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RMAF 2017 Show Report (Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest 2017)
RMAF 2017 Show Report
ESS, Channel Islands, Exogal, Vehement Audio, And Core Power Technologies
Show Report By Kemper Holt


ESS And Channel Islands
ESS of California has used the slogan "Sound as Clear as Light" for at least 40 years, and it still holds up in 2017. ESS has based their designs on Oscar Heil's Air Motion Transformer since their beginning, and have honed and improved not only the AMT, but the woofer and its integration resulting in the current lineup. The use of similar AMT tweeters by many other speaker designers shows how adept Oscar's invention handles the upper frequencies even in today's market.

ESS' Ricky Caudillo played the 12" AMT floorstanding speakers ($4,499/pr) for me and I got a "clear" window into the music. The upper midrange and treble were detailed, extended, precise, and had a nice open quality. The transition to the 12" woofer/mid was the best yet for ESS, owing to the implementation of the largest Heil AMT driver being crossed over at a low 800 Hz, the bass was strong and went deep. If you recall liking the AMT-1 from decades ago you ought to hear the latest from ESS, as it is well worth an audition. Channel Islands electronics drove the AMTs with great results.



Exogal, Vehement Audio, And Core Power Technologies
Room 539 had a couple of new product debuts, the Vehement Audio Brezza Savant speaker ($6,995/pr) and from Exogal, a lineup of four new streaming designs, the Exogal Vortex Streaming Hub Family, X-1, X-2, X-3, and X-4 ($1,500 to $3,000). Go to Facebook or Exogal's site for the details of what each does, but the built-in network hub allows a plug-in of your Ethernet NAS, and USB hubs let USB hard drives and memory sticks connect easily. The X-1 will be out before Christmas, the family aspect allows upgrading at any time. A collaboration between Vapor Audio's designers Ryan Scott and Pete Schumacher, and Vehement brought the Brezza Savant to life, combining a RAAL ribbon tweeter and custom SEAS drivers which are loaded into a slot loaded tapered transmission line, all housed in a very dead cabinet.

Front and center was the synergistic combination of an Exogal Comet Plus DAC ($3,500) and Exogal Ion amp ($3,875), which then morph into a "power DAC" delivering a very neutral and transparent 100 Watts into 8 Ohm loads. The entire system was plugged into a Core Power Technologies E=Q 1800 Balanced Power unit ($1,999), which removed the noise and hash from the overworked AC system and still allowed wide dynamic swings from the system. The 2" wide flat copper foil speaker cables evident in the picture of the Comet/Ion were supplied from Mike Powell's VERASTARR, Grand Illusion speaker cables, ($1,599 8' pr), as were the power cords, VERASTARR 10 AWG Silver Reference ($499 each). The analog portion included a Marantz TT-15S1 turntable ($1,500) and a Perla Audio Motif phono stage ($5,500) running through the Comet/Ion. The room treatments they adjusted to good effect were from Artnovion Acoustics ($2,500) and an Audio Vault USA rack ($6,000) held all the equipment.

A typical tale of Friday getting the room sorted out, and Saturday/Sunday being the best days to evaluate a room proved accurate here. Jeff Haagenstad of Exogal said they adjusted their room treatments a few different ways, and added some ARCH isolation devices from Gingko under the Savants and electronics. All I can say is the room improved remarkably from Friday to the weekend and ended up wonderful. The weekend sound was relaxed, with a wide and deep soundstage, good bass extension, and delicate extended top end. String tone was natural, voices centered and three feet behind the plane of the speakers, trombone and piano were rendered superbly. Thanks for working hard to get the room really singing.



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