RMAF 2014: Reichert on Sunday
As usual, he was right. The sound was so good that I am now about to go against my whole belief system and state: In the 4th and 5th Atrium floors that I covered, the best sound I heard was the in room with the lowest price system! The Linkwitz Lab's LXmini loudspeakers (a $472 kit from Madisound) produced the most musically enjoyable, naturally balanced, properly toned, correctly detailed, music I experienced in any room on my beat. How good was the sound? Well, to start, it didn't sound like a wood box filled with dynamic drivers at all. It sounded like a high quality electrostatic loudspeaker driven by its perfect matching amplifier. In this case the "perfect amp" was an Emotiva XPA 200 ($399). This combo accomplished so many of the things I admire (but rarely experience). Music was lively and joyfully articulatedwith nary a belch, fart or squeak. So many systems have all these good audiophile traits but play music in a woeful joyless mannerthe LXmini + Emotiva system did the audiophile stuff but it also did joy and abandon! Quick, solid, rich, and transparent are the adjectives that come to mind. Tone color was very close to spot on. I heard all sorts of real music.
The man behind all this enjoyable sound was Siegfried Linkwitzthe 1970s loudspeaker and crossover design guru behind the Linkwitz-Riley crossover filters. Mr. Linkwitz is someone whose work in crossover design goes back to audio's Golden Era of the late 1970searly '80s. Every loudspeaker designer at RMAF has surely studied Mr. Linkwitz's research.
I listened to two Linkwitz Labs speakers. My favorite value per dollar was the LXmini; it is slender, perfectly toned, and quick-like a bunny. But, the larger, much more expensive ($3000) open baffled, quad-amplified LX521 kit shown above provided even more satisfying results. Complete LX521 kits may be purchased from Madisound in "sections"a set of construction plans ($150), a flat-pack box of wooden parts for the baffles ($580), 12 SEAS drivers ($1498), and the all-important analogue Signal Processor ($980). (What? Signal processor?!) Yes, each of these attractive, five-SEAS-driver, open-baffle, loudspeakers was powered by its own 5-channel Emotiva XPA-5 ($999). The LX521 "signal processer" splits the broadband line level input signal into woofer, mid and tweeter frequency bands. It equalizes driver and baffle response for each channel and filters it with LR4 response. The midrange signal is split after the power amplifier by a passive crossover filter into lower-mid and upper-mid driver inputs. These are great music-making machines and Siegfried is truly "The Man!" The expression, "giant-killer" is, in this case, not an exaggeration!
Room 437: Hey Audiophilesrecon me this: How in tarnation can you call yourself "Funk Audio" and play Nora Jones? Now, it is not that Ms. Jones sounded badin fact she sounded very rich and nice but, where's Bootsy and George? And, as those crass audiophiles always say, "It should." The Funk system included a VPI Prime turntable sporting a Miyajima Takumi cartridge pushing a Dynamic Sounds Associates Phono II ($12,000), a Funk Audio 0.5kW X4 M1 power amplifier with active crossover ($3330), Funk Audio 8.2.P loudspeakers ($7205/pair passive, $9735/pair active with amplifier, and the very impressive (and loud!) Funk Audio 21.0 subwoofer ($6720).
Room 427: At both Capital Audio Fest and here at RMAF, the big speaker buzzwords are beryllium and air motion transformer (AMT). When the patent ran out on the Dr. Oskar Heil's AMT, loudspeaker designers everywhere must have realized that the cache' of metal domes had run its course and that yes, silk domes usually sound sexy and smooth but perhaps these easy to manufacture and durable AMTs could provide the best of both worlds. Oh yeah, and AMTs are pretty efficient too. In the Core Audio room, the Hawthorne Audio Rainers ($15,000/pair) made good use of all of these attributes. Here they played "Fever" by Eva Cassidy through the new Kratos "fully digital" amp (Is it really fully digital when it has a linear power supply?) (MSRP: TBD) via DEQX HDP-4 ($5995).
Room 422: The Fort Collins Audio room reminded me that I wrote a loudspeaker review where the designer told me he had used a Hegel amp to voice his design. Naturally, I had to read all the Hegel amp reviews I could find. Therefore, I was excited to hear the Hegel H80 ($2000) driving my beloved KEF LS50s. And, I was not disappointed. The sound was dense, rich, and colorful in the extreme. Fact: I need to hear more of the H80. Dan Walker also played an equally exciting second system using Quicksilver amps and KEF 700s. I do so wish I could have stayed here longer because everything I heard made me want to listen more!
Room 450: I had to love TigerFox's Rick O'Polka and his charming helpful wife. This ingeniously crafted "portable listening room" was his first product and this was his first audio show. Eager smiles and un-jaded happiness filled the big room. The smaller "listening room" reminded me ever so much of the "naughty seat" of my childhood. I followed directions and sat down on the little low seat (weird but strangely meditative) inside the vinyl listening chamber. It reminded me of those curved archaic Greek bench seats were you can hear a person whispering 20 feet away. Bravo! Brava! Welcome to the audio world Mr. O'Polka!
Room 409: Room The La Rosita room was very attractive and comfortable. (These things matter when you are trying to cover 50 rooms in three days and still have a smile to share at the end.) La Rosita CEO/Designer Bellity Dan played classy enjoyable music including the Verve masterpiece Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster which sounded clean, natural, easy rolling, and made me want to linger and relax even more. Several of my audio running buddies have expressed doubts about the Stenheim speakers but I enjoyed music in every room that employed them. Here the Stenheim, "Alumines" ($19,500/pair) were driven to good effect by the La Rosita "Tender" amp ($13,000) and "Cloud 9" preamp ($6000).