Sunday, October 4, 2015

RMAF Day 2

This is the longest day, starting with a waitline for breafast at the Hyatt but as luck would have it, the gentleman in front of me, planning to dine alone, invited me to join him in an open table for two. Turned out to be Bruce Kinch, writer for Positive Feedback and lifetime vinyl collector. This could not have been more fortuitous as he proved an amiable, witty and insightful conversationalist. Great start to the day.

Since I was staying in the Hyatt, I took advantage first of the Magico demo in the Presidential Suite. Much loved by the audio press and somewhat maligned by audio forum posters who complain about prices and endless rave reviews, I have to say the Magicos have always demo'd well at RMAF for my ears. They do continuity through the range and I particularly like the sonics of the smaller models. Here, launching the new 7(?), the filled a large space with that sort of clarity that captures attention but in some speakers goes too far into etched. No doubt these are well made, the on-display skeletal m-cast framework revealed an incredibly solidly built speaker, no simple boxes of wood or mysterious X materials. I am intrigued by the use of bolts internally, I believe racing cars have developed alternatives, but am assured these never vibrate loose. Just as well, could you imagine fanatical owners having to send them back for annual tune-ups!  And the sonics? Good, sometimes great, but again, if I did not sit in the sweet spot, the image pulled to the nearest speaker in a way that might be set up, might be the recordings (most noticeable on jazz vocals, less so on orchestral), but a pattern I kept hearing again and again in other rooms with big speakers.  Interestingly, a conversation outside with a Magico owner checking the new model out revealed he thought they were insufficiently better than his current pair to warrant further interest. Which confirms my own view from RMAF that good sound is found at well under $10k all in if the components are well designed and you don't need to fill a hall. After this, you pay disproportionately for incremental improvements, and many of those are in areas that are not essential for typical homeowners.

The JBL Everests are another imposing speaker. Set up on the long wall of a regular room, with seats along the other long wall, they look super-imposing with their drivers exposed and all that curved woodwork,  The sound however, was quite delicate, almost disarmingly disconnected from the visual experience. I thought the sound was good, but not great, and mostly because sitting anywhere but the middle seat, all I heard was one speaker. Seemed to me, even on a sofa, only one person could listen appropriately to these in a space like this, and even then, only if they sat in the middle. Will try to go back again to check on this as it's hard to be truly fair to them.

General pattern here, I was concentrating on speakers for while, just seems the easiest thing to get a handle on in a strange room. I've complained at the lack of Revel demos in the past and was delighted to see the Salon 2s in use, albeit alternately, with a lower priced model. Lots of traffic here, but the Salons did everything quite well for my ears. Not a huge fan of the looks but they sort of capture everything the big expensive speakers do but in a more manageable, placement-friendly manner. On some familiar Keb Mo tracks, I thought they had a little more presence and detail than I am used to but might not have imaged the best in that room. Still, a good speaker, thoughtfully balanced.

Pioneer were there with an amazing $1500 Kef-copy white concentric drive monitor. Driven by a throwback dial-laden $1200 amp, they were really impressive. Much more so when this little system was switched out for their flagship floorstanders (circa $26,000). Yes more bass, yes more everything, but also far less left in your bank account. I suggested to the host that the difference in price should cause a massive difference in sound, should it not? He sort of admitted that such logic, while appealing, didn't really apply to audio. Once he played the expensive system, this truth was confirmed.

Of coure, no chat of the speakers and prices here can ignore the roll out of Andrew Jones' new ELAC models. A pair of floorstanders for $600 that sounded good and looked better finished than the old Pioneers that Mr Jones is known for, justifiably, as much as for his TAD award winners. Really, these speakers sort of give you so much in terms of room-appropriate sonics that you need to think hard about spending a lot more. My experience with the Pioneer 22s indicates that parterning gear way beyond the typical matching price can bring out a lot more from them, and I suspect these new designs can go a long way. Given the rather sycophantic reaction some of the press attendees present when I was there, expect a few gushing reviews soon. I sort of pitied the Cambridge Audio room a few feet away as they tried to interest folks in a similar sized $1200 floorstander. But at least the Cambridge folks served  decent beer, so they get a big plus for this!

Oh, and a note to some of the media folks....just because you get to sit in the sweet spot longer than most and make us listen to your selections, does not mean you should talk out loud, stand up blocking others and generally make a nuisance of yourself ensuring we all know you are a reviewer.  I mean, you review other people's audio gear for a living....think about that in the greater scheme of life. Show some manners.

more to come....


Handler said...

Thanks for the post on ELAC. One correction, though, it's Andrew Jones.

Eisener Bart said...

Nice, awaiting continue.

PatrickD said...

Alas, Smith and Jones....ya, got it....fingers ahead of brain at that hour.

Glad you're waiting EB, am trying to get it done as fast as I can...wish I had a photogrpaher, my text only musings make me seem like a Victorian novelist in an age of online porn.

Anonymous said...

Why do reviewers think they have the right to belittle and inconvenience regular patrons of these shows?