11/6/16

RMAF 2016 Recap – Mile-High Music..!




Leading up to this year’s 13th edition of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, located at Denver’s Marriot Tech Center, the buzz was...  Construction…
What the…?

Suffice it to say, a rather substantial remodel of the Marriot is in progress, leading to some room issues and, uh, relocations.  But enough of that, as the show ran smoothly regardless.  Now for the subject of today’s tome…
Music…

Or more precisely, the gear that reproduces said melodies.  Companies from the world over were present, showing their audio wares.  Systems covering all price ranges from highly obtainable to unobtainium were present and accounted for.  Digital and analog music sources were everywhere.  The CanJam headphone extravaganza was in full effect.  MQA was present, marketing buzz and all.  There were several product debuts as well.
And now for the bad news…

Circumstances limited me to a truncated day and a half covering a 3-day event with somewhere along the line of 150 exhibits.  But who’s counting, right?  With apologies to all the rooms I was not able to attend, and many more not pictured, here were a few highlights…

Benchmark Media stocked their room with their DAC2 HGC DAC ($1,995) and a pair of AHB-2 mono amplifiers ($5,990/pr) powering a pair of the new Martin Logan Impression 11a electrostatic loudspeakers ($9,995/pr).  The Benchmark electronics did a fine job driving the MLs, with a quick and transparent sound.  Very nice…

The Aluminous Audio room was a pleasant surprise, with the engaging Luke Zitterkopf from Aluminous showing the uniquely engineered Gravitas speaker system ($39,900/pr) matched with Balanced Audio Technology’s VK33SE preamp ($9,995) and VK255SE amp ($8,995).  Power conditioning and cabling was provided by Shunyata Research.  The Mytek Brooklyn DAC ($1,995) and brand new Manhattan II DAC ($5,995) were both on hand, handling the digital conversion chores with aplomb.  Playing some MQA encoded files, the system sounded very clean with excellent soundstaging.  Stay tuned for more on Aluminous Audio in upcoming blogs…



Eileen Gosvig from Hegel Music Systems played their electronics through a pair of typically beautiful Sonus Faber Amati speakers ($19,500) and cabling provided by Nordost.  The highlight of the Hegel gear was their brand new Röst integrated amplifier/DAC ($3,000) and the also new Mohican CD player ($5,000).  The room sounded refined and lovely, and Hegel continues to impress with their product line.


The energetic and informative Brian Zolner from Bricasti Design was debuting their new M12 Dual Mono Source Controller ($15,995) along with their new M15 stereo amplifier ($18,000).  Playing DSD files over ZenSati cabling and beautifully finished Tidal Piano G2 Diacera speakers from Germany ($33,900/pr), the sound managed to be extremely engaging and transparent, despite the extreme challenges presented by the room.  Bricasti gear has always sounded excellent to my ears…


Another electronics manufacturer that I have always connected with is Canada’s Simaudio.  Digital files running through their Evolution 780D DAC ($15,000) into the Evolution 700i integrated amplifier ($14,000) powered a pair of B&W’s new 802 D3 speakers ($22,000/pr).  I have never been drawn to Bowers & Wilkins speakers in the past, but their new D3 series has hit the mark, and combined with the excellent Simaudio gear, the room sounded phenomenal – one of the best at RMAF!


Esoteric was showing off their new F-05 integrated amplifier ($10,000) which displayed excellent dynamics with material sourced from their N-05 Network Audio Player ($6,500) or K-05X SACD Player ($8,000).  Cabling was Audioquest, with Canton’s Reference 3K speakers ($15,600/pr) putting forth the sonic juice…


Lars Kristensen from Raidho Acoustics was grooving in one of the best sounding RMAF rooms with their D4.1 loudspeakers ($110,000/pr) sourcing material from a Nagra CD player through an Aavik Acoustics U-300 integrated amplifier/DAC ($30,000).  The musicality was superb here, with palpable imaging and highs that were simply stunning.

I have always gravitated toward Dynaudio speakers, and was thrilled to see them debuting their newly updated Contour line, which I introduced in my blog here.  The stand-mounted Contour 20 speakers ($5,000/pr) were powered by an Octave V110 SE integrated amplifier ($8,000) with digital tunes from an Aurender N100 server ($2,499) converted by a dCS Debussy DAC ($11,999).  A fellow audiophile seated next to me hit the nail on the head, stating that the Contour 20s “punch way above their weight class!”  Impressive indeed...! 


Revered speaker manufacturer KEF had their new Blade 2 loudspeakers ($25,000/pr) on hand.  Beautiful to look at and to listen to, the Blades were powered by Parasound electronics, including the JC 3+ phono stage ($2,995), JC 2.3 line stage ($4,495) and a pair of the JC 1 mono amplifiers ($9,000/pr).  The turntable was a VPI Prime ($4,000) and cables were provided by Kimber Kable.  Good sound lived here…


One of my favorite rooms was hosted by the effervescent Philip O’Hanlon from On a Higher Note.  Vivid Audio Giya G3 speakers ($40,000) were holding court, fed by a TechDAS Air Force III turntable ($29,750), Graham Elite tonearm ($12,500) and TechDAS TSD TCd01 Ti Cartridge ($15,500) for the analog front end, and a Merging Technologies NADAC Multichannel-8 music server/DAC ($14,000) for the digital side.  Luxman provided the rest of the chain with their EQ-500 tube phone preamp ($7,500), C-900u control amp ($19,900) and M-900u stereo amp ($19,900).  Cabling was supplied by Magnan Audio.  The room was a blast with Philip playing classic Zeppelin and M.J.’s Thriller!  The sound was top shelf…



France’s Devialet showed off their groundbreaking engineering and design work with a pair of systems.  The top system was built around their new Expert 1000 Pro, a dual-chassis integrated amplifier/DAC ($39,990).  These technical marvels powered a pair of Excellent sounding Focal Sopra No2 speakers ($11,000/pr) over AudioQuest cables.  The second system consisted of the wireless and powered Gold Phantom ($2,990/ea) streaming tunes from a laptop.  These speakers are simply unlike anything you have ever seen, and sound amazingly powerful and controlled.  Kudos to Devialet for thinking outside the box…
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more odds and ends from RMAF 2016.  Congrats to all involved for a job well done.  My ears are happy…!


Cheers!


Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…

Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com




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