RMAF 2018: The Audio Alternative, Audioquest, Vandersteen, AMG, Lyra and VTL

I was enthusiastic about checking out the Audioquest room at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. Just a few months ago I met Audioquest’s Bill Low when he strolled into one of my dealer’s stores while I was visiting. We had a wonderful conversation about the audio industry in general and then we sat down and listened to a wonderful system that consisted of the brands I distributed, all wired with Audioquest cable. It sounded wonderful. I was looking forward to seeing Bill once more.

Surprise, surprise, surprise!

I was expecting a room full of static displays of Audioquest product, but instead, I was treated to a truly high-end exhibit featuring Vandersteen, VTL, AMG, Lyra and HRS, all courtesy of The Audio Alternative in Fort Collins, Colorado. This was a BIG system that included Vandersteen Model 7 Mk. II loudspeakers ($62,000/pair) with the granite upgrade ($10,000) mated to a pair of Vandersteen Sub Nines ($18,900/pair), VTL Signature phono pre, preamp and power amplifiers and an AMG Viella ‘table with the 12J Turbo arm  ($23,750) and a Lyra Atlas cartridge ($12,000). Audioquest wired up this incredible system with their new cost-no-object Mythical Creatures cabling—the speaker cables alone retail for almost sixty grand per pair.

Okay, it was a giant system in a giant room, but my main impression wasn’t necessarily about the scale. While I was amazed at the system’s ability to portray wide dynamic swings with absolutely no rough edges, it was the quiet moments that stay with me—especially when it came to the shockingly low noise floor from the analog rig.

Another Welcomed Re-Introduction

Hearing the Vandersteens perform at such a high level reminded me how long it’s been since I’ve heard a pair—his rooms at all the shows are always packed, and for good reason. I auditioned the Vandersteen 2C almost thirty years ago and shoulda/woulda/coulda bought them—they were unbelievably good for $1295. These Vandersteens were considerably more expensive at $82,000 for the system, but that highlights the evolution of Richard Vandersteen’s designs and how they are now considered to be one of the finest speakers you can buy. Plus, you can still buy the current version of the 2C, the 2CE Signature Mk. 2, for just $2700/pair.

This was one of the finest rooms at RMAF, one of those truly big and expensive systems that had better sound good, but I still found myself surprised by how well it fit into my audio sensibilities. These are all established manufacturers with incredible reputations, yet still fairly unfamiliar to me, and I feel like I should pay more attention to their wonderful creations in the future.