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2008 RMAF Coverage 5

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This portion of Dagogo’s 2008 RMAF Coverage by Doug Schroeder (Part 1 of 2)

RMAF was enjoyable, quite a relaxed atmosphere, and perfectly timed as the weather was fairly dismal, making the thought of not being in the mountains bearable. Aside from the odd quirk, like a speaker manufacturer removing my Yoshida Brothers demo disc after about 2 minutes of play (and I still happen to like the speakers), or a home integrated audio system company promoting a “Leave it to us,” theme being not quite ready to entertain reviewers at the start of the show, the event was extremely smooth.

My goal was primarily to assess the largest of floor standing speakers. My criterion was by weight; they had to be no less than 200 lbs. I’m not serious, of course, but I did want them to be a certain size and capable of better than 30Hz on average. That meant a price range from a few thousand to a few hundred thousand – a scary huge gap. Unafraid, I attempted to listen to the entire show’s larger (and usually multi-driver) speaker offerings.

I also was interested in Class D amplification offerings, as I have spent time with the admirable Jeff Rowland 501’s recently. That experience has led me to further explore the potential of this genre. In short, power is what I crave (acoustically speaking, of course!) and power is what I sought to hear. I dabbled in the low power SET end occasionally, but spent prodigious time with the “bad boys” of the amplifier world.

This will give you some idea of the report I am forming. If you crave the low power, SET amp and nose bleed high efficiency combo, then this portion of our 2008 RMAF Coverage will not be definitive to you. I don’t claim to present the “best” in an absolute sense, but what struck me as the best on that given weekend with my genre of music and in those particular systems.

My goal was to put each system “under fire” for fifteen minutes or so, choosing one disc which would potentially expose flaws and one which would ideally reveal strengths. With this method I was able to capture a wide range of conditions a speaker might perform under. Whereas some might limit their sample selections to particular genres of music, I used a wide range, forcing potentially great products to perform under somewhat less than ideal conditions. If a speaker could handle both the best material (suited to its usage) and the worst (less suited to its usage) then that speaker was noted especially. Any speaker can sound really good with its ideal media, but not as many can sound superb with lesser media; often this grace with less-than-ideal music says to me I am experiencing a superior product.

I listened almost exclusively to Redbook, which is another factor to consider in this report. I was on the move, and compared a large number of systems. I swim in the digital end of the source pool, and I’m quite comfortable using Redbook for assessment. It also ensured something that I’m not sure all reviewers or audiophiles do – absolutely level the playing field by comparing “apples to apples” in sources. If one assesses rig “A” by vinyl and rig “B” by CD, the playing field is hardly level. Vinyl’s warmth can almost be deceptive when comparing two rigs, one with analogue and the other with digital source. Even if one takes copious notes, there is hardly a means to assess the impact of this factor. Redbook assessment (aside from taking in the analogue selections played in each room as I bided my time) meant, “All’s fair in love and war.”

I have only one comment in regard to cables; I believe I saw the Magnan Cable line used in no less than three rooms, and I enjoyed the presentation of all three. I gave Magnan Cables a very favorable review on Dagogo as I was impressed by their subtlety and finesse, and it was no surprise to me that systems using them sounded great.

I could probably write another five pages of details, but this will have to suffice; this was supposed to be a short report. (Thank goodness. –Ed.) Ha! I visited and conducted brief listening sessions well in excess of 50 rooms. I can hardly discuss them all, but will share pics of some which struck me as noteworthy. There were more worthwhile sounds at the show than I could write about; my apologies if your favorite does not appear in the detailed systems. The RMAF site can be your link to further info on these companies.

NOTABLE ROOMS (In order of visitation):

Classic Audio Reproductions/Atma-Sphere Music Systems/Einstein Audio/Gablier Design LLC/Lee Island Audio LLC/Toffco

These delightful pieces did not disappoint! I thrilled to their effortless, graceful sound. This room shone brightly for me; I sensed effortlessness in the gear filling the cavernous room. I could see this rig sitting in a mansion with plenty of acreage under roof.

LessLoss Audio Devices/Mastersound/Kaiser GmbH/Echole/C.E.C.

If you missed LessLoss, you missed something special. A cavernous room filled exquisitely by the smaller Kaiser Kawero! floor standing speaker. The LessLoss DAC with its special clocking function was spectacular sounding. There was very little to fault with the rig. The beauty of the Mastersound amps and Kaiser speakers was stunning. I started at this room and I returned to it at the end of the show; it was as sweet on the last note as it had been on the first.

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Sound Lab/EMM Lab/Kimber Kable/Leveler Protective Technology

The Sony floor standing speaker is seen next to a wall. No, not a wall, a wall-sized Sound Lab Prostat 922. Kimber’s “IsoMike” recordings were completely enveloping with the Sound Lab panels in surround. Ginormous sound stage with uncanny detail. As big as it gets; the only speaker I felt which could compete with that scale was the Acapella Triolon Excalibur. Which leads me to…

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Aaudio Imports/Acapella Audio Arts/Isoclean Power/Einstein Audio/Stage III Concepts

You can’t deny that when form and function meet it’s a beautiful thing. As sonically striking as its looks, the Aaudio Imports room is beautiful. I returned to this system to play some of Lesiem’s Auracle disc and was swept away with the grandeur. The Einstein components seem made for the Acapella speakers.

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Rocky Mountain Audio LLC & LWP Enterprises

I love big floor standers, and that often means multi-driver speakers. Not here; this Big Horn speaker is a big time winner! The speakers, driven by a menagerie of dated Adcom and Nakamichi (among others) gear were scintillating. The bass was profoundly deep and palpable; the openness of horns very beguiling. This is audio furniture built to look and sound great.

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Sanders Sound

What lurks in the darkness? (Had to come up with something since; the pic is so lamely dark) The Sanders Sound hybrid Electrostats with proprietary crossover and attendant Sanders amplification. In a less than ideal room they acquitted themselves admirably. A singularly subtle and delicate electrostat design, I concluded. These speakers give the Martin Logan Summit a run for the money in terms of performance.

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Emerald Physics/Spread Spectrum Technologies/Wyred4Sound

Funky Affordable; that’s what Emerald Physics CS1 speakers and Ampzilla are. This gear has no right to sound so good. Long live rigs which real people can afford! The fun factor of this set up was off the charts, the sound, similarly. Disclaimer: I am reviewing the Emerald Physics CS-2. This was my first taste of the CS-1 and it made me want to ask Clayton Shaw for an exchange!

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This portion of Dagogo’s 2008 RMAF Coverage
by Doug Schroeder

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