It’s Thursday afternoon, and all is aflutter in the show office in the Denver Marriott Tech Center. Everyone and their mother is arriving at once, and Show Manager Marjorie Baumert heads to the computer as she and her invaluable staff of volunteers move as fast as they can to meet the needs of multiple hundreds of exhibitors.
In the other Hear No Evil room, Kevin Deal introduced PrimaLuna's new DiaLogue Premium Integrated amplifier ($3299). This amp can be fitted with KT66/6L6GC, KT77/EL34, or 6550/KT88 tubes and, driving a pair of KEF R900 speakers ($5000/pair) did sonic justice to Nils Lofgren’s homage to Keith Richards, “Keith Don’t Go.” Source was PrimaLuna’s ProLogue Premium CD player ($3299), which now has a 24/192k-capable USB input based on an M2Tech module as well as the tubed clock circuit used in the earlier Prologue Eight player.
I still recall, many years ago, being blown away by the sound of one of ProAc’s extremely musical monitors. The company re-emerged at RMAF 2012 to display the ProAc Response D40/R ($12,000$14,000/pair, dependent upon finish). Hooked up to Sonus Veritas’ Modena DAC ($15,999), Genoa preamplifier ($15,999), and Florence KT120 monoblock power amplifiers (not yet released, price TBD), and sources unidentified, the system was producing excellent solid, full-range sound on a track from the Michael Wolff Trio’s 2 AM.
Jim Rush of PTE (Precision Transducer Engineering) of Orange, CA explained that he was using the system in his room, headlined by PTE’s The Phoenix self-powered, bi-amplified loudspeaker ($5700/pair), to conduct 10 different blind tests with five sequences. The results of his experiments, which he said demonstrated that most people couldn’t discern differences with a high degree of accuracy, are slated to be posted to PTE’s website.
I’m sure you’ll know what I mean when I say I hate “Lilac Wine,” even though I think it’s a beautiful, touching song. A girl once put it on a mixtape for me, and you know how those things go. Lilac Wine is sweet and heady like my love. Yadda yadda yadda. I can hardly stand to hear it. But I sat all the way through it, happily, yesterday afternoon in the Resonessence room.
Not only do Metronome electronics and Rethm loudspeakers seem inextricably bound together by a common musical cause, but they also make great sound. As we await notification of model numbers and prices, as well as other components and cabling in the chain, I recall the warmth and beauty with which this system conveyed soprano Elly Ameling’s radiant voice. Rethm’s single-driver loudspeakers didn’t plumb the lower reaches of the piano as do other loudspeakers with dedicated woofers and intelligent crossover and cabinet design, but the sound of the system’s mids and highs was superb.
There is no need for Denver's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest to toot its own horn. The three-day affair, which opens at noon on Friday, October 12 in the Denver Marriott Tech Center, promises no less than 431 exhibitors; 174 exhibitor rooms, including 24 large ones (same since 2009): 41 miscellaneous vendors; 35 CANJAM vendors; and an impressive number of show debuts.
The largest US high-end audio show open to the public is also, despite its size and occasionally snow-encrusted environs, the warmest and friendliest audiophile show in the country. For this we owe thanks to Marjorie Baumert, who continues to nurture and sustain the show following the death of her show co-founder and husband, Al Stiefel, at the start of 2009; the exceptional staff at the comfortable Marriott; a dedicated cadre of volunteers drawn from the Colorado Audio Society and Marjorie's extended circle of friends and family; and exhibitors who, welcoming the relative peace and quiet of the location, approach the show as if reuniting with old friends.
When I walked into the Robyatt Audio room, I discovered that Robin Wyatt had come all the way from New York City to show people what a lovely, airy sound he could get from Jacintha’s “Here’s to Life” and other LP selections. “The man who recorded that LP used the same stereo Miyajima Kinsui cartridge that I’m using for playback,” he explained.
The three-way, 220 lb Avior loudspeaker from Rockport Technologies ($29,500/pair) uses the same beryllium tweeter as the company's $225,000 Arrakis, complemented with all-new midrange and bass drivers that are built around Rockport's proprietary carbon-fiber sandwich/composite cones. The Avior sounded truly impressive with a Playback Designs MPS-5 CD/SACD player/DAC ($17,000), Electrocompaniet EC4.8 preamplifier ($5129), BAT VK-655SE amplifier ($14,000), and cabling from Transparent Audio. A representative from the Omaha, Nebraska dealer The Sound Environment demonstrated the system with humor, charm, candorand good music.
Barring the unlikely resurrection of either the summertime Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago or this magazine’s own fondly remembered movable feasts of the 1990s, there is only one hi-fi event for which I would board an airplane: Welcome to Denver. And while this non-flyer is already considering renting a car and driving home Monday, I’m glad as hell to be here: I think this is going to be fun.
“These blood-red eyes don’t see so good / But what’s worse is, if they could / Would I change my ways?”
So sings Dan Auerbach on “These Days,” the closing track from the Black Keys’ excellent 2010 album, Brothers. As Auerbach sings, achingly, slide guitar weeps, bells chime, bass guitar thumps along woefully, cymbals splash, and floor toms rumble. It’s a beautiful few moments of R&B-inspired pop music, flooded with heartache.
People sat up and took notice when Sanders Sound Systems released their Model 10 full-size electrostatic loudspeakers with analog electronic crossover amplifiers a few years back. The latest version, Model 10c ($13,000/pair) was delivering solid, full-range sound from a system that also includes Sanders Magtech Stereo amplifier ($5000), new preamplifier that combines both line and phono stages ($4000), and their own interconnects and speaker cables.
I noticed this sign hanging above the entrance to the Marriott Tech Center, home of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. “Save the Music”a fine message, but sort of vague. What's it about? I wondered. Inside the hotel, near the elevators, I found a postcard with a picture of a pianist at a piano, both the musician and his instrument covered in what appeared to be thick black oil. (Oh no!) At the top of the postcard again were the words, “Save the Music.”
On the back of the postcard, I found a message from dCS, titled, “Saving the Music for 25 Years.” Audiophiles are familiar with dCSwe know who the company is and what it doesbut this postcard seemed addressed to those who may be new to the hi-fi world:
A pivoted straight-line-tracking tonearm? The description is far less oxymoronic than it seems, given the arrival of the Schröder LT tonearm ($8900). This fascinating and apparently very well-executed design works by augmenting the main arm pivot with an extra pivot at the base, the latter said to offer exceptionally low resistance to the arm and cartridge as they follow the inward spiral of the groove. The geometric relationship between the two pivots is such that the headshelland the cartridge and stylusmaintain perfect tangency to the groove from beginning to end. Thus the headshell requires no offset angle, which also means that no anti-skating force is required. Very cool.