RMAF’s Bold Move Pays Off

After talking with a number of exhibitors and attendees, I’d have to call the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest’s daring move to a new and very different venue—a controversial if also inevitable move—a success. Everyone I spoke to was happy with attendance, and the sound in the hotel rooms was generally excellent.

For people who stayed at the hotel, food in the two restaurants I visited was quite good, if pricey. The Marketplace had some excellent salads and enough goodies and caffeinated beverages to keep everyone happy. The amenities, including a large gym and pool, were excellent. So was the service. Friends and I discovered an excellent Indian restaurant just a short Lyft ride away, and a decent Chinese restaurant and huge supermarket not much further. Others loved the Italian pasta place near the airport, which thankfully was also not far away at all.

Yes, the venue was large—so large that the above photo together with the one that follows only begin to give a sense of the size of the 1500-room Gaylord Rockies Hotel and the adjacent convention center. The distance between the never-crowded, ultra-efficient hotel elevators (which served my hotel room) and the convention center (which hosted the biggest rooms, headphone area, and marketplace) was such that making the trek was like moving from one airline terminal to another. Another challenge was the acoustics of the largest rooms; I expect that exhibitors will learn to deal with that far more effectively in the coming years. Yet, despite the show’s September dates, which made exhibiting impossible for some companies heading to next weekend’s CEDIA—RMAF changes back to October next year—the exhibitor turnout was sizable, and included a goodly number of major brands.

Logistics and schedules being what they were, I was the only person from Stereophile who covered the show. Yes, I entered fewer than half of the rooms and had to skip the headphone area and marketplace. But instead of running from site to site, I took enough time in the rooms I visited to sample most of them with a range of music chosen to reveal both strengths and weaknesses. The result, I hope, is better coverage.

My one regret is that I did not have the opportunity to evaluate many lower-priced systems. Perhaps I should have spent less time in the big rooms at the Convention Center and focused on entry-level rigs instead. The good news is, I managed to cover just about every premiere for which we received a press release.

I wish great success for the very dedicated Marjorie Baumert—the show's organizer—her coworkers and family members, and the volunteers from the Colorado Audio Society. RMAF overcame the obstacles it faced over the last year (and more). It has managed to remain a friendly, manageable show in a very special part of the United States. May it grow and prosper.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

My one regret is that I did not have the opportunity to evaluate many lower-priced systems. Perhaps I should have spent less time in the Convention Center, which was so far away from my hotel room that I decided to give it most of my day, and focused on some entry-level rigs instead. The good news is, I managed to cover just about every premiere for which we received a press release.

Anton's picture

Regrets, you've had a few, but then again, too few to mention.
You did what you had to do, and saw it through with some kvetching but without exemption.
You planned each charted course, each excruciatingly tiring step along the painful convention byway.
But more, much more than this you did it your way.

So, next year, Marjorie says she'll get that damned "Jason guy" a WalMart scooter to get around better. We'll get you a little flag pole, too!

Regarding price, I thought you WERE focusing on the lower-priced systems! ;-D

Drift....forbidden topic...Sometimes, I just don't know where my hobby is going. I actually remember the days of families with one working adult who came home and could afford to fire up those classic Marantz and McIntosh systems and still be able to eat lamb for dinner.

I'm not "jealous," or "undiscerning," sometimes I just wonder where my hobby went. I think it all started when that damnable HP guy started calling it "high end." Ha. Let's kill that bullshit term.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

We sincerely thank you JVS, for all these different show reports ........ Like I said before, you are the best :-) .......

JRT's picture

Thank you for the very significant effort. It probably would have been a lot more fun for you if you didn't have other stresses on your mind. By the time you read this, I hope all will have gone well and he will be on his recovery.

As to lower costs, there is DIY.

I see that Tom Chistiansen announced the launch of Tom Chistiansen Audio, with "World Premier" at RMAF.


His Modulus 686 amplifier modules might interest the DIY crowd. $300 per channel build cost (he says), and extremely clean through 20_kHz.


mmole's picture

JVS says, "I was the only person from Stereophile who covered the show." Yet Michael Fremer over on Analog Planet has filed numerous show reports. What gives?

Here are a few theories.

1-Michael avoided JVS. Per Michael, "All that damn whistling drives me nuts."
2-JVS avoided Michael. Per JVS, "Enough with the damn records. I don't even own a turntable."
3-Michael, deep in his flame war with Jeff Henning, wore a clever disguise all week.
4-Malachi Lui attended the show and filed all the reports printed under Michael's name. It's my understanding that Malachi writes 99% of the content on Analog Planet anyway leaving Michael free to follow his other passions: stamp collecting, trainspotting, and building Saab models inside wine
5-Rookie editor JA2 forgot that he assigned them both to the show. When JA1 pointed out that the budget only allowed for one attendee, he instructed JVS to avoid Michael at all costs. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Michael checked out of the hotel and found out his Stereophile credit card was cancelled.

I'm on the case.

Glotz's picture

Just hilarious... that Michael!!

I think the 1st reference of whistling was in response to Pat Metheny records in the 90's... naw! It was just JVS' whistling.. lol.

Henning... (Should be said just like "Neumann")!

mmole's picture

Thanks JA2, although the solution was a lot more mundane than my speculations.

Jim Austin's picture

Not to let facts get in the way of humor, but: Mikey was at the show, but as is usual he was covering it for AP, not SP. So what JVS meant was, he was the only one covering the show for this particular magazine.

Jim Austin, Editor

Bogolu Haranath's picture

JVS was the Lone Ranger plenipotentiary for SP :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be for next year RMAF 2020, Stereophile could send more than one reporter, so that more demo rooms could be covered? .......... Just a suggestion :-) ..........

hnickm's picture

"My one regret is that I did not have the opportunity to evaluate many lower-priced systems"
But that would be inconsistent with Stereophile's mission.

JoeinNC's picture

That would seem to be true, yes. Just this past June, Jim Austin postulated "One could argue, though, that Levinson's new No.5805 integrated amplifier ($8500 with DAC and phono stage) is a budget component..."

I guess anything is "affordable" if you have enough money.

Jim Austin's picture

You can make anything sound silly if you take it out of context.

The No.5805 is a preamp, amp, DAC, and MM/MC phono stage in a single box, plus you don't need wires. It's all good quality. As I explain in the review, That puts the average price significantly below the average price of comparable separates listed in Class-B of Stereophile's Recommended Components list. To me, that's decent value.

Jim Austin, Editor

JoeinNC's picture

To suggest they are is what's silly.

Jim Austin's picture

That does put them toward the low end of the price spectrum for perfectionist audio components.

If you think the word "budget" doesn't apply, fine. I'll acknowledge that, while different people have different standards, that is a defensible position.


JRT's picture

I would suggest that some defined budget, regardless if large or small, and even if flexible and coarsely drawn, can be useful constraint in forcing more consideration of optimizing the allocation of limited resources in system optimizations.

JRT's picture

The recording process is lossy, only captures a very small subset of the information available at the time and place of the recording session.

And the playback is imperfect, likely sounds significantly different among different consumer's playback rooms and setups, which are all likely different than the reference systems in the studios used by the recording and mastering engineers. If they are all different, then which is nearer to perfect? A good mastering studio might be closer, but which one?

I would suggest that because of that, chasing "perfection" in many aspects can be a fool's errand, and can be counter productive. Opportunity costs will rear their ugly heads and sell the fool some snake oil, and eat the fool's lunch while he is distracted on his false errand.

I would suggest that the word "adequate", and the phrase "fully adequate" are under-appreciated, much like the word "budget" (regardless size), and consideration of those might better focus thinking and efforts, in contrast to chasing after false notions of "perfection" in aspects where it does not exist, which can lead to wasteful use of available resources and thereby reduce the performance of the system as a whole.

I would further suggest that adequacy is relative to a set of requirements. Establishing at least some notion of those requirements is an early step in the process. The goal is to meet those requirements, fully adequately, and not waste resources in excessively exceeding that threshold.

There is a lot of room for further discussion and consideration of requirements and what is fully adequate to those requirements. Or, if nearly so, how far off the mark and what are the effects in the result.

Examples: What is the requirement for dB SPL at the listening position at 0_dBFS signal level? What are the effects of listening at significantly higher or lower level than that used as reference in mastering?

robertbadcock's picture

Not a word of this reached Colorado Springs. Again.

Updates; in the Stereophile and Fremerophile newsletters might be a nice thing for next year.


Anton's picture

"Siri, remind me to go to RMAF...October 1-4, 2020."

You could even set a ticket reminder for 6 months prior: "Siri, reminder to get RMAF ticket, April 15, 2020."

robertbadcock's picture

I do have a Rega P-1; and one of the Pro-Ject RPM-1. No Siri. Gotta about nine or ten or so feet of vinyl. But no Siri.

Ooh; you can set Your Siri to send Me a reminder! Lulz, digititis. j/k

Anton's picture

How many days does it take that there analog computer of yours to download a Stereophile page?

Maybe get a post it note and stick it into your flip phone!

Or, use a charcoal stick and draw a pictograph on your cave wall?


(If you wanna keep up and save money, get your 1992 marvel Superheroes wall calendar out of storage and mark RMAF for October 1-4....it's the same calendar as 2020, for free! How does that work?)

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Please don't wear a red hat while you are there ....... People may not like any October surprises in 2020 :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be you could wear a hat which says 'Keep RMAF Great' :-) .........

tonykaz's picture

It's as High-End as you can get in Colorado, offering $40 Schucked Oysters, $22 Salads and $60 Steaks. It's like visiting a Resort Property.

Probably a good fit for $1,000,000 System Sales & their dedicated Fan-boy Base.

I'll continue to miss the grass-roots feel of previous RMAFs.

Home Music is an Everyman's hobby but the Private Jet Class seem to have taken over our best Audiophile Venue, looks like a Class War has seeped into our little world.

This is the sort of place to be "Seen" at rather than finding an exciting new release from....

Corporate travlers have to stay at places like this which makes Airbnb so attractive.

I feel like I'm on a Rant, perhaps because Tyll and Steve G are missing.

Tony in Venice

jmsent's picture

...or lack thereof will be next years RMAF, not this one. I'm sure that the ones who attended are happy. Less competition from other exhibitors who stayed away means stronger attendance at your room. And from the stats JVS posted, many exhibitors did stay away. This show is down considerably from its peak a few years back. I'm sure the intention of moving to this huge, flashy, and expensive venue is to attract more attendees and more exhibitors, and reverse that trend. Time will really tell if they will succeed, or if this will be the "new normal". Changing show venues can be quite disruptive. Just look at what happened to the LA shows.

romath's picture

I gave long thought and lots of investigation to going to this year's for the first time, including lining up an inexpensive AirBnb nearby, but decided to skip it. Being in the middle of nowhere, without public transportation or accommodations within walkable distances, and $18 parking, plus PS Audio being closed on Friday (for listening), just wasn't inviting.

Anton's picture

How much were the rooms to stay in?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Ask Tim Williams :-) ......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Expect to spend around $10k, if you plan to stay at the Gaylord Rockies, for everything including the round trip airfare :-) .........

jmsent's picture

...$235/night plus $20 resort fee and 15.25% room tax. $18/day parking (if you got the discount).

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be it is more like $5k total cost ....... Still expensive :-) ........

barrows's picture

Ahh Jason V-S, we missed you in the Sonore room this year! Too bad you could not make it, as we had a nice system with the Sonore Signature Rendu SE (with optical fiber Ethernet input) fronting Bricasti DAC/Amp and Vivid Audio Kaya 25 speakers. Many folks listening to our demo system came back for more after hearing the rest of the show.
To those who feel the need to criticize the changes, especially those who do so without actually attending or exhibiting at the show: shame on you. The new venue is fantastic, especially for those exhibitors limited to the small rooms, as these rooms now feature much better sound than at the previous venue. By attending this show a listener will hear a much better representation of what the systems are capable of. Also, getting around the show is much easier, with plenty of fast elevators. I expect after the positive responses from this years show, and going back to the better dates in October, there will be many more exhibitors in years to come.
Fear not, those who rather spend a little less on lodging, there are plenty of more affordable options just a few minutes away as well! Close to the airport, and 20 minutes to downtown Denver for those who want to, I cannot imagine a better venue in this area!