RMAF 2010

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 22, 2010 10 comments
Photo: John Atkinson

t's one thing to know that you're attending what has quickly grown into the largest annual high-end show in the United States. It's something else entirely to try to take in even a third of the 180 exhibits that were spread over the width, breadth and height of the Denver Marriott Tech Center.

RMAF 2010 drew such a huge rush of attendees on the first day (October 15) as to cause at least one overly packed elevator to spend what seemed like a minute in limbo, considering whether it should dare try to ascend. When it finally determined to go up rather than crash down, it moved in fits and starts, and shuddered each time it reached a floor. I think more than one of its occupants took a vow then and there to finally lose some weight. Stereophile ran out of their new-at-the-Show November issue by the end of the second day, and when a member of the Colorado Audio Society donated his collection of back issues to us on Sunday (see the photo), they were all gone within minutes.

Show exhibits extended to eight packed floors, and down into the. . .

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 22, 2010 1 comments
Jolida of Maryland sure knows how to produce good sound for people with limited budgets. Playing Leonard Cohen's classic "Back on Boogie Street" through iTunes, with all the sonic compromises that Apple's music server imposes on a system, Jolida's Glass FX tube DAC ($350) and Glass FX 25 Integrated hybrid amplifier ($350) still sounded great. This was not toy hi-fi; it was an indisputable portal into the real thing, with a musicality that put to shame some much more expensive systems I encountered at RMAF.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 22, 2010 7 comments
Driving Von Schweikert VR-3S speakers ($7995/pair) in Room 8032 was the awesome-looking Kronzilla SXI Mk.II monoblock, featuring the largest tubes I have seen in an audio amplifier. Source was the French EEra CD player, and there my handwritten notes become illegible. Apologies :-(
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 22, 2010 4 comments
Jeffrey Catalano’s High Water Sound provided my very favorite musical experience of the 2010 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. Along one wall of the room, there were stacks and stacks of vinyl records, an obvious sign of something good about to happen.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 22, 2010 1 comments
Photo: John Atkinson
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 22, 2010 5 comments
One of my two best sounds at RMAF was from Revel's Ultima Salon2 speakers ($22,000/pair), which have been favorites of mine since Larry Greenhill's review appeared in the June 2008 issue of Stereophile. At RMAF, the Revels were being driven by Mark Levinson No.53 monoblocks ($25,000/pair), which in turn were being fed straight from the variable output of a Mark Levinson No.512 SACD player ($15,000). Cabling was all-Transparent. The superbly stable soundstaging extended beyond the physical positions of the speakers, the tonal balance was one of the most neutral I heard at the Show, and the bass was both extended and defined. I would have stayed listening for longer, but the Show only had 30 minutes more to run and I had two more rooms to visit.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 22, 2010 0 comments
Here’s a look at one of Jude Mansilla’s systems: Apple iPad, Head-Direct HiFiMan HM-801 portable music player, Grado Head-Fi Series HF-2 headphones. I took a quick listen and enjoyed the liquid midrange, the smooth, easy sound.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 22, 2010 0 comments
“Oh, this is new…and this is new, too. And, oh yeah, we’ve also got this,” went Music Hall’s Leland Leard around and around his busy room, a funhouse of hi-fi and vinyl.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 22, 2010 1 comments
Due to all the positive reviews Emerald Physics loudspeakers have earned, it took several attempts over a three-day span until the crowds in the two Emerald Physics rooms had thinned down enough to allow a brief listen.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 22, 2010 0 comments
There were lots and lots and lots of headphones at CanJam, a headphone lover’s paradise.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 22, 2010 6 comments
As in previous years, the 2010 RMAF featured a full program of seminars. I moderated two of them, the first of which on Saturday morning featured Channel D's Rob Robinson demonstrating how to rip LPs to your PC. Rob flew by the seat of his pants, doing everything in full view of the packed house—including booting-up his Mac mini, hooking up a Music Hall turntable to a preamplifier/ADC and connecting the preamp to the computer with a FireWire link—to make the point that there was nothing intimidating about the process. (His and my thanks to AudioEngine for providing powered speakers to allow the audience to hear what was happening.) The only departure from orthodoxy was that as Robinson was using Channel D's Pure Vinyl program (reviewed by Michael Fremer last August) to capture the data, he was using the program's digital-domain RIAA correction so used a flat-response preamp rather than a true phono preamplifier.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 21, 2010 2 comments
After building ModWright Instruments' reputation as a quality source for equipment mods, Dan Wright has expanded his business to include manufacturing his own components. Perhaps because his gear was called into play in a number of rooms, his own room was mobbed until Sunday, when crowds traditionally lighten up.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 21, 2010 2 comments
Products making their debut at the 2010 RMAF from Philip O’Hanlon’s On a Higher Note: The interesting LaSource SACD player/preamp/DAC from Audioaero ($44,000), Vivid G2 Giya loudspeaker ($50,000/pair), and Brinkmann 9.6 tonearm ($4000), Brinkmann Pi cartridge ($2700), and Brinkmann Edison tube phono stage ($12,900).
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 21, 2010 0 comments
You can always count on EAR's Dan Meinwald to be spinning some great platters. When I walked in, whatever jazz recording was playing sounded very alive and incisive. (EAR's electronics and Marten's speakers are not shy and recalcitrant). When Dan switched to an old classic LP, Meeting at the River, the Vishwa Mohan Bhatt's unique guitar sounded uncommonly beautiful and clear. Had I not had 18 rooms left to visit on Saturday, with a lot more screaming for attention, I would have stayed longer.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2010 6 comments
Patricia Barber is a secret guilty passion of mine, so when I heard the sound of her singing "The Quality of Mercy" from Café Blue coming from room 2024 in the Marriott Tower, I had to go in. The system featured GR Super V open-baffle speakers ($2495/pair as a kit), which were designed by Danny Richie, who had done some of the crossover design on the well-regarded Usher Be718 speaker. Amplifiers were Dodd Audio tube monoblocks, preamp Dodd's battery-powered tube-buffered passive design. the D/A processor was the Tranquility from dB Audio Labs. This $2395 processor was being fed data via USB from a Mac mini modded by Mach2 Music. For $1495, Mach2 supplies a turnkey Mac mini fitted with a 40GB solid-state drive and 4GB of RAM, as well as a 320GB external drive for data storage and the playback software of your choice. The mini's Snow Leopard operating system has been slimmed-down by removing anything that would otherwise interfere with the task of streaming music data from the USB port.

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