2011 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest: Bigger Than Ever

The 2011 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, which runs October 14–16 at the Denver Marriott Tech Center, promises more exhibits than ever before. With 480 exhibitors spread over 176 hotel rooms and three vendor areas, and advance attendance figures indicating at least 3500 attendees, the show continues to attract even more of the industry and public despite the economic slowdown. While the proportion of East and West Coast attendees remains stable, you'll see more international attendees, including folks from Thailand, India, Japan, Australia, Argentina, Singapore, Brazil, Canada, Finland, New Zealand, Mexico, and the UK.

"The big news is that we've scheduled a special exhibit at the Hyatt down the block," show organizer Marjorie Baumert told Stereophile. "We've expanded because Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds and Analogue Productions has put together a preview presentation of the new 5.1 surround sound SACD of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here, running all three days, and played through the same Acoustic Transducer Company (ATC) loudspeakers that were used to mix the project. Sound engineer James Guthrie and SACD/DSD pioneer Gus Skinas will be on hand, and new pressings from Chad's Quality Record Pressings plant will also be played."

The vendor areas include the return of Canjam, whose headphone exhibits have doubled in size to 30; a large selection of CDs, LPs, SACD, and other goodies; and a scattering of vendors throughout the lobby. New vendors Atocha Design New York (audio furniture), Bob's Devices (handmade transformers for MC cartridges), Mytek Digital (converter designs for mastering and high-end playback applications) join a number of new exhibitors, including Polk Audio, Clarus Cables, Dynamic Contrasts, Mach2 Music (music servers), Resonessence Labs (DACs), Hsu Research, and Totem Acoustics.

In addition, live entertainment arrives Saturday evening in the comfortable, alcohol-friendly ambience of the Atrium. Lori Lieberman ("Killing Me Softly"), whose latest release has arrived from QRP in 200-gram vinyl, holds forth at 7pm, followed by the near-ubiquitous audiophile jazz favorite, bassist Dean Peer, at 9pm. The night before, KEF stages a major, everyone-invited 50th Anniversary Party in the Atrium.

Baumert, who co-founded RMAF in 2004 with her late husband, Al Stiefel, and Colorado Audio Society member Ron Welborne, has also instituted a new bloggers room. Organized by AudioEvo.org and Positive Feedback On-Line, the show offers computers and hospitality to all. A sound system in memory of Lee Weiland, a major AudioEvo blogger, will add to the bits of information flying about.

It is estimated that at least 60% of rooms with have some form of computer or server-based music file playback. In addition to CDs, which some exhibitors may burn on the spot, attendees are urged to bring USB sticks containing files of some of their favorite recordings.

Although Baumert senses that some companies are having a hard time—"people who are normally jovial are a little short-tempered," she reports—the basic feeling is one of optimism. "The exhibitors look forward to coming to Denver because it's an easy move in and move out, and the hotel is great and ready. And the wonderful volunteers of the Colorado Audio Society (CAS) are really excited about companies they've never heard of before."

The seminar schedule is one of the richest at any show. In addition to a Founding Fathers seminar (Bob Cordell, Ray Kimber, and Jeff Rowland), one of several whose participants were picked by members of the CAS, presenters include Stereophile's John Atkinson (loudspeaker measurement on Sunday morning) and a host of publications and companies. With 14 seminars and demos, plus Kassem's extravaganza in the Hyatt, attendees will be hard pressed to choose what to attend.

With new product still being announced at press time, it's impossible to list everything. In addition to the rollouts mentioned on the RMAF site, variously listed here and here, look for first showings of Sonic Studio's Amarra 2.3 music player for the Mac, VTL's Siegfried Series II reference monoblocks, Behold's Tanara loudspeaker, Lindemann 885 integrated amp and revised 825 digital player, Clarus cables from Tributaries, the E.A.R. 24/192 DAC, Empirical Audio's Overdrive Ultra DAC, Stein Music's latest Magic Diamonds, German Physik's Unlimited Mk.II loudspeaker, Palmer's 2.5 turntable, B.M.C. Audio's amplifier line, Nordost's QRT Qv2 Qvibe AC line harmonizer, Pass Labs' First Watt SIT (static induction transistor) monoblock and stereo amplifiers, Peachtree Audio's flagship 24/192 Grand Pre 2 asynchronous preamp/DAC, PranaWire's MicroCosmos and Rishi series cables, Laufer Teknik's Memory Player 64, Signal Fidelity Research's isolation platform, Volent VL2SE loudspeaker, Bergmann's Magne Air-bearing turntable and tonearm, Lansche No. 5.1 loudspeaker, Acapella High Violoncello II MKII loudspeaker, Einstein Final Cut Ultimate OTL amps and preamp, TIDAL's Piano Cera loudspeaker, Wavelength's Cosecant HS + Denominator Module 24(32)/192 DAC and Neutron 24/192 ADC/DAC combo and iKodek module, Wood Artistry's newly designed Orion-4 loudspeaker, YG Acoustics Carmel loudspeaker, and Triode Corporation's TRV-300SE R integrated amplifier with MM phono stage and headphone amp, TRX-M845SE monoblock amplifier, and TRV-DAC1.0 tube USB DAC. Source Interlink Media, parent of Stereophile, will also formally announce the launch of AudioStream, Computer Audio for Everyone, a new computer audio website edited by Michael Lavorgna.

Stereophile's John Atkinson and Stephen Mejias will have their hands more than full as they attempt to cover every exhibit at RMAF 2011. Stay tuned for a slew of reports and photos.