2013 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest

Time sure flies. This year’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest celebrated its 10th anniversary in the mile high city. If my calculations are correct, this year’s visit served as my 8th straight, and I personally enjoy this particular event so much, I wouldn’t mind doing another eight! The RMAF is reminiscent of CES in the early 90’s when it was held in the Alexis Park. It was an high-end audio show tucked away from the normal hustle and bustle that Las Vegas is infamous for. Likewise, the RMAF is nestled inside the Denver Tech Center’s spacious Mariott hotel and is hosted by the Denver Audio Society members and RMAF director Majorie Baumert. Considered a major show by its press coverage, its easy to navigate through when compared to the tens of thousands who coverge on Sin City, however there was one thing missing this year that was of concern once again: people. In the first few years, the RMAF had to go through its growing pains and concerns about its attendance. But each ensuing year this became less of an issue. This year however, it has become an issue once again. This time however, for entirely different reasons. It appears there are just too many high-end audio shows popping up on the horizon and folks are now opting to make the show closest to them.

Lets face it, Denver is not New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles and that’s exactly where the most recent high-end audio shows are now being held. So, in essence, the competition is getting mighty tough. Minus CES in its heyday, there’s really nothing that quite compares a high-end audio event held in either NYC, Chicago or LA. The recent news that these shows are now being held annually is what has audiophiles all excited, and perhaps, part of the reason they were missing from the RMAF this year.

I’m only guessing.

One thing that was never in short supply was good sounding rooms! Surprisingly, I think the amount of rooms available and manufacturers in attendance were the same as last year . In fact, I felt overwhelmed at the sheer size once again just looking through the show guide. Fortunately for me, Key Kim made it out this year for the first time and that helped…I think…I hope (joking).

Ok, now it’s on to the show!….

Denver International Airport, considered the largest in the country – but not the busiest  (Atlanta, beleive it or not is) go figure. Denver’s canopy styled interior leaves quite an impression. The taxi ride is a good thirty-miles away which amounts to about a $70.00 fare. There’s also a shuttle bus that I never have been able to find. Thanks to the minimum congestion, and open roads, I got to the show in about 30 minutes (NY, Chicago and LA can’t boast that!).    

Getting inside and obtaining my press badge, as usual, was a breeze thanks in part to all those helping hands and volunteers. 

By 12:00, the show started buzzing with activity.

Of course, it’s always nice to be greeted by Majorie and her gang of supporters despite how busy they always seem to be (that’s her sitting at the PC).

Familiar and happy faces were seen throughout this three-day event. There’s Richard Beers of T.H.E. Show sharing thoughts with good friend and fine music connossuier Dr.Robert Baker. 

This big billboard promoting Volti Audio’s Vittora loudspeaker’s as UNCHAINED actually was true. The sound was quite intoxicating. More on that later…. 

It’s always good to see Cable Company’s Robert Stein working hard at these events.

While other notable manufacturers took time out for a deep shoulder message!

Static displays located on the first floor were quite plentiful once again this year. 

Of all the gizmos seen this year, KL Audio’s newest and versatile ultrasonic LP cleaner ($9,500) was something to admire.

There’s Jim Hannon of the Absolute Sound (right) doing what he seemingly enjoys!

Arnold Martinez of Tweak Audio, located in the Windy City (Chicago), has become quite an LP enthusiast of late. Martinez was caught showing off a Soundsmith Hyperion cartridge for our cameras. 

Music legends Lillian Boutté (left) and Doug McCloud were the featured performers at this year’s event. That’s Lillian’s niece and protege on the right and I’m told she can hold her own as well. Unfortunately, I missed the concerts mainly because I forgot to adjust my watch upon arriving in Denver.   

Udo Besser of AVM electronics and Roland Gauder of Gauder Akustics (formally Isophon), have been showing their wares together and with excellent results. Gauder was showing off his new product line here at the RMAF for the first time. The room was so large and busy, it was literally impossible to form any opinion on the sound. Though, after hearing these components paired in Munich’s High End Show last spring, and having personally lived with Isophon loudspeakers for an extended period, I have come to expect only great things from Gauder Akustics and AVM.  

Finally got to hear Bill Duddleston Legacy Whispers, under less-than-ideal circumstances considering the size of this humongus space. Yet, surprisingly, what I heard (and without trying) was nevertheless open and dimensional sounding with good body and focus. The Whisper is a lot of speaker but for the size and money – only $21k – there’s plenty to like.   

Doshi Audio teamed up with Wilson Audio (Alexia loudspeakers) and Audio Research to produce some intoxicating sonics. I fell head over heels for the Pro-Ject signature turntable ($12k above), namely its captivating LED controller and beautiful rosewood finish. 

What nearly always fascinates me about Classic Audio T3.4 loudspeakers is how far they’re set apart. Driven by the marvelous and legendary Atma-Sphere OTLs, Kuzma deck and Stahl Tek DAC/computer-based combo, I am always surprised at how stable and lock solid the center images were. This, mind you, with the loudspeakers very close to the front wall too. Cables for this rig always seem to be Jim Aud’s excellent sounding Purist Audio Design. In the end, I am baffled by the high-level musicality field coiled drivers bring to any room. Outstanding sonics! 

Hmm, that Bob Marly flag draped over a room tuning device drew me right inside the Daedalus Audio/Modwright suite. Truth be told, I am not a big a fan of the Daedalus’ look as I am by its sonics. Call me biased, but I am a firm member of the “least amount of drivers possible” camp! Not because I can hear the difference but I want to believe I can. Yet, everytime I sit before the Daedalus Ulysses Verson 2 ($15k), I simply cannot hear its multiple drivers sound out of sync. To the contrary, and just the like multi-drivered Legacy Whisper, I am left wondering who can hear any discontinuity in these loudspeakers. I most certainly cannot. Especially when driven by the gorgeous Modwright gear.   

Scot Hull, also known as the Part-time Audiophile (left) is really a great guy with an increasingly popular website. Based on his latest efforts – a growing site – not to mention the size of that big Cannon 5D MkIII camera he takes everywhere, he may want to consider changing the name to Super Hardworking Part-time Audiophile. Both Scot and I use the same camera except I leave my home these days. Recently, I’ve been using the excellent Sony RX-100 pocket camera at these last few events. Not necessarily as fine or versatile a camera as the Cannon 5D Mk III, but much lighter, easier to use and it fits right into my pocket. Oh, it also takes really great photos. All these photos were taken with the Sony RX-100.  

Except for this photo. Scot shot this with the Cannon 5D MkIII. Super sharp and detailed I think. That’s Lou Hinckley of Daedalus Audio (left) and Dan Wright of Modwright Audio. Comparatively, the Sony isn’t as sharp but it’s damn close and has very good resolution. For its size, you really can’t beat it. 


AAudio Imports’ Brian Ackerman loves showing off big rigs and this year was no exception. Before I sat down before the gargantuan-sized and plasma-tweeter driven Lansche Audio 8.2 loudspeakers ($266k), I first marveled at the Hartvig ‘table sporting that gorgeous Thales tonearm Ackerman was tuning up. It was then that I noticed the pair of 18″ woofers located at the rear of these 900 lbs behemoths. I asked Key to stand besides them for a better perspective of their overall size. Needless to say, they sounded better than any other pricey Lansche Audio loudspeaker I can remember. In fact, they proved to sound lighter, faster and not nearly as thick in the upper bass/lower midrange as I have come to expect from such a large driver assembly. Expensive but certainly worth consideration.  

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