaker?!?) top to bottom 10 octave sound, the lows augmented largely the included 10 band parametric subwoofer equalizer. Such transducers are typically limited dynamically only by the electronics in front of them. Speaking of electronics, check out the beautiful ARGENTUM phono stage from Ron Sutherland.
 

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If there would have been grilles covering the drivers of the Volti Audio Alura, no one would ever know that horns were directing the images on the soundstage of these gorgeous loudspeakers. No horn honk, nothing, zip, zero, zilch. Just invisible performers, playing music in your own personal show.

Certainly, the Tortuga LDR.3 V2 battery powered passive preamplifier using Light Dependent Resistors (LDR) had much to do with this transparency, feeding the signal to the BorderPatrol USB DAC, which features the Philips TDA 1543 chip. No oversampling, no filtering and no buffer, the DAC is said to be as close to outputting exactly what goes in, as is possible. Power was handled by the 18 watt BorderPatrol S10 EXD 300B based Single Ended Triode (SET).

A clean, clear signal path to high efficiency horns that demand very little movement from the drivers, keeping distortions extremely low, made this system a show stand out for me.


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Discussion Starter #31
In Summary:

This marks my 5th audio show in the last 3 years reporting for Home Theater Shack. I started out at my first RMAF visit feeling I needed to run from room to room and catch as many as possible. Our reporting style has relaxed somewhat while also becoming more focused in that we now, for the last 2 shows, have reported live from the event. That puts a completely different focus on our time, and while in some ways it puts more pressure on us, we have also found ways to relax and enjoy the experience more than we used to, focusing on the quality of our reporting rather than the quantity.

At the beginning of a show, I feel quite overwhelmed by the number of rooms and exhibitors at the show. I feel that way every time I arrive at a show like this, especially RMAF. But somehow we managed to get through it and do our best at picking the must-experience rooms and catching the ones that matter most.

A few things I noticed at this show:

  • Speaker setup efforts seem to be improving. At my first RMAF I complained to fellow travelers that it seemed in almost every room I had to find the ideal listening spot for myself, and it was usually well away from where the prime listening chair was located. I think I only did that once this visit. Perhaps they are catching on. I fully realize that setting up for a show in a motel room is far from an easy situation. Still, speaker setup seems like the single most critical part of show preparation. I am glad to see it receiving more attention than it seems to have in the past.
  • I enjoyed vinyl sounds more at this show than at previous events. Perhaps the exhibitors are putting more effort into finding quality recordings than in the past, but in almost every room where vinyl was played, it was not a distraction, and in a couple of cases it was simply delightful. While Dennis and I did not agree on our favorite vinyl source rooms, we both had experiences that transported us and were to us special listening experiences.
  • There are so many variables, between equipment variations, room setup and treatment variations, and the exhibitors have a lot working against them. You almost have to put on blinders when you enter a room and purposely tune out the kinds of annoyances that they have to work with and focus on what really matters about a set of products. I don't know about Dennis, but I think I am getting better at that.
  • Loose lips sink ships. Interpretation: A few misplaced words can make a huge difference for a manufacturer, especially one that does not have deep pockets. This forces us to be careful what we say and how we say it. At the same time, honest and fair reporting is absolutely a must for our readers, and both Dennis and I are dedicated to delivering nothing but the most accurate information we possibly can, with a degree of sensitivity as to how it can affect a manufacturer.
  • It might seem that all we are here only to listen to the speakers. That is not the case. It is true that the speakers will inevitably be the most influential components in most rooms, simply because they cause by far the biggest variation in sound from room to room. And while it would be easy to only report on speakers, we do our best to dig a little deeper and tell about other equipment as well.
  • There is a temptation to feel like you have heard it all after a few audio shows in a row. It forces us to keep an open mind and pay attention in a different way. It is fun to be surprised, and if you keep your mind and ears open, there are plenty of surprises at a show like this. That is what I go for. And that is what I enjoy bringing to the readers.
Wayne’s Personal Favorites:
Coolest Audio Experience: The Kimber Cable, EMM Labs, MartinLogan IsoMike Recording Demo. It was one of those you gotta hear it to believe it experiences, set up in uncompromising fashion.
Most Impressive Headgear: The HiFiMan HE1000 and the Audeze LCD4 headphones, each its company’s planar-magnetic flagship model, were standouts in delivering exceptionally clean, flat, revealing midrange, extended highs and lows, and unbeatable comfort. Which would I want? How about both?
Favorite Turntable/Preamp: VPI Industries Avenger turntable with three 3-D printed tone arms, and Dynamic Sounds Associates 3-input Phono Preamp, Dennis preferred the vinyl magic in another room, but this is the one that spoke to me.
Favorite Little (under $50k) Speaker: Vapor Audio Nimbus. I have confessed my love for the big-brother Perfect Storm, but the Nimbus, originally along for the ride and only getting into a room to play when other speakers ran into difficulties, managed the most complete and near perfect vanishing act of any attainable-by-mortals speaker I heard at the show. David Copperfield would have been proud.

That is it for this year. From Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2015 in Denver Colorado. Dennis Young and Wayne Myers signing off until next show. Happy listening.


 
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