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


Room 1000: Benchmark Media Systems
After just talking about a system that was over a million dollars, here's a system that cables and all comes in at just under $8,000 and so is quite a change of pace. Although none of the components are new or being debuted for the first time per se, the way Benchmark Media Systems is now offering this system featuring everything you need from speakers and stands to interconnect cables...  To go from the DAC to the amp and amp to the speakers is a grand total of $7,500 all-in. This would make a great starter system for anyone looking to get into the hobby, or perhaps a very capable secondary system within your home. Benchmark's system features a Swiss army knife of a DAC/PRE in the DAC2 DX and a very well built hybrid A/A/B amp in the AHB2 reviewed here that has a measured 132dB noise floor. Loudspeakers were two very capable monitors with the SMS1 and this system price includes the stand and cables. Benchmark's system is cutting edge featuring balanced connector from the DAC to the amplifier and comes with optional (you guessed it) SpeakON connectors to the loudspeakers. It isn't the best system at the show, yet it is very capable, simple, bulletproof, and more than enough to get your toes tappin' with your favorite tracks. In fact that is basically all I did in this room, as it was a pleasant break at the end of the day with all of the thoroughbreds vying for attention.



Room 1100: AudioKinesis
Another very pleasant and well thought out system was from AudioKinesis featuring two debut speakers; their Planetarium Sigma $6600 with stands and the Space Generators at $1800/pr) along with a Swarm subwoofer system $2800. This was one of the few rooms that did not have significant room treatments but didn't seems to need them. The first thing you noticed when walking into the room was the cross eyed extreme toe-in of what had to have been a horn loaded speaker behind the cover. Around the room were several small oak boxes that were elements of the Swarm subwoofer system. At the front of the room on the floor was a switch to enable the Space Generators consisting of two upward firing omni-directional speakers. Although not overwhelming balanced or resolving, the system did play some fun games with the soundstage. Although I don't normally like gimmicks such as the Sound Generators, these weren't as intrusive as some ambience speakers I have heard.



Room 1021: Pass Labs, Usher Audio, Triangle Art and Cocktail Audio
Call me a fan boy but I tend to be a big fan of Pass Labs amplifiers so I was pretty excited to hear the debut of the latest integrated from Pass, the INT-250 ($12,000) which is basically a significantly discounted XA250.8 stereo amplifier as reviewed within this month's edition of Enjoy the Music.com's Review Magazine. Where the INT-250 has a preamplifier and amplifier section, the XA250.8 is a very high quality stereo amplifier. Pass Labs did not fail to impress as it delivered effortless power, a low noise floor, and full control of the bass. It was maybe a bit mechanical sounding, yet that could have been something from the room, system synergy, first day break-in.... who knows. The Usher Audio X Towers are a known commodity and sounded good as they always do, however I was very impressed with the performance of the Triangle Art Concerto turntable ($4000) as it has the level of liveliness, dynamics, and speed stability of a table twice its price. Also impressive was the Cocktail Audio X-30 music server priced at $1,590 without a hard drive. This server features an integrated DAC and ADC (very useful for ripping vinyl) and also has an FM radio tuner, Internet radio, analog line, phono inputs, and built in 50 wpc stereo amplifier. I would love to hear this piece within my listening room in a more simplistic system as it seems to be a very capable well-engineered box.



A Few Other Rooms Of Note From Day 1

Room 1022: Exemplar Audio
The Exemplar Audio room showcased their XL-II single driver full-range loudspeakers ($5,495) built around a modded Audio Nirvana 6.5" driver. The XL-II lacked some of the tonal balance and distortion issues some single driver models are faced. Within this system was also the eXeption Integrated amp ($5,495), Expo T105 Oppo 105 Mod player ($4,995 including player), and Exemplar cabling. Sound-wise, it was able to throw one of the more spacious and coherent soundstages of the day.



Room 1002: Eclipse by Fujitsu Ten
The Eclipse by Fijitsu Ten room featured some very well engineered futuristic looking tear drop shaped speakers with quite a bit of thought and design incorporated. The Desktop system TD-M1 at $1,300 a pair was one of the most versatile, and aesthetically pleasing, desktop speakers I have seen at the show. They feature an integrated DAC, amplifier, and Wi-Fi integration for wireless streaming. Even in nearfield the TD-M1 allows recording to have space that doesn't just float around the middle of the screen immediately in front of you, as it dances around a wide open soundstage. Eclipse also showed a pair of TD712 Mk2 ($10,600) single driver monitors accompanied by the TD725SWMK2 ($6,400) subwoofer. The overall presentation of this larger system was not as impressive as the smaller models were in nearfield, but the subwoofer was very capable and would likely integrate well with a monitor that is a little livelier.



Room 1107: YG Acoustics And PS Audio
I always go into the YG Acoustics rooms and maybe it is just my taste or maybe I am wrong but they are never as engaging as I want them to be. This year, with a prototype PS Audio preamplifier due out in Q2 2016, the room was more engaging and dynamic than I have ever heard the YG Acoustic system sound. I caught them a bit early in the day so many of the details were still being worked out. Am sure it will get better towards the end of RMAF 2015.



Guess I should get some "sleep" and hope to see you all at RMAF day 2. Check back for my coverage as we're posting updates each day.


---> Day 2 of Enjoy the Music.com's RMAF 2015 show report.






















































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