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RMAF 2018 Show Report (Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest 2018)

RMAF 2018 Show Report -- High-End Home Audio
Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest 2018

The Denver Chronicles Part 2
RMAF 2018 Show Report By Rick Becker


8th Floor



Taking the stairway down to the 8th floor I first came to Monitor Audio in room 8002. There I heard the new Studio (That's the model name.) monitor in satin black with the drivers mounted on a silver sub-baffle inset that is bolted through the cabinet to the back side of the speaker. Satin gray and satin white are optional colors. I noted the clean way in which the mid-woofers were mounted not unlike the far more expensive Borresen speakers I had just seen. Not that this is an entry level speaker the two 4" mid-woofers come from Monitor's top line the Platinum II series. The tweeters are a folded ribbon design that crosses over at 2700Hz. The 4 Ohm rating and 86dB/W/m sensitivity ask for a solid state amp and these were driven by Roksan electronics, a respected, reasonably priced brand. As usual with Roksan, their Radius 7 turntable with glass platter caught my eye.




Two doors down in 8000 the Pro-Ject Audio Systems room featured their RPM 3 Carbon turntable with a Sumiko Blue Point #2 cartridge, a $999 package deal. This was the first time I've heard the Pro-Ject electronics: the Pre Box DS2 digital preamp ($999) and their Amp Box DS2 that puts out 140 Wpc into 4 Ohms at only $649. Their CD Box DS2 CD player at $749 was also in the stack. The rack was an inexpensive faux-carbon fiber unit and there was no effort to isolate the individual components to improve the sound. The speakers here were the Sonus Faber Sonetto III ($3999) augmented with the Sonus Faber Gravis II subwoofer ($1499).



Cary Audio Design set up camp in 8004 with the larger system featuring their brand new DMS-550 ($5495) Network Audio Player and brand new DMS-600 ($6995) Network Audio Player, both which have MQA. Making its North American debut was their new SLI-100 ($5995) integrated amp that puts out 100 wpc in push-pull from KT150 tubes. Cary is currently offering trade-in value for your old gear with their internet sales policy. WireWorld Eclipse 8 interconnects ($450/1m) linked the gear and Eclipse 8 speaker cable ($1500/2m) connected to the ProAc Response D20 speakers ($4900/pr.) The little ProAc Tablette 10 ($2200), current version of a small monitor that has been around for a long time was shown in a smaller, second system that featured the very stylish Cary AiOS ($2995) all-in-one system, a concept that seems to be gaining a lot of traction in the high end these days.



Across the hall in 8007 Amphion Loudspeakers from Finland teamed up with Benchmark Media Systems from Syracuse, NY. Each of these companies produces products with an extremely neutral presentation and that was pretty much what the end result was here. New from Benchmark is the DAC3B ($1695), a simplified version of what they already produce, but at a lower price for people who just want a DAC and don't need the headphone or preamp functions of their more expensive models. It was combined here with their new LA4 line stage ($2495) which was derived from their Blue Note Award winning DAC3 HGC. The speakers were powered by a pair of AHB2 stereo power amps ($2995 ea.) configured as monoblocks.

All of their gear has un-godly signal-to-noise ratios and channel separation. Basically, it's pro-audio gear that hopped the fence. The speaker was the Argon7LS ($5630, shown here in white) from their mid-level line, a two-way design with a passive radiator, 91dB/W/m efficiency and a 28Hz to 25kHz frequency response. It would be tempting to try either the DAC3B or the Argon7LS with a good tube amp, though the speaker is more frequently used with solid state gear. I had a nice chat with John Siau, VP of Benchmark, and look forward to stopping in to see his shop which is just down the pike from Rochester.



Next door in 8007 was the Audioengine room where their HD6 model was pretty much the whole rig, given the built-in 50 Watt Class A/B amp for each speaker, aptX Bluetooth, optical and analog inputs and 24-bit DAC. It comes in walnut, cherry or black wood veneers, complete with remote control, all for $749. This sounded a good bit better than the last time I heard an Audioengine speaker, which admittedly, was a few years ago. They're movin' on up, but still very reasonably priced. The story here was short, but sweet!




8010 and 8014 were the home of Aurender and Eikon Audio. In 8010, I believe, there was a static display of Aurender models. And on another table was this curious looking device from Acronova, a Bimbie NB21 which turned out to be a Xerox machine for CDs and DVDs. Through a USB 3.0 port it automatically downloads data to your computer. At $574 on their internet store, like they said about Xerox copiers... "It's a miracle!"




Across the hall, between the two Aurender rooms, was 8013, sponsored by Hemingway Cables, a brand from South Korea that was new to me. Some of the gear inside was familiar to me such as the Tekton Design speakers, a line which I've been following since its early days. The Encore model ($8000, delivered) in gray was the first of his large speakers I've seen or heard. I reviewed the Brilliance model; a modest $3000 version using the same fast driver concept found in this speaker and had mixed feelings about it. I've been longing to hear some of the larger models in this series that have garnered some rave reviews.



Another brand here that was familiar was Symposium Acoustics who supplied the rack and Ultra amp stands here. The electronics here were from Thrax Audio and featured very sculptural architecture. I've heard this from time to time at the Canadian shows and found it to be quite respectable. Unfortunately, Eric Alexander of Tekton Design was off in another of his rooms and there was no press sheet to help me out here. Perhaps it was that the speakers were too big for the room, or the listening distance too close to the speakers, but I couldn't get comfortable with the sound here. (I had found seat height to be crucial with the Brilliance.) But this was just the first bed in the Goldilocks story. I would come upon the Tekton Double Impact speaker later in the show.




Over in 8014 I found this unusual speaker along with some Eikon electronics on active display. Unfortunately, I came away with virtually no information from this room. I did learn that Eikon is a current endeavor of Gale Sanders, so I would assume the speaker is from him as well, though clearly not an electrostatic design. I marveled at the mirror-like finish on this unusual design and recall this room sounded quite good.

By this time at the show it was 5:30pm and as I write this it is 12:25 am on the Monday after we rolled the clocks back to Eastern Standard Time. I'll continue with Friday's exploits in Part 3 as I wrap up the 8th floor and tackle my camera and camcorder problems. Obviously, there is a lot more to come, so keep checking back.



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