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RMAF 2013 My Three Favorite Rooms

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I’m going to list just my three rooms All three were head and shoulders better than any of the other rooms I heard. (I suppose it says something about me that so many of the rooms that other’s raved about, sounded boring and without soul to me. ) My three favorites very different from one another and I cannot rank them, so I’ll list them in the order in which I heard them. Needless to say, this reflects my own personal taste, and I should perhaps mention that have not heard a planar speaker I wanted to take home with me since the Quad 57s. So with all that said, let’s look at my three favorite rooms.

Tannoy and VAC Room

Tannoy and VAC Room

Because of what Jeff Day had written about the Tannoy Kingdom Royals I couldn’t wait to hear them. I made an appointment to do so Friday morning before the show opened. I agree with everything Jeff had to say.

While the room was large, the speakers were set up on the short wall; it thus didn’t seem like I was listing in some huge room with speakers spread way too far apart. It was a very successful setup. The Tannoy Kingdom Royals were driven by the incredible VAC Statement amps and preamps. So far every system I have heard with these electronics sounded wonderful, full of tone and color. The source was the AMG V12 turntable and arm, which almost seems very underpriced in this system, especially considering it had a $15,000 Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement Cartridge. The digital was all by Esoteric.

Unlike Tannoy’s iconic Westminster Royal SE, the Kingdom Royal is not a horn loudspeaker. Instead, it is an ultimate interpretation of the late 90s Tannoy Kingdom, a great sounding dynamic loudspeaker. The Kingdom Royal is a four-way speaker that uses a 12-inch Dual Concentric™ driver, a new SuperTweeter, and a new 15-inch sub-bass driver, resulting in anoverall sensitivity of 96dB (2.83V @ 1m).

I find it rather shocking that I found a four-way box speaker to be one of the three best sounds I heard at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2013. As most of you know I’m pretty much a single driver or two-way, type of guy. Still this system sounded incredibly alive, with lots of beautiful tonal color. The speakers kind of transcend audiophile terms like imaging, soundstage, speed, and detail. They sounded very alive and with great body and scale, though I did find them a tad aggressive with digital sources, but only on certain recordings.

Saskia Turntable and Emia Electronics Room

Saskia Turntable and Emia Electronics Room at RMAF 2013

This room featured Win Tinnon’s Saskia II idler driver turntable, Dave Slagle’s Emia amps, and a pair of RCA LC-1A LS-11 speakers. This pair of speakers was built the same year I was born, 1954, while the idler drive turntable and SET amps are older technology than that. Still, the sound was incredible.

The turntable is amazing. It uses a slate plinth which I don’t usually like but it worked here. The arm mounts are stand-alone units that simply slide into a slot on the plinth. The motor assembly is semi-isolated on the lower plinth. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think an idler drive ‘table has been built from scratch since the Thorens 124. The Saskia was shown with a Schroeder Reference tonearm.

The amps were Emia’s Permalloy 50, that put out an amazing 2 watts per channel, driving the RCA LC-1A speakers in the LS-11 cabinets. Often vintage speakers don’t quite live up to their reputation, but I tell you these were incredible. The music was full of life and moved every emotion in me. I carried with me the new mono release of Illinois Jacquet’s “Swing, Swing, Swing” and it most certainly did. We finished side one and a room full of people asked if they could hear side two. This system will certainly make you wonder how far we have come in the last 60 years in audio.

High Water Sound’s Room

High Water Sound’s Room

This isn’t the first time that Jeff Catalano’s High Water Sound room made my list of top show rooms. He was showcasing the Liszt speakers from Cessaro Horn Acoustics, which were powered by a Tron-Electric amp and preamp; the source was the TW-Acoustics’ Raven Anniversary SE turntable.

I spent two different listening sessions with this system and was simply amazed. I have heard very few bass horns that sounded as natural, as fast and as much like music, as these. The spherical horn for the midrange was just as impressive. The sound was rich, full, transparent, and amazingly powerful when the music called for it, but also amazingly delicate when called for. Like an amazing Super-Car this is a audio Super-System.

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9 Responses to RMAF 2013 My Three Favorite Rooms


  1. elric says:

    Why is it that all you favorite systems probably cost as much as most peoples homes?
    Don’t you find that rather ridiculous, even slightly obscene?

  2. Jack Roberts says:

    Well, at car shows I run into the same problem. I would love a Morgan or an antique Jaguar E Type convertible, but I drive Mini Copper convertible because it’s what I can afford.

  3. Smoking Robot says:

    You like’em BIG, don’t you? Personally I have no use for anything larger than say, a Stirling LS3/6.

    I have no interest in overpriced public address systems.

  4. michaelhigh says:

    Inexpensive systems are rarely as satisfying, sound-wise, as their more expensive counterparts. Finding and integrating affordable components gives one a slice of the pie, and oftentimes more! I plan to continually restore vintage cars and audio systems regardless of what fabulous gear the manufacturers are designing and promoting. I wouldn’t hold them back for a second, just because I’m low-budget.

  5. wipster says:

    If you want to look at affordable run of the mill systems, go to Best Buy or Costco. That’s the whole purpose of shows like this, to show off the top .1% of what’s available in audio and I applaud them for it and Jack for his choices. Back in the ’70’s and ’80’s, audio stores were around where you could check out high end gear… now they are very few and far between unless you live in a BIG city. I think shows like this are great avenues for folks that don’t live in a metropolis to check out what’s out there now and what may be coming. If Jack said that the new Onkyo “sound in a box” package was his favorite, I would seriously question his sanity. I am curious about that Mini Copper convertible though… it must be worth it’s weight in, well, copper, eh?

  6. Win Tinnon says:

    Hi,
    It is interesting that Jack, and at least one other reviewer, have chosen in their top three rooms two that use TelWire cables. Cables are often ignored at shows, but not by guys like Jeff Catalano and me. We want the best we can get, and these suit us just fine!

  7. Alan Hendler says:

    I heard the first two rooms that Jack mentions and I agreetotally with his comments. The Vac room was simply incredible in its ability to create an emotional connection to the music. In the room with the vintage RCA speakers they play an LP of Michael Rabin playing some Paganini Caprices. This is a 1958 mono recording and it was the most realistic playback of a violin I have heard. Everybody in the room was stunned at how realistic this system sounded.
    Alan

  8. Doug Reid says:

    Hey Jack!
    You have excellent taste! I have been a Tannoy fan for 40+ years and I was grateful to finally hear the
    Kingdom Royals. Win’s Saskia room was truly awesome as well! The Saskia is on my lottery list…
    I am also grateful that Tannoy makes smaller DC models that aren’t as expensive. My Canterbury SE’s
    and Decware Zen Torii MKIII yield excellent results for no more than a Cooper convertible!

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