DaveC's RMAF 2016 Best In Show: Austin Acoustic

DaveC

[Industry Expert]
Nov 16, 2014
2,221
13
38
#1
There were a lot of excellent systems at RMAF 2016. These days many major speaker manufacturers are producing great products, and they seem to be converging to very similar space... and it's a nice space with vanishingly low distortion and great resolution... yet in many ways it still falls short of being able to reproduce live acoustic instruments and vocals. Often recordings are cited as the culprit, but we can't listen to a recording without a system, and we have no perfect system so the only way we can really judge is in a relative sense. What if you hear a system that can make recordings sound more real than ever before? What if a simple redbook CD player surpasses every other source you've ever heard? You'd have to adjust your views that the recording and the format is as much of a limiting factor as previously thought, and maybe it's our playback systems that are really lacking. Well, I've experienced a system that has forced me to think about these things because just a simple CD player was able to create a musical experience above and beyond anything I've experienced before, including state of the art analog.

The system I'm talking about, and the highlight of RMAF 2016 was, for me, Austin Acoustic... http://www.austinacoustic.net/home-12.html

In every aspect of sound reproduction this system is head and shoulders better than anything I've experienced before. Except soundstage, but it was still pretty good despite the room acoustics, and imaging was spot on and amazing. I am pretty sure, given a better room, that soundstaging would also be extraordinary. Dynamics were incredible, better than any other horn system I've heard, and they leave typical speakers in the dust in this area. Miles Davis' horn was THERE. Loud passages blared like he was right THERE. It was borderline painful, just like in real life. I've never experienced this before, no other speaker or system I've heard is capable of this. WOW! Clarity and resolution was also off the charts and at world class levels. Vocals were palpable, with eyes closed you could swear you can reach out and touch the singer.

This system is simply at another level vs everyone else at RMAF... nobody else was even close. This system redefined for me what stereo playback is truly capable of... there's a lot more in a recording than we give credit for and stereo really is capable of reproducing live events at a level that is much closer to live than I thought possible.

The only issue for most people will be price. The drivers are custom made for Austin, and likely made for them by Goto or Ale, whose drivers can exceed $50k/pair. The system was completely active with a DHT SET amp for each driver. DIY would be FAR out of range for most economically, never mind how much a complete Austin system is going to run you. But it's great that systems like this exist to show what's possible, and maybe there is hope that one day we can get drivers like these for a bit less than a nice car.





 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,495
23
38
Utah
#2
This doesn't look like a production speaker even the crossover is an old Accuphase, is that what they're selling it with? Even if they find a few used ones getting the cards will be a problem. At these prices the buyer should know what they're getting into.

david
 
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Apr 3, 2010
16,022
0
0
Seattle, WA
#4
I had high expectation when I walked in and saw that tableful of beautiful electronics. Alas, my impression was the opposite of yours. I just don't see how anyone would think blanketing all the walls and the floor creates good sound. Then again, it could all be my deaf ears and lousy perception of what is a good system. :)
 

Al M.

VIP/Donor
Sep 10, 2013
3,942
26
48
Greater Boston
#5
There were a lot of excellent systems at RMAF 2016. These days many major speaker manufacturers are producing great products, and they seem to be converging to very similar space... and it's a nice space with vanishingly low distortion and great resolution... yet in many ways it still falls short of being able to reproduce live acoustic instruments and vocals. Often recordings are cited as the culprit, but we can't listen to a recording without a system, and we have no perfect system so the only way we can really judge is in a relative sense. What if you hear a system that can make recordings sound more real than ever before? What if a simple redbook CD player surpasses every other source you've ever heard? You'd have to adjust your views that the recording and the format is as much of a limiting factor as previously thought, and maybe it's our playback systems that are really lacking. Well, I've experienced a system that has forced me to think about these things because just a simple CD player was able to create a musical experience above and beyond anything I've experienced before, including state of the art analog.
Interesting. What was the CD player?
 

KeithR

VIP/Donor
May 7, 2010
3,051
35
48
Marina del Rey, CA
#6
I had high expectation when I walked in and saw that tableful of beautiful electronics. Alas, my impression was the opposite of yours. I just don't see how anyone would think blanketing all the walls and the floor creates good sound. Then again, it could all be my deaf ears and lousy perception of what is a good system. :)
I was really confused with the setup...and they had Diana Krall playing, so I quickly left :(
 

DaveC

[Industry Expert]
Nov 16, 2014
2,221
13
38
#7
I had high expectation when I walked in and saw that tableful of beautiful electronics. Alas, my impression was the opposite of yours. I just don't see how anyone would think blanketing all the walls and the floor creates good sound. Then again, it could all be my deaf ears and lousy perception of what is a good system. :)
Hmm, not sure how you can judge a system without listening to music you are intimately familiar with and have heard before on many systems?...

From your forum:

amirm said:
A lot of the impression formed by visitors is due selection of music. In my case, I was stuck listening to a horrible customer CD for a long time. Then only had time to listen to one clip they played and when it didn't sound that great, I left. I did not hear the tracks David did.

And you have to remember, I am a lot grumpier than many going to these shows
I had my music both on CD and memory stick, so I heard several tracks I'm very familiar with. I refrain from forming much of an opinion unless I've evaluated the system using the music I brought. I can't comprehend how you can form such a strong opinion given the limited experience you have with the system Austin set up for RMAF.

On soundstage, that's an unfortunate byproduct of the room and it's not fair to judge some factors of a speaker's performance if it's based on poor external circumstances. It's certainly not fair to the manufacturer for you to post what you did on your site, based on such an incomplete evaluation. It takes experience to understand what these factors are, but I can assure you that soundstaging would have been completely different in a more ideal room, in fact it's almost certain that soundstaging and imaging are one of the speakers strong points based on a few things you can learn from listening to them at the show.

On the reasons for "blanketing the walls", I'd guess they did it so early reflections don't smear the sound. Again, they are in a room that isn't ideal and are trying to find the best compromises to make it work as well as possible. Since you weren't there during setup you couldn't have heard how the system sounds without the absorption, and it seems you assume Austin just lay down the absorption without doing any testing, which probably isn't an accurate assumption. The pointed soundstage is what you should expect from the room and the setup, and while not ideal the imaging was spot-on and very believable, which wouldn't have been the case without absorption... the images would be more diffuse.

Anyway, thanks for chiming in, I think you enhanced the credibility of my review in the eyes of, well... pretty much everyone reading this. ;)
 
Apr 3, 2010
16,022
0
0
Seattle, WA
#9
Hmm, not sure how you can judge a system without listening to music you are intimately familiar with and have heard before on many systems?...
I had a CD too that I played at some suites. I visit and write about every suite. There is not time to do that in every suite that I visit. In this case, they played a common track that I have heard many times: Rescued by this classic: Just A Little Lovin' by Shelby Lynne. http://shz.am/t45601341


While this sounded fine, nothing about it sounded exceptional and the soundstage issue remained even here. So I moved on. I am not writing a thesis on their system.

I had my music both on CD and memory stick, so I heard several tracks I'm very familiar with. I refrain from forming much of an opinion unless I've evaluated the system using the music I brought. I can't comprehend how you can form such a strong opinion given the limited experience you have with the system Austin set up for RMAF.
I am not you. I am not a reviewer. I go to these shows because I enjoy speaking to company principles, enjoying and discovering new music, and learning. I share my impressions in the form of pictures, music heard, and brief commentary. I don't hold them up to any level of credibility beyond what I just stated.

On soundstage, that's an unfortunate byproduct of the room and it's not fair to judge some factors of a speaker's performance if it's based on poor external circumstances.
I didn't judge their systems. I judged the full experience and understanding of acoustics by people behind the setup. A 5 second listen would tell you that they had built a padded cell that would take the life out of music with collapsed soundstage. They are following folklore they have read online on what room acoustic really is, as opposed to studying the proper science. In that context, I am not going to look beyond it and report it as I saw it.

On the reasons for "blanketing the walls", I'd guess they did it so early reflections don't smear the sound.
A common myth.

Anyway, thanks for chiming in, I think you enhanced the credibility of my review in the eyes of, well... pretty much everyone reading this. ;)
Great. I am not nearly as worthy of you when it comes to such things....
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
6,420
70
48
E. England
#11
Diana Krall at an audio show? Really? I've never of that concept before
Seriously, this choice of music always suggests what the designers are voicing their gear twds
How about these horns/tubes designers just demoing out of the box with some orchestral, ambient, prog, fusion, Nirvana etc?
No wonder younger potential customers are deserting en masse to headphones
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
9,029
113
63
London
#12
This doesn't look like a production speaker even the crossover is an old Accuphase, is that what they're selling it with? Even if they find a few used ones getting the cards will be a problem. At these prices the buyer should know what they're getting into.

david
How is the Accuphase crossover, I heard one JBL K2 66000 with subs and using accuphase crossovers
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,495
23
38
Utah
#13
How is the Accuphase crossover, I heard one JBL K2 66000 with subs and using accuphase crossovers
I have one, not a favorite and like most other Accuphase electronics it's on the dark side. Resolution isn't too bad but you need the right cards to operate it and not always straightforward.

Edit- Don't know which ones they used with the JBLs you heard but Accuphase's current one unlike the one used above is digital, much prefer the analog F-25.
david
 
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DaveC

[Industry Expert]
Nov 16, 2014
2,221
13
38
#14
Diana Krall at an audio show? Really? I've never of that concept before
Seriously, this choice of music always suggests what the designers are voicing their gear twds
How about these horns/tubes designers just demoing out of the box with some orchestral, ambient, prog, fusion, Nirvana etc?
No wonder younger potential customers are deserting en masse to headphones
They asked everyone who entered the room if they had music they would like to hear, and were happy to play anything for anyone at any volume level. Then, they wouldn't allow people to talk in the room so you could actually hear the music you brought. They were some of the least pretentious and snobby people I've met showing a megabuck system and the last people to criticize as many other folks don't deviate from a narrow playlist, ever. I won't even go to Goldmund, Voxativ and other rooms anymore because they won't play music I brought. One of the guys in the Goldmund room laughed at me for asking one time. This was the exact opposite experience of that.

Amir, nothing you wrote made any sense to me, and neither does your "review" of a system you've never heard with music you're familiar with. I just don't get it... but whatever, you can form whatever opinions you like whether they are based on reality or not. I'd suggest being more thoughtful about actually sharing them with others though, especially when you're being critical of someone else's business. IMO, your report is ethically questionable as well as pure nonsense.
 
Apr 3, 2010
16,022
0
0
Seattle, WA
#15
Amir, nothing you wrote made any sense to me, and neither does your "review" of a system you've never heard with music you're familiar with. I just don't get it... but whatever, you can form whatever opinions you like whether they are based on reality or not. I'd suggest being more thoughtful about actually sharing them with others though, especially when you're being critical of someone else's business. IMO, your report is ethically questionable as well as pure nonsense.
Doesn't look like you read what I post. Here is a bit of it again:

I had a CD too that I played at some suites. I visit and write about every suite. There is not time to do that in every suite that I visit. In this case, they played a common track that I have heard many times: Rescued by this classic: Just A Little Lovin' by Shelby Lynne. http://shz.am/t45601341


While this sounded fine, nothing about it sounded exceptional and the soundstage issue remained even here. So I moved on. I am not writing a thesis on their system.
So they did play a track I knew. Have you not ever heard that track???

And I clearly said I am not a reviewer yet you call my post a review. It is my impression and that impression is true lest you can get into my head and know otherwise. :)

As long as we are giving advice to each other, this is not a competition or ego confirmation. You said what you thought of the room, and I said the same. Stomping on one's feet that you are more right than the other is for your sake, not the manufacturer's.
 

DaveC

[Industry Expert]
Nov 16, 2014
2,221
13
38
#17
As long as we are giving advice to each other, this is not a competition or ego confirmation.
No, you're right... this is about the fact that you have a long history of posting negative/critical reviews (or whatever you want to call them) based on very limited information that are incredibly unfair to the manufacturer. And when you do, someone needs to put you in your place because it's just wrong and you're harming other people when you do it. Just stop and think for a minute about how your posts might effect others, and whether it's really worth publishing it on the web for all to see. Personally, I think your posts in this thread are misguided and truly mean spirited.
 
May 30, 2010
14,139
83
48
Portugal
#18
I have written several times - I only consider with interest positive impressions and details and feelings concerning them in show reports. There are thousands of reasons why a particular system in a room can sound poor for someone, and I am not interested in them and simply ignore it. Once we strongly dislike one aspect, probably we will easily ignore all else that can be great.

Unfortunately experience tells us that many people react very emotionally against these summary negative telegraphic critics and associated side comments, and, in the end audioforums suffer a lot with their consequences. I suggest we thank DaveC for reporting his enthusiasm and for his detailed post on this exhibitor in this forum and move on.
 
Sep 29, 2015
291
0
16
#19
No, you're right... this is about the fact that you have a long history of posting negative/critical reviews (or whatever you want to call them) based on very limited information that are incredibly unfair to the manufacturer. And when you do, someone needs to put you in your place because it's just wrong and you're harming other people when you do it. Just stop and think for a minute about how your posts might effect others, and whether it's really worth publishing it on the web for all to see. Personally, I think your posts in this thread are misguided and truly mean spirited.
+1
 
Sep 29, 2015
291
0
16
#20
I have written several times - I only consider with interest positive impressions and details and feelings concerning them in show reports. There are thousands of reasons why a particular system in a room can sound poor for someone, and I am not interested in them and simply ignore it. Once we strongly dislike one aspect, probably we will easily ignore all else that can be great.

Unfortunately experience tells us that many people react very emotionally against these summary negative telegraphic critics and associated side comments, and, in the end audioforums suffer a lot with their consequences. I suggest we thank DaveC for reporting his enthusiasm and for his detailed post on this exhibitor in this forum and move on.
Good point to ignore negative BS, but not everyone does and sadly people are influenced by it.
 

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