Friday, October 17, 2014

RMAF 2014 - Third instalment

So, what else remains. Here's a few memories....

I really enjoyed meeting Ron Sutherland - I had him to myself listening to his new phono stage which he was explaining when in walked a well known chief of a large audio company. Clearly they knew each other and my conversation was irrelevant at that point as the interloper bellowed loudly and asked to check out the new design. Without really waiting for an answer, he strode behind the set up and promptly trod on a connection, breaking the signal and shutting everything down. I left.  Prior to this, it was clear to me that Ron is just a passionate designer who really wants to create special products. "I don't build appliances" he told me, but he left his mind open to the idea that despite what his engineering background told him, some audiophile ideas might not be too easily dismissed. So he set off on a journey which ended with the new $25k phono stage. Too rich, likely forever, for my blood but I liked the man, he's just a little different than most. Hope he got the music back up but I guess that visitor brought a literal meaning to 'stomping all over the competition'.

The TW Acoustics table in the High Water Sound room made great music. Nice looking speakers too. I could have sat there and just relaxed. Also relaxing, but not so good looking, the JTR speakers were so big in their room you could not imagine them working but they did. And to top it all, they were driven by the tiny DAC Maraschinos I reviewed recently - a good pairing - they win the "How could this work" combo award.

I just don't get NOLA - they never sound very good to me any time I hear them so I cannot understand the awards and plaudits. Every year I try the room, it's large, they play loud, obviously can rock but they only ever sound ok to me. But I don't sweat it, I sort of don't get the raves on TAD either - they seem over-damped to my ears, though I liked them better this year in the Zesto room with a Merrill table/Tripalanar arm. And let's face it, I do love my cheapo Pioneer speakers that the same designer has created  and which I run in a second system so maybe it's just the set ups and rooms.  I also enjoyed the Salk room with van Alstine amps. This was news for me as usually, despite all the forum positives on this combo, I've not been particularly impressed. This year was different, I really enjoyed the set up and during a particularly driving track, I saw cone extension in the drivers like I have never seen - they literally slid uniformly in and out like pistons as the music flowed.

Table wise, I have to say the twin platter Clearaudio set up on the Mezzanine with the Focal speakers sounded great for the second year in a row. And wow, what a sight. Speaking of which, Triangle Art's tables are pure eye candy - acres of shiny metal and very decent sonics to boot. I'd love to just watch one spin in my room. Even their cheapest model looked fabulous, I'd love one. The various VPI set ups were only ok, but I've owned an Aries and am happy to have sold it on.  And what do you make of a $10k metal spinner from Lithuania's Jakutis, which includes a granite and steel stand (the Dalia?) Who buys these tables? Well  distributor (Mockingbird) told me he sells direct, often arriving in person to set them up too. The model I heard looked and sounded very fine to me, with a real ceramic body cartridge whose manufacturer I missed. I'd love to know more about that set up and since Mockingbird are based in Texas, I hope to do so.

Also enjoyed discovering the Pear Audio tables which seemed familiar until I twigged they were the fruits of the final work of Tom Fletcher, best known for the Nottingham line of tables. The similarities are obvious once you see them. The room did them few favors but I liked the table and arm enough to think I need to hear this one again.  Many enjoyable analog set ups this year. The Bergmann air-armed tables looked great and sounded so, the Merrill table/Triplanar arm in the Zesto room was so relaxing but it was the Kuzma table in the Prana room just took the biscuit for me - fabulous sonics, all smooth detail, body and rhythm, nothing to want. I think it was the Reference table with a 12" Kuzma tonearm -- best vinyl at show to my ears. And as far as I could tell, the main guy there just grabbed his own table from home to front the room at the last minute. And with a Denon 103R cartridge to boot....I could live with the sound at home for a very long time, which is a rare experience for me at RMAF.

Must mention the Exasound multichannel offering. Using five Maggie 1.7s, the enthusiastic host fed a Mac into his DAC and, with a multichannel Bryston amp, proceeded to show us the differences between 2 and 5 channel music. The multi-channel was better but not to the level that would have me buying five speakers and associated cables for my room (not to mention how little music that matters for me in this format). The real lesson for me (other than this DAC is very good and priced well), was the Maggies. They sounded better than I ever heard them and they were not positioned with any great thought to layout. Clearly, with Bryston driving them, these speakers can deliver fine sound. Another strike for the saner end of the audio market.

Lots of other stuff sort of passed me by (and I know I've forgotten some rooms). I gave no attention to CanJam this year as I got their too late and I ignored anything related to computer audio other than to note how much of it was there. Some people are pompous and loud, but really, most attendees are there for fun and it shows -- I really enjoy this show despite all the problems. If I get the time I'll try to list what I heard in alphabetical order to make it easy for people to find- some of you asked, I just have to find the time.  If I missed something, let me know and I'll check my notes but this was most I can easily decipher from memory, scribbles and literature.


Roy Insco said...

I would like you to come compare all the Triangle Art tables from the symphony to the Ultimate in good ole Las Vegas and I thank you for the kind words via RMAF show. We have turntables from 4K to $129K so all price points. Id honestly would like your opinion as I am VP of Triangle Art and also speaker manufacturer and dealer......I have all the new osiris tonearm and the new Zeus and Apollo cartridges...please let me know Regards, Roy Insco

BTW we have the NAT Audio 160 watt SET Magma amps also

PatrickD said...

Thanks Roy -- I'd love to hear these tables in a more relaxed setting. Sadly, I think I've done my Vegas trip this year (was there in June) but never say never. Of course, if you'd like us to review a sample in HiFi'Zine, just let me know. The short coverage I can do of RMAF hardly conveys the impression these tables made.

Anonymous said...


Got a chuckle this AM when I saw your NOLA comment...couldn't agree more my man! Their $ are outrageous. Back in the day when they were ALON, good designs, reasonable prices, but now, they have gone insane. Glad to see the review by Atkinson backed us up on new Legacy Classic HD's handily outperform that $33k POS....