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