The 10th Rocky Mountain Audio Fest Starts Friday
RMAF may not be the biggest consumer audio show in North Americathat honor recently passed to T.H.E. Show Newport Beachbut even without a cigar show, car show, wine show, and airport right across the street, RMAF's 440 brands spread over 138 hotel rooms, 25 big rooms (and three more at the Hyatt across the street), a CANJAM headphone ballroom hosting a record 37 exhibitors, 14 software vendors (CDs, LPs, etc.), and 26 lobby exhibits is definitely something to get excited about.
So is the 10th Anniversary entertainment. Marjorie Baumert, who has run RMAF since the passing of her co-producer husband, Al Stiefel, has never programmed so much live music before. She's opening with Lillian Boutte, a jazz vocalist from Germany whom she discovered while moderating a world affairs conference at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
"I found her so positive," Marjorie told Stereophile. "She brings amazing energy into the room." Attendees will find out when, after warming up exhibitors and press Thursday evening in the Atrium, Boutte returns to the public space off the lobby on Friday, 810pm and Sunday, 3:305:30pm.
Saturday at 10:45am and 2:4pm in the Aspen Room, Reference Recordings will sponsor performances by bluesman Doug MacLeod, whose latest album has been nominated for three Blast Blues Awards. Saturday evening, Ray Kimber's Kimber Kable will provide a superb acoustic reference in the form of returning Steinway artist and RMAF favorite, pianist Fan-Ya Lin.
It's also a bumper year for seminars, with 15, plus a Q&A with MacLeod, planned over the course of three days. No less than seven will cover computer audio and high-resolution downloads; one is a Saturday noon panel, moderated by Steve Silberman of AudioQuest, that includes Stereophile's John Atkinson. Vinyl spins in three, including Saturday morning's "Deciphering 'dead wax' numbers, letters, squiggles and stamps and why they matter," presented by AnalogPlanet.com and Stereophile's Michael Fremer. Finally, InnerFidelity.com's Tyll Hertsens ensures that headphones get their day with two seminars, the second of which, Sunday's "Lines in the shifting sands of the information age. A look into the future of traditional vs personal audio and how the landscape is changing ," brings to mind Stephen Mejias' recent commentary on a CNN article that proclaimed the "death" of the home stereo system.
But do you really want to sit all day? If you don't, Steven Norber of Denver's Living Yoga, who also manufactures PranaFidelity components, will lead yoga sessions every morning. How many exhibitors can rouse themselves after late night dinners to make 7:30am yoga sessions on Saturday and Sunday is open to question, but attendees who want to start their days in an expansive mode are sure to attend. Steven will provide all mats and props.
There are still more goodies. Chad Kassem will fill a big room with the sounds of hi-res DSD downloads from Sony and acousticsoundssuperhires.com, while Jared Sacks from Channel Classics will team up with Philip O'Hanlon of A Higher Note to tease the press with the imminent unveiling of a new DSD download site, nativedsd.com.
The three big rooms in the Hyatt are new this year. Marjorie, who has never wished her show to grow to an unmanageable size, calls them "an experiment. I didn't want to go bigger than the Marriott," she says. "But so many people have been bugging me for a big room, and the Marriott's 25 are always booked up, that I've given it a try. I could have had up to 12 big spaces at the Hyatt if I'd wanted to. We did this only once before, but I dialed it back after Al died, and only returned to the Hyatt once in 2011, when Chad Kassem did his big Pink Floyd release." To which I add, hopefully it won't start snowing or sleeting, as it did the year that John Atkinson were making our way back to the Marriott from the Hyatt's big exhibits.
Marjorie reports that, thanks to the excitement generated by social media, online pre-registration is up by at least 15%. Word has spread far and wide, resulting in exhibitors from 23 countries, press from Zaire, and attendees from (so far) six countries and 22 states. "This is amazing to me, because normally our big flood of registrations comes the week before," she says. "I'm shocked to discover attendees from Australia, Denmark, Singapore, and Paris. As for exhibitors, we have our first from Mexico and Costa Rica."
What could be record attendance will positively affect more than just the industry. Marjorie has established various initiatives, including a donation area and silent auction, to raise money for Colorado flood relief and a Colorado Audio Society member whose house burned down in June. In addition, all profits from tee-shirt sales go to Swallow Hill Music Association, which buys guitar lessons and rents instruments for children. RMAF usually supports lessons for 810 children per year, thanks to Marjorie's matching donation. There are few other organizations in the high-end industryThe Cable Company, Kimber Kable, and Soundsmith immediately come to mindthat have proven so generous when it comes to charitable donations.
Only a small percentage of show premiere announcement reached us by press time. To start near the end of alphabet, VTL unveils the production version of their new S-400 Series II amplifier. One letter later, Woo Audio (CANJAM) introduces its single-ended, class-A, output transformer-coupled WA-23 Mono, claimed as "the world's first monoblock headphone and speaker amplifier."
Moving backwards through the 26, Ted Denney of Synergistic Research introduces his "most significant contribution to the world of audio," unobtrusive, easy to implement, affordable game-changing devices claimed to "dramatically transform even ordinary systems to a level of performance that will amaze everyone." Given how remarkable his Tranquility Bases are, I'm eager to hear the new HFTHigh Frequency Transducer Technologyand FEQFrequency Equalizer Technologywhich Ted will use to transform the sound of a Bose radio into something, I expect, audiophiles will not scoff at.
To the beginning. Audio Alternative introduces Audio Research's Reference Series Phono 10 preamplifier and Vandersteen Audio's liquid-cooled M7-HPA amplifier. Not to be outdone, AudioKinesis demonstrates the new Dream Maker LCS modular system, incorporating reverberant-field enhancement technology developed by James Romeyn, as well as the Event Horizon system that incorporates Manipulated Vortex Waveguide technology licensed from Big E Loudspeakers. That seems to lead to Dupuy Acoustique's new Conga loudspeakers, as well as their Daisy reflector, "an acoustical device that, when correctly place between loudspeakers, restores time and phase of the back waves, stabilizes the soundstage, and enhances the stereo presentation."
Antelope Audio celebrates the release of its Zodiac Platinum DSD DAC, which supports DSD256 and PCM at 768kHz via a custom DAC chip. Not to be outdone, ExaSound Audio Design brings us the e28 DAC, an 8-channel device also capable of decoding DSD256 with a 12.288MHz sampling rate. AudioArts presents first showings of the Robert Koda K-10 preamplifier, Zellaton Grand, CH Precision C1 DSD DAC with Ethernet streaming, Metronome ARTP amp and CD8T CD/USB player, and Malvalve Headamp 3.
High Fidelity Services shows off Audia Flight's new reference Strumento No.1 preamplifier and Strumento No.4 stereo amplifier, Neat Acoustics' Motive SX Series loudspeakers, and Custom Design's Definitive Line audio racks. MG Audio Design brings its new Statement Series Planus III AG speaker wire and Planus AG2 interconnect, and Nordost Corporation reveals the latest addition to its Sort system, The Sort Füt. This mechanically tuned resonance-control device replaces standard spikes and stabilizers on loudspeakers, and is said to eliminate unwanted residual vibrations.
Reference Recordings will hawk a new disc of Bizet and another of Charles Denler's Portraits of Colorado. Their new Kansas City Symphony recording of Elgar's Enigma Variations and orchestral works by Vaughan Williams will even be available as a multi-channel stereo hybrid SACD. VANA Ltd. is not only holding two seminars per day on UNI-DIN cartridge set-up geometry, but also introducing the new SMARTractor and Axiom tonearm from Acoustical Systems, Dr. Feickert Analogue "Woodpecker" turntable, and Primare I32 integrated amplifier with MM30 media upgrade. Bringing up the rear, Zesto Audio, a company whose phono preamplifier has been in the forefront of many an audiophile's consciousness, introduces their new Bia 120 pure class-A, stereo, auto-bias 60Wpc tubed power amp.
John Atkinson, Stephen Mejias, and yours truly will blog the show for this august publication, with the bulk of our coverage posted October 1418. Michaels Fremer and Lavorgna, as well as Tyll Hertsens, will do the honors for AnalogPlanet.com, AudioStream.com, and InnerFidelity.com. Hope to see you there.