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RMAF 2009 - Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2009 Report / Coverage
RMAF 2009 Show Report (Rocky Mountain Audio Fest)
Report By Scott faller

J-Corder Room

Now this was a fun room. If ever you wanted to own a fully restored reel to reel, Jeff can help you out. Not only can you get a bone stock looking but fully restored R2R but Jeff will also customize one to suit your personal tastes. Want one in candy apple red? No problem. The speakers were also a J-Corder creation. These are a quad-polar design that uses an 8-inch driver run full range and a soft dome tweeter rolled in above with just a simple cap, just like so many companies used to do. The amps were vintage Kenwood 700-M monoblocks with a McIntosh C220 tubed pre. This room was tons of (vintage) fun.

 

Lotus Audio Room

OK, this is where things started getting a bit more serious…at least for me. For a number of years I've been reading just how marvelous the Feastrex drivers are supposed to sound. Being a wide range, single driver devotee myself, I needed to spend some time in this room. Let me get all of the ancillary gear out of the way first and then I'll focus a bit more in the Feastrex open baffles. Atop the rack was another high end turntable, the Hanss T-60 ($6200). It fed the Hanss PA-60 tubed phono stage ($5000). Also in the mix was the Hanss CD-20 upsampling CD player ($2200). These sources fed the Lamm Industries LL2.1 preamp ($5990). On the amplification side the Lotus Room was using a pair of Pass Labs 30.5 amps in a vertical bi-amp configuration. I mentioned that the speakers were bi-amped. Since there are no passive crossovers, they are using an active crossover to split the signals between the OB woofers and the Feastrex drivers. After talking to Joseph Cohen of Lotus, he said that the crossover is a proprietary design that is similar to a DEQX HDP-3.

The Lotus Group Granada UBII weighs in at a hefty price of $115,000. For this you get the field coil version of the 5-inch Feastrex along with a standard laboratory power supply to power the electromagnets. Filling in the bass is what appears to be a pair of Lamda TD15M woofers. If you look closely at the back panel of the speaker you will notice a rear firing, soft domed tweeter at the top of the baffle. I can't see the crossover network but I'm pretty sure it is located down in the base of the speaker. I have to say that as big of Lowther fan as I am, this room sounded quite good when I was in there. The vinyl reproduction was top notch with the Hanss table and Soundsmith cartridge. In fact I was so impressed at the time I had to run downstairs and pick up the same Janos Starker Brahms Cello Sonatas vinyl from Speakers Corner. When someone in the room asked to hear a CD, the sound did get a bit strident. I don't have a clue if it was the recording or some other factor contributing to that sound. Now, all this said, I wish I could have heard this system with a simple active crossover that uses no EQing so I could have gotten a feel  for how these open baffle speakers really performed. If you read my drivel, you know that is how I do mine. A simple active XO at 150Hz, no baffle step compensation, no notch filters, music served up straight, no chaser.

 

Win Analog

I had really high hopes for this room. I heard everybody talking about these phenomenally cool looking amps and pres. Each time I passed by the Win room, it was literally packed with people. I finally got a chance to sneak in, take a couple of pics and give the system a listen. I'll give the folks from Win a hand for the Katie bar the doors design of not only their amp but their pre. It was cool to look at. The Win Z845 preamp was completely over the top. You read (and implied) correctly, Win uses a 5751 small signal tube to drive an 845 beam triode IN A PREAMP! Then, if things weren't extreme enough, Win designed the S-833 power amplifier. This one uses a 12AY7 to drive a KT-66 which in turn drives an 833 transmitter tube. Unfortunately when I attended the room, the sound was mediocre at best. Somebody had been leaning on the volume control and things were distorting pretty heavily. This was surprising as it wasn't that loud. That and with the chosen speakers (whatever they were) I didn't hear all of the single ended magic of the 833. Who knows, maybe it was just my ears being fried from the previous seven hours of noise.

 

Soundsmith Room

This was another room that had some great sounds coming out of it. Most people associate Soundsmith with cartridges and cartridge repair but Peter Lederman also designs and offers amplifiers and speakers. As you can see from the picture Soundsmith had most of their offerings on display at the show. Peter teamed up with Chris Brady of Teres Audio who brought along the new Certus Model 440 turntable with Chris' new Illius unipivot tonearm.  The Certus was also equipped with a second arm, the Schroder Reference. The Shroder had the Soundsmith Strain Gauge and SG Preamp while the Illius was outfitted with Peter's newest offering, the Sussurro moving iron cartridge. The other gear you see on the racks (besides the super cool VPI HR-X turntable) is a custom built tubed preamp designed by Jim Fosgate, the Soundsmith HE 2006 power amp and the Soundsmith He-150/150m MOSFET Power Amplifier. The speakers were the Soundsmith Dragonfly $1500 and Monarch $1999. When I was in the room the 300 watt HE 2006 was driving the little Dragonfly speakers. I was impressed just how good these diminutive little speakers sounded. I think the term I used to describe the sound to Peter was "stupid good…especially for the money".

 

i-Fi Chair

OK, I've saved the best for last. Sure, it may not have been the best sound of the show but it was absolutely the best looking room of the weekend. If you attended and didn't hit the iFi Chair room, you missed something extremely fun. Now, I say fun because even though the iFi chair did a more than adequate job of fulfilling the majority of our audiophile needs by means of clarity, articulation and reasonably even sound top to bottom, these chairs were an absolute hoot.

What we've got here is basically a tricked out and hot roddedLazyboy recliner. Jeff Olster, chief designer of the chair, has taken a really comfortable, high end recliner and added a sound system to it. First are the speakers which are stand mounts on the end of the armrests. These speakers are a basic two way Vifa mini-monitor. Below your butt is a subwoofer and also a Buttkicker bolt on servo just for fun. Also included in the chair design is an iPod dock and an 1/8th inch stereo input jack. Along with a master volume control you can also control the bass (woofer) and the Buttkicker level. There is also a small display for navigating other the interface to your iPod and other features. Amplification is provided by class D amplification which is also housed within the chair. You can also set the chair up to be wirelessly connected to your sources.

When I was in the Audiophile i-Fi chair I listened to an older Sony SACD player and also Jeff's iPod. I'm here to tell you this thing was an absolute, unadulterated blast. I started off with some ZZ Top then rolled into some Pink Floyd then Jeff docked his iPod and I got control of the tunes. I proceeded to play some Aretha Franklin, the Reverend Al Green, Bill Withers and then some War (Low Rider TYVM). While in control, I cranked the bass and the volume up and had one heck of a great time. I can only imagine how much better this chair would sound using a good tube DAC. Of all the rooms at the show, I probably spent more time in this one than any other. I personally think the i-Fi chair is an extremely cool product. I'm in the process of trying to get one in to play with for an extended period of time.

 

 

Well, this ends my Rocky Mountain Audio Fest coverage for 2009. All in all I had loads of fun visiting all of the rooms, catching up with old friends and industry associates. In hindsight, I wish I'd have attended a couple of the seminars that were put on by the various industry professionals. As it is with most of these shows, it is physically impossible to see every room much less carve out a few of hours for seminars.

 

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