RMAF 2016 Preview: Getting High on Hi-Fi in the Rockies

rmaf-2016-200x200Stereo nutjobs have one last opportunity this year to binge out on more than 150 systems gathered under one roof. Yes, it’s time to head to Denver for the venerable Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.

The high-end equipment orgy, now in its 13th year, runs Oct. 7-9 at the Denver Marriott Tech Center. More than 400 exhibitors are expected, and they’ll be bringing gear ranging from budget models to borderline-insane assaults on the state of the art.

For quite a while, RMAF was the two-channel enthusiast’s primary major alternative to the increasingly video-, communications- and gadget-focused Consumer Electronics Show. But in recent years, several other large shows have sprung up, including AXPONA in Chicago (held in April) and T.H.E. Show in California (now conducted in June), and they’ve been thriving.

RMAF coverage courtesy of Noble Audio: https://nobleaudio.com/

This competition seems to be driving show organizers to up their games. RMAF is no different, with numerous enhancements planned for the 2016 edition.

One of the new ideas this year will be an “entry-level” display, which will rotate a variety of budget systems throughout the three days. Attendees will be able to discover how they can get at least a taste of the high-end for $500 to $5,000.

In addition, if the manufacturers’ press releases in advance of RMAF are any indication, RMAF 2016 will highlight an industry that appears to be finding a way to succeed amidst enormous digital disruption. Indeed, there are a plethora of new product introductions planned for the show, as well as public exhibits by some significant players who have been absent from the circuit for a while (see list below).

Audio shows offer a great way to spend a long weekend demoing more gear than you otherwise would be able to hear in a decade. The events also are a perfect opportunity for hardcore deal-hunters. Most exhibitors these days are trying to do much more than display their wares — they want to sell it to you that weekend, and discounts abound.

RMAF also is a place where can meet like-minded hobbyists, and the tubes-versus-solid-state discussions often continue into the wee hours over many cold beverages.

Even if you’re not registered yet, there’s time. The Marriott is sold out, but there are plenty of nearby alternatives. I’ve booked a flight, thrown some clothes and a few test CDs into a bag and dashed up at the last-minute more than a few times. And I’ve always had a lot of fun.

Part-Time Audiophile will have a team of reporters, led by publisher/editor Scot Hull (under careful watch by event security), so if you spot us in our slimming black T-shirts, give us a thumbs up. Check our website frequently, too, as we’ll be offering our usual exhaustive room-by-room coverage.

For more information on RMAF, visit the show website here.

Select product launches

  • Wilson Audio Specialties, hot off the debut of its $111,200-a-pair Alexx at AXPONA in April, will display a new floorstander selling for a bit more than 20 percent of its bigger brother. The Yvette ($25,500 a pair) is a compact three-way design sporting a 10-inch paper-pulp woofer, a 7-inch proprietary midrange and the third upgrade of the company’s well-regarded silk-dome tweeter. The latter driver is the one that really has been a game-changer for Wilson, bringing a new level of both smoothness and clarity. Wilson will drive the Yvette with tube gear from longtime show partner VTL.
  • Digital Amplifier Co. will show the new ZB (zero bulk capacitance) version of its Stereo Maraschino amp. The upgrade, developed during an extensive experimentation program, is said to create a very open sound.
  • U.K.-based Wilson Benesch (no connection to Wilson Audio) will return after a long absence from U.S. audio shows. The company, which recently inked a U.S. import deal with Aaudio Imports, will show its A.C.T. One Evolution P1 loudspeaker. To celebrate, the two partners collaborated on a special finish, called “Ettore Blue,” as an homage to auto racing legend Ettore Bugatti.
  • Legacy Audio will preview its new Calibre monitor. The stand-mounted speaker features an 8-inch woofer (with a full inch of displacement capability), a 7.5-inch midbass/midrange and a 4-inch EMT ribbon tweeter. The design also boasts a 1.75-inch-thick front baffle and a 500-watt power-handing capability. Legacy says the goal was to create a speaker capable of serving professional studio engineers as well as audiophiles.
  • Wolf Audio Systems plans to introduce its new flagship server, the Alpha 2 Red Wolf Digital Music Player. The $8,000 unit has a 2 TB solid-state hard drive, 16 GB of RAM and a 275-watt linear power supply. The hard drive is said to operate four times faster than mechanical designs.
  • OPPO will demo its new HA-2SE portable headphone amp and DAC ($299). The slim unit, which has a leather case, is designed to enhance digital playback from mobile phones and portable music players, including Apple and Android products. The HA-2SE is outfitted with an ESS Sabre32 Reference DAC and supports PCM audio up to 384 kHz/32-bit and DSD audio up to 12 MHz (DSD256 or DSD4x).
  • Zesto Audio will roll out its newest product, the Andros Tessera phono stage. The $12,000 component is designed to work with up to four different tonearms or turntables.