Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2017 – Day 3 Coverage
I’m sure as you read through all the coverage from RMAF, especially noting the ultra-expensive gear most of us can never afford, it’s refreshing to see RMAF and its organizers make an active effort to show entire systems ranging from $500 to $5,000 complete. These aren’t slouch systems either and there were several systems in each category.
The 2nd floor rooms were labeled with the price of the gear before you went in with what to expect. I’d just started in one of the highest price rooms at $5,000 and was impressed, seriously impressed that everything I saw, I could have for $5k: Aurum Cantus Melody 103SE speakers, anchoring the system.
One of the rooms in what I think are the middle-range of $2,500, you can see the list below. A VPI turntable, powered by a Peachtree integrated amplifier and played through ELAC monitors, a very sweet system.
I did like the sound of this room hosted by Vinnie Rossi playing his LIO “Super Integrated” MOSFET amplifier with a 32-bit / 768kHz DAC section and phono stage at $13,995. The British made 40th Anniversary Edition Harbeth M30.2 at $6,495 for the pair, (stands by Ton Troger at $1,395/pair) and finally the German-made Acoustic Signature Manfred Mk2 turntable with tonearm, $4,999.
Not a surprise to note how nice this sounded. Just enough bottom end and a rich middle and upper range.
Coming off the heels of reviewing the Triton Reference ($4250 each), I couldn’t help stoping by to hear this room a couple of times. The gear used is from HEGEL, two Integrated amplifiers in the H190 at $4,000, the H90 at $2,000 and the Mohican Reference CD player at $5,000. I thought the system mated beautifully. The T-Ref’s robust bass, clean midrange and high end sparkle from the High-Velocity Folded Ribbon Tweeter sounded as it did at home in what is now becoming a signature sound from GoldenEar and the Triton line.
I’m sitting here listening to the Ultrasone Edition 8 EX. I am not familiar with the track the guy is playing, a little steel string guitar solo. The overall presentation is slightly closed in. The clarity is good but hyped sounding. The bass extension is very good if not excellent on a Richard Thompson song. All in all, these phones are worthy of an audition if they are in the price range you are shopping in.
Ultrasone is getting ready to ship this nifty little portable high res DAC. I got the chance to audition it and came away mighty impressed with the dynamics I heard. The sound was warm and rich with no irritating etch. This would be excellent for the frequent traveler. $199.
This is the Beyerdynamic Impacto DAC/amp with the T1’s. I listened over the T5’s. This set up was definitely getting the most out of a Joni Mitchell track that I never thought sounded very good before. In fact this may be the best I have ever heard of it. Android model is $329 the universal model is $379. I love the interchangeable batteries for long sessions.
Check out the Beyerdynamic Aventho wireless headphones. They come in black or brown. I listened off an Apple iPod Touch. The sound was way better than I expected. This is an eXcellent lifestyle product with a most unique feature – you can download an app that runs a hearing test and then applies filters to compensate for your hearing as you age. That is a brilliant idea. $449
Here is another portable DAC/amp from Chord electronics, the Hugo2. It is a bit larger than many products in this class. It even has RCA outs!
These are the 64 Audio tia Fourte IEMs. These bad boys have three balanced armature drivers (2 tia) with dynamic drivers for the bass. $3,599.
Here are the Audio Technica ATH-ADX5000 flagship headphones. $1,999. They will be shipping in December of this year. They will come with a nifty carrying case. (The sticker being replaced with an etched monogram.)
These are some very comfortable cans for my large cranium. There was a real focus on a lightweight product. The sound is anything but lightweight. It is in fact full range and nicely balanced. These are also more than worthy of serious consideration if you are playing in this price range.
Check out the MrSpeakers AEON Flow entry level headphones proudly designed and manufactured in San Diego California. They are available in open and closed versions. I listened to the open ones because I like a wider stage. Their intent is that these will be able to compete with other manufacturers’ high end offerings. After a short audition I think they may be on the right track. $800
The High Fidelity Services Room…this is one of the big rooms on the first floor of the hotel. All these rooms had true high end set ups that impressed. That has not always been the case here 😉
So what of this one? Great looking system, right? This one sounded as good as it looked.
They were playing a high res file of Mark Knopfler. I love his work and it is done with very high engineering standards. This system conveyed all the ethereal reverb on the recording and provided a surprisingly homogeneous sounds from top to bottom.
This is definitely one of the coolest turntable I have seen at the show.
Aaudio Imports always brings a super double triple extra uber system to the show.
They were playing a little Patricia Barber when I came in. Vinyl this time. This is the best sounding room I have heard as if 10:30 am on the final day.
We hear people say how they will do this or that if they win the lottery. I agree and I will buy this system if I win the lottery. Twice.
This is the best I have heard of Daedalus as I can remember.
Steely Dan “Aja” sounded supreme at a pedestrian volume level. The bass was a little on the lean side while the mid bass, midrange and up through the treble, the sound was engaging if not the most transparent I have heard in this room before.
The three sets of Focal Headphones pictured here are (L-R) the Elear ($999), the Clear ($1,499) and the new Utopia ($3,999).
I auditioned the Utopias because of course I did. The phones are comfy but the ear cups are a little on the small side. Sound wise I have few complaints outside a slightly congested bass line. The sound was rich and non-fatiguing which would be perfect for a late night session or two.
This room was where I got my first ever listen to the Thrax Ares Modular Audiophile system ($11,600). It is a 50 wpc tube integrated that uses military spec radio transmission tubes. It has expansion slots for phono and DAC, hence the “modular” moniker.
Other EQ – Thrax Lyra Speakers ($19,600), Thrax Basus (15″ powered subs)($40,600) and Thrax Maximinus DAC ($30,800).
This system impressed on some Steely Dan I requested. The pace seemed to drag just a scooch. Then on small ensemble jazz the stage spread wide and the upright bass was as realistic as can be. The waveguides on the tweeter provided an excellent blend between the treble and midrange. I will be requesting a review unit of the little integrated amp. It is definitely worthy of further evaluation especially when you factor in the reasonable price.
Spatial Audio has been getting quite a bit of buzz in the audio world lately. And for good reason. We had a member of our local audio club play his Spatial M3’s at one of our meetings and I didn’t hear one negative comment from the group and in actual fact everybody loved what they heard of them.
Well these are Spatial’s new top line X2 Modular Speakers ($9,620). These speakers were being driven by a gorgeous sounding 25 wpc integrated, the Vinnie Rossi LiO “Super Integrated” ($12,995 as configured, DAC installed).
The sound was eminently coherent, providing superior musicality with extreme ease. This would be the type of simple system I could live with for a long, long time. A job well done!
I love this Pro-ject turntable that mounts vertically. Pro-ject also had a number of quite interesting electronic pieces at the show that are begging for a formal review.
ATC was demoing these powered three way speakers with a Burmester music streamer as the source. The speakers were the ATC SCM50ASL ($32,000).
This small system was crammed into an alcove with some room treatments to absorb first reflections of the mid/tweeter and diffusers below for the bass. The room loading did lead to a ripe bass and the treble was decidedly polite.
These speakers are known as studio monitors and as such provide reference quality sound in all respects and they would definitely benefit from a larger space so they could stretch their legs a little.
ATC also has new on-wall speakers for the home cinema enthusiast!
A very pleasant surprise room, err should I say very modestly priced room with the Monitor Silver Series 6G: Silver 300’s at $2,000 for the pair. The overall clean range, dynamic and full. Complimented by again, affordable gear, Roksan K3 Series, CD player, amplifier and DAC.
Unfamiliar to me, it’s nice to see speakers and amplifiers that look raw and uncomplicated, almost DIY-looking. The sound was so rich and deep throughout the spectrum. Speakers are $19,750 for the pair. These are not new but that tells me it’s longevity is meaningful and lasting. A 15″ woofer is centered with a 1″ driver. The amp, a Single Ended Triode mono block also at $19,750 for the pair. I could be wrong but if you look closely I think they are using pavers for stacking and isolating the amplifiers?