Walking into the Vegas Image Audio room made one thing obvious. Roy Insco brought the toys with him. He brought all the toys with him.
Looming over the room like Darth Vader’s stereo was one of only seventeen pairs of the hallowed VMPS RM/X Elixir. The masterpiece of the late Brian Cheney, with input from the late James Bongiorno, the RM/X was the belle of the ball more than a decade ago. Unlike so many fashionable speakers, though, the RM/X has aged very well. A half-dozen of the dearly missed Monsoon planar elements line up the front of a curved baffle. A flexible ribbon tweeter tops the pile. The base is bass, with big ass drivers and big ass passive radiators. The whole shebang may look like it belongs in Darth Vader’s bachelor pad, but the sound is wholly modern, nimble, and full. As far as unobtanium goes, these things are the audio equivalent of a supercharged Cord 812. You can’t have them. You’re just not cool enough to have them.
The other stuff in the room? That’s fine. You’re cool enough to have them.
Most obvious coolosity came from the TriangleArt platter spinners at the front of the room. TriangleArt has embraced a design school that teaches that success comes from excess. Massive platters are the order of the day. If massive platters don’t fit, fall back on bling. If at all possible, add more mass and more bling. You’ll eventually wind up with the modestly named Flagship Ultimate LE ($129,000) that dominated the center of the room.
Roy, who isn’t entirely nuts, and who was probably still mad that he had to haul that thing up to the fifth floor, was favoring the slightly more reasonable Signature turntable with a 12″ Osiris arm and an Apollo MC cartridge ($29,795 for the combo). An almost affordable Concerto table combination (just under $13k) didn’t see any action while we were here.
Amplification came from Serbia’s Nat Audio. A Signature Phono pre ($10,000), a Magnetostat linestage ($19,500), and the utterly mad Magma 160 watt SET ($50,000) filled the gaps between the cartridge and the speakers. Cables and power conditioning were sourced from TriangleArt.
I honestly forgot to keep notes about what we were listening to here. So did Kirsten. I remember that it was jazz, that it was familiar, and that I had to sit down. This was a system that specialized in palpability. Piano came across as natural, with no timing errors, and no shortage of proper resonance. It was very close to what I always imagined I’d find in a mythical SET-powered SoundLab. In other words, it was probably worth the cash.
And you know what? I didn’t care at all.
I didn’t care because of what Roy piled in the back corner. A 15″ AE driver and a stunning wood horn meant to hold an AER driver sat there teasing the things to come. It seems that Roy finds the RM/X somewhat unsatisfying in terms of speed and impact, and he’s looking to remedy that situation with extreme belligerence. In other words, the guy who set up this room is planning to show us all a horn speaker.
I worked for and with the late Brian Cheney of VMPS and heard this RM/X model plenty of times, including CES, THE Show, at least one client’s home in San Francisco where I helped Brian deliver and set them up, in Brian’s LEDE sound room, etc.
Early 2000 RM/X shared CES Best of the High End Award with Bongiorno’s SST Trinaural Processor (we set up three matched RM/X at that show).
At that time Brian’s power amp was Bongiorno’s SST Ampzilla Mk1 (Mk2 is hugely improved). He also had a superb vinyl rig: John Curl’s Vendetta SCP-2B MC phono preamp, SOTA TT, George Merrill’s lead/foam TT mat (arguably the world’s best), SME IV, Koetsu Rosewood MC. Unfortunately, by the time the RM/X arrived Brian transitioned mostly to digital, comprising the original $12k Krell transport and $10k Wadia 27ix DAC.
Brian’s digital rig and SST amp were OK, but surely don’t hold a candle to the vinyl/tube amp gear Roy employed at RMAF. Roy coaxed better RM/X performance than I ever heard from that model.
I planned on just saying “Hi” to Roy and Donna, wishing them well, and being on my way. The sound made me hover a lot longer than I planned.
Good job Roy and Donna! Can’t wait to hear the horn system!