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RMAF 2015 Show Report
RMAF 2015 Show Report -– Day 1
Rocky Mountain Audio Fest
Report By Rick LaFaver

 

Highlights From Day 1
What a whirlwind today has been, as it is my first time staying at the show venue and covering RMAF. It is also the first show I can remember where Enjoy the Music.com's Editor and Creative Director Steven R. Rochlin wasn't there. I'll do my best to do his coverage justice so bear with me.

A couple of themes/lessons it appears the industry as a whole has learned:

1. Room treatments – you gotta have ‘em at this point. Most if not all of the rooms I have visited today have varying levels of treatment from a few panels at first reflections to a full front diffuser, corner traps and any combination of diffusion and absorption to make these hotel rooms sounds good.

2. The SpeakON has arrived, or is arriving anyway. Not all manufacturers have embraced the connector and the adoption will likely move bottom up rather than top down but the very high quality, versatile, and secure connector has arrived and it is only a matter of time before someone like BPT begins to implement them in an audiophile approved manner.

More to come...

I have met some great people and heard some designs that have shocked and amazed me, overwhelmingly positively. This is one of the better sounding shows that I've been to recently, and it may be related to point 1 above. Vendors are also better understanding, and addressing, room interactions (I doubt many speakers are designed for a metal stud room with 1/8" wall board cover as your only room treatments).  Here are some highlight from my meandering on day 1.

 

 

Room 1010: EMIA And Quad
EMIA's room had the mind boggling Saskia reference turntable ($54,000) featuring a three phase motor with an external controller featuring a 32-bit processor which analyzes the table's speed and bearing temperature and makes micro adjustments in a very un-intrusive manner to ensure the most accurate possible speed control. The reference also features a slate construction and table with a convenient removable tone-arm platform to maintain precise adjustments through tone arm swaps. EMIA components supplied the front end phono, attenuators, and step-up transformer fed into a set of modified Quad ESLs (modified is an understatement) that will be for sale but have yet to be named, had one of the most interesting sounds of the early show. The modifications included a custom hardwood frame for the Electrostatic elements and a direct drive integrated tube based amplifier in the base. The noise floor was deep and black with a level of natural effortless musical reproduction that I didn't hear as convincingly the rest of the day. It was a delicate and thin sound but engaging and enjoyable with what it did present.

 

 

Room 1130: Joseph Audio, VPI, Dynamic Sounds, Miyajima, And Parasond 
One of two rooms with Joseph Audio this year the Pearl 3s as amazing as they may have been were overshadowed by the debut of VPIs 3 armed monster the Avenger ($30,000 including three 3D printed tonearms). The Avenger featured two 12.7" Classic 4 tonearms and one JMW 12" 3D printed tonearm. The Dynamics Sounds Associates Pre 1 features three switchable phono inputs and thus allowed a demo of three phono cartridges quickly and easily on the same track. Cartridges within this setup included the Miyajima Madake ($5,995) that produced a very warm and relaxing sounding cart. The Ortofon Cadenza Black ($2,729) was a slightly less natural cartridge with better treble. Lastly, the Zero-Mono ($1,995), which I wasn't able to hear. All of this was run into a pair of Parasound JC-1 Monoblocks ($9,000 per pair) that really gripped the Pearl 3s and brought out the dynamics within the Tchaikovsky tracks we were listening to.

 

 

Evergreen Room: MartinLogan, Kimber Cable, EMM Labs, And IsoMike
Ok, so maybe outside the budget constraints of many audiophiles yet unbelievable just the same, with a total system price tag of $1,140,000, is the Quadphonic setup with MartinLogan's Neolith speakers ($80,000/pr). Each was powered by its own separate EMM Labs MTRX monoblock amplifier ($130,000/pr) and connected with the debut of Kimber Kable's new flagship NOHM power cables and speaker cables. These cables are co-developed between Russ Andrews and Ray Kimber. The new cables feature a proprietary module made of a series of non-ferrite and non-inductive passive components to maximize the RFI and EMI reduction of Kimber's braid. They are intended to preserve the musicality of any signal by reducing interference in critical ranges. Prices range from just over $5,000 for a 1-meter power cord to over $64,000 for a 2.5-meter speaker cable.

The demo consisted of several stereo and quad-phonic double and up to quad DSD recordings played through EMM Labs debut DA2 flagship DAC, the first DAC in the world to be capable of decoding Quad DSD natively. The experience was nothing short of breathtaking! I've heard live performances that didn't reach this level of realism, dynamics, and scale. The experience is certainly on my personal Mount Rushmore of high-end audio experiences. It certainly didn't hurt to have the real life FanYa Lin there as a reference to the IsoMike recorded FanYa on the MartinLogans.

 

 

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