Sunday, April 2, 2017

Austin Audio Society has lively session

Another good meet up of the newly energized Austin Audio Society yesterday, hosted by the generous Fred Thompson in his Bastrop home. The emphasis this time was two combinations from Raven and JWM Acoustics, two Texan manufacturers offering a highly complementary pairings of amps and speakers, with cabling provided by Austin's own Douglas Connection.

Raven Audio I know about, I reviewed a couple of their integrated amps for the 'Zine and ended up loving the Blackhawk 20w so much I had to buy one. It's a wonderful sounding piece that just encourages intimate, relaxing listening sessions. Yesterday, the more powerful Golden Eagle integrated was in rotation, an 83w model that's not yet listed on their site, likely selling for $7995. It's on its way to Axpona to drive some Legacy Speakers and from what I heard in a small room with JWM's Alyson AML stand-mounts, it sounded very pleasing. Am promised a review sample and I can't wait to give this one a run in my main rig.

Pride of place was given to a main room set-up involving Raven's Shaman monoblocks, their Silhouette preamplifer, and JWM Acoustics' top of the range Jane JKM floorstanders with external crossovers. Cabling throughout (except for the crossover to speaker interface) was by local manufacturer, Douglas Connection, a new name to me, and further proof that some folks are still crazy enough to enter the audio market with products built of personal passion.

Since I came late (and stayed late, sorry Fred), I had two distinct listening experiences. At first I felt the main rig was a little tight sounding, not helped by the lively attendees being in relaxing rather than listening mode when I arrived. However, as the amps warmed up and I got some quiet time in front of the speakers later on, I felt this set up was beginning to sing and had an effortless groove.

The Jane speakers have a beautiful form factor, matched by a musicality and soundstaging capability that suggest they will fit most rooms with ease, visually and sonically. I'd definitely like to give them a run in my main room.  When we swapped in the smaller Alysons later for comparison, I think the smaller speakers might even have a little better resolution even if they didn't quite flesh out the lower frequencies as much. Main difference between the models is the tweeter,  a silk dome in the standmounts as opposed to the beryllium in the Janes, which sort of ran counter to my sonic expectations in terms of resolution but that's what I heard.

With the Shamans providing the power, the Alysons had no problem filling the large listening room easily.  At $8k, they offer a very interesting value proposition. And did I mention they are very elegant to the eye?  No cheap box finishes here. Plans are afoot, Josh told me, to provide a bass module for these that would extend the lower end and replace the stand. That prospect is has significant potential to my ears and offers buyers a chance to upgrade into the future, always an attractive option when it comes to investing in your rig. I like what I heard here, JMW speakers are ones to watch.

The beauty of such meetings is they are low pressure, relaxed gatherings where you hear new gear, some new tunes, in a new room with people who are interested in audio. I don't consider these to be real auditions but you can learn more about gear in these environments than is possible in most stores (remember those?).   For me, also getting a chance to learn a little more about the people behind the gear is fascinating.  I had a good conversation with Josh Miles, chief of JWM, about his work and company. Frankly, as I'd previously told Dave Thomson of Raven, you have to be a little crazy to try making a living as a small specialist audio manufacturer these days but these guys are anything but crazy: they're smart, committed to their products and happy to share their knowledge. Long may they thrive.

My thanks to the hosts and to the manufacturers -- watching these guys move their gear in and out was reminder that this business is real work, it's a good job there was Texas beer there too!

No comments: