The 2009 RMAF Starts Friday

The sixth annual Rocky Mountain Audio Fest is about to get underway at the end of this week. Scheduled to take place October 2–4, at the Denver Marriott Tech Center, the largest high-end audio show in the US that's open to the public will offer 150 exhibit rooms packed with products from 479 companies. Despite the economic slowdown, at least 3500 audiophiles, the same number as last year, are expected to attend.

This year's RMAF has some especially enticing features. One is a 1000-square-foot expandable trailer from Harman International, in which two listening rooms will feature an array of new products from JBL, Lexicon, Mark Levinson, Revel, and Synthesis—all Harman-owned brands. Another is the strong presence of Head-Fi, the online headphone forum, which will recreate Head-Fi's annual CanJam meet in the Marriott's large Event Center. Along with 19 vendor exhibitors and a dozen Head-Fi members who will demonstrate their DIY gear, a fair number of participants in the lively Head-Fi forum are expected to attend.

"I'm very excited to have the opportunity to show the two-channel speaker community the quality you can get from headphones," Head-Fi's John Purtill exclaimed by phone. "I'm particularly fond of the groundbreaking JH Audio in-ear monitor [IEM], which will really change how audiophiles view portable audio. These, the Ultimate Ears and Westone IEMs, and the Sennheiser HD800 headphones scale real well." Purtill also promised some "interesting" tubed headphone amps from Ray Samuels and Woo Audio, and unique planar headphones from Audez'e.

Seminar heaven: The outstanding lineup of audio seminars at RMAF 2009 looks as if it will be more than worth the extremely low price of admission to the show ($10 per day, $25 for all three days). Our own John Atkinson is presenting a session titled "PC Audio: Squeezing the Music Till the Bits Squeak?" This demonstration of the heights and depths of current computer playback is scheduled for Friday at 3pm, and is repeated Saturday at 11am and 4pm, and Sunday at 11am.

At 2pm on Saturday, JA will moderate a panel session, "How to Get the Most Out of Computer-Based Audio." Organized by Steve Silberman of Ayre Electronics, the panelists will discuss the best way to connect an audio device to a computer, as well as how to best rip, download, and convert audio files, and to store and manage your music. The Class A lineup of panelists comprises Chris Connaker (, Roy Gregory (Nordost), Charles Hansen (Ayre Acoustics), J. Gordon Rankin (Wavelength Audio), Gus Skinas (SACD), John Stronczer (Bel Canto Design), and record producer Joe Harley.

Two outstanding audio personalities, our own Michael Fremer ("Turntable Setup," on Friday at 2pm and Saturday at 10am) and The Absolute Sound founder Harry Pearson ("The High End: Past, Present, Future," on Friday and Saturday at 6:15pm), will bookend seminars by writer Steven Stone (TAS), Steve Hoffman and Chad Kassem (Acoustic Sounds/Analogue Productions), Steven R. Rochlin (Enjoy the Music), Mark Waldrep (AIX Records), Neal Van Berg (Sound Science), and mastering engineer Jeff Merkel.

The three seminars by Nordost's Roy Gregory (former editor of HiFi+) and Vertex AQ's Steve Elford sound especially intriguing. Gregory explained by e-mail that they will present a new form of measurement that promises to remove the stigma of "voodoo science" from cables and other audio products: "The content has serious, far-reaching consequences for both audio measurement techniques (their effectiveness—or current lack thereof) and our understanding of systems as a whole and priorities within them." Separately, Nordost will demonstrate its new Nordost System Tuning and Set-Up disc and the Quantum Distribution System.

Computer Audio Reigns: Among the computer-playback products on display, be on the lookout for Wavelength Audio's WaveLink 24/96 Asynchronous USB-to-S/PDIF converter, which comes complete with Nirvana Audio's new T0 BNC-to-BNC digital cable and BNC-to-RCA adapter. The WaveLink runs its most important circuits off a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that is automatically recharged when the WaveLink is not in use. Wavelength's Brick v3 Asynchronous 24/96 USB DAC and Crimson Denominator 32/96 USB DAC, with dual asynchronous oscillators and automatically rechargeable batteries, should also generate quite a buzz. The same should be true of Ayre Acoustics' DX-5 multiformat player, which can play Blu-ray, DVD-Audio and -Video, SACD, and all PCM formats. Using technology licensed from Wavelength Audio, the DX-5's USB input will allow it to double as an outboard DAC for computer playback.

WireWorld is poised to introduce the Supernova 6, the first wide-bandwidth, glass-optical digital cable compatible with Macintosh computers. With conductors made of 280 glass fibers, the cable's optional 3.5mm mini optical connector is compatible with Macs' optical digital-audio output. Sonic Studio's new versions of their Amarra music player, which deliver superior sound from CD-quality and extreme-hi-rez files, will play a central role in the exhibits of Audio Salon (MBL), Balanced Power Technologies, Locus Design, SimpliFi Audio, Wavelength, and Weiss Engineering.

New It would take a book to list all the new products from emerging companies at RMAF. A company new to me, Silicon Arts Design & Concert Fidelity, will introduce the Concert Fidelity CF-080LSX hybrid line-stage preamplifier and ZL-200 solid-state monoblock power amplifier. Alfred Kainz's highend-electronics, Inc., will demo Consensus Audio's Conspiracy and Lightning SE speakers, designed in Austria by Stefan Fekete and driven by handmade, class-A monoblock amplifiers from the German firm VALVET.

In the Al Stiefel Legacy Room, named in memory of RMAF's sadly departed founder, the Kentucky-based Carnegie Associates will introduce their AS loudspeakers. Carnegie was chosen by members of the Colorado Audio Society as most deserving of the honor of being exhinioted in this room. Bless you, Marjorie Baumert, for honoring your beloved by keeping the show going.

Show specials, promised at 10–25% off, will be advertised in the registration area in the lobby. Also, look for two new discs from Reference Recordings: an SACD/CD of Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra's audiophile spectacular Exotic Dances from the Opera, whose SACD layer is a transfer of a previously unissued analog master tape; and a low-priced, 13-track sampler from the fabulous Dallas Wind Symphony.

John Atkinson and I will be blogging daily from Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. We look forward to communing with you there or online.