RMAF 2015 Day 3 Show Report
Here Mr. Linkwitz demonstrates how when he touches anything, including plumbing supplies, it turns into audio gold. Note that most of his power is derived from his sock orthopedic sandal combination foot wear.
This is the LX Mini, and it looks like couple of drivers glued onto PVC, because that's what it is. Note how far these are out into the room. The bass was still adequate.
They sounded really good from what I could hear. I listened hard to hear cone break up distortion from the full range driver, but it must be very well eq'ed as they sounded excellent on the highs. Now one thing to understand is that an omni speaker like this is going to do some things very interesting, and some things very wrong no matter how good they are. As a second system these would be an amazing pickup. I'm of the mindset that you are going to want to have other speakers to listen to that do more things right more of the time.
Now Mr. Linkwitz is explaining that when you don't want to listen to one pair of speakers you should move them out of the way of the other speakers in the room.
This is the big speaker that Linkwitz is pushing now days, the LX521. It's got a high amount of Seas drivers of various sizes and is a fully active 4 way system. The baffle shape is dictated by the dispersion pattern of the specific drivers, and would not work with anything else. These are suposed to be dipole speakers, but they play and sound like omnidirectionals, the side dispersion was very prominent.
Here on the back of the speaker you can see the rear tweeter and a clean job of heat shrinking the wires. Pretty clean look for an open baffle.
In this setup he was using two Emotiva 5 channel amps to power the speakers, the extra channel was used to drive the other subwoofer driver. The tool doing the processing and crossover was a minidsp 4x10 which retails for about $500 and acted as a preamp in the setup as well.
The sound from the speakers was very good, and when played loud they really made a feeling of immersion that you very rarely get from traditional monopole speakers. Now for the down side. A selection from Eric Clapton was played, and when said "this is Eric Clapton" half way through the track, half the people including myself got up. The person singing did not sound like Eric Clapton at all. I overheard many people talking about that moment in the hallway as I left.
Technics brought a KEF LS50 knock off from Japan to the show.
These little white boxes are coaxial speakers that are supposed to act as a point source. With the flat woofer these should sound better than the floppy horn loading the KEF drivers have.
I'm not sure what the problem was with these speakers, but I have a hunch that one of the speakers was hooked up out of phase. There was no lower midbass, male vocals sounded muted, and everything sounded like a smooth rising response with no issues from the woofer tweeter integration, but nothing will sound good when 80-300Hz is missing in action. Biggest disappointment at the show by far.
I only got a chance to hear the big speakers from Technics when the room was pretty crowded. The larger towers were pretty good sounding and had bass and lower midrange from what I could tell off axis.
The larger of the two Technics speakers used a graphite tweeter instead of a aluminum one.
This is Wilson Audio's Slam Master Dick Hammer 2, it's one of the expensive ones.
This room was full of crazy. They had an amazing system, but all they wanted to do was play was mono recordings on vinyl or turn the music off for 5 minutes at a time to talk about cable shit. Biggest waste of time at the show, although after waiting for a very long while I did get to hear some very low frequencies coming from the bass bins that were along the back wall for reinforcement of subsonic tones.
Pure Audio Project
These guys sell flat pack speaker kits that use bamboo and steel construction that you put together like Ikea furniture. This model is unique for them as they usually are pushing modular projects where you can swap the drivers and crossovers out like some kind of Barbie play house for audio nerds.
The back of the speaker shows off the Mundorf AMT driver's open back the two woofers were of the 10 inch variety, I did not catch the brand used.
Here you can see the guts strewn across the floor in front of the system like some kind of animal sacrifice. I didn't get a good read on the sound from this system, but the whole thing is a very cool idea that seems pretty interesting.
I stopped in for a break from the show in one of the empty rooms. These speakers sounded damn good for the size, I'm sure the cost as much as a car, because they were mounted on some strange speaker stand that looked like it was in the act of falling over.
Got pulled into this room by some active sales people, and as soon as I turn the corner to see this I wanted to turn around. Needless to say I was not impressed with the performance, it sounded like it was missing a speaker.
Look, three active drivers and a bunch of passive radiators. The "Turbo" feature makes the music louder while distorting the bass.
I think everyone at an audio show eventually stumbles into a Sony speaker. These were setup in a Martin Logan room. The Japanese revelator knock off was smooth enough, but the bizarre tweeter arrangement left me underwhelmed.
The speakers were blended well with two massive Martin Logan Subwoofers that were on the center points of each side wall.
These were very nice narrow baffle sounding speakers, they used side wall reflections to make a very spacious and high quality sound. It's nothing earth shattering, but decent was a change of pace for the show.
The Vandys have a built in powered sub and it sounded good.
Look at all that quality. Big Raal ribbon, little Accuton, and a bigger 8 inch accuton. The 8 inch Accuton is actually a custom, just for this speaker, high efficency midrange unit. Where is the woofer you ask, well it's holding everything up. The bass is the base, just like it's supposed to be.
These speakers reminded me very much of my own stereo, but with a softer edge, and larger... which is always a good thing. Only down side to the size is that the speakers do have a pretty big room requirement, seating should be at least 10 feet back, and they need room to operate.
Everyone I talked to at the show that I asked what to see, as well as many that were not able to make it said you need to see Volti.
Well I saw Volti, and while it's not my cup of tea, these were the most narrow dispersion speakers I've heard. These speakers make electrostats seem wide in comparison. While not the biggest speakers I've had the pleasure of hearing, these speakers are big at well north of 6 foot tall and about 3 feet deep.
This photo is from the listening seat - You get one seat to listen to these speakers. There are other seats, but that is just the waiting line. These speakers are very good at what they are designed to do.
After my experience with the VR4jr's a while back, Von Schweikert was on my must hear list. These VR55s speakers use the beryllium driver that looks like a scanspeak unit and the cones are all ceramic sourced from accuton.
The rear ribbon tweeter looks like a fountek unit... one of the good ones.
These speakers sounded amazing, one of the best rooms at the show. Perfect amount of sparkle and room ambiance. The bass response worked perfectly in this room without issues.
This Focal room was just off of the lobby and had a little bit more background noise than most of the rooms. It was by far the prettiest room, and it was playing some Dire Straits that I know very well.
The Focal Naim combo did very well tonally, but I could tell that the setup was not imaging as good as it could have. This seemed like a pretty solid setup.
The big Focal setup is made of multiple slices of speaker. This design is interesting to look at, which should be a requirement when you are paying the small fortune they ask for these speakers. The problem is that my audiophile brain just sees pointless edge diffraction, and a missed opportunity to physically time align the drivers.
The sound from this room was average for the tonally good speakers at the show, but nothing jumped out at me as special.
Another new German speaker company, these guys had a great sound for an omnidirectional speaker. I think it was better than the Muraudio, but that is just a kneejerk reaction.
I could not get a straight answer on what I'm looking at here, I could see a voice coil at the top of the speaker, but the only mid/high driver supposedly was the visible section of cone.
Spent quite a good chunk of time with these Legacy Speakers, they are the new Flagship for the company. The big change is that they are now using DSP to make sure the left and right speakers create a smooth cancelation at the listening position. This is supposed to make for the best imaging.
The back of the speaker shows some of the hidden drivers, there are a bunch of drivers behind the grill cloth, the idea is that the cancel the side reflections with extra woofers that sit behind the ones that are visible on the front.
The side by side midrange units are there to create off axis nulls. A strange design decision, but the target radiating pattern for these speakers is 60 degrees
This is quite narrow, but I could not really tell if they achieved it given that this room was massive and the closest wall was at least 20 feet away.
The sound from this setup was impressive. The tonality of them was smooth, but way off. Vocals all sounded wrong, like the lower treble region was very recessed. I'm not sure if it was the DSP not being setup properly, or if these speakers just sound wrong, but the sound was not something I could live with.
Big Martin Logan setup was using recordings from a 4 channel microphone about the size of a Volkswagen that is hung from the ceiling of music halls. This was more of an amusement park ride than a sound demo.
These were the rear surround speakers.
I had a front row seat for two tracks on this crazy setup, and it was well north of 115dB when shit got real. This was the most fun at the show for sure.
On day two I poked and prodded Ryan Scott from Vapor to set the Nimbus White up, as it was one speaker that I really wanted to hear. They ended up hauling the 230 pound each monsters to the 11th floor of the tower in the Mojo room about an hour after I asked.
I listened for a while in this room, but the seat was occupied by someone buying a pair so I had to sit off axis and a few things bothered me about them. The speakers were capable of very detailed and exciting sound, but there was a shrillness that popped up a couple of times that really took me by surprise. Maybe something got knocked loose in the quick setup, but I left the room with more questions than answers.
Tail end of the show I stumbled upon this gem of a room. The Bakoon room was the only small room with Wilsons, not only that they were using lamp cable as speaker wire and powering them with a 70wpc class a/b solid state amp and using a digital only setup. All of these things are reasonable and good ideas, so the speakers were able to be evaluated on the understanding that the front end gear is at least transparent. Wilson speaker may be expensive, but at least they sound right. These speakers are not exciting in any way and I would prefer the Von Schweikert over them any day of the week, but they are good solid speakers that will do anything you ask.
Even when you think the crazy is gone, there it is hiding behind the vail of sanity. I wonder if this guy would consider swapping to tuna fish cans instead of still point stands.
The big YG/PS audio room was a nice space to visit. I got an apple to eat here as well as a little bottle of water. Oh, and these speakers where amazingly impressive. It was like the gravity of these speakers was warping the light and sound around them. They just looked so solid you could feel it with your eyes.
The sound in the room was great as long as you did not sit in the listening position. I'm not sure who set up this room, but the sweet spot had the worst room mode interaction of the show. I actually said holy shit out loud when a 50Hz tone ballooned over the music and just hung there. Step three feet to the right of the sweet spot and the bass was the most detailed and revealing of the show, these definitely should have been setup on the long wall of this big room, the Nola room was the same size and shape and it was setup long ways and had no room mode issues at all.
I snuck into the Zu Audio room to see the new products sounded better than what I reviewed.
Sad to say they have not improved. I could hear the cone ringing from the listening position. Not the worst thing I heard at the show, but definitely not a good sound.
No Audiophile RMAF 2015 Awards
Best of Show in the Budget category
Andrew Jones is earning his pay check at ELAC. I'm going to tell you right now that this gear is going to be in 90% of the recommendation threads of the internet once they launch. Not only that, the ecosystem that ELAC is building is shaping up to be a real end to end solution for a budget 2.1 system.
Best of Show in the Floor stander category
Hands down this goes to Von Schweikert. The sound from these speakers is amazing, and for the form factor of reasonably sized floor stander these take the cake. If you can't imagine paying the high dollar amount for such speakers keep an eye out for used VR series speakers as they all share a very similar design and sound quality.
Best of Show in the WTF that's a big speaker category
Here is Ryan Scott from Vapor, the man with the plan. Note that Ryan is about 6'2" tall... these speakers are massive. I could have stayed in this room the whole weekend, the sound of these speakers was an amazing quality with a relaxed but detailed quality. Listening to the Perfect Storm White speakers made me want them, which is something none of the other speakers at the show accomplished.
I had a great time doing the show, and met some amazing smart industry people that will hopefully send me some good gear to review.
We will see how things pan out in that department, as my harsh no fucks given style means you need to have a confidence in your product to send it to this meat grinder.
Next week I'll be return to the regularly scheduled reviews of cheap desktop speakers that mostly suck, as well as a few audio oddities from the past. Stay tuned.
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