The 10th Annual Rocky Mountain Audio Fest
We end this show report as we started, with a photograph (this time by John Atkinson) of singer Lillian Boutté, who both opened and closed the RMAF with her band Eric Gunnison on piano, Mike Marlier on drums, and Mark Simon on bass, in the Denver Tech Center Marriott’s Atrium.
I’ve seen no official statistics, but my strong feeling is that the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, perhaps for the first time in its 10-year run, saw decreases in attendance, energy, and overall excitement. Opening day was quieter than in the past; on floors 4 and 5 of the Marriott Atrium, exhibitor rooms were often slow; overall, there seemed to be fewer women and young people; by Saturday night, just about everyone seemed sick, tired, or both; by Sunday afternoon, many of us were long ready to head home. And, still, the show was a success.
The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest succeeds for several reasons, perhaps none more important than the passion and commitment of the show’s organizer, Marjorie Baumert. Throughout the three-day event, she and her tireless staff raced everywhere, always happy and willing to help, and almost always with bright smiles.
The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest brings people together. I was moved by the story of the Darwin Cable Company, whose founders had met, for the very first time, at this year’s show. I was pleased to meet the couple from France, who’d been traveling across the US for several weeks and made sure to stop in Denver for RMAF. As always, it was an absolute joy to meet the people behind the gear, the men and women who work hard to bring ever more beautiful music to our homes.
Most pleasant of all, for me, was getting to meet and shake hands with our readers: For the most part, a writer has no idea of what happens to his or her words once they’ve left the screenwhether they’ve hit a target, missed by a mile, or were read at all. To those readers who stopped and said hello: Thank you. I heard so many kind things. (I also often heard some variation of: “I used to hate your writing, but now . . .”)
The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest provides a venue where the press can meet with manufacturers to discuss the industry’s biggest news. The biggest news right now comes in the form of DSD technology, the websites and hardware supporting it. There were exciting announcements, and absolutely beautiful sounds, from Sony, Jared Sacks of NativeDSD.com, and Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds. If you read no other posts from our coverage, read those. We have every right to expect even more exciting news to come in 2014.
Also know that there may be nothing more musically spectacular than a Peter McGrath demonstration of the Wilson Audio Alexandria XLF loudspeakers, bi-amped by Parasound and VTL amplification, supplemented by the big Thor subs, with music sourced from a dCS Vivaldi stack, playing David Wilson’s half-inch, 30ips master tapes converted to DSDwhew!all running through Transparent cabling. The sense of touch, the sense of real musicians making real music, was absolutely magnificent. Soul-stirring. Only a few people in the world can afford to own such a system. So what? If you were at this year’s RMAF, you at least got to own it for 30 minutes. And, if you were there, I’m sure you’ll never forget it.
Best Sound of the Show
The aforementioned system made of gear from Wilson, dCS, VTL, Parasound, and Transparent, followed by: Sony, both in their own room and in Chad Kassem’s room, in a system comprising Sony speakers and media player and Pass Labs amplification; and Philip O’Hanlon’s suite, with a system made of Vivid, Luxman, Brinkmann, and Transparent gear.
And Jason Serinus reminds us that his best sound was in the room shared by Tannoy, VAC, Esoteric, and Shunyata.
Best Music of the Show
Tony Joe White, in a live recording from Acoustic Sounds’ Blues Masters at the Crossroads event.
Best Beer of the Show
Great Divide Brewing Company’s Fresh Hop Pale Ale
Biggest Disappointment of the Show
Not enough Daft Punk
Biggest Surprise of the Show
Just enough Diana Krall
After every major hi-fi showand often during every major hi-fi showwe find ourselves wondering: “Are there too many of these things?”
We can stop wondering. There are too many of these things. There are too many hi-fi shows and not enough hi-fi dealersa major problem that must be addressed. For now, however, let’s look forward to more great music and sound, further advancements in the art of high-performance music playback, more high-quality audio components that real people can actually afford, more great times with friends and colleagues, and another successful Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. To the readers, exhibitors, and most of all, Marjorie Baumert and her dedicated staff, thank you for bringing us together.