RMAF 2012 Show Report - Part I

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RMAF 2012 Show Report
Rahul Athalye - TNT USA
Denver, Colorado, USA August, 2012

The Rocky Mountain Audio Festival is organized by the Colorado Audio Society and is one of the biggest audio shows in the USA. This was my first visit to a major Hi-Fi show and what was going to make it even more special was that my dad, who is an also an audiophile, had travelled a long way to come see the show with me.

We were both excited to see and hear some of the most famous gear in Hi-Fi. Here, I’m presenting what we saw and heard. We spent less than 20 minutes in every room, only staying longer if we liked the sound. My comments on sound are really snap judgements that could have been affected by various factors, including the kind of music that was played, how loud it was, and of course my own predujices against the gear, which I put aside while listening of course! ;)

Best of Show
Show Summary

Sony and Pass Labs

Sony provided a sneak peak of their new speaker -- the smaller, relatively cheaper brother of the SS-AR1. Driven by a Pass Labs amplifier, the sound in this room was smooth and involving. One of the three rooms in the entire show we returned to. The highlight of this particular model is a tweeter array that is supposed to provide a more controlled dispersion of the higher frequencies.
Sony and Pass LabsSony Closeup

JBL/Harmon Room

Here we have the JBL Everest. Because of the size of the Everests, they were arranged along the long dimension of the room. The sound was big and effortless. There was a suckout in the midbass, but that could’ve been the room.
JBL Everest
JBL had another interesting speaker, the Studio 590. It belongs to the Array series, but is priced around $2000. It sounded enthusiastic without being fatiguing and looked good too; I especially liked how the waveguide was built into the front baffle. And the price makes them very interesting.
JBL Studio 590JBL Studio 590 with grill


This was another room with spectacular, master tape-like sound. The source was a Thorens TD 124 using the Ortofon SPU cartridge. All the electronics were Nagra. It was obvious that the source was very good. We went back for another listen.

Best ‘source’ of the show.

Thorens turntable and Ortofon SPU


Magnepan had a scheduled demo every fifteen minutes, and you had put your name down to get in. The speakers on show were the extremely reasonably priced MMGs ($599 a pair). They did their best to make the room look like a regular living room, with some plants and other touches. The lamp beside the right speaker is resting on a dipole subwoofer. They did use a center channel, which was not stated to the audience before giving the demo. The bass was somewhat weak, but overall, the sound was much better than many of the rooms, and the price is great.

Best ‘bang for your buck’ at the show


Volti Audio

I had not heard of Volti Audio before. They were showing the Vittora speaker – a front-loaded 15” woofer coupled to a large-format 2” compression driver, which hands over the highest frequencies to a HF driver (see horns to the left in the first picture). I’ll admit that this is similar to my own system and so, I may be biased. Apart from a slightly sibilant treble, the sound was effortless, non-fatiguing and definitely relaxing. They were powered by a Border Patrol 300b amplifier.

Definitely one of the best of the show.

VoltiVolti closeup

YG Acoustics

The Anat Reference main modules plus subs were playing in the YG Acoustics room. The sound was indeed reference quality; flat response and well-integrated drivers. They did sound a little strained on louder passages. The electronics were from MSB. Check out those cylindrical heatsinks! Great sound.
Anat Reference

Prana Fidelity

Prana Fidelity were playing the Fifty90 model and it sounded quite good. Even on symphonic music at respectable levels, it held its composure. One of the better sounding rooms.
Prana Fidelity


This was a very interesting experience. FAL is a Japanese company showcasing an SIT amplifier and a full-range loudspeaker. If you’re not in the know about SIT amplifiers, check out what Nelson Pass has been upto (firstwatt.com). The SIT device used in the FAL amplifier is different from the PASS SIT-1. How did it sound? Extremely good. Very involving, liquid and relaxing.
The speakers were based on a full-range driver, designed by the guy dressed in a doctor’s suit. He was a fun fellow. It sounded really good. Nothing like the sound of other cone and whizzer full-range drivers.
FAL speakerFAL speaker closeup

Acoustic Zen Technologies and Triode Japan

This was another Japanese room and the sound was again very good. Triodes driving towers. The HF was being produced an air motion tweeter.
Acoustic Zen

Ypsilon, Bergmann and Lansche

Here’s a look at Ypsilon Electronics. Very well laid out and solidly built. We got to chat to the designer and he was a knowledgeable chap. Simple circuits, done well. Extremely high-priced though. Clockwise from top left:
Ypsilon monoblock amplifier.
Some hand-wound, stealth finished, MC step-ups and balanced to unbalanced converters by Ypsilon. Yummy.
Lansche’s ion tweeter.
Ypsilon Phono Preamp
Bergmann turntable. The platter and tonearm are suspended in vacuum. Good sounding, but rumble was visible on the Lansche woofers.
Ypsilon ampYpsilon MC stepupLansche ion tweeter
Ypsilon phono preampBergmann turntable

Overall, good sound.

Lansche speaker


BMS, the Italian pro driver manufacturer, had a room with some completed designs. Their boxes were made out of acrylic and were see-through. Kinda cool!

They had a good-sounding two-way, and another tri-axial design. Many of the raw drivers on display were co-axial and tri-axial designs. Holding them in my hand, the build-quality was top notch.

BMS Acrylic SpeakerBMS drivers


I had read interviews of Andrew Jones from TAD, the designer behind the Reference One model as well the now popular $150 Pioneer SP-BS41-LR, and was pleased to see him demo a lower priced brother of the reference series from TAD. The room was well setup, with quite a few absorbing devices on the side walls.

A piano recording sounded very good and so did a nice jazz trio. And then he played one of my personal favorites, Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances (Eiji Oue, Minnesota Orchestra, Reference Recordings), and for some reason, it didn’t sound right.

Sonus Faber

Sonus Faber had two rooms. In the one below, they were showcasing the Venere series. The sound was okay, but the music they were playing was better – ‘Hallejuah’ by Jeff Buckley… a hair-raising performance.
Sonus Faber bookshelf Sonus Faber Venere
In the other Sonus Faber room, they played the Elipsa. The protective grill was interesting – said to be made of violin strings. The lower-priced Venere series we had heard earlier sounded better to our ears.
Sonus Faber Elipsa

[Go to Part II of this report]

© Copyright 2012 Rahul Athalye - rahul@tnt-audio.com - www.tnt-audio.com