Enjoy the Music.com RMAF 2015 Awards
Rocky Mountain Audio Fest
Report By Rick
Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) was a blast this year, with so many new vendors and new technology to check out. RMAF is a world class show to say the least! Attendance was down this year, but those who were there got quite a show. World class debuts and amazing innovations within the audio and portable world were in Denver. This seemed to be a pivotal year in audio (as noted by my lessons from the show). Digital hard media such as the CD is in its death throes, with vinyl making a triumphant return. Portable audio is getting better and better plus exhibitors have become more attuned with properly displaying their wares. If you wanted to hear a headphone amp; here is every high end headphone on the market to test it with. If you want to hear a speaker; here it is within a well-treated room mated to great hardware. With all of this innovation and debuts of new technology it is almost impossible to pick out the best or the newest, especially since no one in their right mind could cover all of RMAF conclusively in a weekend. With that being said, here are my special awards.
Best Innovation Home Audio
EnigmAcoustic's Mythology M1 hybrid electrostatic full-range mini-monitor system ($14,690) and Questyle
Audio's R200 5GHz wireless 200 W Class D mono block amplifier ($3,000). The Mythology paired with the wireless amplifiers for Questyle was one of the most well executed innovations on the
hi-fi side of the show. The wireless amplifiers did not suffer from the normal loss of signal quality through transmission and the 200w ICE modules had more than enough power for most if not all speakers. The Mythology, with a hybrid tweeter sections (1.5" dome and Elektrostat in the same pass band) was incredibly engaging. The mythology is a hybrid speaker in the way that a Porsche 918 or a McLaren P1 are a hybrid, it uses the Elektrostat to do what a dome simply
Best Innovation Portable Audio
Soekris Engineering DAC1101 USB Powered DAC/Headamp ($650) is a chipless DAC
with all analog signal path. It provided a rock-solid stable and potentially more true to source decoding of digital media. This technology is not new, but it is
new within the portable audio market. It also fully supports double DSD resolution. The prototype at
RMAF 2015 sounded fantastic and it will surely only get better with these great engineers at the wheel. I am very excited to see this device enter production and hope the price stays competitive.
Best Sound Under $10,000
The best 'budget' system at the show, this was a tough one since almost every system at the show had one component that ended up breaking it from this budget category. Some
'inexpensive' systems broke the $10,000 mark on power conditioning alone. Thus, my favorite true sub
$10,000 system was a great offering from Benchmark Media Systems, at just $7,500 dollars for a very capable system cables and all, this system takes the cake. You can see more details about the sound in the Day 1 write up. $7,500 gets you punchy musical bass, great tonal accuracy, and endless upgrade paths within the system with very capable components on all sides.
Best Exhibit At RMAF 2015
As good as all of the systems sounded, there was really only one exhibitor that MADE the show. They brought beautiful live performances from the like on FanYa Lin, they had multiple cabling AB demos, even headphone AB demos. They also with help from EMM Labs and Martin Logan had one of the better sounding rooms in the show. I am speaking of course of Kimber Kable and Russ Andrews. They successfully brought an interactive and vibrant room to RMAF 2015 that was awesome!
Best Sound Overall Portable Audio
The combination of a world class amplifier and a world class headphone paired with a great DAC is all you need to get the best sound in the show. Cavalli Audio's Liquid Crimson and HiFiMAN's HE-1000 ($2999) headphones created that experience for me this year. The soundstage was massive with pinpoint placement of the instruments. There was no fatigue at all in the tonal balance plus it was produced with the highest degree of resolution. The comfort was such that you could forget you were wearing headphones. Fit and finish were tied for first place. It was a great experience and it took all I had from opening my wallet and picking up a pair of HE-1000s at the show. The only thing stopping me was that the Liquid Crimson had already sold out. I hope to have a more in depth experience with this system someday within a review setting… and hope to own it someday as well.
Best Sound Overall Home Audio
This year many exhibitors pulled out the stops, but one team above all other really outdid themselves. This year, the combination of LampizatOr, Antipodes, VeraStarr, Resolution Acoustics, and Vapor Audio put together a tremendous system and room. The system synergy was excellent with a soundscape that truly came alive when they added Jeff
Rowland's stereo amplifier on day two. This room was packed the whole show! People either enjoying a cold one with the guys from many very sought after audio brands or marveling at one of the largest soundstages I have ever heard. The tonal balance of the system was right there at the bleeding edge, with it resolving detail right to the edge of where it would become fatiguing. Bass was tightly controlled and reached deep into the subsonic levels to give the overall sound a grounded presence. Only thing that could have made it more realistic is a drip of sweat off the lead singer to really come close to replicating that front row concert experience. Great show to all involved!
Thank you to Marjorie Baumert, show personnel, exhibitors, and everyone who made RMAF 2015 a thoroughly enjoyable experience. RMAF 2015 was without a doubt a great show and I look forward to seeing you
all again next year!
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