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RMAF Show Report
Not having attended RMAF last year, I was almost obliged to show my face at this year's festival of high quality music playback, in Denver, Colorado. Many friends and fellow PFO reviewers who went last year (the first year of hopefully many, many more to come!) had told me that I should expect a good, fun environment, absent of all typical CES related business mentality: this show is for YOU, the consumer. With Stereophile charging absolutely insane prices for "their" version of a consumer show, I knew that many manufacturers, particularly the small ones, sighed with relief as the organizers of RMAF charged very reasonable rates for hotel rooms and accommodations (hey, now there's a novel concept!).
So far, so good—of course, none of this would matter if the show wasn't promoted properly, which it was, if perhaps a bit too light-hearted. Much like any other show, regardless of industry, the number of presenters and attendees make or brake an event. Case in point, Comdex—remember that one?!—with technologies having merged and blurred the line between computers and home electronics, many felt that Comdex lost its touch with life in this modern age. As a result, Comdex shut its doors some years ago.
RMAF was hosted over a 3 day period, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Since there were about 50% more manufacturers exhibiting, the "visible" amount of people actually remained the same as last year, as of course attendees now stretched over much more surface area. All in all, I think the show's organizers did an amicable job in tapping the audiophile gene pool in the Denver and surrounding areas. Perhaps next year they should hire an outside marketing company to truly capture the locale as I am sure many, many more people would have loved to attend if only they had known about the show.
Attending trade shows isn't really my thing anymore—sure, I love to see my fellow friends in this great hobby, many of whom make an actual living of the products they market, alas, a show is a show is a show. Having said that, displaying audiophile gear in hotel rooms is almost an oxymoron, as you simply are not able to create realistic sound under such conditions—some of course make do with their surroundings better then others, but for the most part I would hesitate to make any final judgment as to a components sonic virtue. No doubt Dave and Carol will post plenty of nice pictures for everyone to look at; I for one, left my camera at home this year (though be not alarmed, CES is almost around the corner) which was a good thing, as I didn't feel pressured to "appear" as a member of the press, though of course, my badge identified me as such.
Myriad upon myriad of rooms greeted my kindly and warmly—I thank you all for the warm welcome! Those rooms that didn't feel it necessary to notice me ought to take a crash course in basic mankind - no doubt some important reasons must exist if a single person (that would be me) walks into an empty room occupied only by its exhibitor who fails to make any sort of eye contact or other motion of expression (maybe they pondered the question of boxers or briefs, hell, I don't know).
At any event, I of course met with Dan Wright of ModWright who knows how to stay on top of it all—kudos to Dan for juggling business, family and life in such an exemplary positive way—my, if this industry had more people of his kind… Dan's room sounded quite nice actually, with nice, clean and articulate music making the waves—or one, Dan actually played music in his room! Hrmmm… I mumbled as I debated on the usefulness of many others instructing me on exactly what I would hear and rambling on about this and that and why their component was the best (no kidding, a loudspeaker manufacturer was passing out leaflets arguing the fact that their speakers' where the worlds best!).
Arturo Manzano, of Axxis fame and fortune, managed to have quite a pleasant musical flow—perhaps the most musical of all rooms I had visited, he was showcasing Accuphase's latest and greatest redbook player, through ancillary AirTight equipment; speakers were wonderful and glorious Tannoys, the size of refrigerators. A new Transrotor TT was also spinning some fabulous music through a big Koetsu cartridge.
Mike and Nellie of Audio Federation, a Colorado high-end landmark, also had great sound, perhaps due to the fact that they employed two of the best components I know of: Marten Design Coltrane's and the stunning Brinkmann Balance TT, 10.5 Brinkmann arm and of course, the equally amazing tube PS—Billie Holiday sounded quite nice through a Lyra Titan! The rest of the gear was Lamm and Edge based; of note was the fact that the little (50k!) Audio Note 20 watters outperformed the huge Edge pyramid monos in the important "musicality" department—a testament that the Coltranes are truly grand speakers.
My buddies at ZuCable were also there in full force—I think someone needs to offer those guys an Oscar award for truly "understanding" the business—what with 3k speakers and all, they made some surprisingly great music. Hrmmm… let me see here… what are the chances of an iPod generation music lover spending 3k on a super nice pair of ZuCable speakers, compared to say 50k for Wilson Audio Maxx2s? I think that's an answer best left for each reader to decide. Suffice is to say that never in the world of music playback has there been such an insane outburst of overkill mega-dollar music systems most of which quite frankly wouldn't know a musical note if it stood right before them.
The Laser Turntable folks deserve credit for perseverance. I don't know how many iterations of business folk took up that line since their debut some years ago, but they seem to yet again be under new distributorship in the US at least. I just don't get it—first of all, each record that was played through the system sounded exactly the same, be it Mozart of Miles; I mean, dry, dry and more dry, with no hint of musicality or "life". To top it off, they had 2 (!) laser TT on display comparing it to a DJ Technics SL-P1200 MkII (!) the resident excuse was that they didn't feel like spending money on a good TT, as the laser tt would have creamed it anyway—sorry guy, but your argument simply doesn't fly: a full (!) Halcro system, running a pair of Joseph Audio speakers and you are trying to explain to me that you couldn't come up with proper funds to get a decent turntable? Come on now!
Browsing around some more I finally had the chance to introduce myself to Allen Wright of Vacuum State; he had his new pre-power combo on hand as well as his latest Level 5 modded Sony 777ES and several other Sony 9000ES DVD players (all first gen. VC24 chip based Sony's). I must say that the level of performance was quite outstanding and topping it off was Allen's plain explanation of the inherent benefits DSD has over any resolution PCM. Couple that with further analysis by our own David Robinson and I am a firm believer in the superiority of DSD over PCM. Lastly, I would like to comment that I hope the organizers of the show will learn from this show and hire an outside marketing specialist to heavily promote this fabulous event—I for one already look forward to next year! Cheers!