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Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2006
By Todd Warnke
Page 1


  Ah, late fall on the Front Range of the Rockies! The last of the cottonwoods are putting on their final show (the aspens long ago having given up their leaves), the first snowfall has come and gone, the Broncos have yet to break our hearts and that sound in the air is not tykes in their Trick-or-Treat garb, but the glorious ring of high-end audio coming from the Denver DTC Marriott and the Rocky Mountain AudioFest. For the third year in a row — and with each one better than the previous — the Colorado Audio Society has put on what is fast becoming the audio show for the public. The facility is perfectly matched to the size of the event, the focus has turned ever more toward two-channel, and the turnout from both manufacturers and consumers continues to grow. If you weren’t here, you missed out.

Before starting my coverage let me preface it by noting that even though I live just south of Denver, I had to work during part of the show and so was only able to cover a portion of it. A quick scan through the show handbook and I find just over 100 rooms displaying gear from approximately 275 manufacturers — so full coverage is more than any single person (excepting only our own Steven R. Rochlin) could deliver. Hence, my selective coverage. You may want to know why I chose the gear I did so I’ll tell you. My filter was simple — I liked what I heard or saw. I did try to focus more on smaller and newer firms, but you’ll see some of the old guard here and there as well. With that out of the way, let’s walk around the show.

Editor Steven R. Rochlin comments: This is the first time in nearly a decade i have missed an important show within the United States. Due to the many e-mails reaching my in-box i feel the desire to explain. The day before the RMAF was the largest single-day track event of the season! As many of you know, my love for road course racing is deep-rooted. Preparing for this event included many new tweaks to my setup plus five hours of dyno tuning. The end result speaks for itself as my previous best lap time at this venue was 1:30.3. During this event i was averaging 1:27.5, with a long session hovering around 1:26.5 when the tires and tarmac really hooked up. Please accept my apologies for missing the RMAF 2006 and look forward to seeing everyone at CES or RMAF in 2007. For those interested, in-car video with data acquisition overlay is available by clicking here. Note the sustained and ever-changing G-forces as displayed by the traction circle. This is considered by many to be quite good for a two decade old saloon car that was originally designed three decades ago!

First up, IDS. A speaker company headed by former MacIntosh guy Roger Russell, IDS has a single product, the IDS25, named for the 25 identical drivers mounted in a single, approximately 6 foot tall sealed cabinet. It’s not cheap at $18,900, but, driven by MacIntosh gear (natch) it delivered seamless, full-range sound.

Next, Sonicweld was making glorious sound with their Pulserod. This $64000 speaker is bloody near impossible to photograph without using multiple studio lights, but in person is just flat out lovely.

Right next door AudioKinesis wowed me with the $4000 JazzModule. The picture doesn’t convey the size very well, but at about 4 feet tall, the JazzModule looks imposing but the sound is nimble, full-range and very impressive. Driven by the NTV amplifier from Richard Grey, they had one of the very best sounding rooms at the show.

Analysis Audio was showing the impossible (at least for me) to photograph $24,000 Amphitryon loudspeakers that were so positively reviewed here at Enjoy the Music.com®.'s Superior Audio magazine. The accompanying electronics from Joule Electra – the LA-150 pre-amplifier ($5250) and VZN-160 Mk II amplifier ($22,000), made for a very sympathetic and musical pairing.


Vandersteen and Ayre also created beautifully musical and yet detailed sound. The Vandy Quattro ($6995) and Ayre MXR monoblock amplifiers ($8250 each) combined the best of both company’s sound. BTW, Richard Vandersteen says keep a look out for 30th anniversary model 2 early next year.

Advanced Ribbon Technologies was showing their $6900 Metro. A ribbon paired to a 7-inch woofer, the sound was seamless, lively and yet also relaxed. The partnering gear from Naim, no doubt, had much to do with that, but it was clear to me that the loudspeakers were pulling their weight as well.

Triode Corporation of Japan was purposely messing with our collective minds by positioning the diminutive Micropure Kotaro loudspeaker ($3100) next to the Acoustic Zen Adagio and then blowing the room away with the sound from that little box. I know I was impressed by both the sound the finish on the Kotaro. As for Triode, they were using their Tri TRV-35SE ($1699) EL34 based integrated amplifier (insert RMAF09.jpg) on the Kotaro and the sound was just about perfect.

Just like me, PS Audio is Colorado based but that’s not the reason they were getting such enjoyable sound in their room. The $2195 Power Plant Premier assured them of clean power in a show setting. The rest of the electronics — an old Digital Link 3 DAC, Trio C100 amplifier and others, gave a very warm, detail and relaxing sound.


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