Pacific Audio Fest - Seattle

Audionut

Next Round Is On Me
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Here are my notes from the Audio show. This is my first Audio show and I’m being brutally honest here. I’m just relating my experience and perceptions which are unique to me. I listen but also seek the physical responses to music as my barometer for how engaging it is to me.

This was the very first PAF show, so I’m sure it will get better with time, but the venue was confusing, and because of the heat, some rooms got sweltering, which made it impossible to sit in there for more than 10min. or not tenable to close the door so you didn't have to hear music from the other room

I also wish it was at a venue that just had better rooms for audio. Sometimes hearing the other rooms made it hard to focus on the room at hand. I would pay $60/day+ to attend a show of that caliber. PAF was $20/day.

As Patrons, we all need to do a better job to have conversations with the vendors outside of the room. There were multiple times, when I just left the room given all the annoying side chat going on, which interfered with my ability to listen to the tunes.

Arrunder- Magico Room – Digital only
Meh – The sound was good and clean but didn’t have any weight, emotion, or real depth. Listened to Riders On the storm and there was a decent soundstage, but it was sterile and in my notes, I wrote “ Don’t see God”. For $100K+ I want to see God along with the artists and be wrapped up in the music.

Audio Note Room – Digital and Vinyl
Listed to some digital at first and again, Meh. Clean, but no texture, micro dynamics, etc.

They switched over to Vinyl and that got my ears perked up. Nice texture and depth to the music, but again, not wrapping you up in the soundstage nor was the soundstage very 3D. Very pleasant and engaging to listen to though.

Fink Team Room- Digital Only
Nice, big sound here, accurate and a decent soundstage, not the warmest of music, but engaging with a nice amount of bass.

Voxative Room – Digital Only
This room stood out as one of the best rooms I went to at the show. They played ST Vincent Savior ( Piano Version), which I had never heard before. It was chillingly good. Piano keys, the gravel in her voice. Goosebumps here, It was all so real and engaging. In the second song, they played bass was a little flabby. I can’t remember what that song was, but this immediately struck me as that good good.

@AudioThesis - Digital
You did a lot of work to make your room nice. Thank you! The system you were playing was very accurate with a nice amount of realness that I was surprised coming from such a small format speaker. What I felt it lacked was that next bit of emotion that I enjoy getting in the music.

Also, sorry, I didn’t say hello, when I was in there, you had some people talking to you and I didn’t want to interrupt any conversation you might have been having with true customers. : )

Troy Audio – Digital
Bi-flex with a super tweeter. I don’t think those bi-flexes are in a big enough box. Also, some patron was in there just yammering on, so I had to leave.

Haniwa Audio – Vinyl
Their horns were great for a single horn, but it made me realize that I just really like horns. Didn’t hit me emotionally, but help me recognize my preferences in sound.

Acora Acoustics - Digital
This was one of the first rooms I walked into where the soundstage was nice and big and you could just hear that lovely decay that makes the music feel real.

Then I walked into the room later and listened to some other tracks and they just didn’t sound as good. I suspect it has something to do with the type of music being played on these speakers, but since they are so expensive it’s something I will never discern.

They did also switch to some near-field monitors and about 1-2min in I left. Not good in my opinion.


VAC/ Von Schweikert Room – Digital and Vinyl
Nice big sound here yet lacking that detail in micro dynamics that I just LOVE in music. But again, didn’t see God nor did I feel that the artist was in the room. So for like a $ 1 million ++ system, I have no idea how you substantiate the cost given the performance. But again, that’s just me.

Acoustic Fields – Digital only – KEF RF7MKii and two subs.
This was all about room treatment and it was fantastic. He had a no-frills system, and it was super cool to see the impact of the room treatments. He played a very poorly recorded or possibly low bit rate rip of Enigma – Sadness and the bass was just SO accurate it felt like it was tapping you in the head. Enjoyed the fun to be had in this room and how treatments can be so useful. I talked with others about how some of these larger systems should be pining to put their systems in the treatment room that he built WITHIN the room he was in.

Genesis Audio – Vinyl and tape
I have to say, what a letdown, all these amazing sources and easily the worst sound I heard at the show. I tried multiple times to go back and listen and all the same. No idea who buys their speakers or where it sounds good, but it was really bad, and multiple people that I visited with the room with also were appalled

Audio Federation – Digital
Listened to some Lenard Cohen and it was great! One of the more real-sounding systems I heard. Very large format with a plasma tweeter. For such a large format it had an EXTREMELY narrow sweet spot. I would have thought it would have thrown a much larger soundstage, but it didn’t.

Parasound – Vinyl
They were playing the KEF blades and it was amazing. The detail, and soundstage that these speakers put out in unreal. You felt so close to the music, with lots of micro dynamics that give that artist in the room feel. Unfortunately, they cut that short and switched to some small 2-driver monitors, which I thought were meh, so I left.

Daedales Audio – Digital
Little jarring in the high frequencies and bass was a little boomy. TBH, they switched songs halfway through and the second song sounded bad, so I left. Should have revisited it, but I didn’t.

Salk with Halo – Digital
My notes said “ Not Quite Enough energy”

Joseph Audio - Digital and Tape
Again, lacks emotion and the soundstage wasn't there. Maybe some toe-in on the speakers would have helped, I dunno.

Linkiwitz – Digital and Vinyl
Some of the best sound I heard at the show. The in-room presence here was chilling with the digital side. Plucking, vocals, accurate bass, like the kind of bass that almost hit you but doesn’t, which makes it feel so real. Their vinyl setup needed some fine-tuning. It sounded good, but it was making the woofer warble a lot which interfered with the sound, but you could tell it was there.

@Anton D NFS Audio – Digital
By far the most fun room setup with the lights and vibe! I liked the horn/ported box setup and thought the tunes jammed. I think it was the vibe of the room coupled with the music which just made it enjoyable to sit and listen without having to dissect and discern. I didn’t feel any real emotional response but did feel enjoyment. Again, some patrons just yammering on, which is a little annoying, but given the vibe of this room, I had to tell myself to get over it. : )

Songer Audio – Digital
This guy has done an AMAZING AMAZING job building a true handcrafted speaker. From the handmade boxes, hand-wound magnets, and HANDMADE cones! Let me say that again HANDMADE CONES! His full range field coils in the boxes sounded great in the room, but later he set up his open baffles with the same drives and port-controlled woofers, and I have to say, it was fantastic. The accuracy, emotion, and sound stage were fantastic and again some of the best sound I heard at the show. I’m a sucker for the care he is taking in handcrafting these speakers. I love that crazy part of Portland where someone takes something to the highest degree, and he has sure done this! Up and coming and I can see how these get to a price category of 2x his price now given the performance and workmanship when comparing them to the other systems I heard.

All in all super fun and a great experience. I really should have stayed for day two for a couple of hours to listen to the other rooms I didn't get to, but it's also summer and the thought of being in a hotel for two days was just not in the cards.
Great write up!

I’m also a bit of a visual guy; did anyone snap pics?
 
Both Daedalus rooms were on the 13th floor. The Apollo 11s were about halfway down the hall while the Argos speakers were at the end of the hall.

The Serhan speakers were small. The Revelator midwoofers were 5.25" drivers. All three times I checked this room, the speakers were pumping music out at >90dB SPL. I'd asked them to play them at 75-ish dB, but I didn't get to hear them at that level. At 90+dB, they sounded pretty good, but my aging ears no longer enjoy it. These monitors very much reminded me of my Fritz Rev 5 speakers.
I think it was the Argos room that was at the end of the hall. It was a larger room that was closer to the elevator.
 

MikeyFresh

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I've got some photos, but I'm unsure how to do attach photos here. Hints gladly accepted. :)
In the reply box there is a row of toolbar icons at the top. Click the one that looks like a little landscape picture (it is directly right of the one that looks like a chainlink). If you just hover over it, a description appears that says Insert image. That one inserts the image directly into the post wherever you have placed the cursor, as opposed to only adding it as an attached file.
 

Audionut

Next Round Is On Me
Site Supporter
Thanks for posting @mresseguie , much appreciated! I can see how quite a few of these “hi end” systems could have benefited from room treatments. I wonder why more don’t address this, especially if they do these shows annually?
 
Thanks for posting @mresseguie , much appreciated! I can see how quite a few of these “hi end” systems could have benefited from room treatments. I wonder why more don’t address this, especially if they do these shows annually?
Good observation!

I've seen this same problem here (in the States) and in Taiwan. Some vendors make no effort to treat their rooms. I asked a couple vendors in the Taiwan shows I've attended, and their reply was pretty much the same. They're just trying to get more exposure; most audio show attendees understand hotel rooms typically suck, and transporting/setting up acoustic treatments is a pain in the ass <my choice of words>. The Lawrence Audio room in the Taipei shows [I've attended three of them so far.] has consistently been one of the best sounding rooms. Lawrence goes to great lengths to treat his rooms with large (8' tall) sections of beautifully crafted panels. Typically, the big name gear dealers (B&W, Focal, Dynaudio, etc.) there set up crappy sounding rooms.

I'm not sure how much this applies to audiophiles in N. America, but a certain percentage of buyers/customers in Asia aren't buying a system to listen to beautiful music. They're buying a showpiece to place in their living room or office which will give them face and/or impress friends or clients. A few years ago, I was in a construction materials store (not a big box chain, but a private company) in Taoyuan, Taiwan. The guy helping me was the owner's son. After chatting for a while about different speaker building materials for a DIY project I had in mind, he asked me if I would like to see his father's office system upstairs. I, of course, couldn't refuse such an opportunity, so we took an elevator up to the top floor to the 'office'. [The office consisted of a very small office space split in half by the desk and the audio system; a bathroom w/shower, and a smallish bedroom.] The office portion was not much larger than 8' x 10' yet the speakers were Focal Sopra floorstanding speakers, Burmester class A amp, and I've forgotten the other gear. The son told me his father listened to music once or twice a month(!). The front of the speakers were a mere two feet from the desk.
 
@Limberpine

I value your coverage and thank you for it!

Emotion in this hobby is an interesting thing. It was something I heard was in full force from over half the visitors to my room. It seems to be a moving target and impossible to hit 100% for all listeners. Personally, I was very happy with the sound. It could have been the wrong song selection for you - each one is chosen to showcase something. It's not always for the emotional grab, though I do try to make that consistent in selections. I know at one point, a woman broke into tears and had to be comforted by her partner.

I had 30 year industry veterans returning multiple times each day to sample the system. I had other exhibitors making bee-lines to my room (I watched them come down the hallway) to see what I was doing and what gear I had. I imagine they were being guided to experience the room. When things like that happen, you feel good about the show at the end of the day.
 
A little bit of coverage:


And from a notoriously ‘tough’ show reviewer:

 

DC

Active Member
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A little bit of coverage:


And from a notoriously ‘tough’ show reviewer:

👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼
 
A little bit of coverage:


And from a notoriously ‘tough’ show reviewer:

Glad the Pros and Industry gave you good marks!
 
Glad the Pros and Industry gave you good marks!

Thanks, me too! hah

I realize my response to you could have come across as defensive and it wasn't intended to be. It was sincere. I view shows as a consistent opportunity for growth as you go into a place and have 24 hours or less to make magic happen. At AXPONA I walked away remembering many things I had forgotten about the show environment that could have made the experience better and more representative of the products, but the long break from COVID left me rusty. Going into this show, I had more confidence but have also grown once again coming out of it.

Overall, the rooms I went into seemed to have decent sound to good sound, even during setup. This venue seemed much more favorable to sound than others I've been at.
 
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