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RMAF 2006 Show Report
RMAF 2006 Show Report
By Ron Nagle
Page 1

 

  Good evening ladies and germs, I just flew back from the Rockies and boy are my arms tired. But seriously folks, how can you tell the difference between a rabid pit bull and my wife at an audio show? (Pause) jewelry ! Let me tell ya it was really nice to be that high and not paranoid. And folks this was my very first RMAF (Rocky Mountain Audio Fest).

So many people I met told me how much they enjoyed last year's show that my curiosity compelled me to take the plunge. Our quest for the live sound of the actual performance is the energy driving us forward. Increasingly this seems to be controlled by conglomerate audio publications and bottom line audio manufacturers. So much so that our audio avocation in my estimation has become too depersonalized. Stepping off the plane in Denver, the first thing I noticed was a more affable and easygoing lack of ego. Instead of the stiff faces and usual cast of audio experts I was met with friendly and unassuming hospitality. This was certainly a welcome breath of fresh air a mile high in the Rockies.

I had better post my position statement concerning Hi-Fi shows right up front of this report. I will never finalize any judgments about any piece of audio equipment based solely on what I hear at a show. Show conditions are never optimum and never what you would hear in your home. Consider than what follows as only thumbnail sketches and preliminary impressions.

 

Day One
Friday October 20th

This was the third Annual Rocky Mountain Audio Fest organized and hosted by the Colorado Audio Society. It was held at the Denver Marriott Tech Center on October 20, 21 and 22, 2006. Now form a mental picture of the Marriott Tech center. The fest is housed in two buildings connected on either side by a central building. The central building has the reception desk, food court and business center containing a few theater sized meeting halls. The show kicked of at 12 noon Oct. 20 and I hit the ground running. I started at the south Atrium building on the 5th floor. There were 31 rooms on this floor displaying superior audio ear candy. All of the 5th floor these demo rooms were 13" wide by 19" deep this was the basic or standard size for most of the showrooms. Obviously I can't cover all the equipment in all of the rooms but I will highlight some notable companies and components some good and some not so good. Almost at the start I found a bunch of guys I can learn from and appreciate.

In room 502 are Peter Ledermann and Steve Oldford of Soundsmith Corp. They were demonstrating their SG-810 version of a Strain Gauge cartridge using a VPI HRX turntable and VPI arm. The preamplifier supplies DC voltage and charges the SG-810 cartridge element. When DC power is applied a blue LED illuminates the inside of the cartridge body. As the stylus tracks the record grooves the movement of the stylus changes the position of the cartridge strain gauge element and varies the output voltage.

I admire their unique vision constructing Hi-End components. I can only mention part of it here; Walnut front panels with multi colored LED's are used for left and right output indication on the HW2006 Mosfet amp. The preamp front panel has a "V" shaped tracking force LED array that you can use to set up and monitor cartridge alignment. The sound coming from their Mantis 300 speakers was very dynamic and clear.

 

Additionally Sound Smith can and do repair and modify older stereo components. The very next room across the hall was room 501 Inside there was good sound coming from Bel Canto Design and Pioneer TAD S-1EX (Tech Audio Devices) speakers. These 3 way speakers were a design originally intended for professional monitoring. I had previously heard these same $9,000 speakers a few months earlier and at that time they received a lukewarm reception. However the TAD speakers I heard at the show were providing a beautiful smooth coherent sound powered by those Bel Canto electronics.

 

In the Linn Room there was further evidence that the venerable LP-12 turntable is alive and still ticking. Farther along down the hall in room 510 Amber Wave Audio by Russ and Rusty Hilliard displayed what I can only describe as a tube lovers wet dream. They were showing Giant sized monoblock amplifiers, with blue glowing 5V4 tube rectifiers, huge transformers and 304TL transmitting tubes. 

 

Costing $42,000 a pair these amplifiers produce 200 watts a side and each weights in at 200 pounds. I believe the speakers they were using did not do justice to these amps.

 

Digital mastering, I'm not sure digital anything has enhanced our enjoyment of music. But Channel D Software in room 517 has interesting technology never the less. The system reads and digitizes the output from a turntable cartridge and generates an image of a record with the data displayed as tracks using a digital representation. The editing process is than done on another record image overlapping the first by moving the position of a cartridge symbol across the second superimposed disc.

 

Room 518: I went in with the specific intention of cornering George Kay the developer of the Moscode amplifier. I wanted to get my hot little paws on a Moscode 410HR amplifier. This time I was able to talk directly to George and we chatted about Quad speakers. Turns out he used Quad ESL 63 speakers like mine to voice his amplifier. Bottom line, he said I could review the 410HR. I hope this pans out, in the past some similar statements have gotten lost in a black hole. Not so incidentally the letters HR of the model number, stand as a tribute to the late and lamented Harvey Gizmo Rosenberg a mentor and a friend to many of us audiophiles.

Down the hall in room 522 I would like to give an honorable mention, not for sound but for original design. This goes to Studio Electric's ultra modern shining steel speakers a1939 Worlds Fair look alike Pylon and Perisphere. Acoustic Sounds Inc. room 525 had the Stirling Broadcast legendary BBC LS3/5a monitors. They still amaze and sound wonderful, I regret selling my Spendor version of these speakers. The speakers I saw cost $1,695 in rosewood.

 

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