Au Revoir, Marriott-Hello, Gaylord Rockies

This final shot of the shipping checkout area in the Denver Marriott Tech Center may lack glamour, but so, I'm afraid, does the Marriott itself, post-renovation. The freezing lobby looks impressive, and rooms are lovely for guests, but the latters' ability to accommodate systems plus attendees has been greatly diminished. With unmovable built-in credenzas, poor acoustics, and unacceptably noisy cooling systems, the time has come to move on.

This show report began with a short blog about RMAF's new home in the yet-unopened Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center. Thanks to Ray Kimber, who donned a hard hat and protective clothing to tour the unfinished complex with RMAF staff, a lot more can be shared.

"The scale of the roughly half-million-square foot convention/ballroom/meeting area is almost overwhelming, and the place is far larger than that; it's like seeing a castle from a distance," said Ray at the start of a long phone conversation. "The entrance portico is so large that it can accept several full tour buses at the same time. The place feels elegant and rustic at the same time—it's definitely high-class Colorado—with some areas that look like a cross between a canyon and a mountain. The sports bar contains a 75' LED screen, the lobby has the longest fireplace in state of CO, and there are also three pools and waterslides. It is designed as a destination resort for families people of all ages."

All well and good, you may say—but where's the beef?

Hotel rooms were not yet open, but Ray was able to enter a full-sized mock-up of a double queen room that had been erected in what must be a huge sales office. He reports that all furniture is removable, and that the standard rooms are 25-30% bigger than comparable high-end hotel rooms. "They feel good, not boxy, and the sense of peace, quiet, and comfort when I walked in was palpable," he says.

Demo rooms, which will be in the tower closest to the convention center, will be served by six elevators. The Convention area itself includes two huge partitionable ballrooms as well as lots of meeting areas with movable walls. Between three levels of break-out rooms in the convention center, suites, and the larger-than-customary standard hotel rooms, it seems that RMAF will finally have enough big spaces to satisfy everyone.

"I closed the doors to the partitionable rooms, and even with construction compressors running, the spaces were remarkably quiet," Ray reported. "I could hardly hear someone yelling on the other side. The dividers are also better quality than I've ever seen, and seal on the top and bottom as well as to each other. I've seen lots of airwalls over the years, and these are as good or better than any I've ever seen. Noise from corridors should be also be less due to their diffusive elements.

"I did some noise analysis on my phone's studio quality, real-time analyzer while the blowers were running, and nothing was over 50[dB]. You could hear very fine dynamic changes over it."

There is only one potential downside for show attendees. While the 120 acres surrounding the hotel will eventually be developed, the resort currently sits by itself, a short shuttle ride away from an RTD rail station that connects to the airport station. While transportation from airport to hotel will be easy, those without cars (or who do not wish to pay for parking in one of the complex's 2700 parking spaces), as well as those who do not wish to shuttle/rail to "outside" restaurants will find their eating choices and budgets dictated to by the resort's eight restaurants and others that are willing to deliver to the hotel.

I, for one, have never been able to understand why more audiophiles do not make the trek to Denver. The show is hardly mobbed—attendance was clearly down this year—and virtually every major and minor manufacturer and/or their dealer representative is on hand. RMAF's CanJam is also huge. With the new Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center far more accessible, and rooms far more conducive to quality sound reproduction, there will be every reason to attend.

A few words on this year's coverage. While RMAF's initial estimate of 163 active exhibit rooms (plus CanJam) did not take into account the inability of some exhibitors to navigate the Visa hurdles currently in place in the US—there were a number of last-minute cancellations—there were still far more active exhibit rooms than I and John Atkinson (who only attended the first day and a half of the show, and was often occupied by meetings) could reasonably cover. Therefore, I scanned my emails plus the news announcements on the RMAF site, and identified rooms with premieres. Guided by a few systems that I really wanted to hear, I headed to a room, and then attempted to cover all premieres on that floor. Exhibitors who failed to send press releases directly to me—hey, I've covered this show annually for over a decade, and my contact information is hardly a secret—or to submit their releases to the RMAF office, lost out. So, alas, did those on floors that I was simply unable to reach.

I also moved slower this time around. At the risk of being called self-indulgent—what, an only child who's self-indulgent?—I found the sound in the majority of rooms so inviting that I could not summon up the resolve to dash from one room to the other after hearing one or two snippets of music. If my room descriptions are longer and more considered than usual, it's because I devoted more time to listening.

I realize my assessment of fine sound flies in the face of prior experiences at shows. Perhaps veteran exhibitors had learned through trial and error how best to deal with the Marriott's acoustics, or their equipment had simply improved. (I'd like to think both of those things were the case.) Perhaps I was lucky, and missed exhibits with sub-standard or downright exorable sound. All I know for certain is that while I donned my well-worn monk's garb in the privacy of my hotel room, and confined partying to one lip-loosening glass of wine at the Thursday night pre-show gathering, I spent more time than usual in individual rooms.

My regrets to all whose rooms I missed, and to all readers who were hoping for reports on rooms we could not cover. I hope that the quality of my coverage compensates.

I look forward to seeing some of you in Las Vegas and Chicago. Please look for my 2019 show-year preview in a forthcoming issue of Stereophile.

rschryer's picture

...for regaling us again with your audio show adventures. Excellent work as always.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Thank you JVS for an excellent RMAF show report ........... Looking forward to future show reports from you ........ 3 cheers :-) .............

Ortofan's picture

... the trek to Denver?

I'd make the trek if I lived within a half-day's drive of Denver.
Otherwise, since I'm not a professional reviewer, it doesn't seem worth spending close to $2K for airfare and accommodations just to attend the show.

Sure I'd miss out on hearing the $1MM systems, but there are several local high end dealers within an hour's drive at which I can audition most anything I'd be likely to buy.

ppgr's picture

...Demo rooms, which will be in the tower closet...
Talk about scale :)

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

listen to anything in the closet. I came out of the closet in 1970.

ppgr's picture

I was refering to the typo in 6th paragraph

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I figured as much, did a quick search before running to a Shabam! dance aerobics class at my gym, and thought it said "closest." Now I see "closet."

Thank you. Much appreciated. Shall request a change.


Bogolu Haranath's picture

I'm only "Human" ............ Rag'n'Bone Man :-) ...........

dalethorn's picture

Roy Allison once famously said, "A good loudspeaker is a good loudspeaker, in an auditorium or a broom closet."

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

On October 18, I learned that RMAF offered 161 exhibit rooms and 98 booth spaces spread out over the lobby, parking lot, Atrium and the Rocky Mountain Events Center. Attendance consisted of 4,461 unique visitors from 24 countries and 48 states. Also in attendance were 149 press from 73 publications, 28 states, and 9 countries