RMAF 2018

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John Atkinson  |  Oct 13, 2018  |  26 comments
There are always chance encounters at an audio show, and when I went to meet AVTech America's general manager Keith Pray (left) and Hi-Fi News editor Paul Miller (right) to discuss, among other things, November's Hi-Fi News Show in Windsor, England, Audeze CEO Sankar Thiagasamudram was with them holding a sample of the California company's new Mobius head-tracking headphone ($399). The Mobius uses planar-magnetic diaphragms like the upmarket Audeze cans, but once zero'd in the forward direction, will keep the soundstage aimed at that direction when the user moves his head. In this the Mobius is similar to the Smyth Realiser, but is both considerably more affordable and doesn't need an external control unit. This headphone is not aimed at the high-end audio market but is ideal for gamers, who need the stereo soundstage to remain aligned with the image on the screen.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 13, 2018  |  23 comments
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.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 12, 2018  |  17 comments
I started my tour of RMAF in the ground-floor room next to the restaurant hosted by Colorado dealer ListenUp. There I did a double-take—wasn't that a JBL Century L100 three-way loudspeaker, with its distinctive Quadrex foam grille? No, this was the L100 Classic ($4000/pair), released by JBL Synthesis to celebrate the 48 years since this speaker was first released. "A modern take on a time-honored legend," said the press release, which is just as well because I was never a fan of the original, even though it was the bestselling loudspeaker in JBL's history.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 11, 2018  |  9 comments
Here's a switch: Instead of a million-dollar system, we begin with a bargain-priced powered-speaker system, the Vanatoo Transparent One Encore ($599/pair). Designed near me, in Seattle, and manufactured in China, this successor to Vanatoo's original model, which was released six years ago, has a new 1" aluminum dome tweeter, more powerful 100W, four-channel amplifier with "much better" DSP-based L/R crossover, remote control, Bluetooth with aptX, and four more "automatically sensed" inputs for analog, USB, Toslink optical, and coaxial digital, the last three accepting up to 24/96 but downsampling to 24/48.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 11, 2018  |  68 comments
Although most rooms I visited at the end of RMAF 2018 offered fine sound, I single out the new Dragonfire Acoustics Mini Dragon self-powered desktop system ($10,000 total) for two reasons: a) its designer, Dragoslav Colich (aka Dr. C), who continues to design every Audeze headphone, calls these first desktop planar speakers from his new company his "life achievement…the finest transducer I have built," and, b) they sound fantastic.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 10, 2018  |  1 comments
In the Musical Surroundings room I discovered a once-in-a-lifetime coincidence: a system that contained four products that were reviewed or used in reviews in the October 2018 Stereophile, plus a somewhat more expensive sister of one of the two products that appeared on the cover: Audio Research Ref 160M mono amplifiers ($30,000/pair) and Reference 6 line stage ($14,000), Sonus Faber Aida loudspeakers ($130,000/pair), DS Audio Master1 optical phono cartridge and EQ ($22,500), and Hana ML MC cartridge ($1200).
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 10, 2018  |  25 comments
That title will surely get a rise out of some folks!

Be that as it may, the aforementioned company ran two MQA Live events at RMAF, during which high-resolution (24/192) MQA streams of live jazz ensembles were streamed in real time to various rooms at the show. MQA claims that the streams were essentially analog to analog, right off the desk.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 10, 2018  |  40 comments
I almost missed the huge EMM Labs exhibit on the ground floor until John Atkinson told me that he had visited it, and the sound was exceptional. Don't quote me on the adjective, please. Instead, I'll own it for myself. When a system makes a recording of a 9' concert grand—in this case, Murray Perahia's instrument—sounds like it really is a 9' grand, color me very, very impressed. As one should be, given a system price tag of near $1,000,000.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 08, 2018  |  13 comments
A few hours before Friday evening's Rocky Mountain International HiFi Press Awards 2018 got underway, Jeremy Bryan of MBL North America once again blew me away with the sound of his company's system. Capped by the mbl 101 E MKII Radialstrahler four-way omnidirectional loudspeaker ($70,500/pair), the combination of Wireworld cabling with mbl's N31 DAC–CD player ($15,400), N11 stereo preamplifier ($14,600), and two N15 mono power amplifiers ($17,800/each) created an extremely wide, solid, and deep soundstage in which music flowed naturally and with great beauty.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 07, 2018  |  37 comments
The large, superb-sounding system in the High Fidelity Services room left me deeply impressed. The system was headlined by the debut of the Verity Audio Monsalvat speaker system with its included Pro-6 six-channel crossover ($675,000 total) and three of Verity Audio's Monsalvat Amp-60 stereo amps ($58,000/each). Together with a TW-Acustic Raven phono preamplifier ($18,000), TW-Acustic Raven Black Knight turntable ($42,000) with debut Raven 12 and 10.5 tonearms ($11,500 total) and debut Ortofon MC Century cartridge ($12,000), Melco N1ZH MK1 music server ($4995), debut Signal Projects cables, Vibex power distribution, debut CAD GC-1 ground control unit, debut Symposium Pro amp stand, Vibex isolation feet, and SRA rack, the system cost a mere $1,115,405. Note that it was not the only system at RMAF in this price range.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 06, 2018  |  69 comments
The RMAF T-Shirt Award of 2018 goes to Denver's own Chris Hoffman, whom I spied on the ground floor of the Denver Marriott Tech Center. "I'd been threatening to make this T-shirt for a couple of years," he confessed after being caught in the act.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 05, 2018  |  12 comments
On the eve of the 15th annual Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, being held this weekend in the newly remodeled but acoustically challenged Denver Marriott Tech Center, show organizer Marjorie Baumert revealed the show's future venue: beginning in 2019, RMAF will relocate to its new home in the brand new Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, just five miles from Denver International Airport. Baumert made the announcement alongside Gaylord Rockies' Director of Sales, Jeff Lindeblad (on the right in the photo above), and used the occasion to reveal that show dates for next year will move up a month, to the first weekend in September.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 05, 2018  |  20 comments
At an early morning press conference at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, presented jointly by Sony and Acoustic Sounds, the latter company's Chad Kassem announced that of the 5000 stereo copies pressed of the company's new UHQR LP reissue of the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Axis: Bold as Love, only 1000 remain. (The 1500 mono copies pressed are already sold out.) Hand-pressed, one-at-a-time, on 200 gm clarity vinyl that has no incline, the $100/each stereo copies are housed in an expensive Teflon jacket, and come with lots of documentation. Copies can be ordered online from Acoustic Sounds.
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