RMAF 2016: Departures and Arrivals

The first day of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest ended with two important events. The first was an intimate memorial gathering for Wes Phillips, Stereophile’s sorely missed deputy editor (1995–1999) and contributor (2000–2011), who died on August 27, 2016. Out of respect for those in attendance, Roy Gregory of The Audio Beat.com and Marjorie Baumert, the guiding light behind RMAF, held off the start of the Second Annual Rocky Mountain Audio Fest International HiFi Press Awards [RIHPA] until Marjorie and I beat it across the street to the packed ballroom at the Hilton, where we let Roy and Dennis Davis know that the memorial gathering had concluded.

By the time I entered PS Audio’s 11th floor room, where the memorial gathering was held, John Atkinson was in the midst of reading excerpts from what he considered some of Wes’ finest writing for Stereophile.

John’s readings, along with references to personal correspondence and anecdotes, really struck a chord with attendees, many of whom shared their own reminiscences.

Deeply moved, and deeply moving, was industry veteran Bill Leebens, current publicist for PS Audio, who spoke of Wes’s strong influence and brilliance. The decline of his health, and his final years in a residential care facility, touched as many hearts as did his writing.

Then it was on to the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest International HiFi Press Awards 2016. Held in a large ballroom in the Hilton (because no space large enough was available in the still-being-renovated Marriott), the place was packed. Given the number of nominees and awards, every seat was taken, with lots of people standing against the back and side walls and gathered in the doorway. We are talking several hundred people.

Nominees and winners were chosen by anonymous ballot by representatives of “the world’s leading HiFi press publications.” In alphabetic order, those publications were The Audio Beat, AudioTechnique, AudioVideo, AVMentor.net, DAR, Fidelity, Head-Fi, Hi-Fi+, Innovation&Tech Today, Lyd & Bilde, Mono Stereo, NoMono, Stereo, and Stereophile.

After a band played one number, Ingo Schulz of Germany’s Fidelity (two photos up, on the left), who co-organized the awards with Roy, joined Roy and Marjorie for the start of the event. Although not all award recipients were in attendance, I was able to snap this photo of Xuanqian Wang, President and CEO of Auralic, accepting the “Digital Control Unit” award for the Auralic Aries.

After noting that Stereophile’s Products of the Year Awards will be published in the December issue, and that John Atkinson’s own RIHPA choices were guided by the nominees and winners of our awards, here is the RIHPA list. Winners are indicated by an “>”.

The list reveals that nominations were not limited to products released in the past year, or to products universally distributed. (I believe some of the nominated products are not distributed in the US.) Nor, save for loudspeakers, were there divisions by price. Such guidelines made for some very interesting nominations and winners, that’s for sure. Rumor has it that a few publications nominated products not yet available for audition, and that two nominated the iPad!!!

To my way of thinking, most notably absent from the list that follows are the dCS Rossini player-DAC and the Wilson Audio Sabrina loudspeaker, as well as any product from D’Agostino Master Systems. While I find the bulk of the nominations and award winners deserving of their honors, a look at the 2015 winners reveals that at least two products won in both 2015 and 2016, and more than two were nominated for two years running. Can someone really make a convincing case that, in the past several years, the Ayre Acoustics MX-R Twenty has remained the best mono power amplifier in the world? Is this a case of all that changes remains the same? IMHO, this rather preposterous situation needs to be addressed before the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest International HiFi Press Awards can be received with the seriousness they deserve.

What do you think?

2016 RIHPA Award Winners

CD Player/Transport
Audio Note CDT One/II
dCS Rossini Player
dCS Vivaldi Transport
McIntosh MCT450
> MSB Technology Universal Media Transport

DAC
AudioQuest Dragonfly Red
Aqua La Scala MKII
> Chord Electronics DAVE
Exogal Comet Plus
MSB Technology Analog DAC

Digital Control Unit
> AURALiC ARIES
CH Precision C1
DigiBit Aria
iPad
Meridian 818V3 Reference Audio Core

Computer Audio Server
Antipodes DX Reference
> Aurender N10
Burmester 151
Naim UnitiServe
SOtM sMS-1000SQ

Mobile Player
Astell & Kern AK380
FiiO X7
Lotoo PAW Gold
Pioneer XDP-100R
> Questyle QP1R

Turntable
Dohmann Helix 1
Kronos Pro
Rega RP8
> TechDAS Air Force One
Technics SL-1200GAE

Tonearm
Abis SA1.2
AMG 9W2
Audio Origami PU-7
> Kuzma 4 Point
Schroeder CB

Pickup Cartridge
Benz Micro Gullwing SLR
Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement
> DS Audio DS-W1
Hana SL
Lyra Etna SL

Phonostage
> Aesthetix Rhea Signature
Lyra Connoisseur 4.2 PLE
Karan Acoustics KA PH reference
Thöress Parametric Phono Equalizer
Thrax Audio Orpheus

Integrated Amplifier
Devialet 200
> Gryphon Diablo 300
Line Magnetic Audio LM-518IA
Jeff Rowland Design Group Daemon
Vinnie Rossi LIO

Preamplifier
> Audio Research GSPre
Ayre Acoustics P-5xe
Bespoke Audio Company
Octave HP700
Robert Koda Takumi K-10

Stereo Power Amplifier
Accustic Arts AMP II-MK3
> (Tie) Audio Research Reference 75 SE
Benchmark AHB2
First Watt J2
> (Tie) PS Audio BHK Signature 250

Mono Power Amplifier
Audia Flight Strumento No. 8
AVM M30
> Ayre Acoustics MX-R Twenty
Thrax Audio Teres
VTL Siegfried Series II Reference

Bookshelf Speakers
Crystal Cable Arabesque Minissimo Diamond
> ELAC Debut B5
Focal Sopra No. 1
KEF LS50
KEF Reference One

Floor Standing Speakers under 15,000 EUR
DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93
> Focal Sopra No. 2
PMC twenty.26
PSB Imagine T3 Tower
Ubiq Audio Model One

Floor Standing Speakers over 15,000 EUR
> Bowers & Wilkins 800 D3
Diapason Dynamis
Focal Sopra No3
Magico S3
Vandersteen Model Seven Mk II

Loudspeakers over 100,000 EUR
Estelon Extreme
Focal Grande Utopia EM
Living Voice Vox Olympian
> Wilson Audio Alexx
YG Acoustics Sonja 1.3

Subwoofer
JL Audio Fathom f113v2
JL Audio Gotham g213v2
REL Acoustics 212/SE
> Wilson Audio WATCH Dog
Vandersteen Audio Sub Nine

Headphones
Audeze LCD-4
Focal Elear
HiFiMAN Edition X
MrSpeakers Ether C Flow
> Sennheiser HD 800

Headphone Amplification
aune X7S
> Chord Electronics Mojo
Lake People Violectric HPA V281
Pass Labs HPA-1
Woo Audio WA8 Eclipse

AC Cable
Crystal Cable Absolute Dreamaune
Göbel High End Lacorde Statementauneaune
IsoTek Evo3 Syncro
> Nordost ODIN 2
Shunyata Research ZTRON Sigma

Signal Cable
AudioQuest Wild Blue Yonder
> Crystal Cable Absolute Dream
Göbel High End Lacorde Statement
Nordost ODIN 2
Nordost Valhalla 2

Racks and Supports
Artesania Audio Aire floor platform
Box Furniture Racks
HiFi Audio Rack Grandstand
> Harmonic Resolution Systems M3X
Subbase Audio Shambala TSS

AC Distribution and Conditioners
> AudioQuest Niagara 7000
IsoTek EVO3 Mosaic Genesis
LAB12 Gordian
PS Audio PerfectWave P10
Shunyata Research Hydra Triton v2

System and Software Enhancers
AudioQuest JitterBug
Audirvana Plus
Daniel Hertz Master Class
Furutech DeMag II
> Roon Labs Roon

Set-up Aids and Tools
Acoustical Systems SMARTractor
Audio Systems Optimised
Ayre Acoustics IBE disc
Dayton OmniMic v2
> Dr Feickert Protractor NG

Digital
Bill Evans—Some Other Time: The Lost Session from the Black Forest 2xhd
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto 2, Channel Classics
Lyn Stanley—Interludes
Nicholas Alsteadt, Shostakovich, Weinberg Cello Concertos, Channel Classics
> Stripped by Macy Gray, Chesky Records

Analogue
Leonid Kogan plays the Brahms Violin Concerto, Electric Recording Co.
Stealers Wheel, Intervention Records
> Igor Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps/Minnesota SO, Eiji Oue, Reference Recordings
A Meeting By The River—Ry Cooder and V.M. Bhatt, Analogue Productions' reissue of the Water Lily Acoustics original
Vanessa Fernandez, When The Levee Breaks, Groove Note

Innovation
Audioquest Dragonfly Series
Devialet SAM
Focal "M"-shaped headphone dome driver
> MQA by Meridian
MSB Technology Select DAC II

Value For Money
> AudioQuest Dragonfly Red
Chord Electronics Mojo
Crayon Audio CIA-1
ELAC Debut B5
Jerry Harvey Audio JH16 Pro

Lifetime Achievement
Andrew Jones
Bill Low
> Bob Stuart
David Wilson
Richard Vandersteen

COMMENTS
Anton's picture

Thank you so much for covering his memorial. Wes was a gem.

He was a great show mentor and intellectual raconteur par excellence!

The world is diminished without him.

jim davis's picture

I'm confused about the nominees. Some (many?) of these weren't even on display at the show, right? If the name of the award is going to incorporate the name of the show, I woulda figured they would, tho. And am I the only reader who hasn't even heard of most of the 'world's leading HiFi publications' who voted? Isn't 'Lyd and Bilde' an Ingmar Bergman film? And isn't it curious that none of these other publications even mention these awards on their respective web sites? Something just seems amiss. I'm expecting CNN to soon be reporting that Putin somehow has a hand in all of this....