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RMAF 2016 Show Report (Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest)
RMAF 2016 Show Report
On A Higher Note And Kyomi Audio
Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest & CanJam 2016
RMAF 2016 Show Report By Kemper Holt


  Philip O'Hanlon gets it right every year, perennially reserving a Mezzanine room at RMAF, great planning. Walking in you are made to feel as if you are sitting in a concert hall, this one in St. Petersburg, as the huge mural across the front of the room grabs your eyes. Phillip's use of Vivid Audio speakers, Giya G3 ($40,000 per pair), here in shiny black looking like H.R. Giger had a hand in the design, always produce a sensational soundstage, and for a portrayal of an orchestra they were not bettered anywhere at RMAF. I've learned to use Friday and Saturday at a show to see all the rooms I can, and note which rooms I want to revisit on Sunday, which is the least busy, yet affords the best sound as equipment burns in and problems solved, and this was on the list.



Philip, shown here draped over a G3 sporting his traditional bow tie, started us off on Sunday with a Sibelius Piano Trio, the piano sound resonant, percussive, and rich in tone, beautiful. Then we listened to an unreleased rehearsal take of Ivan Fischer leading the Budapest Festival Orchestra playing Mahler's Symphony No. 3, a simultaneous, alternate recording by Tom Caulfield only using five microphones, mixed down to two for stereo, the raw file without compression. This version could not be released commercially, because it's extremely wide dynamic range plays havoc with playback levels, too quiet and again too loud when the horns and big bass drum are at full tilt. This is the presentation that had me call this system the best orchestral reproduction at the show, wow. Strings and woodwinds outside the speakers by 15 feet, and the huge bass drum coming 40 feet behind the front wall seemingly from the next room. The dynamics were scary, the midrange glorious, it was powerful and involving, well done.



I was unprepared for what came next, Philip said he was going to play an English band we had heard of, but it will sound better than you ever heard them before. Before Atlantic Records "tamed" the following releases, the first 200,000 LPs of Led Zeppelin II, called the Bob Ludwig hot pressings, had more info in those grooves than I thought possible. We listened to a vinyl rip of the LP the entire audience was stunned. "Whole Lotta Love", the first song on LZ II, jumped out with concert loudness levels, thanks for cranking it Philip. I had never heard Zep sound as clear as this rendition, no blanket over the speakers effect. We got Robert Plant's voice soaring, Jimmy Page's guitar searing and clear, John Paul Jones' bass lines easily followed, and John Bonham pounding on his drum kit with intense impact, cymbals floating in air, huge wide soundstage, a very memorable moment from 2016 RMAF, thanks Philip. This room was one of the very finest at the show.



Sharing the room with Philip, Kyomi Audio in Chicago, owned by a concert pianist, George Vatchnadze, offers most of the equipment displayed here. Driving the G3s was a Luxman M-900u stereo amp ($19,900), Luxman C-900u preamp ($19,900), Luxman EQ-500 phono preamp ($7500), TechDAS Airforce III table ($29,750) that is sporting a Graham Elite arm ($12,500). The cartridge is a TechDAS TSD ($15,500). Handling the digital bits was a Merging Technologies NADAC ($14,000) doing both server and DAC duties, AC line conditioning, (the AC at the show was compromised by low voltage at times), was Shunyata Research Denali ($6000), with Magnan cabling was stringing it all together. Atrensania supplied the rack and amp stands.


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