Rocky Mountain Audio Fest – Part One

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Rocky Mountain Audio Fest – Part One

The show was compromised on a fundamental level. The hotel promised its facelift would be finished in time, but a few weeks before the annual RMAF opened its doors at the Denver Marriott Tech Center, the builders admitted defeat. One half of the building was still being rebuilt, and the best the hotel could do by way of compensation was a tent! Worse still, the redesigned rooms that were available in one of the Tech Center’s towers, had now been built with fixed furniture and a large, intrusive, and noisy air conditioning duct running through one corner. This reduced the size and undermined the sound of many rooms.

As a consequence, RMAF’s organisers faced a three-way problem: they couldn’t cancel the show without essentially bankrupting themselves in paying cancellation fees to the Marriott hotel group, they couldn’t rehouse every manufacturer in the manner to which they were accustomed, and they couldn’t satisfy the demands of the showgoers who expected a complete show in a fully-built hotel. In fairness, the organisers made the best of a very bad job, in part through a lot of frantic last-minute work in order to keep all the plates spinning and the balls in the air. Nevertheless, at a time when many regional shows across America are vying for position to oust RMAF from its place of importance, this year’s show was vitally important to reassert the strength of the RMAF brand. Fortunately, visitor numbers were strong Friday and Saturday, but down on Sunday and the level of interest expressed by show-goers pleasantly surprised most exhibitors. The moaners will still moan, but RMAF prevails.

The show did exhibit a number of new-to-the-US products first seen at Munich, however, because many of these (such as the Spendor D9) already received coverage in the intervening months, we’ll not cover them here. RMAF also welcomed products back into the US (notably Wilson Benesch) but for similar reasons, we’ll pass on these products too. My colleague and Publisher Chris Martens will focus on the headphone world in the tent, and his roundup will also be published on hifiplus.com, while I took the 11 floors of the hotel.

There were several new product launches at the show, suggesting RMAF is more than just a regional event.

AURALiC’s new $3,799 POLARIS represents the full nature of today’s integrated amplifier. It’s true all-in-one, capable of playing line-level, and MM phono cartridge on its fully configurable analogue inputs alongside coaxial, toslink, AES/EBU, USB, and WiFi or Wired Ethernet streamed digital inputs. The Hypex-based amps deliver a healthy 120W per channel into eight ohms. 

We’re kind of breaking our own rules as soon as we made them here, but the $18,000 Brinkmann Nyquist DAC, was shown for the first time in the USA. The MQA-ready Nyquist proved to be one of the most exciting sounding digital devices at Munich in its prototype form, and RMAF proved this wasn’t a fluke, despite playing in a very small room.

Bryston quietly announced its $3,995 BLP-1 mid year, but this was the first showing of the Canadian electronics brand’s first… turntable. Featuring a belt-drive Delrin platter, controlled by a PWM power supply and a titanium tonearm, RMAF was the first public outing for the product (playing through the company’s recent BP-2 MM phono preamp, PS-3 power supply, and TF-2 MC transformer), and shows great potential.

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