RMAF 2008 - Your impressions,...

I know there's still few hours to go but I was wondering what my fellow Audiogoners think of RMAF 2008. What equipment left great impression, even what was a bit of a let down...As for me, it was my first year and my time was very limited, but I have to point out Emerald Physics for their CS1 and CS2, which are great speakers, selling for much less (esp. CS2) than you would think. They sound a bit different than what most of us are used to due to their unique design. Unfortunately their need for two amps make it little difficult to integrate them in my system, otherwise they'd be on top of my list. I also have to mention AV123 and GR-Research whose X-static speakers must be one of the best bargains on the market (I know, we all have heard it before...), anybody looking for a $1000 dollar speakers (and even much more) need to give these a listen.
The Kaiser speakers still have me speechless.....

They are in the Hyatt on the 2nd floor
Well I just got home. This was my 5th year of going and each year I have watched to show grow in attendance as well as equipment mfg's shown. This year, more mfg's than before but attendance was down. I went friday and today and both days were extremely light. I noticed a lot of mention of deep discounts that I had never really seen in the previous 4 years.
But, on the equipment i was able to listen too. Wow again!
Audio Research shown with Wilson Sophias were the best I heard. Followed by the Ayre equipment driving Vandersteen's
Quatro Wood cabinet speaker. I thought Richard Vandersteen
only sported socks. These were the best sounding Vandies' I have ever heard, even last years 5's.
Other speakers I was impressed with ACI's with Kurato Amp/pre amp combo. For bookshelf speakers they rocked out loud.
And got some good vinyl too. So for me the show was good.
Just got home. The show help me realize that I am unlikely to ever change from my Merlins which remain the speakers that sound best to me for my room and the kind of music I listen to (chamber, small jazz combos, acoustic folk, bluegrass etc.) What I learned at the show is that I almost never like speakers with a lot of drivers. They are impressive in some ways, but the never sound natural to me - oversize instruments, incoherent sound stage, etc. I agree that there were some nice sounding speakers from AV123, I especially like the small 2-way they were using with the Dodd pre and poweramp today. I also like the Von Gaylord setup with all electronics and speakers made by them. The Reimyo room also sound very good with there small concentric driver speaker ($6,000), and I was also impressed with the Wilson Benesch speakers, the small Curve speakers was very nice paired with DeHavilland amplification. With all I heard, I kept going back to the Merlin room (Joule electronics) and I realize just how good and sorted out the VSMs are - one part part of my system that I have ceased to question.
I thought the Raidho speakers were terrific, and the WLM speakers RedWine audio was showing were very nice, and the new Avalon Indra is as good as you've heard or read about them....and I agree with everything written above...
MrT, Sound Labs had several hundred square feet of electrostatics filling a large room. They used Emm digital to demonstrate a recreation of a drum and bugle corp on a football field. It was very impressive indeed. I've heard that sound from both on the field and in the stands. It was simply incredible.

The IsoMike recordings used have incredible sound stage and ultra real timbres.

For me the demo clearly showed the best and worst of electrostatics. The good was the wonderful midrange and timbral accuracy. The worst is it took HUGE curved arrays to achieve this stunning presentation. If you moved to a single flat panel, we all know what happens.

I neglected to mention the Avalons, they sounded might fine indeed. Also the Harbeth M40s driven by McIntosh sounded fantastic too. The Apogee Divas were very good as well - I wasn't aware that Apogee speakers were still being made. They were driven beutifully by Pass XA100.5 and Audio Research Ref preamps.
Definitely less people than last year. Many more people using streamed music as a source.

Best room at the show: Garcia's across from the Marriott. Thanks again Cello for organizing the Happy Hours on Friday and Saturday evenings after the show. It was great to finally meet fellow 'Goners and put names to faces.

As far as the listening rooms are concerned, I will admit that I don't usually like horn speakers and I love my belt drive Galibier turntable. Given these biases, the Oswald Mills room with their new idler drive turntable and horn speakers was for me, by far the best sound of the show. The turntable is definitely world class. The proprietary phono pre and 2 watt! tube amp were fabulous and the speakers are incredible. They played a side from Johnny Cash's "American IV" that gave me goosebumps. Eeriely realistic. (Apparently Johnny is still alive and living in Pennsylvania.) I heard Barbra Streisand's 2nd album...absolutely life like and I don't like Babs. This system also rocks. Jonathan played "Sign Of The Times" by Prince and even though it's one of my most played LPs, it was like I had never heard it before.

Much like an addict I couldn't help but returning to get a fix. My only regrets: a) I can't afford them b) I would have loved to hear them in a larger room with a slightly more powerful (? 5 watt) amp.

Otherwise in no particular order here are my show favorites:

1. Audiokinesis
Duke is a true gentleman. His new speakers with "Swarm" subwoofers are killer.

2. Emerald Physics CS1 Room
High efficiency open baffle speakers that require biamping.

3. Strain Gauge
Great sound even from their stand alone moving iron cartridge.

4. Daedalus' larger room
Really let their flagship speakers strut its stuff.

5. High Water Sound
Jeff Catalano's rooms always sound great and he always brings great music. (Thanks for playing the Ventures!)

6. Luxman with RTR Source
If they only were making more software...

I'm interested to know what others thought...
If you moved to a single flat panel, we all know what happens.
Well, "I" know what happens :-)
Did anyone get a chance to check out the following speakers or headphone at the show?

Evanui Signature that uses only a 3" driver
Green Mountain Audio speakers (EOS HD, etc)
Denon AH-D7000 Headphone

Any impression would be greatly appreciated.

Jazdoc, you are right about the best room in the show, shouold become an annual gathering. One room I forgot to mention, must be the jetlag, was the Atma-sphere room with the Classic T1 speakers; I have never heard symphonic music done so well. I don't know about the system in my room, but they were mindblowing on large scale music; the best I have heard with this type of music - I'm sure small combos would have been special, but did not heard that type of music on the system.
Jazdoc remined me of Sound Smith's strain guage and moving iron cartridges. I actually bought The Voice, Peter's top moving iron choice. Not only was the vinyl very impressive, but little two-way minis gave a big musical sound.

An extra treat for me was to hear Jon Pousette-Dart and Sean McGowan play my guitar. For those that didn't see the live performances, Peter usually started with a cut of John Hart playing my guitar, "Spot", made by master luthier Ken Parker. Believe me, that was a very realistic sound.

Thanks Drubin for the reply. I was hoping to get some more impression before I make up my final decision.

This was my first RMAF and I enjoyed it a lot. I got to about 80% of the rooms. My favorites included:

Lansche Speakers with Wavac pre and power amps and phono state. This was a captivating sound I could comfortably live with. It was simply dreamy, although maybe one should expect as much given the cost of the system $$$.

Focal Grande Utopia EM, driven by Boulder electronics and DCS front end. This really was impressive, and my favorite of the cost-no-object rooms. I was less impressed with the Lamm/Marten Designs room and the Acapella Trillon Excaliber/Einstean room, and also less impressed with the MBL room, despite the fact that I own MBLs. The bass from these Grande EMs was probably the best I've heard - absolutely complete and effortless IMHO.

Another expensive system I really enjoyed was the Verity Lohengrin II room driven by Artemis Labs electronics with two Schroeder-designed turntables and Scrhoeder arms. The sound from this system was soo effortless, nimble and sensual. I was transfixed. But, this was the case only with the vinyl front-end in play. With the digital source on (Nagra transport and some Berkely labs DAC?) the sound was far less inviting, unfortunately - even with my choice, familiar recordings. It leaves me wondering if and when I can get my hands on that Schroeder reference arm.

For the less expensive systems, I was quite taken with the room where the Teres turntable and Art Audio Jota monos were (caveat - I own a Teres table, so I may be biased). They were driving some panel speakers. The sound was to-die-for. We listened to the same track back-to-back on CD vs. vinyl. The vinyl was a little more complete to me, but even the CD sounded soo good. The bass was largely absent from these panel speakers, but what was there was really good.

The GR Research line-array setup sounded pretty amazing, and hard to believe for the price of the speakers, although those Dodd amps looked crazy expensive ($50k I think?)

Speaking of Dodd, they had another little room with the little new Tyler monitors playing with the Dodd battery powered pre and their relatively affordable monoblocks. The sound was very good. I was mighty impressed, but I did learn that there was a servo sub hidden behind some sheets in the corner, which really helped.

I liked the Harbeths too. The room might have been too small for them to breathe properly, but they still sounded very good.

I liked the Eben room, driven by Burmester gear, all wired up with Nordost Odin cables. The sound was super engaging. i could have stayed in that room for a while.

I'm not a horn person, but I quite liked the sound of the Maxhorn speakers I heard. I really didn't like the Duo Omeags I heard though - I gave them just a minute and then I ran for the hills.

One key point I'd like to make is that many rooms seemed to be playing 'music' that was closer to sound effects, to my ear. I heard lots of snare drums and even some tap dancing stuff - crazy. Also, I heard some music that always sounds great no matter what (Jacintha, for example - should be banned from shows like this ;-) It makes it too difficult to judge equipment).

Anyways, there were almost too many highlights to mention. If anything, the show made me realize that with careful attention to equipment choices and room setup I think I can achieve a sound i'm very happy with without breaking the bank.
Jazdoc & Pubul57

Glad you liked the Oswalds Mill room some much it is nice to hear it. I was lucky enough to be able to supply all the cabling for the room, Tel Wire, though I couldn't be there it is great to hear that it worked out so well! (thanks Win & Jon)
Outlier, it's always interesting to see the show reports of a show that many attended. You loved the Utopias, but I thought that they were amongst the worst in the show. I focused on the presentation of Jennifer Warnes' and Mark Knoffler's voices. The sound effects music ran me out after about four cuts. Still, I understand where you come from. The bass was indeed big and powerful.

We all have different perspectives and focus our listening differently. This highlights the need to listen for yourselves and attend these kinds of events if you can. When you rely on the reviews of others, then you'll need to get real familiar with the reviewer to find anything of use.

Your summary was great Outlier.

Anyone listen to the Ridge Street Sason speakers? A few of us are interested as they are tricky to listen to, unless you live in the dark outposts of the midwest.
Dcstep, I would entirely agree about the Utopias, but would broaden this. It clearly shows why shows as were dealers important. Everyone loved different things. I am always amazed that the Reference 3A Grand Veenas are not among the top listings of "best sounding" rooms.

I visited many expensive rooms with many sitting in rapt attention, that I needed only 2 seconds to decide they were unworthy of any further listening FOR ME. I participated in many A/B comparisons at RMAF again, and once again there was disagreement. All that matters to me, of course, is whether I like A versus B. Frequently reviewers and even manufacturers are involved and I sometimes think, many cannot hear. This happened often but I think, No they just listen for different things. But it lowers my willingness to give credence to their reviews and products.
Playback Design-Did anybody get a feel for the two rooms where the Playback Designs unit was utilized?
I find that I can get to know reviewers over time, even here on A'gon. When I'm able to do that, their input is valuable to me. As you say, others may have different tastes and would be mistaken to follow the same reviewer's lead.

One example is Art Dudley at Stereophile. There's very little that he likes that I'd put in my system. I'm not knocking Art, just saying that he and I come from two different angles. I learned this over a period of time. I still read his reviews, since he only chaps my ass when he gets political, which I hate in my audio reading. ;-(

I must add, and with a nod to Dcstep, that the two Soundings rooms were great. It is clear to me that Master Set works and is significant in important, musical ways. I am re-dedicating myself to doing the setup here at home as best I can from the Master Set "bootleg" instructions.
A very good point about "getting to know" the reviewer (professional of A'gon). I clearly like soft dome tweeters (Merlin, Harbeth, Wilson Benesch ,etc)and two-way speakers. I too experience rooms that make my ears bleed and that others find wonderful - so to state the obvious, there is no best, and you need to know where and from whom opnions are coming from. I enjoyed almost no "cost no object" rooms (I di like the Verity room - if that counts) and I think I'm inherently turned off by large speakers and speakers with many drivers. Obviously there a sound out there to suit every taste, and it takes a few years to know what you like - shows like this help a lot. Plus it is fun being surrounded by others with similar "obsessions".
Good luck with the dyi Master Set Drubin. I'll just say, "take your time and don't give up." It took the Sumiko and Soundings guys SIX HOURS to set the Die Musicks. Toward the end, when it was 'almost' perfect, I was amazed at the impact of moving the speaker one spike-width or tilting it from verticle by a degree or two.

There was no A-B comparison in the Sounds Real Audio room, so you just heard good sound, with the PD pushing through some nice tube amps into Wilson Benesch. I felt like the speakers were way too far into the room, away from the walls, so that most of the sound we heard came from the speakers. They needed more bass support from the room. Still, it was nice sounding and Jim did a nice job of showing them off, getting about 90+% of their potential.

The Soundings room really had the speakers at their full potential. (Guido and I watched them spend six-hours setting the speakers0. Unfortnately Rod occasionally lapsed into playing the soundtrack from "My Cousin Vinny" and a few other sound effects style tracks. When he focused on music it was pure bliss. Also, the big horn system next door kept overpowering that room and coming through the walls and down the hall (the clod kept his door open much of the time). Still, anyone that wanted to could judge the potential for themselves with little or no interpolation.

Despite these occasional problems, the Soundings room was so revealing and musical that everyone immediately recognized a change of CDP player and many people stayed through more than one "set". I never came back to the room when it wasn't SRO.


DeHavilland, I believe, had the Playback. The very best from digial was the Playback as it sounded very different than all the other CDP.

I brought one CD and played it on 15 different systems and it all sounded the some, like sh=t. Digital sucks big time.

High Water Sound was playing .50 cent records that blew away all the failing digital sources at the show.

Red Wine Audio with their 100% battery powered gear & powered TT was outstanding. It goes to show you that you don't need to spend 30K for a great system and don't need 35 speakers in each cabinet to sound great.

Robyatt Audio was hot with the Garrard 301 and inexpensive tube amps. Vinyl, boys and girls, is where the music is.

EP CS1 was cooking yet had digital for playback. Even so it was rewarding to hear. Much better than the CS2 speaker.

I think digital ruins a show such as RMAF but not so with the Playback. It made me think twice about digital but only for a second. Better than my Lector T3 by a long shot
Has onyone else head this player?
Glory, there's lots of chatter about the PD here on A'gon. You'll be able to find a ton with the search function. I'm just glad to finally get some company in my view of the PD.

Could you name a few of the other CDPs that you listened to?

Glory, did you hear the comparison of mono and stereo recordings in the Robyatt Audio suite? Mono just blew away stereo in both of the demos. He used Brubeck Take Five and Ella Fitzgerald Cole Porter Songbook. I bought the mono Otono-Edison: Miyajima Laboratory Series on the spot. I also bought a unique headshell from 47 Labs to use it on my Shindo arm.

My experience in the suite with Luxman electronics and Avid speakers, I think, which used master tapes suggests that even vinyl falls far short. Were tapes not such a pain in the ass, there is no question where I would go.

I used a friends cd in multiple suites. I was amazed at how different each seat rendered its sound. I am not as negative about digital given what I get out of Exemplar moded gear, including a music server.

I still await the future development of the Feastrex full-range drivers. If only the 9 inchers, which have the potential to go low, sounded anywhere near the 5 inchers. They have the greatest potential of anything I heard there.

I also thought the Acapella Triolons were much better than last year, but the OTLs just cannot handle the low impedance at high volume levels. Not that I can afford these speakers or have a room where I might use them.

Yes the Triolons did sound better than last yr. They are now broken in is what I was told by the designer. I had my music played on the system and all I can say is you can hear everything on the CD with such clairity. You need a football feild to put them in.

I did hear the mono cart in the Robyatt room. For $900.00 the cart is a steal. Kool how he changed the two carts in 10 seconds.

I was shocked at how good the little $$$ systems sounded vs. the bigger more expensive systems.

Did you see/hear the ET speakers in room 1003? $65,000.00?
Glory, are they the Bastanis Apollo loudspeakers? I am sure I was in the room, but remember little else. I guess that means I was not impressed.

Robyatt did not overload the room. In the old days the Quads 57s were always the best sound as they did not overload the room.

CS1 is the big brother of the CS2 and beats the living snot out of the little guy.
David12, see my post on the RSA Sason:

>> The Apogee Divas were very good as well - I wasn't
>> aware that Apogee speakers were still being made. They
>> were driven beutifully by Pass XA100.5 and Audio
>> Research Ref preamps.
you are correct, Apogee speakers are NOT being manuf anymore & have not been since the company folder 10+ yrs ago.
What you heard was a restored pair of Divas. The restoration was done by True Sound Works owner Rich Murry.
There are 2 such restores in the USA & the other one is Bill Thalmann in VA.
One can buy used Apogees in the market & have them restored by one of the above 2 people. That's the only way I know of to become an Apogee owner IF interested.
Thanks for the clarification. I wasn't sure what the deal was. I thought the design may have been sold to a new manufacturer and then brought back to market.
Pubul57. The gentelman I spoke to in the Apogee room said they can make new pairs also.
Yes, Graz of Australia now has the Apogee name and has his own line of brand new Apogee speakers based on the beloved ribbon technology. Duetta Classic, Synergy and Ultimate are among the offerings.


You are correct. Our room at the RMAF featured the Playback Design and other gear most folks have never heard. We did have a few people who came to our room and asked us to play their CD's. Most sounded just like you said. "like shit"

I prefer to play cd's that I am familiar with that sound exceptional when played through our system.

The CD's...Most that folks brought in not only did not highlight the capabilities of system. I think I only hear a couple that I would have used myself. I suppose that is to be expected.

I try to play music that actually breaths life into the performance.

>> I prefer to play cd's that I am familiar with that
>> sound exceptional when played through our system.

Overall, that's a problem in my books!! :-(
I do not mind your playing CDs you are familiar with (in fact the people who swung by your room took your modus operandi & applied it to themselves & requested that you play music that they are familiar with. Nothing wrong w/ that!) but if your limited selection of music is the only music that sounds good thru your system then you have a problem, I feel. A wider selection of music should sound better thru your system.

I don't play CD's that only sound good through our system. I play CD's that allow the listener to hear what is special about our system.

An easy example. We had with us the Torus Infrasonic Generator from Wilson benesch. Some people wanted us to demo it. I feel we might as well put on something that has tight, clean, fast, deep bass. Why throw on a CD that is muddy, slow and pushes out 40hz in the extreme.

Another example. If if you came to my Porsche dealership and wanted to take a test drive I would be inclined to give you a spin around a track with curves and straights where you could get a feel for what it can do.

Not a bad thing.
If all I was going to do was race that Porsche that may be fine, but if I need it to get groceries too, it better be able too.
Bingo Brianmgrarcom! I owned the 911 twin turbo all wheel drive 911 and your observation is the very reason I got rid of of it. It was loud,no space and rode like a go cart but, man was it fast. And it would do whatever you asked of it on the western NC mountain roads. But, in the end I traded it for a 2008 BMW 335I which does it all!
'You are correct. Our room at the RMAF featured the Playback Design and other gear most folks have never heard. We did have a few people who came to our room and asked us to play their CD's. Most sounded just like you said. "like shit" '

I think a system is shit if the cd's sound like shit.IMHO.
Digital can make any system sound like Sh-t. =8^)

The Playback CDP was the only one that sounded good at RMAF IMHO.


Why no TT in your room? Sounds Real Audio with digital sounds fake good. Your name would sound better with a TT set up.