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RMAF 2019 Show Report -- Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest 2019

RMAF 2019 Show Report Part 3
Show Report By Rick Becker


10th And 11th Floor


  Friday was a whole different day. As we entered the far end of the Convention Center the line had already folded back on itself. Obviously, they were overloaded and under-staffed. But as I walked down between the lines, I heard my name called out. Looking around I saw this stranger stepping out of line. It was Theo Stack of Stack Audio whose mods for the Linn LP12 I had just reviewed and given a Blue Note Award. He had come to Denver to try and drum up distribution of his moderately priced, finely manufactured Link streamer. We set up a time to meet at the end of the day and parted ways.



This gentleman's shirt seemed to have an appropriate message.


11th Floor


Starting up on th1e 11th floor, I ran into Richard Schram (R), President of Parasound, talking with John Bevier (L), formerly of importer Audio Plus Services which has now become Focal Naim America. Their restructuring let go another good friend whom I met at the show looking to reconnect within the industry. This was the first I've seen Richard since he almost ran over me with a huge CD player back in the late 1990's. He's come a long way since then.




Speaking of Focal, I found their Focal Scala Utopia Evo ($40k) in room 115 being powered by a pair of EMM Labs MTRX2 amplifiers ($85K). Note the exquisite wood veneer on the side of the speaker. (I hope this didn't come from the home of an orangutan.) This was a breath of fresh air from the usual mating with Naim electronics and the third time I've heard EMM monoblocks with excellent results each time. These amps are in the rarified air where it makes no difference if it is tube or solid state gear. The turntable is an SME 15 with 309 tonearm and a DS Audio W-2 optical cartridge.



The man in blue plaid was Ed Meitner himself and along with the power supply for the SME was a prototype optical equalizer (phono stage) specifically designed for the DS optical cartridges. An EMM Labs NS1 network streamer ($4500) was the source for Shelby Lynne singing Just a Little Lovin'. Cabling was by Kimber Kable featuring their two-meter Carbon 18XL speaker cables for $4100, plus Kimber's very own custom MTRX2 power cables on his amps ($1092) that were specially made for RMAF 2019. About $15k worth of HRS racks and shelves supported the gear. You will definitely pay the cost to be the boss of this Best Room that totaled over $250k.




If you want to save a couple of hundred thousand dollars (and then some), you might want to put on your best Marie Kondo and downsize to the SA-Z1 active near-field monitors from Sony's determined effort to break into the High End. You can connect just about anything to them. Dual woofers cancel vibrations and a tweeter array extends to 100kHz. The sound was superb and the price was kept secret, though it is set to be released in January. This was another Best Room, though it begs the question "Why not headphones?" Maybe the price will be the answer.





Sony also treated us to displays of exploded construction of a small component, headphone and earbud in case you were thinking of taking off on a DIY adventure.




In room 125 I found these beautiful Manger P2 floorstanders ($22k) from Germany in a different veneer than I remember from AXPONA. I covered their unique, nearly full-range driver in that report, so let me add here that there are no standard finishes from Manger. They are made to order and you select the finish or veneer you wish. The speakers are bi-wireable and feature two rear-firing passive radiators. They sounded very good driven by the Primare electronics from Sweden. A new phono stage, the R35 replaces the older R32, featuring greater gain, lower noise and more detail. Designed for both MM and MC, the gain is adjustable for each and resistance for MC is adjustable in unusually small increments.



They took an unusual approach to stack the A35.2 stereo amps, using Finite Element footers ~$900/set, depending on the weight limit of the footer. Possibly this rig was bi-amp'ed like the Wilson / VTL rig mentioned earlier. With such physically small amplifiers, you might consider placing them closer to the speakers allowing for better sound from shorter speaker cables. They also took a novel approach with their power conditioning. Rather than using an expensive one-size-fits-all conditioner, they used smaller Isotek conditioners tailored to the current and filtration needs of the individual components. The music was good here, but several conversations going on at once made listening less than ideal. MoFi Distribution was the sponsor of this room and the brands shown here.



The next room, #130, was also sponsored by MoFi Distribution where they had a lot of stuff on silent display. Little Fwend tonearm lifters from Scandinavia was premiering a special model with a contoured base specifically designed to fit the Technics 1210/1200 turntable that should sell for $249 or a little under. If that seems expensive, consider the cost of replacing your cartridge and the inconvenience of jumping up at the end of each side of your LPs.



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