DaveC's RMAF 2016 Coverage

DaveC

[Industry Expert]
Nov 16, 2014
2,214
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#1
RMAF 2016 seemed like a success despite logistical issues due to the fact half of the hotel was still under construction. The normal hotel rooms were remodeled essentially making them narrower... two speaker companies I was going to show with backed out as a result, and I know many others did either because of the rooms or the fact many of the larger conference/ballrooms weren't available. So, lots of obstacles but it was still a fun show and it seemed like there was enough attendees to pack rooms pretty well. The remodeled rooms were significantly worse acoustically and many systems struggled to throw any sort of a reasonable soundstage and some of the larger speakers presentations were a bit blurred and imprecise as well. Despite this you could still get a feel for most of the systems and vendors did a great job with what they had to work with in most cases.

One observation is that typical dynamic speakers seem to be converging in performance, there's a lot of speakers out there that are extremely similar in performance with minor differences in voicing. Over the years both drivers and speaker designers have improved and there is a lot less variance in performance than there was in years past. Most speaker companies offer a very compelling product, and choosing between them would be a difficult task for me.... Magico, B&W, Focal, Wilson, Tidal, Marten, Von Schweikert, Monitor, Avalon and many others are all good choices. These speakers all seem to be hitting a plateau... it's a pretty high plateau and these speakers can all make for a very satisfying system, but these speakers are all going to get left behind by modern horn designs. Just like many things... reel to reel tape machines, vacuum tubes and vinyl... it turns out we got it right decades ago and modern interpretations of horn speakers are capable of surpassing typical dynamic speakers. Just like vinyl and vacuum tubes horn speakers are becoming more popular and imo they are the way forward. It's ironic but the truth is one vendor's horn speakers has achieved sound quality that far surpasses any dynamic speaker. These are expensive but we can hope this kind of performance will eventually be achievable at more reasonable prices. Here's a link to a thread about them, which is also my 2016 RMAF Best Of Show winners:

link to come...


Here we go!

First up was Soundings showing Boulder electronics and Rockport speakers. Very nice system and nice setup... clean, detailed and precise, hard to find fault. Good job!






Serious Stereo, very nice sound from Altec-type coax drivers.





 

DaveC

[Industry Expert]
Nov 16, 2014
2,214
8
38
#2
JBL Everests, I've been wanting to hear these and I did... but the setup left a lot to be desired, as did a lot of rooms simply due to space limitations. They did sound very clear, dynamic and just fun to listen to.





Voxativ, these sounded better than I've heard Vox sound before and I was interested enough to ask to play my test tracks but was denied! That's too bad... please get a source that can play CDs or memory sticks in the future!





JTR speakers with DAC amps and DAC. This is a contender for best budget system for sure. For around $4500 you get a pair of speakers with 2 12" woofers and a coax compression driver that delivers better high frequency performance than speakers like these typically do. Maybe not the last word in refinement, but these are overall excellent speakers for the money and are suitable for large rooms and high SPLs. Excellent!



 

DaveC

[Industry Expert]
Nov 16, 2014
2,214
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#3
Raidho... mids and highs are some of the best I've heard, ever. Bass extension isn't bad but they will need a sub (imo) and mid bass slam and definition isn't quite to the level of speakers with larger woofers.





Seaton Sound. Another excellent value... the sub especially. The main speakers were very good too, maybe not up to the level of the best in terms of refinement and mid bass slam, but value for the money is excellent and for a high end home theater, perfect.





Zesto electronics with Marten speakers. Best I've ever heard Zesto, the Marten speakers are a far better match vs the TAD speakers I've heard Zesto show with in the past. It's what you'd expect from top tier modern dynamic speakers with a sense of ease and fluidity you might not expect from Accuton drivers. Good job!





 

DaveC

[Industry Expert]
Nov 16, 2014
2,214
8
38
#4
Austin Acoustic. It's difficult to convey how much better this system was vs everything else at RMAF. However, I will try in a forthcoming thread on the Best in Show at RMAF. No dynamic speaker I've ever heard comes close to the experience of listening to the Austin Acoustic system. As I said in the first post, it turns out the way forward in high end audio requires looking way into the past. I sincerely hope the technology involved in the compression drivers used in Austin speakers can become more affordable. They didn't say which drivers they use, but they are custom made for Austin, probably from Goto or Ale in Japan. It's likely the drivers used in this system are in the 6-figure range alone... Then there's the DHT SET amps, one for each driver. RMAF might have been small this year but hearing the Austin system made it more than worthwhile.







Nagra and Avalon. I've been particularly impressed with Nagra's digital products. Raidho used a Nagra CDP and the friendly Nagra rep told me using the stand alone DAC and transport will be a significant step up. Nagra just sounds natural and musical... I think Nagra digital would be a great match for my speakers, and maybe I'll get to borrow some when I debut my own speaker, maybe at AXPONA this spring... :) Overall the system was sounding great, the room and setup were very good.







Endeavor Audio showing with some fancy analog! RtR tape is a superior source and elevated the sound in this room far above the average for sure. It's a really nice system to start with and the addition of RtR just made for great sound. Good job Lief! ;)



 

DaveC

[Industry Expert]
Nov 16, 2014
2,214
8
38
#5
Nokturne and Lejonklou showing with JBL theater speakers... very nice! The thin speakers worked better with the narrow room than most. Electronics are Mr Lejonklou's passion and they certainly made the JBLs sound great. Very enjoyable demo!





Thrax! They deserve an exclamation point. :) The MtMs play big and are some of the clearest, most resolving speakers I've experienced. Setup was good and allowed for a nice soundstage. They also can come with a bass cabinet specially made for the MtMs. Definitely among the best at the show.





Vinnie Rossi and Harbeth, this reminded me of last year where Vinnie was one of the best at the show... similar sound... and this year showed promise but the smaller Harbeths just aren't in the same league as the 40.2s. The system did so much right, and so much that you expect from a top end audio system but the smaller Harbeths weren't quite able to get it all out on the table and really wow you like the 40.2s did. The presentation was very dark, laid back and rolled off... all the info is there but presented significantly differently vs most other speakers. It's actually beautiful and relaxing but on some tracks I'd want a bit more edge and forwardness.







Monitor Audio powered by some big PASS amps... wasn't familiar with these speakers but a very nice system and competitive with any other... another top notch dynamic speaker system.



 

DaveC

[Industry Expert]
Nov 16, 2014
2,214
8
38
#6
Harman's Salon 2 speaker and Levinson electronics. This system sounded great, but was fighting the room and things were just a little out of focus. It is obvious this is state of the art and well worth considering for a top end system though.





And finally Magico... another top end system up there with the best. This system showed refinement that many lacked, good setup and maybe those SR room tuning devices really work! ;) It also looked awesome and was fun to photograph.





 
Aug 26, 2012
1,379
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#7
Super coverage Dave , thanks for taking the effort . Nice to discover Austin Acoustic , not a familiar name to me . Would you know what source they were employing in their set up . Cheers .
 

DaveC

[Industry Expert]
Nov 16, 2014
2,214
8
38
#8
Super coverage Dave , thanks for taking the effort . Nice to discover Austin Acoustic , not a familiar name to me . Would you know what source they were employing in their set up . Cheers .
Thanks... and the Austin system had only a redbook cdp, it's at the bottom right of the rack in the pics. I can only imagine what it would sound like with RtR or good vinyl!
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,415
66
48
E. England
#9
Dave, the show pair seem to be missing the all important big mids horn shown on the spkrs in their website
 
Sep 29, 2015
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#10
Dave, the show pair seem to be missing the all important big mids horn shown on the spkrs in their website
Maybe they did not want to travel with them, or room size considerations came into play. Looks like they are using the small horn cutting off at 800 or 1000Hz vs maybe 400hz for the big horns.

Dave, Thanks for the show coverage! Nice Stuff! :)
 

DaveC

[Industry Expert]
Nov 16, 2014
2,214
8
38
#11
Crossover point was 800 Hz for the Austin speakers and I was very surprised how well this worked! I'm sure the speakers with the larger midrange horn are even better though, I'd love to hear them sometime. I'd guess the mid horn goes down to around 300 Hz, it's pretty big...
 

PeterA

Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2011
4,935
34
48
North Shore of Boston
#12
Nice report, Dave. Great photos and commentary.
 

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