I don’t habitually do a “best in show” thing, especially when I know I haven’t actually had opportunity to listen to everything available. But RMAF is so dauntingly huge that I really want to take the opportunity to call out some of the rooms and manufacturers who are doing great work. So, take all this with a grain of salt, and also understand that it’s not so much “best in show” as “the best stuff Kirsten saw and heard before she became so overwhelmed that she threatened to run away and live with the parking lot rabbits.”
Best Looking Room
Ok, we all know that the Ayre room pretty much stole the show. There’s no way anyone can top a fake record store that was so effective an illusion that they were actually doing a brisk business in record sales.
But I want to make sure credit for great set dressing also goes to Roksan UK. They transformed a suite into an art gallery, showcasing artist Jay Paul Apodaca’s work as well as the artistry of the Oxygene integrated amp, and it was exceptionally effective. This was sort of aspirational advertising at its finest, a room that says to you, “The thing you love? That’s art. And it belongs here in a museum.” It was kind of an oasis of ultracool, and the illusion of being in a gallery rather than in a hotel was nearly total.
Right, well. Again, I have two strong contenders for this one. My overall winner, when all’s said and done, was the Joseph Audio/VPI room. Elvis has never sounded that good to me, and that’s saying a lot. The component matching was just masterful; I really felt like everything’s strengths meshed in ways that were just spectacular.
But honestly? I know that the VAC/Tannoy room did not have the most “correct” sound at the show, but walking into that room was like coming home. I don’t currently have Tannoys in heavy rotation, but back when I was first getting into hifi, Mal and I lucked into a pair of Tannoy DMT’s at a ridiculously good price, and I babyducked on those things like crazy. So the pleasure I experienced at hearing the Tannoy Kingdom Royals take a hefty dose of VAC amplification and power their way through “Atom Tan” is hard to overstate. I don’t think anything else made me grin so hard, except…
Most Fun Sound
The most FUN I had at RMAF, next to the aforementioned Tannoys, was listening to Nina Simone on the old RCA LC-1A monitors Emia brought along for giggles. Or maybe it was Talking Heads in the Endeavor room. Or maybe it was Massive Attack in the Classic Audio Reproductions room…
You get the idea. The most fun I had was whenever I spent some time in a room and found myself thinking, “Oh, I’ve never heard it sound that alive,” or “Holy crap, I didn’t think this system could do that!” or “GodDAMN, really?” As long as I keep hearing things that knock me back on my heels a little bit, I’m not going to stop going to these shows. I suspect I’ll be going for quite some time.