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Lone Star Audio Fest 2015 Show Report

07-25-2015 | By Norman Tracy | Issue 81

With the bluebonnets in bloom spring is a lovely time to travel in Texas.


Bluebonnet the Lone Star state flower

For music loving audiophiles no better excuse can be had for a springtime drive in Texas than the Lone Star Audio Fest held in Dallas, the first weekend of May for the past 11 years. The first two shows were held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, there known as Great Plains Audio Fest, in 2007 the event moved to Dallas, Texas, and was rechristened Lone Star Audio Fest. LSAF is a laid back regional event where with little effort a good time can be had by all. With this report, I intend to share with you both the vibe, and interesting news from LSAF 2015. Lone Star Audio Fest is known as a haven for DIY (or shall we use the more trending term 'makers'), and incubator of hi-fi startups. Also present are established brands aware of the reality that with the demise of so many brick and mortar hi-fi shops, the regional audio show is the best way to get in front of customers. The venue is an Embassy Suites Hotel, thus, with every guest suite featuring a living room in front and bedroom to the rear, for the cost of an event-discounted room, one can setup one's system(s) and join the fun. For the more ambitious, ground floor conference rooms are available to house larger displays. It was in one of these I discovered what I consider this reports 'big scoop,' you will need to read on to find out about that. LASF is an entirely volunteer run show. Founded by Wayne Parham, he has kept it going for over a decade out of a love for music and hi-fi. The past couple of years Steven Solazzo has stepped up on the administration, allowing Wayne to throttle back a bit. Lori and Duke LeJeune of AudioKinesis also deserve special mention for manning the registration table. When a compression driver failure precluded AudioKinesis' planned exhibit, Mr. and Mrs. LeJeune attended anyway, and pitched in on the administrative side. All administration and promotion for LSAF is by such volunteers, this report being your author’s contribution.

 Before reporting on the rooms let me add a disclaimer and brief bio about your author and his take on the reporting of hi-fi shows. An audiophile of many decades, I am in the last most advanced stages of the condition having several years ago founded an audio company known as Audio Crafters Guild. I have attended CES, T.H.E. Show, exhibited at RMAF, and LSAF. Yes, including LSAF 2015. Normally a manufacturer reporting on the work of in some cases his competitors would be verboten and a clear conflict of interest. Alas, the reporter from the New York Times apparently missed her flight, so it falls to me to get the word out for all of us. I will also follow my dear mother's advice, "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." That will be easy, as the standard of sound was high and I can honestly say there were no bad sounding rooms, rather varying levels of good. Be aware the photos and information I did gather were obtained in four different hour long sessions when I would close my exhibit and venture out. Thus more time was spent taking pictures and interviewing exhibitors than vying for time in the rooms' sweet spots. Please do not read into the length of my reporting on a given room that brevity or more in depth coverage is indicative of sound quality. Hi-fi show reporting is a bit of a crap shoot, and if I was powering along, or the exhibitor was busy, the result is less facts to report. One exhibitor does get a lengthy write up both because I consider their new company very news worthy and I found them Saturday evening and thus had the luxury of a two hour listening session.

All this also jives with my general disdain of the peculiar sport of obsessive compulsive analysis and then ranking of high-end audio equipment based on listening in hotel room exhibits. Like anyone who has been on the exhibiting side given the variables involved I will testify that is a bit of a fool's errand. My goal is to inform audiophiles of the options available. And of course apologies to the exhibitors I missed.

This is 2015 so here is the selfie.


Your author Norman Tracy

So without further delay let's check out some LSAF 2015 exhibits.

Room 201 Pete Millett and Landfall Systems

room 201

So many combinations, so little time!

Stepping into the room shared by Pete Millett and Landfall Systems I had two immediate reactions:

These are my people, we must share some DNA. They have a speaker with the same Fostex FE108 sigma driver I am using and another painted 'Altec Green,' again, like mine.

Same driver and color? Is this what the girls who show up at prom in the same dress feel like? At least mine uses a different architecture.

Seriously now, I got to hear the green speakers featuring a Jordan full range driver in a Millett designed 1/4 wave enclosure driven by his amplification chain. I own a pair of Jordans myself, those in the small sealed enclosure option. The larger Millett enclosures do an excellent job of allowing the small drivers to produce bass with surprising depth and precision. This is a feat akin to finding the Holy Grail for full range driver enthusiasts; getting the bass along with the transparency, speed, and coherence the Jordan is known for.


Pete is a busy fellow.


Room 201 featured both digital and analog sources.

The sound was very good indeed. The smallish cement reinforced rooms were kind to those of us using smaller speakers. Millett's enclosure and upstream electronics were doing very good things.


Yes, it's a party Texas audio nerd style. Notice Pete and David's keg in the cooler by the front door.


Early front runner, Most Tubes on A Chassis award LSAF 2015

Given the design and build quality of the Millett amps I was surprised to learn, when visiting his web site, that this is a DIY endeavor. Now of course there are many levels of DIY, in Pete's case it is fully professional quality because he is a professional electrical engineer by day. Like many of us the 'day job' pays the bills and high end hi-fi is the avocation. Initially fooled by the production quality all metal precision machined enclosures, I soon learned the 'secret' is room 201's co-exhibitors Landfall Systems.


Landfall Systems' chassis examples on display

Landfall Systems is David Flores and Saer Ford. Examples of their work, in addition to Millett's amps in the front room's rack, were displayed in the suite's back room as shown above. They have invested in a series of extrusions and metal milling capabilities and relationships with metal finishing shops to allow production of custom enclosures.                


Millett's 815 amplifiers

Saer Ford is seen in the mirror above and Pete Millett's 815 amplifiers built into Landfall Systems enclosures in the foreground. My discussions with David and Saer made it obvious they are well up the learning curves of their equipment, materials, and processes. For example note the tolerances and tight join lines of these enclosures.


Tubes and LCD?!?!!

Big Regret #1 LSAF 2015 is that I failed to insist we immediately audition Millett's 815 amplifiers. This would be the spot to insert the obligatory 'not enough time' disclaimer every audio show report requires. Read about the amps on his web site including the use of the color LCD display. The very cool pin heat sinks tailored to the exposed tube aesthetic are another Pete Millett design available from Landfall Systems or his eBay store.


Millett PCB Landfall Enclosure

This photo shows one of the Pete Millett design boards available off his eBay store installed in a Landfall Systems case. We will presume when not going to a show a bottom panel is used to keep it safe.


Tube? Meter? Display?

And the finale from Room 201, apparently Pete Millett is nothing if not prolific and creative. What I first guessed were some obscure Russian indicator tubes are actually designed and made by Millett! Apparently these are not quite in production so join me in urging Pete to share them with the rest of us.

Room 203 Van Zyl Audio, Found Music, Essence of Music

Who is up for some horns and their natural partner’s small watt SET amplifiers?


1812 Backfire speaker and Found Music 45 SET amp

Room 203 featured the new 1812 Backfire horn speaker by Van Zyl Audio driven by a direct coupled SET amp from Found Music featuring the legendary 45 tube. Readers into triode power tube exotica know a 45 in SET configuration means power output in low single digit range. Walking into this room one would never guess all the sweet detailed full range music present was coming from one watt.


Found Music SET 45 tube mono amp and source rack.

I am digging the use of fine vintage Sony ES CD player to serve up the bits to the Resonessence Labs DAC. Note the use of only three tubes in the Found Music SET amp, obviously here is a chance to experience the results of electronic minimalism. Scott Sheaffer is the principle of Found Music and he is the designer and builder of the amps. They use a 7A4 input/driver tube DC coupled to the 45 power tube all powered by the mercury rectifier tube. His cable line actually grew from the amplifier work as the wire solutions from inside the amp designs yielded interconnects, power, and speaker cables. The exhibit system was completely wired with Found Music cables.


1812 Backfire by Van Zyl Audio

The 1812 Backfire is a new design for Van Zyl Audio. His previous works are also back loaded horns; however those are in a narrower deeper tower configuration. The new architecture of wide and tall, but with a reduced depth, allows a big bass horn to be more room and shipping friendly. The 1812 is a true bass horn that fits in less than palatial rooms and does not require the services of piano movers to install. Designed for wall placement this provides 45 Hz bass. The driver is a full range unit directly coupled to the horn for 7 octaves loading and the resulting lowering of distortion. The 45 degree angle of the horn's exit and wall loading allow it to be effectively 47% larger compared to a front exit horn. The elegant wood framed gloss black front view and angled rear horn exit makes for an aesthetic that is much more acceptable for those of us with non-audiophile partners. Here is a look with a chance to make it out of the bachelor pad or man cave and into the living room.

Regret #2 LSAF 2015 I did not get a chance to extensively audition this system from the listening position. Time too limited and there was a constant stream of visitors who were glued to the sweet spot.


The Found Music cables and Essence of Music disk treatment products on display.

Robert Spence of Essence of Music is offering a very reasonably priced sample size disk treatment package for users to try his system. He especially urges investigating the system prior to ripping disk collections to hard drive for music server users.

Room 204 ACG

Simple and minimal was the concept for your author's ACG room. As previously mentioned the solid hotel rooms work well with smaller speakers and I was quite pleased with the resulting sound.


Fostex FE108EΣ Speakers

My strong preference for connecting amplifiers directly to the speaker drivers leads to a fondness of electronic crossovers, bi/tri/quad amped OR full range systems. For LSAF 2015 the latter is featured a back loaded horn system using the Fostex FE108EΣ. The sigma series ES cone weighing just 2.7 grams responds instantly as its origami reminiscent folded Hyperbolic Paraboloid cone reproduces even the finest filigreed musical details. This system leaves the upstream components nowhere to hide as every nuance of the performance is revealed.



JRiver media player sends high resolution data to the LHLabs Geek Out 1000 DAC/headphone amp.


 ACG 1000 Amplification

Audio Crafters Guild amplification features the 1000 Direct Amp + 1000 Energy Pack. The 1000 Direct Amp is the most esoteric of the 1000 series models, a single input 'integrated' dual-mono amp with a direct hardwired input and switched resistor ladder attenuator. This unit is ACG's R&D development 'mule' and has its op-amps upgraded to designed-for-audio units from Texas Instruments, Multicap low impedance bypass caps and the latest Mundorf MLytic black titanium oxide caps take power supply noise to a new low. Audio Crafters Guild 1000 Energy Pack further upgrades the power supply with dual-mono low impedance Panasonic and Wima capacitor banks.


Room 207 Stereo Clarity

One cannot have a hi-fi show without a big line source system and Stereo Clarity showed up to oblige.


Steven Solazzo and crew had transformed their suite into a theater to showcase the BRH76 line source speakers and OneSource HTPC.

On a live Dire Straits cut the sound was warm, smooth, and detailed with the effortlessness that comes from large radiating area speakers driven by clean power.


OneSource HTPC (Home Theater PC) is the really unique thing in the Stereo Clarity room. Unlike a typical HTPC it includes power amplification, thus as the name implies it is a one box just add speakers solution. Stephen has configurations for both stereo audio centric use as shown or audio plus video models. Details at this link.

By day Steven Solazzo is an IT professional with a major computer company specializing in data mirroring, backup, and recovery. This is a prime example of how LSAF takes place in the heart of the Texas Austin/DFW high technology corridor and is a great place to network with and access the talents of some very smart individuals.

Room 211 Audio Thesis

Audio Thesis is Skip Worth a dealer out of Denton Texas. He had systems set up in two rooms, Skip please accept my apologies that I only made it to one of your rooms.


Usher Audio Mini X monitors anchored the system.


Matching Usher Audio Waveguide stands.


Amplification and sources

Shuguang S200mk preamp and S845mk monoblocks. Essence Audio HDACC DAC. Cables provided by Douglas Connection.

Bright emitter power tubes call for some shots with the flash off.


Ah, the glow of the bright emitter power triode

The 845 is a serious power tube. I do not think I have ever heard a system using 845s or 211s sound bad. Apparently playing in this league keeps the beginners and pretenders out.


Triode light show

The sound was smooth, sophisticated, and obviously high caliber.

Room 212 Blowtorch Audiowerks

Blowtorch Audiowerks showcased their D'Appolito array speaker.


The No Names

When I spoke to Rick of Blowtorch Audiowerks about his speakers he just told me they are the "No Names" and used Hi Vi drivers. I liked his attitude; they were having a good time sounding good.


Blowtorches for Blowtorch Audiowerks

I especially liked the lit antique blowtorches decorating the room and highlighting the display.


Blowtorch Audiowerks system sources

Rega transport and Chord DAC front end. There also appears to be a miniature audio server lurking in there as evidenced by the now playing display on the screen above the rack.


Blowtorch power

Jolida JD 801ARC provided the audio power, and heat. The blowtorches had been converted from gas to LED operation.

Room 214 5one2audio


Party on, Garth

What’s this, ANOTHER PARTY?!?!! Don't you guys know high-end audio is SERIOUS STUFF!


Everyone brings something and we make a system

LSA monitors, Ayre QB9 DSD DAC, Klyne phono pre, DYI server loaded with around 20,000 songs, including plenty of Hi-Rez stuff, and DIY amplifier from 5one2audio club members' collections.


Ortofon cartridge, on Well Tempered Turntable, plenty of albums.




5one2audio system sources

5one2audio is an audio club based in Austin Texas. The system displayed and sounding rather fine was assembled from various members' components brought along as they came over to Dallas to enjoy the show. Discussions with members of 5one2audio revealed they meet in each others' homes enjoying the camaraderie of a shared love of music and its hi-fi reproduction. It was pointed out to me that all are welcome and members' systems range from $1,500 to $750,000 rigs and what matters is not the price tag but rather the care with which a system is setup and enjoyed.

Room 215 Manzanita Audio Solutions

Manzanita Audio Solutions room featured their MAS 9.75-2 and MAS 12-2 Monitors.


MAS 9.75-2 monitors

When I visited their room Manzanita Audio Solutions were playing the MAS 9.75-2. Rated at a tube friendly 89 dBw sensitivity they are somewhat unique in being a sealed box design. When I got into hi-fi there were many good and great sealed box speakers and I have a personal opinion the type is under represented in today's market. They are domestic friendly being designed to be used close to rear walls. And wallet friendly at $1975 a pair including matching stands.


Meixing-Mingda 368B

Driving the system the Meixing-Mingda 368B integrated amp featuring KT-150 Tung Sol output tubes. Quite the visual treat with machined casework, retro repro balloon driver and the futuristic KT-150s power tubes.


The ever reliable OPPO universal player acted as a source.

I am guessing the OddWatt (oddwattaudio.com) amplifier was waiting to show off the MAS 12-2 Monitors. Alas I failed to get a photo of these a very traditional 12" woofer two way speakers rated at 95 dBw sensitivity designed for use with low power SET amplifiers.

Room 219 Douglas Connection

Douglas Connection is Doug Ashworth a source of some very nice cables, accessories, and DIY supplies.


Douglas Connection demo system based on Raven electronics and Sunfire speakers

As a show special Doug had a very good cash and carry deal on the Sunfire CRM-2 micro speakers. It was fun to hear how big these little guys sounded when driven by high-end tube power.


Apparently someone told Bob Carver the ideal speaker would be a point source, and he set about to make it happen.


Four 300Bs per monoblock, tasty

Raven Audio monoblocks effortlessly drove the CRM-2s. This is the level of gear one can find a LSAF.


HRT and Raven front end

What better match to the Raven amps than a Raven pre-amp? The USB DAC used was one of the better HRT units a brand Douglas Connection carries.


Douglas Connection's stock and trade

With 'connection' in the name it was hardly a surprise to find Doug doing a brisk business in cables. His wares looked very nice which is not a surprise considering he uses wire and connectors from the likes of Cardas, Vampire, Furutech, and new to me Furez.

Room 222 Raven Audio

Wow. That is what I said upon entering the Raven Audio room, I am thinking that was a typical reaction.


Raven Audio LSAF 2015 Demo SystemRaven Audio is headquartered near Austin Texas, kudos to Dave Thomas for bringing the a-game to LSAF. I believe being a Texas company Raven Audio was first publicly shown at an earlier LSAF and has gone on to enjoy deserved success. Note the framed PF Writers Choice award displayed by the main rack.


Heavy metal, shining aluminum and glass for your enjoyment

Yes, it is an audiophile candy store in room 222. If you noticed the mini-component stack please stand by, those are the prototypes for something we will get to momentarily.


Legacy speakers anchor the Raven Audio system

So you've been wondering if Legacy speakers are really as good as the reviews say, a trip to LSAF 2015 answers that question 'yes'. And it does not hurt that warm light bathes the scene from Arts And Crafts fixtures next to the orchids.


Raven Audio Reflection Integrated Amplifier

Based on what I had seen on the web (and the Douglas Connections room) this is what I expected to find in the Raven Audio room. And yes it is that gorgeous in person if not more so than this photo and your computer screen shows.

I source chassis for my ACG amplifiers. At my day job we have an in house machine shop that makes the enclosures for the pipeline industry electronics we sell to protect them from the chemicals and high pressure in pipelines and the bottom of the ocean. So I enjoyed a discussion with Dave Thomson about how he sources Raven's jewel like cases. As a strong supporter of on-shoring manufacturing for American companies I was very pleased to learn the cases are also made in Texas USA. Texas has many machine shops serving the high tech and oil industries. Finding the right one and working together to produce pieces like this in production quantities is no small accomplishment. A nick or tool mark that goes unnoticed on an oil field tool turns a Reflection top panel into scrap.


Raven Audio Blackhawk Limited Edition Amplifier

This is what I did not expect to find in the Raven Audio room, a quality Made in USA tube amp with NOS tubes and upgraded components for only $3295 and the very similar Nighthawk MkII is only $2295. On static display when this photo was taken the Blackhawk Limited Edition Amplifier will return later in this report where you will find it acquitted itself with honors.


Spotting the Goldfinch

With the sensory overload beginning to subside I turned back to the room's main system and the uniquely designed quartet of boxes on the top of the rack caught my eye.


Goldfinch Tabletop Audio System

A unique industrial design stood out even sitting on a shelf above the gorgeous Mytek Manhattan DAC. The beveled extruded aluminum cases sparkled with the same level of finish as the Reflection. I very much like the use of violin f-holes as part of the side ventilation slots.


Goldfinch Audio System Concept

Such a fresh look from a company that has specialized in the classic low box with tubes and transformers on top designs was totally unexpected. An obviously proud Dave Thomson explained the concept. The power supply can power one, two, or as seen here all three of the Goldfinch components. I knew I had a audio journalism scoop as he continued that the price of entry into the system starts at $1495 for the Tube DAC + Power Supply! Seen upper left is the Goldfinch Preamplifier / Headphone Amplifier, if that is all you need including the separate power supply it is $2895. Moving onto the Goldfinch Power Amplifier with the separate power supply it is $2995 including NOS 6AQ5 power tubes. I asked Dave if the 6AQ5 is a version of the oh so sweet sounding EL84? He replied in his opinion the 6AQ5 sounds even better as verified during Raven Audio's three year development project and NOS stocks are plentiful and inexpensive. So the good sound comes with low operating costs, you can re-tube the entire output stage quad of 6AQ5s for less than the cost of one good 6550.

As impressed as I was with the concept, styling, and execution of the Goldfinch Audio System I was further delighted to learn that the entire time I had been in the Raven Audio room it had been powering the big Legacy speakers the combo producing exactly what we call high-end reproduction. Hi-Fi is so much fun when these little surprises come along. Now if you are a math savant or quick with your calculator you already know the above prices add up to $7385. Not out of line with the sound I was hearing, and as jewel like as the Goldfinch is I expect some will opt for such a six box implementation. But remember one of the core concepts is the power supply can power the other three components simultaneously so the four box version I enjoyed at LSAF is just $5995 and can be built up in stages starting with a power supply and one of the components.

Alas, I did not quite score a true journalistic scoop. Pictures and details of the Goldfinch system are on Raven Audio's Facebook page and Dave tells me by the time you are reading this in PF the product will be on their web site. Regardless of my journalistic bragging rights it was a real treat to be among the first to hear Goldfinch sing so sweetly at LSAF 2015.

Room 223 The Black Hole Audio/Video

Retired analytic chemist Anthony Landry is an independent A/V consultant operating as The Black Hole Audio/Video.


With the flash off the room's subdued lighting tried to be true to the company's name.

In discussions with Anthony it became apparent he is really into high value high performing systems and maximizing musical enjoyment with brain power rather than just throwing cash at it. "Synergy regardless of price" as Anthony put it further explaining he wants to help people achieve their system goals because he loves people and loves music.


The Black Hole Audio/Video source and power amp.

As ones eyes acclimated (and I turned on the flash) we see a minimalist system based on a Parasound Classic 275 amplifier and carefully chosen source and control elements.


Teac, Musical Paradise MP-D1 tube DAC, and Goldpoint attenuator

The Teac PD-H600 acted as a digital source Anthony emphasizing his long experience with the reliability of Teac equipment. The Musical Paradise MP-D1 tube DAC, and Goldpoint attenuator are both items Anthony considers 'finds'. The MP-D1 for its very high performance to cost ratio and the Goldpoint for what he described as an 'addictive transparency'. The Goldpoint used featured their standard 0.5% Nichrome thin film low thermal noise SMD resistor option and Anthony was very pleased with the result.


Clearwave Audio Design Duet Six

The Accuton driver equipped Clearwave Audio Design (clearwavespeakers.com) Duet Six was playing when I visited room 223. Sounding very nice and quite the value at $2995/pair, an excellent price for a monitor using all Accuton drivers.

 Audes, (audes.ee) an Estonian companies' model 1.7T are the tower speaker seen in the background. I did not get to hear them, too bad as Anthony commented he thought the Audes were a more synergistic match to the display system.


Musical Paradise MP-D1 tube DAC interior view

Room 228 Pi Speakers

LSAF founder Wayne Parham is Pi Speakers and set up shop in room 228.


Pi Model three Pi speaker sans grills


Pi Model three Pi speaker with grills


SET amp, universal player, and a preamp keeping it simple and sweet


Audio Note UK SET amp and Denon universal player


Blue Sound Processor…what?

LSAF can be about the obscure, not even Google could tell me anything about this little box so details will have to come from Wayne.


It's an audio show, bring on the female vocals!

This visitor perhaps had some doubts about Adele, or maybe her hair? My camera's flash hides the low lighting allowing us to enjoy the Blu-ray of her Royal Albert Hall concert. It was easy to sit back and enjoy. She was having a good time on the video. We were having a good time in the real space. That was easy because Wayne is one of that group of designers including the likes of Dr. Bruce Edgar, Earl Geddes, and Duke LeJeune who have mastered the horn speaker. The result is smooth and easy with none of the dreaded PA speaker shout or stridency. The detail is all there and naturally presented. And when the joint gets jumping it is hard to beat the bass and dynamics of a 12" woofer + horn.  And kits for the three Pi speaker start at just $850.

Room 310 Bohemian Audio

Startup Bohemian Audio was featuring a freshly built bi-amped bi-polar speaker and their first product a high value phono pre-amp.


Bohemian Audio bi-amped bi-polar speaker playing Miles

By my count this speakers wins the award for newest item on display, finished just a couple of days before LSAF 2015 opened. Given that fact it was sounding quite nice.


Classic Pioneer PL-540 spins Kind of Blue

It was only fitting when your product is a phono stage to be spinning Miles Davis on a turntable from the golden age of the LP. I found it cool and touching listening to TC Carter tell the story of how he had inherited the turntable from his father and placed it back in service.


Bohemian Audio phono stage

 Looks like a lot of content and value at the price asked. It should be, their moto is "No Bull S__t Justs Works."


DSP crossover by MiniDSP

The secret sauce revealed on how to get a new paint still curing design bi-amped system sounding presentable in 48 hours. DSP crossover by MiniDSP and your crossover and filter tailoring is just a few mouse clicks away. Having experienced so many positive results in hi-fi involving bi and tri-amped systems I will freely admit being predisposed when I encounter the technique. Bohemian Audio’s sound quality did nothing to change that opinion.

Rooms 325 and 326 Mike Lundy

Mike Lundy is a woodworking craftsman par excellence who specializes in custom building the designs of Danny Richie the giant brain responsible for GR Research. He also does custom work for DIYers and OEMs.


Full range dipole GR Research Wedgies + H-frame bass bi-amplified system

Step into room 325 and this is exactly the exotica we come to an audio show to hear, isn't it? More about the mid/high frequency unit below, let us start with the bass. The woofer section is an H-frame dipole system the 'boxes' open on both the front and back. The center woofer in both stacks is reversed which lowers distortion and all the woofers are special units for open baffle applications driven by a dedicated Rythmik Audio servo control amplifiers using Rythmik's patented servo technology to further lower distortion. Rounding out the system is the Jolida JD5T Preamp, Oddwatt Poddwatt 5 watt tube amp driving the midrange/high frequency satellites, and Dodd Audio 32/384 hi-res DAC fed from the music server computer.


Wedgies atop 3x8" servo H-frames

The satellites handling the mid-bass through highs are called the "Wedgies." That is what happens when you let the guys on internet audio forums decide on your product name. Wedgies are a unique example of (and pardon the pun but it is absolutely true) out of the box thinking. The background and evolution of the Wedgies satellites can be followed on a presently 33(!!) page AudioCircle forum posting here. At first glance experienced audiophiles will call them a short line source, there is a lot more subtlety at play here. The four LGK 1.0 drivers receive varying bands of the signal thus controlling comb filtering effects. Richie is known as an expert in the BG planar tweeter used and has integrated it with the four other drivers using a shallow wave guide.


Wedgie side detail shows both Danny Richie's design and Mike Lundy’s craftsmanship.

This side view of the Wedgie shows the open back characteristic of a dipole allowing sound to radiate both front and rear. The folded back side panel is a defining feature of the Wedgie allowing a very narrow front baffle while simultaneously a long enough acoustic path between front and rear radiation to allow the four driver array of GR LGK 1.0 drivers to reach down and meet the woofers while also shaping the radiation pattern.


Desktop system featuring GR Research LGK 1.0 speakers

Adjacent to the big bipolar system Mike had set up a very nice desktop system. Perhaps a little too nice if I were to get any work done on this computer.


LGK 1.0 finished in a crotch walnut

The front end and power of the desktop system included the laptop with music interfaced to  IfI Micro iDSD USB DAC with Micro iUSB power supply to NAD C372 stereo amp driving the LGK 1.0s in this very highly specified desktop system. Mike pointed out how he has purposely stopped sanding the crotch walnut veneer on this pair at a point that retained the wood's swirling grain texture with a matte finish rather than go on sanding and finishing to high gloss and lose the grain's effect. As a fellow woodworker and lover of fine woods I recognized an experienced craftsman as I listened to Mike discuss such detail.


GR Research N1X in Mike Lundy enclosure

If it is glossy you want Mike can do that too. This pair of N1X glowed as if rubbed in gold thanks to the veneer chosen and multi-coat polished finish.


GR Research X-Omnis by Mike Lundy

Room 326 allowed more GR Research designs to be auditioned on a rotating basis. Depending on when you visited some visitors heard the NX1s shown above. When I visited I was pleased to find the GR Research X-Omnis playing. In the 1970s omni-directional speakers while not exactly common but did comprise a niche with models from several manufacturers. My opinion is in 2015 they are another underserved type offering a different yet perfectly valid approach to reproduction.  The X-Omnis lived up to expectations with the characteristic big "Cinemascope" room filling sound the type does so well. The forward firing tweeter blended well with the upward firing mid-woofer. It is a bit of an education to hear how well such a driver can work when heard 90 degrees off axis.


GR Research X-Omnis

Danny Richie says he originally designed the X-Omnis as a rear or side channel speaker for surround sound systems. It was when the prototypes were built it was discovered how well they also worked as stereo speakers. This pair is a work in progress brought to LSAF 2015 to allow us to hear the design. As someone who has made his share of sawdust I really appreciated the layout pencil lines on the bare MDF. Mike reports that when completed the vertical corners will be rounded over and the customer has specified a mahogany veneer.


Enclosure in process showing custom turquoise fill into worm maple veneer

Another work in process Mike brought was an enclosure for a custom commission using worm maple veneer. As the name implies this veneer is taken from maple trees that have been attacked by worms. The holes left by the boring worms allow the start of rot placing stripes of a browned color in with the maple characteristic golden yellow. Here Mike has filled the holes with turquoise powder sealed under the finish. This finish is about half done with more layers of finish and sanding remaining to build up the desired high gloss. Even half done they looked stunning.

I cannot finish reporting on the Lundy rooms without a shout out to Kyle, Mike's teenaged grandson who was along as his right hand man. With two rooms to setup and man he was all over it. During my demo of the X-Omnis he was running room 326 and discussing the omni sound with the other audiophiles in attendance. Outgoing and personable I saw him chatting with show goers all around the venue Saturday. Sunday as the show broke down and we loaded and checked out I ran into Mike and Kyle at the front desk. When I asked how his show had gone one of the points Mike made was that some of his best leads for OEM work had come from Kyle visiting the other rooms getting the business done with the other industry attendees. It was great seeing the pride in Mike's eyes and hearing it in his voice as he told me about Kyle's contributions.

Carrollton Room  JWM Acoustics

Let me begin reporting on JWM Acoustics with a disclaimer. What I discovered displayed in the Embassy Suites Carrollton Room pushed so many of my buttons aligning with what I personally want from luxury high end hi-fi that what follows is as much new convert gushing as detached objective reporting. The beauty of the product is immediately stunning. Determined not to be taken in by just another pretty face I tried to find fault with the sound or underlying technology and failed. My conclusion is I was looking at and listening to, especially in high-end audio's loudspeaker space, The Next Big Thing.


JWM Acoustics Loudspeakers

JWM Acoustics loudspeakers line is presently three models deep. The two driver NET-1 monitor, the three drivers Alyson AML large monitor, and the four driver Jane JKM floor standing flagship. These were being driver by Balanced Audio Technology electronics, REX Preamplifier, VK-P10SE Phono Stage and the VK-655SE amplifier. Source for digital playback OPPO BD-105D as both disk and file player. Most of the time I listened it was in the analog domain using JWM Karen 3 or Karen 6 turntables via Ortofon cartridges. Cables loom by Nordost rounded out a system that should satisfy all but the most snobbish audiophiles bona fides. With JWM Acoustics at the front and back end of the demo system let's start at the front with the Karen turntables.


JWM Acoustics Karen 3 turntable

Half a dozen steps into the Carrollton Room and this sight stopped me in my tracks. I may not be completely sure about a cow hide platter mat. I am absolutely certain of the allure of a stunning piece of wood expertly shaped and finished in an impeccable shape defined by real industrial design.


A second turntable the JWM Acoustics Karen 6

Look at those curves and bevels. If you are as into fine woods as I am you have already noticed this is a different piece of wood and both examples are not just the next length to come off the raw board. Grain patterns like these are the result of a craftsman's eye selecting first the raw lumber and then where on the board to cut.

Recovering my audiophile sensibilities it was apparent and confirmed by Jeanette Miles who was running my initial demo that JWM Acoustics bases the Karen turntables on OEM components from Rega. Subsequent listening showed the recipe of hardwood plinth and proven English platter, bearing and motor is a winner.


A craftsman's detail is apparent.

The logo and model name of the Karen turntables and the speakers are cut into the wood and along with its fine grain and color sparkle out from under the finish.


JWM Acoustics Accessories display

JWM Acoustics accessories include the Karen Control power supply for use with the turntable and the Cable Cradles cable lifters.


Split Cable Cradles used with Nordost speaker cables in the display system


Joshua W. Miles fine arts portfolio

I mentioned above, Jeanette Miles was running my initial demo and between records she was telling me about the products including explaining the design and build is the work of her husband Joshua. As it transpires the 'JWM' in JWM Acoustics are the initials of Joshua W. Miles. Prior to starting JWM Acoustics Joshua has excelled in multiple media in the fine art crafts including work in ceramics, sculpture, painting/lacquer work, and photography. His impressive resume includes fine arts degrees followed by work as a professional artist and teaching fine craft.

I call my company Audio Crafters Guild because I draw inspiration from the Arts & Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The legacy of that movement is the fine arts craft artists working today in wood, glass, metals, fibers, and ceramics to elevate the object to the level of art. Or shall we say bring art to the object? Hearing his resume while standing in the presence of and listening to the objects Joshua W. Miles created I understood why I was having such a strong reaction to what on one level are just another line of speakers and a couple of turntables. Sure and the three generations of Moulthrops just make wood bowls (link).

So, let's check out Joshua's speakers.


Alyson AML large monitors playing next to NET-1


Alyson AML close-up


Jane JKM floor standing flagship profile


Jane JKM external crossover

The Alyson AML close-up above is the only photo I managed to take that even hints at the beauty and fine craftsmanship evident in these speakers. The contrast between the color of the wood baffles and the black piano lacquered sides is stunning when seen in person. The optical flatness and polish of the sides and wood panels is the equivalent of what one sees on a high gloss finish optioned Yamaha or Steinway grand piano. The Jane JKM external crossovers each the size of a big amplifier speaks to the seriousness of the design intent.

So, they are gorgeous, how do they sound? The short answer is if you are in the market for a pair of high-end luxury speakers put JWM Acoustics on your short list.

Being audiophiles we are by nature borderline obsessive compulsive so I expect you would like a bit more detail on the sound.

I auditioned the Alyson AML Saturday evening and NET-1 Sunday morning. Alas by the time I arrived the big Jane JKM had been relegated to static display due to simply not working in the room, drop ceilings and flimsy conference room walls the eternal curses of the hi-fi show exhibitor.

First impressions of the Alyson AML were of a nicely balanced neutral and detailed speaker. No POW BANG ZOOM ZING beating the listener over the head. As Jeanette DJ’ed more album cuts for me I was more and more impressed. My experience is with top flight high-end speakers this is typical as so much of what one is paying for is what is not present. Chasing out extraneous distortions, noises, phase glitches, and resonances is expensive and time consuming. At first listen the effects these efforts yield are subtle because their absence has left more of the music and the brain's initial reaction is "sounds like music." The longer the audition went on the more impressed I was with the speaker's balance. High-end speaker designers walk a tightrope balancing hundreds of tradeoffs between a sound juicy with tonality at the expense of transparency vs. the all too common sin of hyper-detailed and transparent sound leaving tones bleached out. The Alyson AML and upstream components exhibited the fine balance of that tightrope successfully mastered. Audiophile disks showed expensive tweeters well served really are worth it with finely filigreed high notes and overtones and fast but not over sharpened transients. Deluxe pressing of Blue Notes let all sorts of delightful details of the instruments' sounds' and artists' intent shine through. Being a bit perverse in an anti-audiophile pro-my-music way when I spotted Jeff Beck's "Guitar Shop" LP in the stacks I asked for the song "Bigblock" to be played. Alyson AML morphed from sweet Dr. Alyson Jekyll into raucous Ms Hyde as Beck pounded out his homage to American muscle cars. So your audiophile speaker is full of exotic crossover parts and top line Scan-Speak drivers, sure but can it rock? At the drop of a hat Alyson downshifted and out poured the drum kit and the bass player locking into the groove and Jeff's Fender in all it's soaring sweet then grungy glory.

Joshua Miles returned to the room just after our excursion to the land of the Guitar Gods. Shortly after our introduction as more audio show appropriate music played Joshua picked up the re-sleeved "Guitar Shop" and with dismay in his voice asked Jeanette "you played this!?!!" I found it priceless as I was pointed out as the culprit I swear he was holding that LP like a first time father holds a poop filled diaper. I was forgiven (I think) and we continued to spin disks on the Karen turntables and the occasional streamed digital file. Joshua DJ'ed and the music from the unscathed by her rough treatment Alyson AML poured out in the highest-fi. During this part of the demo between cuts and at the back of the room I switched out of music lover mode and into engineer geek pop quizzing Joshua about the design and execution of his speakers. What about cabinet resonance control? Multiple laminated layers of woods and damping material's. I believed him as they exhibited the boxless sound of speakers with low noise cabinets. Wondering if the exotic hardwood front baffle was an excuse to show off his woodworking talents I asked what about that wave guide around the tweeter? That answer was like a information flood gate had been opened as he pointed out the tweeter is further recessed better aligning the drivers' acoustic centers. I thought to myself that is a win-win with better phase integration between drivers and fewer crossover components to get there. Miles continued that with the drivers mounted between the outer hardwood baffle and inner sub-baffle he has designed a method to de-couple the drivers keeping their reaction energy noise out of the baffles further lowering enclosure noise. Spend enough time hanging out on diyaudio.com and you can talk the speaker designer tech talk too. While Joshua talked the talk his speakers walked the walk the highness of the fi serving to establish his credentials to me in real time. Just when I thought I had the measure of the Alyson AML Joshua tried a DSD track through the Oppo. The DSD streaming had only recently been established so I believe Joshua was as surprised and delighted as the rest of us when that cut showed the Alyson AML was effortless capable of another octave of really deep and defined bass. It is a class act (a.k.a. low bass distortion and excellent driver box parameters alignment) when a speaker can go that deep and you have no clue with typical program materiel and then along comes the deep bass and WOW.

By then it was late Saturday night as I bid Jeanette and Joshua Miles goodnight with repeated congratulations on what they have accomplished for a young startup about to burst onto the scene. I had entered the Carrollton room while looking to meet up with other exhibitors and attendees for dinner. That opportunity was by then hours past so back to my suite for room service dinner just me and my system playing chill out music as I buzzed in the afterglow one gets after an unexpected encounter with the state of the art and its dedicated practitioners.

Sunday at LSAF is a short show day. Most exhibitors are open for a couple of hours in the morning then pack up to be out by the noon checkout time. After showing the ACG room to a few more guests I packed it up. Had to stop by and say good by and good luck to Jeanette and Joshua. They were not packing up yet in fact something special was happening.

Dave Thomas of Raven Audio had brought down his Blackhawk Limited Edition Amplifier and it was hooked up to the NET-1 speakers. Ignore five hour drive home and back to day job on Monday departure immediately postponed to check this out. There is no way that small a monitor on a 20 watt per channel amp should be able to fill that big a room with that much music. But it was. Tube watts are jumbo watts and the Scan-Speak drivers are known for punching above their weight class. No point in trying to figure it out I just spent the time luxuriating in the hi-fi as it communicated the music from the choice cuts filling the room. In a high-end audio world preoccupied with the massive statement systems this little pairing of Dave's Blackhawk and Joshua's NET-1 seriously asked the question "isn't this all you really need?"

I give you the New Wave of Made in USA Hi-Fi. Raven Audio of Texas and JWM Acoustics of Hawaii.


Jeanette and Joshua Miles of JWM Acoustics

I had intended on apologizing to the Miles for taking this picture Sunday morning rather than Saturday evening when they were all dressed up for exhibiting. Jeanette had an especially pretty dress on. Then I remembered "they live in freaking Hawaii, island casual is what its all about." These are wonderful people deserving every success in the high end audio industry, but I'm taking back that apology.

Lone Star Audio Fest 2015 Summary and the future

Finally pulling away from Jeanette and Joshua Miles hospitality it was time to start home. But first some late lunch was needed. The locals had been talking about some joint called “Babe’s” that was only 15 minutes off HW75 so let’s give it a try.


Babe’s Chicken Dinner House

Ok…found it and it's the corner spot of a strip mall.


After 2PM on a Sunday and the joint's still jumping

Two hours after the Sunday lunch rush and Babe's is still full enough that I felt lucky they had immediate seating. When my friendly waitress informed me they only served"family style" and I was flying solo I thought perhaps it was good that I had delayed my departure and this would be a late lunch.


Southern comfort food, family style!

Dear readers, for those of you all not from the American South this is what we call cookin' southern style. There will be no need for that snack on the long drive home and I walked out with left overs for lunch tomorrow. It was very good, let’s rate Babe’s Chicken Dinner House a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

What can we conclude about Lone Star Audio Fest 2015? With a little searching on the web you can find plenty of opinions on LSAF, here are mine. Compared to the big dogs like CES, T.H.E. Show, RMAF, or Munich it is small, even tiny. And as Wayne Parham observed while we discussed LSAF's history from year to year the number of exhibitors at LSAF grows and contracts. It is what it is and that is an organic event staged by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. Perhaps a bit fragile with no income or professional event company LSAF exists at the mercy of that 10% of the participants who do 90% of the work gratis. Like any non-profit it could be in real trouble if that core group grew too fatigued and others did not step forward. Note in 11 years that has not happened so LASF is obviously serving its exhibitors and attendees such that they keep coming back.

Specific to the 2015 LSAF I guarantee a Saturday attendee could easily spend a solid eight hours of serious audition time taking it all in. And during that time you could compare hi-fi ranging from spare bedroom and garage bench startups/hobbyists' efforts to gear from companies invested to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. And you enjoy intimate access to the individuals making it happen if you want to talk tech, or the hi-fi biz, or your custom commission, or music, or beer or whatever. In the south we are known for our fried chicken and also for being friendly and approachable. Or grab the sweet spot and sit through a few tracks. You've been reading about the mythical 45 triode SET amp for years on the ‘net, now is your chance to finally hear it up close and personal.

Lone Star Audio Fest 2015 was a hoot, from what I saw a good time was had by all. I hope to see you there come May 2016 when we come back together to chase the grail of getting closer to our music via the magic of high fidelity audio reproduction in its many and varied forms.