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RMAF 2019 Show Report -- Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest 2019

RMAF 2019 Show Report Part 4 
Show Report By Rick Becker


Within The 9th Floor...



  Once in a while something drops into the world of High End audio from Outer Space. Such was the case in Room 128 where I met Tim Strunk from Endow Audio in Georgetown, KY. Who from where? At first glance, their FS301 speaker looked like a severely modified Bose 901, but their technology and sound were vastly different and a whole lot more acceptable for audiophiles. Yet with their rig simply lined up on the carpet without a rack or other types of isolation devices, they appeared a bit amateurish. Nonetheless, the sound here was undeniably very good. What they were trying to achieve was a multi-driver full-range point-source speaker.



Nine full-range drivers were mounted on a hemispherical dome with four of them facing the center point of what would be the full dome, and five of the drivers radiating outward on axis with that same center point of the hemisphere. These 3" full-range drivers were each driven differently by a passive signal processor, depending on where they were on the hemisphere. Working together, they purportedly create a uniform wave that radiates from a single point, kind of like a dome tweeter, except it is a full-range signal radiating outward, not just the high frequencies. Behind the hemisphere is an 8" driver that provides "back loading" that they call "active loading". The 8" driver moves in acoustic phase with the 3" full-range drivers, though it is not itself a full-range driver. It provides support for the lower frequencies of the 3" drivers.

Below the multi-driver dome was mounted a 12" woofer to handle the frequencies below 100Hz. All of the drivers were Morel standard drivers. The passive signal processor was originally created as a digital one because they could evolve the technology faster and once the values were determined they recreated the processor as a passive one. The speaker is a sealed design providing a tuneful bass that rolled off gently.



In the photo of the rig there is a passive signal processor on each side of a Hegel integrated amp that was fed wirelessly from an iPad, as I recall. The finish of the FS301 speaker baffle was superb, mirroring the patter of the carpet. Price was given as $49k with a show special price of $39k. The sound here was very good and not irritating in the least, but might have achieved even higher resolution with better footers on the speakers and better isolation for the components.



Gordon Rankin does it all... well, not "All" but certainly a lot. High End home audio amplifiers, computer audio, guitar audio and something called "Lunchbox Audio". I'll have to hit his room about noon at the next show to find out what that's all about. And he is a tube wizard extraordinaire, as most of his Wavelength gear involves tubes. Low power tubes, in particular, which is why the few times I've encountered him he has been teamed up with Jim Vaughn who makes high-efficiency loudspeakers.

The speaker was a Vaughn Zinfandel La with a plasma tweeter ($15k/pr or $6k/pr with a horn tweeter) with a frequency response of 70Hz to 60kHz — really high! High speaker efficiency (97dB/W/m) is achieved with a line array of full-range drivers on the carbon fiber front baffle, supplemented with a pair of side-firing passive radiators in the plyboo cabinet. The speakers were driven by Wavelength Triton Signature Silver 300B Single Ended Amplifiers (monoblocks) equipped with Western Electric 300B tubes and pure silver wound output transformers in chassis that featured custom ebony and pearl inlay on the front panels ($40k/pr), an elegant touch. Nordost speaker cables stretched from the amps to the speakers as you would expect, but then the high frequency signal was split out from the speaker over some thin, unshielded black and white wires to a transformer next to one of the monoblocks.

From the transformer a single shielded cable carrying both power and signal ran up to each of the plasma tweeters mounted on top of the speaker cabinets. The front end included Gordon's Brick N2 24-bit/96kHz USB DAC ($2000 with Copper, or if you insist, there is a limited edition Silver for $10k.) The preamp with two inputs was his Sine ($7500 w/copper, $15k w/silver.) Others may have heard this rig with the Cosecant v5 with an ESS chip working up to 32-bit/384kHz or DSD64/128 that was also on hand.



The MJ Acoustic Windsor Master Class subwoofer with dual 12" drivers shown here had dual 750 Watt amplifiers and remote control via hand-held remote or smart phone. The price was misprinted; I suspect it is $8k each, factory direct. It filled in the bass, blending seamlessly with the tower speakers. Also on display here was a conventional cube sealed subwoofer with a remote controlled (hand-held or phone) 400 Watt amp, the MJ Acoustic Reference 400 ($2200) also sold by Vaughn. Power conditioning was a large AudioQuest Niagara unit with chrome faceplate. While the rig was a bit complex, the music was pure, transparent and emotionally inviting with a vintage female jazz singer beckoning me back to 1940-something.



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