RMAF12: Day 1 Multi-Pack (Part 3) — SVS, Melody, Polk, Playback, George Warren, Sonist, Coincident, Music Hall, Boulder, Music Culture, PTE

Another of roll up post. I didn’t get to spend enough time in any of these rooms, but I was curious about each.

Consider this more of a photo journalistic survey than anything else. Most of the comments come from volunteer Mal Kenny. He and his wife toured the show, end to end, and given my inopportune departure, kindly offered to fill in some blanks for me.

SVS had a really pretty new loudspeaker suite, with some very fine aesthetics. Really nice look and feel to the new gear.

Melody has some brand new reference pieces that caught my eye — a 101d tube preamp? Love to try that one.

Polk was showing with Peachtree, and affordability brought serious slam and great sound for a fraction of the rooms on the rest of that floor. Nice.

Playback & Evolution paired up with BMC this year. These speakers always seem to wow the crowds. Very popular room. From Mal:

Jonathan Tinn’s rooms always sound great, and this was no exception. The comparison between tape and double-dsd was pretty educational.

George Warren turntables are certainly eye-catchers. Mørch tonearms swung over the table. Jolida drove the Dynaudio. Mal says “the Moerch DP-8 arm is my new standard. I’m saving my pennies now.

I’ve been a fan of Sonist for several years now, and the big Concerto 4 is a bargain. deHavilland, Cary and Increcable were in the rack. Snake River‘s iridescent cables wound all over the place. From Mal Kenny:

Randy’s speakers impress me more every time I listen to them. At less than six grand, he’s doing a fine job of spreading the high-ef gospel. The news here, though, was Increcable’s $5,500, 80 watt tube integrated. Randy’s speakers didn’t need that much juice, but the combination let every bit of that Cary sound come right through.

Coincident had the usual suite of gear on hand. Great sound. As usual.

Music Hall, Creek and Aktimate pulled together a humdinger.

From Mal Kenny:

Did you hear that cheapo system nailing it? I would have killed for this sound a few years ago. KILLED. This is the kind of system that anyone with a decent job can afford if they want to. After hearing it, I suspect most people would want to.

Boulder Amplifiers makes some tour-de-force audio technology. Interesting to see them here with the significantly down-market loudspeakers from Vienna Acoustics. From Mal Kenny:

Wow. Talk about an iron fist. This was an impressive room, but I didn’t listen to anything other than the amazing, Rockport-levels of bass that Boulder was wringing out of those little Viennas. My God, that stuff has control.

I’ve been meaning to circle back around to hang out with the Music Culture crew, but still haven’t managed to do it yet. Missed opportunity — the sound in here was delightful.

Did you get a chance to hear the A-D/D-A live conversions at RMAF? That was here, in the Precision Transducer Engineering room. Mal has a vote for Best in Show:

Saving the best for last here.

These ungainly, unstylish, active speakers were making some of the very best sound at the show. I went back repeatedly, and I’m trying to figure out how to justify the cost of a pair.

I’m a charter member of the Church of the Holy Tube and Giant Horn, and this little box with its IC poweramps built-in blows my mind.

Within their limits (call it about 110db peak and down to 30hz), these things were just solid. They sound-staged better than any other box speaker I heard at the show, and their dynamics were among the best I heard all weekend.

No matter what kind of music we listened to, the PTE Phoenix just dragged me into it. A Basie CD? It jumped. Gillian Welch? It made you cry. Graceland on Vinyl? Man, if you liked the Modwright room, this was even better.

The PTE Phoenix is the sleeper of the show. It’s just a perfectly matched system. I heard nothing dramatically better all weekend. I heard nothing else that I wanted to take home that came in within a grand of this thing, and this thing includes the amps.

Six grand (give or take) for amps, speakers, and stands. Toss in an Antelope DAC, and you have some of the finest sound of the show for less than $10k.

On top of that, PTE makes a $1500 phono pre that, to my ears, easily bests my Plinius Koru in every way. And that’s just a sideline.

Basically, Jim Rush knows how to design filters in a way that most people can only grasp at. This guy is a powerhouse. I just wish he made prettier stuff.

There was nothing that sounded this good at anything like the price. I am in awe.

Ask me about sponsorship!


  1. I missed the summation of the PTE spkrs in the Nov Rmaf 2012 review. I 2nd all that Mal has to say regards the PTE’S!! I too, love horns/tubes! (Avant-garde duo’s/Wavac 845) The Phoenix’s come close in overall performance! I can justify a pair to own! The problem is finding the Fran’s to make it happen!??? 🙂

  2. PTE was one of the sleepers @ the show. I wish that I would have spent much more time in that room, to get the full gestalt of what these speakers (system?) is capable of! Yes, I would agree, that the look of the speaker box could use some design help. I’d like to hear their statement speaker to get a handle on the ultimate sound of the line…I wonder how long it will take to see these hit one of the major review magazines?

  3. The Boulder amps and the Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Baby Grands may be in different price brackets, but the Vienna Acoustics speakers are not a down market product.

  4. It is nice to hear about great sounding audio that everyman can afford, let;s see more from SVS, KEF, Music Hall/Creek/Epos, Odyssey, PTE, Jolida, Peachtree, Polk, Evolution Acoustics, Black Cat, M&G Audio Designs, Wyred4Sound, and Rega.

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