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Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2006
By Todd Warnke
Page 3

  Acoustic Zen has found a new koan of late, the Adagio which has garnered many great reviews. Here, however, Robert Lee chose to show the $3850 Adagio Junior. This stand-mount version of the Adagio impressed me very much with itís detailed and yet extended sound. Quite impressive and deserving of a look on itís own merits.

Good new for fans of OTLs. Ralph Karsten is back at Atma-Sphere and things are sounding better than ever. The $3300 S-30 Mk. III was in several rooms and in each was making glorious, rich, detailed and accurate sound.

Down the hallway in the Onix/Rocket room the Strata Mini was looking lovely and making great sound. At $1595, they are a bargain as is the soon to be released X-Amp which was driving them. At $500 a pair, these little 150 watt amplifier were amazing. By the way, after leading the charge to China, Onix and AV123 announced that last week they have opened their first factory in Cali, Columbia, opening up yet another source of quality, affordable manufacturing.

Magnan Cables, Gershman Acoustics, Exemplar Audio and Red Rock Audio were showing together and I have to say the result was gorgeous. The Red Rock Audio Renaissance Amplifier ($39,750) delivered looks as well as sound. But with as good as the sound is I need to give an additional plug for Magnan, they have been around for a long time, making affordable and yet state-of-the-art cables that simply get out of the way.

Era Speakers were showing their Design 5. At $900, these little (11" x 7" x 10"), weighty (16 pounds each) buggers amazed me with their quality ó both of construction and sonically. Based on what I was seeing and hearing I expected a price of at least $2000, so you can image my joy at hearing the list of $900. Good job guys!


RAW Acoustics offers both built and kit loudspeaker designs. Fortunately they were showing the already-built ones at the show. The HT8 ($3999) shown here with itís smaller sibling the HT3, are lively and yet smooth. And coupled with the Dodd Audio 120 amplifier ($5200) the combination was musical and relaxing.

A new company, Fortť Sounds, was showing their first product, the Triathlon. $8200 in a high-gloss finish and $7700 in veneer, the design is voiced to deliver deep and extended bass as the bass driver has no crossover. To implement them you need to bi-amp and to use an external filter Ė for the show Fortť used a Meridian system to accomplish this and they pulled it off quite nicely. These are guys to keep an eye on.


Blue Circle was, as always, was playfully serious. As you can see, the SBS power amplifier shown is a prototype, as is the SBP pre-amplifier next to it. At $895 and $495, they offered great sound for pocket change. Selah Audio was showing with Blue Circle and their products showed superb craftsmanship and powerful sound.

Moscode was playing their new 401 HR. A 200 watt per channel amplifier, it is striking both for its looks and refined sound. And at $4995 with a 30 day in home trial, is a true bargain.

Hudson Audio Imports was showing with HiFi500.com. Hudson supplied the CEC 3300R CD player, and at $690 it sounded like it is way underpriced. The HiFi500.com was showing the Stella line. The $595 HP100 is a headphone/pre-amplifier and the $695 DA100 is a multi-input DAC. Great stuff, good sound and solidly built.


Iíll end this tour with a visit to a new and an old friend. In the Zu Audio room for the first time I met a pair Druids. Besides being blue (they come in just about any color you can conceive of), the Zu Audio Druid ($2500) is superb sounding loudspeaker. With a super-tweeter handling the sound from 12k and up and a single, crossover-less driver for everything else, they are wonderfully cohesive, detailed and yet surprisingly dynamic. They were being driven by an old friend, the Musical Reference RM-10 mk. II ($2000). At 20 watts, this sadly overlooked amplifier was the perfect partner for the Druids and closed my show with sound that was both eminently affordable and as good as anything I heard for less than 5 times the price.


Summing Up

When I first heard of the Rocky Mountain AudioFest I scoffed. Denver? My cowtown? It will never work. It did. When I heard they were going to do it again, again I scoffed. Surely they had tapped out all the audio desire in the Rocky Mountain region. I was wrong. So when they announced the third one, of course I laughed. Denver had just landed CEDIA, and surely no one in the industry was going to come to Denver in September and then again in October. Well, I was wrong again. If anything, CEDIA pulled most if not all the home theater out of the Rocky Mountain AudioFest, leaving us almost a purely two-channel and thus better show. So (and Iím sure with my track record the Colorado Audio Society does not want to hear me say this) I now have to say that these guys are for real. The AudioFest is as good a show as the public can attend, and far more relaxed and enjoyable than CES. If you have an interest, you need to get here. Start saving those airline miles now and Iíll see in 2007.


Click here for main RMAF 2006 show page.












































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