Like most audio events, there simply isn't enough time for one person to spend quality time in every room in the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. So, we split the task of finding the best sounds among team member who were at the event. There are regular recipients of 'good sound' plaudits from pundits; almost irrespective of equipment, these exhibitors do well in the shows year in, year out. This suggests the products offered by these exhibitors are consistent and good, especially when they are liked universally.
So, although you can almost second-guess what is going to sound good from the manufacturers, distributors, and dealers in the room, there are still points where long-standing brands get it wrong, and newcomers get it very, very right.
Here is our list of some of the best.
For many years the VTL room has vied with the ARC/Vandersteen room for top honours at RMAF. In many ways, this year was no different – but in at least one way it was very different indeed: both systems were downsized considerably over recent years. VTL ran a Brinkmann Spider/Lyra Etna turntable and dCS Rossini player and clock, feeding their own TP6.5 phono-stage, TL6.5 line-stage, MB-185 mono-blocs and Wilson’s new Sabrina loudspeakers. The sound was fluid and intimate, warm and natural, but what really impressed was the sheer presence and scale generated by Wilson’s diminutive new floorstander. This is a speaker that should find considerable favour in UK homes and UK systems.
Whether it is coincidence or a sign of the times, Vandersteen had opted to run their Quatro Wood CT, in a smaller room and driven by ARC G-Series electronics and an AMG turntable. The sound, doubtless helped by the tuneable, active bass was big, bold and solid, with impressive dynamics combined with subtlety, tone and texture that delivered the requisite warmth and musical intimacy. Wonderfully capable on jazz and pop, this system really hit its stride with classical and rock recordings, test pressings of the new Joe Jackson re-issues from Intervention Records displaying all of the attitude, punch and power that made the originals so compelling, but way more bandwidth, layering, detail and much more natural tonality. Is She Really Going Out With Him? Perhaps he’s got a system like this at home!
Meanwhile, reminding us that big systems are something of a company forté, Dan D’Agostino combined his Momentum mono-blocs, pre-amp and phono-stage with a Classic stereo amp, driving Alexias underpinned by a pair of Watchdog subs. Source was a Brinkmann Balance and the performance was tight, stable, driven and authoritative. This was one system that could rock – and it did.