- Written by Staff
- Published on 20 December 2007
This is the fourth year of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF), which was held at the Denver Technical Center, just outside of Denver, Colorado.
There were 67 more exhibitors than last year, occupying the rooms on eight floors of the Marriott Hotel at the Technical Center.
It was a wonderful convention, and in fact, I believe it to be the best two-channel audio show in the USA.
As in the past, there were lots of tube products, and many of the exhibitors used turntables instead of CD players to demonstrate the sound. The feeling is that vinyl still has the better quality sound, even compared to 24/192 and SACD.
I taped some high definition video interviews and my photos were taken in RAW format with a high resolution camera and 17mm lens, so I have to adjust the vignetting, and it will take some time for me to finish everything. I will announce when additional photos are ready on the home page.
The videos are 1920x1080, and if they don't play smoothly, your video card may not be fast enough to handle them.
Mark Schifter of AV123 is one of the nicest guys in this business, and he always has exciting new products to exhibit at every show. Here at RMAF, he demonstrated their new X-Static floor-standers, which have open baffles for the tweeter and midrange drivers, and which will be available for an astounding low price of $799/pair.
Over in the left corner of the room was this new MFW-15 subwoofer, which has a 15" slot-loaded driver and a 350 watt amplifier. Price? Again, astoundingly, only $599 in black and probably around $699 for the rosewood as shown here. You can also see the open baffle design of the X-Static here. The crossover network was mounted on the base for the show, but the ones shipped to consumers will have the networks inside the enclosure.
In the top photo, you can see the center channel speaker (called the X-Voce, at $449) that goes with the X-Static floor-standers. Here it is in close-up. The midrange drivers and tweeter are again, open baffle in configuration. You can see through the perforated metal grille on top of the speaker, inside the enclosure. The woofers are enclosed, rather than open baffle.
The sound was really quite excellent, and apparently, you will be able to buy two X-Statics, the X-Voce, two smaller floor-standers for the rear, and a 12" subwoofer (also new, at $399) for $1,999. They showed some of the speakers in a wood called Mojo, which is from South America (where Mark has a new factory), and it is exquisite. This is the first time that wood has been shown in the US as a speaker veneer.
Speaking of that $399 subwoofer, click here to see a high definition video of Mark Schifter showing it to you. It will take two minutes to buffer your Windows Media Player, and then it will play.
These are Dali Helicon 400 speakers. Notice the ribbon driver at the top. We saw lots of speakers with ribbons. They are very popular now.
The Dalis were being driven by a Cary CAD 120S Stereo power amplifier . . .
. . . and a Cary SLP-05 preamplifier as the front end. Notice that it has a separate power supply. More and more preamps are being designed this way now.
Thiel paired their model CS 3.7 speakers, which are new this year, with Moon and Bryston CD players, preamplifiers, and power amplifiers. The CS 3.7s are $9,900/pair.
In this room, Focal Aesthetix speakers were being driven by an Atlas amplifier.
There were plenty of turntables being used as sources, in this case, made by Kuzuma. Mark Levinson provided the preamp and power amplifiers. Speakers were Wilson Audio Sophias.
These speakers are AV123's new Focus Line Source LS6. They have six ribbon drivers and eight woofers. Believe it or not, they are priced at $2,995/pair. Listeners' mouths were agape at the sound quality for such an incredible price. They are about 6 feet tall.
The LS6's were being driven by these Dodd Audio monoblock power amplifiers, at $30,000 the pair, in whatever color you like.
B&W and ClassÃ© always pair up at shows, because they are both owned by the same holding company. Convenient because they are both superb product lines. These B&W Signature Diamond speakers are a Diamond Anniversary special edition, with only 500 pairs being manufactured. Priced at $18,000/pair, in the "Wakame" finish.
Here is a close-up of some of the ClassÃ© products as well as the Wakame finish on the speakers.
Black speakers and components are beginning to be replaced by warmer colors. The Rotel front end units are silver, and the speakers are in natural cherry.
These Sonus Faber "Elipsa" speakers ($20,800/pair) were being driven by Musical Fidelity components, including those very interesting cylindrical power amplifiers in between the speakers.
The amplifiers are called the Supercharger 550K, delivering 550 watts, and priced at $2,500 each. They get a speaker-level input from a receiver, which increases their dynamic range.
Are you ready for this!? The speakers shown here are yet another new design from Mark Schifter at AV123. They are called the LS9s, with nine ribbon tweeter/mids and twelve woofers. The price? $3,995/pair. At nearly 8 feet high, they deliver astonishing sound. The amplification was provided by Red Rock Audio, which also co-owns the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest with the Colorado Audio Society.
MBL, a German manufacturer, markets some pretty amazing equipment, such as shown here. The speakers produce sound in 360Â°, and I was as awestruck this time as I usually am when I listen to them.
Here is a close-up of the source components. The total cost is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but what a sound.
Wilson benesch demonstrated these products, and what is most interesting is the subwoofer in the shape of a low cylinder with the driver facing upward.
McIntosh always demos great stuff, in this case some speakers which have 28 tweeters and 44 midrange drivers (along with two woofers). Needless to say, they deliver some powerful sound.
Long before Klipsch started making mass market speakers, they built these very high end horn speakers. The sensitivity is so high (well over a hundred), it takes only a few watts to drive them, so 7 watt Class A triode tube amps would work fine. Back in those days, amplifiers were not very powerful anyway, and in early movie theaters, the amplifiers only had a few watts.
In this case, they were using amplifiers more in the 50 to 200 watt range, made by Atma-sphere.
As you will see in the other RMAF photos, turntables are still very much a part of high end audio. Here is a close-up of the mechanism that controls a turntable arm. It is all hand made. Each part is machined to fit the other parts. Tremendous precision. An instrument rather than just a hifi component. TriPlanar is the manufacturer here.
Flat conductors are being used by a number of cable manufacturers, such as this one from Audio Magic Cables. The conductors here are pure silver, so as you can imagine, they are expensive at $5,500 for a two-meter pair of speaker cables.
As I mentioned, turntables are still a big thing, and what do you need to use them? Plenty of vinyl. Even with my 17mm lens, I could not get the complete row of LPs that were for sale here. Typical price was about $40 per LP.
What interested me here, at this exhibit by Lucid, was the three-speaker enclosure underneath the Lucid name. These are designed to go on the wall underneath flat panel TV displays. Now that CRT TVs are pretty much gone, we will see more and more of this kind of speaker on the market.
Usher showed off their new Be718 bookshelf speakers with beryllium dome tweeters. My initial impressions are that they have an amazing amount of fine detail.
Above is a close-up of the Be718. Also, click here to see a high definition (1920x1080) video of Usher's PR representative, Jonathan Scull, talking about this new design. Remember, these are high def files and will take two minutes to load the buffer into your player before it will play.
These components from Oracle Audio, including the turntable, all have machined thick aluminum chassis. In spite of aluminum being a light weight metal, you will need a strong rack to hold them. Oh, and they sounded terrific too.
I have a feeling that the person who designed these speakers from Acoustic Systems likes deep bass. The other components are by AMR.
Audio Kinesis makes these speakers. Obviously, with such a nice big enclosure, the bass response will be very good. The top driver is actually the tweeter, in a horn configuration. This improves the sensitivity, so they can be driven by small amplifiers, typically tubes. In this case, however, the Atma-sphere tube amps are not that small.
I have always admired the aesthetics of Avalon Acoustics speakers, such as those shown here. There is something about the geometry of the front baffle that is very appealing. PS Audio supplied the amplifier.
Peak Empress Signature speakers. Notice the similarity of the baffle to the Avalon Acoustics speakers on the previous page. In this case, the woofer also has a geometrically-shaped region.
Vandersteen 5A speakers were being driven by Ayre KXR preamplifier and power amplifiers in this room.
Bastanis Apollo speakers ($21,000/pair) received their signal from these single-ended 845 tube amplifiers. Again, a turntable is the source. The speakers are very sensitive, which is what you need with an amplifier that only has one output device.
These Aspara HL-1 speakers are a horn design, which gives them high sensitivity. The stereo amplifier uses 845 output tubes. Another turntable for the source (anyone seeing a pattern here?)
Here's a close-up of the turntable (TW Acustic - $20,000). Notice that there are four tone arms. I thought this might just be for demonstration purposes, but no, you can purchase it this way so that you can use different cartridges for various sound characteristics.
Japanese audiophiles love tubes, and these are made by Tri, which is the Triode Corporation of Japan. The speakers are by MicroPure.
Here is an example of a setup that would probably be very spouse-approved, and manufacturers are thinking about this now. They are getting away from everything being black. Laufer Teknik planar speakers.
Then again, maybe I spoke too soon. "Honey, do you want me to put these on either side of the stove, or next to the dining room table?" Obviously designed for sound quality only. Never mind the spouse. If you are a bachelor, no problem. Otherwise, get extra life insurance on the way home from the hifi showroom.
I am sure these are fine speakers, but c'mon guys, make them attractive. If you must have the round driver enclosures, put them inside a tall rectangular box covered with that beautiful wood you have at the bottom of these speakers.
PS Audio is coming out with this new CD transport, called the Lambda 2. It will not have any jitter at all due to the fact that it uses a CD-ROM drive, which outputs the data stream directly. The clocking is all done in the output stage.
Cain & Cain makes these speakers, which are sensitive enough to be powered by very small amplifiers, like the Tri monoblocks shown below which output around 7 watts each.
They also showed these cute little speakers with a subwoofer to match.
In the Lyngdorf room, there were some ceiling-high speakers that were shaped like a megaphone. The idea was that the sound is very focused and has less effects due to the room than conventional speakers.
Here are the Lyngdorf source components. They specialize in room correction.
These VMPS ribbon speakers were being driven by Eastern Electric M156 Monoblock power amplifiers. So, now you can see that an observable trend is towards large speakers.
Here are some Studio Electric speakers, being driven by an Art Audio Vivo power amplifier. A Redpoint turntable is the source, shown in close-up view below.
The actual color is more of a red than the purple in this photo.
You can have not only your speakers in wood finish, but your source components as well, from Reference Audio Mods.
Even though round speakers may not be spouse-friendly, they do make a difference in the sound by reducing standing waves. These are Proclaim Audioworks DMT-100s.
Daedalus makes some very attractive speaker designs, shown here. Powered by Art Audio.
These very interesting-looking speakers have the tweeter on the outside of the grille. A close-up of the turntable is shown below. I sure wish I hadn't taken that set of Beethoven's Works on LPs to the Good Will 20 years ago.
This very plain-looking CD player is a new product from Acoustic Plan and is a no compromise design. It is about as wide as a book, so it will fit just about anywhere.
BPT, manufacturer of balanced power conditioners, now is introducing speakers. These are the prototypes. Notice that the tweeters are horn-loaded. This will make them very sensitive. Remember my saying that there is now a trend towards big speakers? These fit that description.
MBL makes these smaller versions of their speaker line that has a 3600 radiation pattern. This is different than a dipole which radiates front and rear rather than all around. The amplifiers are by Jolida.
AH! Acoustic Horn speakers. The one on the left has a different high frequency horn than the one on the right, for the show. Not very spouse friendly, but oh what a sound, and it only takes a few watts to drive them.
Now this is a combination I think is gorgeous. Macintosh power with Aerial Acoustics speakers.
These Manley tube amplifiers paired beautifully with Joseph Audio speakers.
Maxxhorn shows that horn speakers don't necessarily have to look like megaphones. $12,500/pair.
These speakers, by Beveridge Audio, look kind of "Retro", which these days, is not a bad thing.
Soundsmith makes these components, mostly centered around the Strain Gauge cartridge in the turntable.
Tubes, tubes, tubes . . . by Audiospace. Lots of them come from overseas.
Some people don't like the idea of cables the size of a garden hose, but there is a reason: good insulation from RF interference and lower resistance. These are from Legenburg.
The amplifiers shown here, by Rau Research, have less than 50 watts of power each. The reason is that they are single-ended and pure Class A. Transistor rather than tubes.
Talk about analog sound sources! Here is a turntable sitting next to something I have not seen in a long time: an analog tape recorder.
Turntables are a world in themselves. Notice that the motor post (far left side of the turntable) is attached to the turntable only by the belt that is used to turn the platter. I hope it has a low center of gravity. Maybe then the consumer could wrap it with carpet and use it for their cat's scratching post.