RMAF 2016 Wrap Up

Despite the hotel renovation problems that closed off most of the left side of the Denver Tech Marriott, 2016's Rocky Mountain Audio Festival went off with few technical glitches.

Can Jam, the headphone part of the show, under a temporary "bigtop" was extremely well-attended throughout. Trailers brought in for a few exhibitors and for the seminars also worked okay but everyone will be relieved when the auditorium reopens next year.

The biggest problem from my perspective was what appeared to be low attendance. With just about everything located in one tower, one couldn't chalk it up to "crowd dilution". It just wasn't crowded on Saturday. I wasn't there Sunday so perhaps it picked up but I doubt it.

For those who attended though, there was plenty to see and hear. I took part in two panel discussions, one of which I moderated on "The Future of Vinyl". I'll let you know when the video goes up on the RMAF site. The second one hosted by Brent Butterworth was about how to read between the lines of consumer electronics advertising that I suggested be extended to how to read between the lines of audio reviews. Again, when the video is posted I'll post a note on this site.

I'd briefly mentioned the Lejonklou Gaio moving magnet phono preamplifier in the recent Audio Alchemy PPA-1 review. Mr. Lejonklou appeared at RMAF 2016 in the Nokturne Audio room to introduce his Boazu Integrated amplifier, the company's first. Here's what a "Lejonklou" looks like!

I didn't get to hear it, or much at the show since I spent most of my "one man show" time running around looking for analog and vinyl-related news. For more complete show coverage visit Stereophile's website.

Also in that room was Nokturne's NOKTable $599 turntable stand, a lightweight but rigid design of welded square-section steel tubing with adjustable floor spikes. The platform is of black laminated MDF resting on spikes—very 80's era "old school" and originally designed for a Linn Sondek 'table but of course it's compatible with any moderately sized, medium weight table.

Swan Song Audio showed upgraded casework for its Black Swan phono preamplifier (one's here for review).

VPI showed a really elegant looking Prime turntable fabricated from Walnut

Dr. Kubo whose Kubotek Haniwa cartridges feature super-low internal impedances (almost a short circuit), showed a new phono preamp specifically designed for his cartridges as well as a new turntable designed to his specifications by Transrotor of Germany. He's using a modified Viv Lab Rigid tone arm, similar to one I reviewed in Stereophile that normally has no offset angle (because the company believes skating compensation is worse than tracking distortion). Kubo has added an offset angled head shell. The complete system: turntable, arm, cartridge and phono preamplifier costs $20.000.

And the Canadian electronics manufacturer Bryston demoed its new turntable but I didn't get to see it because I didn't bother stopping into the room. Why? I had to make "editorial decisions" and skip over certain rooms that odds were, did not include new analog products.

In this case, the turntable was announced last June, but for some reason I didn't get the press release, which may have gotten caught in my spam filter. Too bad. I would have liked to have seen it in person.

I pulled this picture off the internet. The BLP-1 'table appears to be a really nice original design featuring a Bryson-designed PWM power supply and a seven-segment titanium arm tube arm with integrated head shell. Price: $3995.

RMAF is usually a show where dreamers and newbies come to try and establish themselves. While Oklahoma-based Swan Song has exhibited for a few years, it's still a relatively new company. This year it showed a luxurious and clearly costly 300B tube amplifier. Band-Width, shown in one of the show videos is a Dallas Texas based new company also showing a tube line up, while Austin, Texas retailer Whetstone Audio, which bills itself as "the best little hi-fi shop in Texas" showed an exotic full Thoress electronics tube-based system featuring a Sperling turntable and Fuuga cartridge ( I reviewed both in Stereophile). Brian and his wife Donna were the nicest folks and they played great music too.There seems to be a tube revolution going on out west!

Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to sit and listen in more than a few rooms because of the reporting pressures and having to cover the show alone. Overall, though, I found what I usually do: the best sound—at least for my sonic tastes— was in the rooms hosted by established companies—Vandersteen with Audio Research front end electronics in the Musical Surroundings room, Focal driven by the big NAIM amps and Wilson, which introduced yet another winning speaker the $25,000 Yvette driven by VTL electronics.

Overall it was a successful show logistically, given the difficulties involved but I worry about what appeared to be sparse turnout and a mostly older demographic. On the other hand, the weather on Saturday was unusually warm and beautiful and there was also an International Beer Festival in town.

hiendfan's picture

Very good coverage as usual Mikey. Mostly older ... might be the Beer Festival or the 5 figure price tags (not withstanding the excellent systems than can be had for around 5K).

Mile High Music's picture

For me and maybe many others it was a toss up between going to RMAF or part/all of the first three day weekend of Desert Trip aka Geezapalooza. I ended up enjoying RMAF, including your informative "The Future Of Vinyl" panel - thanks Mikey.

Ortofan's picture

... is made for them by Gold Note of Italy:

The turntable appears similar to one of their mid-range models (Giglio or Mediterraneo) but without the curved wood plinth; and the tonearm appears similar to the B-7.

Michael Fremer's picture
Thanks for that!
isaacrivera's picture

Is the same vinyl-wrap-over-MDF plinth of the regular Prime, but walnut-patterned. It is not actual wood. The vinyl wrap/MDF combo is quite dampened and free of resonance. And the pattern is pretty good looking.