A Little Slice of Downunder at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest
The Rocky Mountain annual Audio Fest (RMAF) certainly has the reputation as one of the 'go-to' HiFi shows on the international scene, growing in popularity year after year. As Aussie actors have become 'a thing' in Hollywood in recent times, so to have some of our own HiFi brands.
Earlier this year a U.S. based distributor, Colleen Cardas Imports, exhibited at Southern California's Newport HiFi Show with a “Down Under Audio” theme across two rooms. Brands on display included Pure Audio (NZ), iconic Australian brand Redgum Audio and Axis Loudspeakers (AU). By all reports the room and the brands themselves were very well received, but these brands are certainly quite well known in the international market already.
There's no doubt, Australia can be very proud of our local HiFi brands as reported in my article in The Sydney Morning Herald last year.
Only one local brand has ever had coverage in Rolling Stone magazine though. Quoted as “The ultimate in high fidelity performance with the best bass in the world”, that would be Adelaide's VAF Research who these days export their loudspeakers to just about every continent in the world. Proving they are still a force to be reckoned with, their exhibition at the Melbourne International HiFi Show earlier this year was unmatched in sheer scale, visual appeal and of course their product offering.
Another Australian firm and manufacturer of active crossover / dsp solutions for both the pro and domestic audio markets is Sydney based DEQX. Their processors are used in recording studios around the world, none more famous perhaps than the Abbey Road Studios in London.
A regular stop on the world HiFi Show tour for DEQX, this year's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest saw a combination of local brands combine in Room 1124, with DEQX HDP5 Preamplifier/Processor, Redgum Black Series amplifiers and VAF Research's flagship i93 loudspeakers.
For those not familiar with DEQX, in simplest form their processors negate the need for inefficient passive crossovers contained within a loudspeaker. By allowing a speaker to run 'fully active' provides the ability to manipulate and optimise each individual driver's frequency band, and then measure and tune the overall loudspeaker response to the exact room in which it is being played.
Timing is everything in audio, and DEQX processors allow phase to be corrected optimally for the listening position. Further, HDP5 also serves as a Roon Ready and highly capable preamplifier within the system.
The downside is that in order to power a 3-way loudspeaker actively, you require 6 channels of amplification. One channel for each of the individual drivers. Redgum Audio came to the party providing stereo amplifiers including RGi35 (tweeters), RGi60 (midrange), and RGi120 for woofers.
How do you demonstrate the active vs passive difference? DEQX cleverly had VAF Research modify their i93 loudspeakers. By utilising the multiple preset profiles available on the HDP5, the RS232 port controlled relays installed within the i93 loudspeaker. By changing the profile, the HDP5 would trigger the relays inside the speaker to switch between the fully active, room corrected profile, and the traditional passive crossover network contained within the speaker and it's corresponding room correction only profile.
Not suprisingly, by all reports the sound quality of the active setup was superior in every way. That's not to say that VAF's i93 passive speaker is flawed. There's just always going to be compromises when an amplifier runs through a lossy passive crossover and must supply all the drivers. The speaker designer also has no knowledge of the size and type of room their speakers will ever be used in. By seperating out each driver with multiple channels of amplification all operating within a smaller bandwidth, there's more control and less demand on the amplifier.
Punters at RMAF enjoying the DEQX demonstration.
The good news ... VAF Research have told StereoNET they will now be releasing an 'active ready' version of the i93 loudspeaker, along with the ability to upgrade existing i93 speakers as well. Options will include the supply of amplifiers and the DEQX processor. Final pricing and configuration has not been confirmed yet so watch this space.
Active loudspeakers are certainly emerging as the way forward in HiFi. This week, KEF announced their LS50 Wireless version, Australian brand Krix announced a new flagship DEQX powered active speaker system, while fellow Australian brand Kyron Audio have been using DEQX in their active speakers for a few years now.
Maybe DEQX is on to something. The HiFi world is finally catching on.