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RMAF 2015 Part 2

10-25-2015 | By Mark Pearson | Issue 82

I have some more pictures to share from RMAF and a few more thoughts about the show.  Below is a picture of the Einstein/AF-2 room. I think the AF-2 is a great looking table, but nothing much was happening when I visited the room so I really don’t have much to share beyond the pictures.

ANOTHER PICTURE OF THE AF 2 AND EINSTEIN ROOM

AF 2 EINSTEIN ROOM

The Avantgarde Duo Mezzo XD room had tons of potential to sound great. They had a Bergman table with a linear tracking arm which had some issues the two times I visited. When the arm was tracking correctly, the sound was very special and I wanted to hear more. As the arm was tracking further into the LP, something happened that caused popping noises through the speakers. I left the room and came back at a later time because I felt the room had so much promise. However, they were still having the same issues the second time I visited which was unfortunate because I do think this system had the potential to be among the best at the show.

AVANTGARDE DUO MEZZO XD SPEAKERS

I was very excited to visit the NOLA room to witness and hear the debut of the brand new NOLA KO 2 speakers. Since I own a pair of the original NOLA KOs, I had more than a passing interest in hearing the KO 2s. According to Carl, the changes from the KOs to the KO 2s included changing out the eight midrange drivers for new carbon fiber midrange drivers, changes to the three crossover boards in each enclosure, upgraded Nordost internal wiring, and retuning the bass enclosures. The price has increased from $10k for the original KOs to $12k for the KO 2s. 

BACK OF KO 2 SPEAKERS

FRONT OF KO 2 SPEAKER

When I fell in love with the original KO speakers at RMAF 2012, Carl was demoing them with an ARC CD-8, Ref 5SE, Ref 75, and a gabillion dollars worth of Nordost Odin cables. The speaker cables alone are over $40k. It was no accident that when I bought the NOLA KO speakers, I also bought an ARC Ref 5SE and Ref 75 because I knew how great this combination sounded. Plus, I have been a fan of Audio Research for many years and have owned lots of ARC gear. This year at RMAF, Carl was using a VAC integrated amp with his trusty ARC CD-8 as the source and the usual gabillion dollars worth of Nordost wires.

I am going to hold off for now on my impressions of the NOLA KO 2s for several reasons. I’m pretty sure the pair Carl was playing was brand new and not fully broken in yet and second, I’m not familiar with the VAC integrated amp that Carl was using. Below are some pictures I took of the KO 2s. I tried to show you what the new midrange drivers look like from the back as well as a close up of the front of the drivers.

I visited the Saskia turntable room because Win Tinnon is an interesting guy and I think his turntable deserves to be heard.  You never know what gear you will find in Win’s room. At RMAF 2014 Win showed up with some antique RCA/Olsen speakers and some 3 watt tube amps to drive them. This year Win had a custom pair of Quad ESL-57 speakers in fancy cabinets complete with a custom EL-34 tube amp built onto the back of the speakers. The tube amp was actually two separate amps from what I was told with one channel driving the bass panels and the other channel driving the treble panels. Below are some pictures of the front and back of the Quad speakers and the Saskia table.  Oh, and the room sounded nice. I would love to hear the Saskia table with modern high end gear that people are familiar with.

SASKIA TURNTABLE

ESL 57 IN SASKIA ROOM

CUSTOM BUILT EL-34 AMP FOR THE ESL 57

The Mojo Audio Room was interesting to hear. I’m currently reviewing the Mojo server, DAC, and outboard power supply so I was curious as to the sound they were achieving under show conditions vice what I’m achieving in my room. The speakers being used are actually owned by Benjamin Zwickel who is the owner of Mojo Audio. The speakers are Magnepan 1.7 speakers with massive custom made Sound Anchor stands and custom tricked out crossovers by Benjamin. The Mojo Audio room sounded very good, but I’m not spilling the beans on my listening impressions of the Mojo setup in my room. Stay tuned for the review. What I will say is that Mojo Mystique 2.0 DAC only plays PCM and was therefore designed to appeal to those who are committed to the PCM format and want to extract the best sound they can from their PCM files.

MOJO AUDIO ROOM

The Rogers High Fidelity room was a very good sounding room. This was the first time I was able to get up close and personal with the Rogers’ gear and it looks even better in person than it does in the pictures. I think that most people who follow the high end have read the marketing ads and realize how serious Roger Gibboni is about building tube gear to military specifications. Roger’s background bio shows that he is an electrical engineer who has designed communications and radar gear for both the Department of Defense and NASA.

ROGERS HIGH FIDELITY WITH CLOSE UP OF THE AVENGER AND PA-1A PHONO SECTION

ROGERS HIGH FIDELITY

Anyone who has been around gear that is used by the military understands that the technicians who perform the soldering are certified to different J-STDs. This is both expensive and not a one-time certification which is why you don’t see many high end companies bragging about their employees having J-STD soldering certifications. Roger Gibboni is bragging about his employees.

Rogers High Fidelity currently has 4 products in their line-up which include three integrated amps and a phono preamp. 

I took some pictures of the Sony/Pass Labs VFET amps just because I think they look cool and they are cool because they use VFETs as output devices.

SONY VFET AMP IN CHAD'S ROOM

George Counnas, owner of Zesto Audio was debuting his new Class A tube monoblock amps, the Eros 300. These amps use six KT-88 output tubes per channel to give you 150 watts of Class A power. Like the other components in the Zesto line, the Eros 300 are beautiful looking amps, and George is always quick to give his lovely wife Carolyn credit for the design of the Zesto products.

George was using different speakers in his room this year than the TADs he used last year and I have to admit a preference for the sound George had last year with the TAD speakers. Last year in George’s room, I heard enough of the Zesto Andros 1.2 phono preamp to pique my interest. I was able to subsequently review the Andros 1.2 and confirmed my initial positive impressions that I heard at RMAF 2014 with LPs I brought to play. I ended up purchasing the Andros 1.2. I would love to hear the Eros 300 amps in my system so I could report back on what I hear in Mark’s Music Room.

ZESTO AUDIO ROOM WITH KARMA SPEAKERS

ZESTO AUDIO NEW CLASS A AMPS

ZESTO AUDIO FULL RACK

So that's it for me for this year's RMAF. I had a great time, and I did get to hear some very good systems and pick up some 'new' LPs as well.

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