The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest is held at the Denver Marriott Tech Center. On the show's opening day, the line of attendees stretched through the entire lobby, out the hotel's front entrance, and wrapped around the parking lot. It's a beautiful day for a hi-fi show.
1. This show is massive. I think John Atkinson and I are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the number of exhibitors. I’m not sure that we’ll be able to see and hear everything that is on display. A strategy: John will start in the Tower and I will start in the Atrium, and tomorrow, we’ll compare notes and examine what we have and have not achieved. Meanwhile, Michael Lavorgna will cover computer audio for AudioStream, and Tyll Hertsens will cover headphone gear for InnerFidelity.
Jason Stoddard and Rina Slayter presented a row of Schiit headphone amplifiersAsgard ($249), Valhalla ($349), and Lyr ($449)along with the Bifrost DAC ($449, with “buzzword-friendly” asynchronous USB input; $349, without USB input).
Similar to the system we enjoyed at the California Audio Show, here we heard the beautiful Sony SS-AR1 loudspeakers ($27,000/pair) with Pass Labs X600.5 power amplifiers and XP-20 preamplifier, Parasound Halo JC3 phono preamp, Clearaudio Concept turntable, and an EMM Labs XDS1 SACD player. Speaker cables were Kimber Kable's KS-3033, interconnects were Kimber's KS-1111, and AC cables were Kimber's PK-10 Gold.
The system sounded rhythmically nimble and certain with big, fleshy images, a rich midrange, and warm, full bass. Easy to listen to and easy to enjoy.
The Hyperion, Soundsmith’s new top-of-the-line moving-iron phono cartridge, utilizes a cactus needle cantilever. (That’s a cantilever made of a cactus needle.) Inspired by (the always dapper) Frank Schroeder and designed by Peter Ledermann, the Hyperion’s cactus needle cantilever provides both stiffness and dampingqualities which, according to Ledermann, had previously been mutually exclusive.
I live and work only minutes from Jeffrey Catalano’s High Water Sound, but to my shame have never visited the showroom. For no good reason, it’s only at shows like the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest that I get to speak with Jeffrey and enjoy his demo systems. But I’m extremely grateful for that because Jeffrey has outstanding taste in musiche has that great ability of connecting the dots between seemingly disparate musical genres and artistsand his perspective on hi-fi is fresh, interesting, and distinct.
. . . stand-mounted speaker is hardly compact but it is a reference. TAD's Andrew Jones was showing off the speaker, which combines a hi-tech coaxial tweeter/midrange array with a port-loaded, high-excursion woofer, with all-TAD electronics, including an asynchronous USB DAC and 600W-into-4 ohms solid-state monoblocks. What did I think of the sound? Well, for that all I will say is that it echoed what I will be writing in my January 2012 review.
On passive show were TAD's new entry-level E1 floorstanding speaker. Scheduled to cost $27,000/pair, the E1 uses a beryllium-dome tweeter and is a more refined development of the Pioneer S1-EX that so impressed Kal Rubinson a few years ago.
The eighth Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, held October 1416 at the Denver Tech Center Marriott, with Analogue Productions' Pink Floyd presentation at the Hyatt a couple of blocks down the road, was the largest yet, with an estimated 180 brands on show. We haven't yet seen the official attendance figures, though I wouldn't be surprised if they were a little down from last year, the corridors being more comfortable. But Show organizer Marjorie Baumert, seen here obviously having fun despite the pressure, is to be congratulated for making the RMAF a fun place to spend a weekend and a superb venue to see, but more importantly, to hear the best of what high-end audio has to offer music lovers. Thank you, Marjoriewe will see you in 2012.
The Audio Alternative's big room on the ninth floor was one in which I spent more time than I had intended, such was the spacious sweep of sound produced by the Vandersteen Model 7 speakers ($50,000/pair with premium M7 crossovers) driven by Audio Research Reference 250 monoblock amplifiers ($25,990/pair). A CD of Joe Williams singing a vocal version of Miles Davis's "All Blues," recorded 20 years ago with the then-groundbreaking Colossus digital system kept me in my seat. The source components were supported on one of Harmonic Resolution Systems' excellent racks, BTW.
The Tape Project’s Piper Payne enjoys an iced coffee while listening to a Bottlehead headphone amplifier driving AKG K1000 ear speakersbe still, John Marks' beating heart!and receiving a massage from Bottlehead’s Dan Schmalle.
As we can tell from Michael Lavorgna’s awesome reporting over at AudioStream, computer audio was very hot indeed at RMAF, but there were still lots of old-fashioned vinyl enthusiasts to be found digging through the old-fashioned crates for old-fashioned music.