RMAF 2016 Greatest Hits: You can’t always get what you want

Scot Hull, Brian Hunter, birthday boy (me), and Brannan Mason.

Everybody seemed to want something: More rooms, more space, bigger rooms, less tents, an area for social gatherings, a proper restaurant and bar… the list goes on, but despite the zen disruption at RMAF 2016 due to ongoing construction/remodeling, the show was a complete success from my perspective. Marjorie Baumert, the show’s organizer, and her amazing staff worked tirelessly to make sure everyone’s concerns, or issues were addressed, and taken care of tout suite. Case in point; I arrived early Thursday and my name wasn’t on the media list for a room or a pass, but Marjorie took one look at me, and within five minutes had me a room, and completely sorted out. So once again I’m throwing a huge Thank You out into the cosmos to Marjorie, and her crew.

Breakfast with John Darko; always a smile.

RMAF has become my favorite show, and once again it’s because of the people. The individuals involved in this industry that I find myself sharing time with (especially in Denver) are some of the best people I’ve had the honor to share laughter, raise a glass, break bread, and exchange ideas with. I love music, and I love the hardware, and software that lets me reproduce a performance, and be moved emotionally, and it’s all these people in this crazy little business of hi-fi that help make that possible for me to do, and I’m so very grateful to all of them for working so hard to help bring a wretch like me a smile at the end of my day. Because that’s what music is to me:  a point of light to gather my soul around, and recharge.

Sean Casey, David and Carol Clark.

Denver also didn’t disappoint with the gear in rotation, there was a lot of standout kit in attendance, with DeVore Fidelity, Tidal, Zu Audio, Thöress, Sugden, PS Audio, Burwell & Sons, and Noble Audio among the many standouts. This was a busy show, with a lot of running around in an attempt to get to everything I wanted hear. While that’s nothing new when covering RMAF, AXPONA, T.H.E. Show, or any other audiophile-tribe stop, this year Denver seemed hectic. So when I encountered a room that spoke to me, it was all the more relieving to be able to sit, and let the music wash over me.

Sugden and DeVore give us a chocolate and peanut butter moment.

Best Room in Denver this year goes to Jonathan Halpern of Tone Imports, and John DeVore of DeVore Fidelity. These two guys just can’t help but make beautiful music together, and the decision by Halpern to pair Sugden solid-state electronics with DeVore’s high-efficiency speakers provided an epiphanal (not a real word) moment as I was transported into the grooves by all the too human connection created through the alchemy of this system.

The Nagra room courtesy of Rene Laflamme and associates.

Best Product at RMAF is shared between Nagra and their Classic DAC, and Kronos with their Pro Turntable. Both of these designs left me shaking my head at their innate musicality, and ability to communicate the most subtle tonal shadings regardless of the recording being played. The handshake these two products were able to produce between the listener, and the recording was a bond as real as any live performance I’ve attended.

Kronos Pro Turntable.
RMAF 2016 coverage brought to you by Noble Audio.

Best Sound in Denver this year goes to a room I nearly overlooked, but I’m grateful to fate that I didn’t. The Nokturne Audio room was a simple affair with plain black boxes from Lejonklou Audio providing the juice, a full-blown Klimax Linn LP12 up front, and the most unassuming square boxes from JBL acting as transducers, but the sound was truly divine, and spoke to me with a breathless, organic immediacy that I was unable to forget.

Thomas O’Keefe and the JBL 3677.

I can’t wait for Denver next year, and look forward to connecting with friends old, and new then. I’m sure it will be another show that deeply impresses upon me the innate humanity that this hobby is rife with.

–Rafe Arnott

About Rafe Arnott 389 Articles
Editor of InnerFidelity and AudioStream


  1. Excellente’ on your personalized commentary, good sir! Huzzah, indeed…And if I may dare to say (Ooooo! DARE! DARE!) the added bonus of the black & white photography lent a much deserved air of class to your words, adding what i would term,a touch of Audio Noir.

    There are some faces I recognize and others I do not but given the smiles on their faces how could one not wish to overlook any differences should ever we meet? Of late, so much faux importance is assigned to the supposed joy of diversity. I say why celebrate our differences when we have so much more in common?

    Why indeed…At this and other like minded sites and publications (I am a big fan of print!) we share the enjoyment of music and the equipment that brings it to us so let us take heart in that and know that in order to shake up the world we must first shake the hand of those we meet in friendship.

    Which is easier to do, make an enemy or a friend? The former. Because all it takes is something as pedestrian as “Go intercourse yourself!” whilst the latter takes work. Years of work. But friendship is worth that and more. And what of love?

    Love is friendship, set to music. And music binds all who come here. Not the equipment because if you turn it off the music is still running through your head. Nay…Your very soul. The music is what we have in common and believe me there is nothing common about that.


    • Thank you so very much for your much-needed words of appreciation SS, you absolutely made my day with your equations on the molecular binding of souls. Great friendship, like music, endures.

      • Rafe, you are more than welcome and more than deserving. So few write. They type. I try to write and there are times I think I have done so but not often enough. I recently wrote an online editor about something one of his writers had composed and I shall paraphrase my own words to hopefully give justice to the joy of your words (and the photographs!) in this particular piece.

        Excellent writing such as yours conveys the emotion of not only the experience at hand but also that the life of the author and in doing so, if only for a moment, makes it our own. This is what good writing does. It allows the reader to become (in this case) the reviewer. You are young, so you most assuredly have many, many more such articles to write. Not type. Write.

        And never worry about making each piece a magnum opus. Life is a puzzle and each new experience is a piece being locked into place with earlier ones. The smaller pieces are just as important as the larger ones. In all ways and for always, I wish you, your family, friends and co-workers all the best.


      • SS,
        I truly appreciate your kind words, and your slant on writing seems to come from one with much experience on the subject of both words, and deeds in life. Emotion is what connects us all in the vast, empty expanse of the world we live in. Life is a very big place, and I’ve always done my best to keep like-minded, and spirited souls in close proximity to help ward off the cold.
        All the best to you kind sir.

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