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RMAF 2014 Show Report Part 1 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest Report By Kemper Holt
RMAF 2014 Show Report Part 1
Rocky Mountain Audio Fest Report By Kemper Holt

    The weather in Colorado was beautiful in the week preceding the show, and good during until Sunday. I enlisted my best friend in Colorado, Mark Miller, to be my wingman and we did the first two days of the show together, four ears better than two. The show opened at noon Friday and seemed busy all day. Saturday was the busiest day, and Sunday slowed down so I could see more rooms quickly, even then I missed some on my must list. Colorado had a great turnout of local retailers and manufacturers, providing some of the best sounds at the show. I want to add a caveat, I didn't get to listen to all the rooms at the RMAF 2014 show. In fact I missed the Mezzanine altogether, so my comments only relate to the rooms I was able to sit down and listen in.

 

SVS

I started the show at the SVS room and Gary Yacoubian had a few new speakers that will help assemble a HT system that rocks and is affordable. The Prime Satellite ($269/pr) and Prime Bookshelf ($499/pr) speakers were demoed with a PB 100 sub ($499) in a 5.1 setup that costs the same as some soundbars, yet knocked it out of the park on Gary's favorite movie clips. If you are considering a soundbar for cost reasons, please audition one of these Prime configurations, they take a little more effort to set up, but the results are worth it. Following on the heels of the Ultra Tower, the Prime Tower offers similar sonics at half the cost, ($999/pr), of the Ultra. While it gave up some low end extension and overall refinement to the Ultra, at under a grand for a pair they made great music, and looked terrific. Thanks SVS for extending your great sounding speakers and subs downward toward real world pricing, instead of chasing unlimited cost über ware.

 

Core Audio Technology and Hawthorne Audio

This room sounded even better than their Capital AudioFest showing. Ryan Mintz of Core designed an amplification package for the Hawthorne Rainers ($15,000/pr) that matched the speakers better, utilizing digital, but not Class D electronics. No DAC, bitstream converted into PWM, amplified in the digital domain, and then demodulated to drive the speakers directly. The system had great clarity, room pressurizing bass that was taut and not overblown; singers were in the room transparency, and wide dynamics. The Rainers have two 15" open baffle woofers, and an AMT mid/tweeter operating from 350 Hz on up. At $30,000 for the system, it embarrassed many costlier rooms. The use of AMT type drivers is growing fast and for good reason, they sound magnificent. The waveguide used by Hawthorne on the AMT driver, combined with the steep crossover slope from the electronics, allows the AMT to cover almost the entire audible range which really showed in the transparency of the presentation. Chris Jones' "No Sanctuary Here" played here as it did at CAF, in Denver the vocals were focused and in the room clear, and the bass staggeringly solid. I overheard many comments about how "no- digital" the room was, maybe eliminating a DAC is a good thing? Ryan said he has something new coming for fall, can't wait. This was one of the best rooms at RMAF 2014.

 

MG Audio Design

Just a couple of local guys making cables, except Lee Matuszczak and Greg Graff of MG Audio Design have been making superb cables that outperform many others, at reasonable prices for their sonic virtues. Their room had some DIY line source speakers, MGAD Virtus amps using Pascal modules and proprietary front-end, MGAD rebuild of YS Balanced A2 preamp, Rowland Aeris DAC, and their latest Planus IV AG cables. The interconnects were a combination of their Planus AG 1 and AG2 models. The rig also included a MG USB 3 wire cable made by Mike Galusha. This room was one of a few that had the soundstage starting 5' behind the speakers, and then 25' deeper, which really helps the illusion of no speakers, just music in space. The room was relaxing, music was involving and easy to listen to, and small acoustic clues glossed over in other systems gave a real sense of being there. One of the rooms where it was more about what music can we play, than what is that cone made of.

 

Angel City Audio
Instead of their Trinity LCR speaker seen at former shows, Angel City Audio debuted a new floorstander, the Seraphim, price TBD. Shown with Melody gear, Melody P2688 pre and MN845 monoblocks, strung together with the latest MG Audio Design Planus IV cables, the room was clear in the mids and had surprising low bass extension from a small cabinet. A three-way with point to point crossover wiring, easy impedance load, and 91dB/W/m sensitivity, made it a great match for those 845 based tube amps.

 

Tweek Geek

Colorado based shop Tweek Geek showed a pair of just finished speakers, BMF-1s ($20,000/pr) that exemplified their model name, these were big, and that's a good thing. The BFS-1 uses a BeymaAMT, and a Faital mid/woofer facing forward, and a pair of 12" drivers, one on each side, each one driven by a dedicated amp with DSP. The result is a high efficiency at 98dB/W/m, fullrange speaker. The electronics came from Acoustic Imagery, the new Jay-Sho preamplifier and Atsah monoblocks, AURILIC Vega DAC, Waveform cables, with Bybee and Stillpoint accessories. When I asked about how AI kept the price of their Atsah monos under $10,000, I was told they did not modify anything and used the Ncore modules and power supplies stock, and put them in a nice chassis, no need to improve on the designer's finished product. Once again the AMT sound was apparent, clear and open mids, great highs, and with four 12" powered subs- bass was imposing, yet tight and not bloated. Mike Galusha who built the one off pair of speakers, played "Fanfare for the Common Man" and the stage was wide and deep, and the bass had real impact and felt impressive, as well sounding like a drum in a hall. Exciting!

 

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