Rocky Mountain Audio Fest Starts Friday

The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest is set to begin this Friday, October 7, from noon to 7 pm, in the mostly remodeled Denver Marriott Tech Center. The three-day audio show, which ends on October 9 at 4pm, promises 128 exhibit rooms, 32 vendor displays, plus three more in the parking lot (including the fabled Sony Magic Bus), 332 exhibit companies, and, at 62 exhibits, the largest CanJam ever.

Although participation is down by perhaps 30 rooms from the show's high—see below for the reasons why—RMAF seems poised to maintain its reputation as the North American audio show with the most product premieres. With a week left before the show, many announcements of first-time world or North American showings have arrived. Expect to see new speakers from Spendor, Wilson Benesch, Cambridge, Dynaudio, Legacy, Magico, Pari Passu, Wilson, and Audioengine; music servers and other digital products from Wolf, SOtM, Chrysalis, HoloAudio, 3Beez, NAD, HiFiMan, and Merging; a new transport/memory player from PSAudio; analog products from Pristine Vinyl and Zesto; new electronics from Nagra, Swan Song, Dynamic Sounds, and NAD; accessories from Magico and Nordost; cables from Nordost; and headphone products from Oppo, Danacable, Audeze, Woo, HiFiMan, Clear Tune, and Sonoma Acoustics. This list could potentially double in size before the show opens.

You can also expect a lot more companies from overseas. So far, show organizer Marjorie Baumert, who inherited RMAF from her late husband, Al Stiefel, counts exhibitors from 29 countries and 42 states. In addition, press from 11 countries is expected to be buzzing around the show. "We are being supported far more internationally than I could have ever hoped for," Marjorie declared by phone.

Special Features
While entertainment has been reduced due to lack of space, the number of seminars at RMAF is extremely high. Not only that, but most of them are new. Among them, "The Young Guns of HiFi" panel, "Affordability: How Low Can You Go?" moderated by our own Michael Lavorgna of Stereophile and, "The Vinyl Future" moderated by our own Michael Fremer of Stereophile and, "How to Read Between the Lines in High-end Audio Advertising," "Audio in a Digital World," "Headphones: Do Measurements Predict Performance?" with Tyll Hertsens of on the panel, and "The Designers: Getting More for Less." Expect a good 51 presenters. Marjorie had so many requests from people wishing to produce seminars that she had to enlist the Audio Society of Colorado to help her choose which ones to offer.

"The biggest new thing is the import of Colleen Murphy's Classic Album Sundays. We're calling it 'Party in the Pod' and featuring two albums per day. All the playback equipment was donated, and Colleen is sending one of her reps from Chicago to help out with the room. She's been amazing to work with."

Finally, RMAF will again feature five "Affordable Rooms" at different price points. While last year, the people in charge of the rooms were sometimes rather detached from the process (to put it mildly) and unable to supply information or even play something decent, members of the Colorado Audiophile Society will be on hand this year to ensure that the rooms fulfill their intended function.

"It's pretty close to Christmas, and a lot of the young people and their parents want to see if there's something they can afford," says Marjorie.

Friday evening will also bring a special pre-dinner memorial gathering for a sorely missed Stereophile editor and contributor, the late Wes Phillips. Head to the PS Audio room, Suite 1107, immediately after show hours Friday at 7pm for a brief memorial for Wes. Stereophile's editor-in-chief, John Atkinson, will speak. Drinks and light refreshments will be served.

Not the Same Old
As for the new face of RMAF, for starters, the Marriott's expected total makeover is not yet complete. In fact, the entire Atrium, which formerly housed two floors of exhibits, is not yet open, and some of the lobby floor spaces are either transformed, unusable or very, very different. In a hotel that never had enough large rooms to satisfy demand, 13 large rooms are not yet ready for occupancy.

In addition, standard hotel rooms now have credenzas built into their walls, and their size and layout have been called into question. Some larger rooms have a huge swivel TV in the center that cannot be removed because it is literally taller that the doorway.

To compensate for all the closures and chaos, RMAF has shifted active two-channel and home theater exhibits from the Atrium to all 11 floors of the Tower, plus the mezzanine and available lobby areas. CanJam has moved from indoors to a heated tent in the parking lot in front, and also to the two large Evergreen rooms on the lobby level formerly occupied by Kimber and IsoMike. (Thank you, Ray Kimber, for being such a mensch, and voluntarily ceding your rooms to headphone lovers.) People will not have to walk through possible snow or rain to get from the lobby to CanJam.

A number of events will also be held in "pods." Marjorie describes these as similar to portable broadcasting booths.

Eating and lounge areas have shifted, as has the gym. And while parking in front of the hotel has been reduced, there will be plenty of parking right across the street.

Between all these unexpected developments, is it any wonder that participation is down? Note, however, that none of this seems to have impacted pre-registration, which has already topped 4000 people. In addition, since RMAF offers special admission discount and free codes to students, teachers, and parents from local high schools, a lot of young people and those they (sometimes) look up to are coming.

"No, I did not expect these challenges," says Marjorie. "But the hotel has been great. It's nobody's fault. It is what it is, and the new management company and same wonderful event manager, John Hogan, have been open and honest with me. Some attendees pulled out because of room size or the fact that they had to spend the night in other hotels, but everyone has said, 'I'm sorry, but we'll be back next year.'

"My inside joke is that Al was born on Friday the 13th in November, and he always said that 13 was his lucky number. This is the 13th year of the show, and I'm not feeling it that way."

You can find out exactly how the 13th Annual Rocky Mountain Audio Fest is feeling to us at Stereophile by checking ongoing online coverage from John Atkinson, Herb Reichert, Jana Dagdagan, and yours truly. Posts will continue through much of the week. You will be able to find additional coverage at,, and

Anton's picture

I am sure it will work out. Out of chaos often comes innovation.

crenca's picture

hearing the "affordable" systems (I am always on the lookout for a "cheap" upgrade to my already "cheap" computer speaker setup), hearing the new Focal phones, and the new Legacy Audio standmounts (which I assume will be there).

I will be the guy wearing the "You can have my MQA when you pry it from my cold dead fingers" t-shirt... ;)

jim davis's picture

These are just FEMA trailers being brought up from Louisiana, right?

I get the built-in credenza, but a swivel TV too large to fit through a door? I've stayed in some nice suites, but have yet to see this.

Speaking of suites, I'll be over at the Hyatt's Presidential enjoying some Magico M3 magic. Maybe better venue for future shows?