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Eric’s Best-of-Show, RMAF Wrap-Up | RMAF 2019










Denver RMAF 2019

Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center – Denver, Colorado

DENVER (PTA) — All of the media reports I have read indicate that the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest of 2019 was — despite all odds — a smashing success.

Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2019 coverage sponsored by Core Power Technologies A/V

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Eric’s Best-of-Show Exhibits

The time required to visit, listen, and cover (photograph and write about) every room at an audio show does not exist. Though I came close, walking away with 50+ exhibits covered between Part-Time Audiophile and AudioHead in less than a month.

Do check out Marc Phillips’ show Wrap-Up (<— click there) as well, as our coverage assignments do not overlap, and I’m sure he found just as many (or more) great sounding exhibits as myself.

On with the best-of-show…

#1 Alsyvox / Omega Audio Concepts

Essentially the Alsyvox Botticelli as just a single panel speaker. But how it plays the room so authoritatively. You’d be convinced that there were dynamic-driver sub-woofers somewhere in the building. This is one of the largest exhibit rooms in the Gaylord Rockies Hotel, and it seems like the Botticelli and Omega Audio Concepts components and cables were seeing little in any sense of struggle.

The traditional three-way crossover points found on most traditional speakers are moved upwards with the Botticelli panels. I am urged to credit these crossover points for the more full-range slam of the Botticelli X speakers, but I can’t be sure. Being a generous stack of Omega Audio Concepts electronics at play, the power and silent background delivery of this pairing were top of the class. […to read more, click here]

#2 Scott Walker Audio / Synergistic Research

Ted Denney might have more than his fair share of skeptics and detractors, but the proof is in the pudding. The in-room results we experienced with Synergistic Research’s various system components, both active and passive, made more than noteworthy changes to the system. Though some were less noticeable than others, and depending on subjectivity those changes may have been improvements. You know what they say? Some noise is good. Otherwise, for one example, the Foundation series did impress largely on their own in this mega-buck system. However when introduced with the new cable lifters, the sound bordered on surreal and heavenly. Good show Mr. Denney!

The key take-away is this: If you’ve made a substantial investment in your system, you’re not done. The Synergistic Research bevy of products take the music out of your head and widen the whole experience. For that, I wholly approve […to read more, click here].

#3 Acora Acoustics

Is all of this work and sweat over building a granite enclosed loudspeaker worth it? Absolutely! These Acora Acoustics SRC-1 are by gut reaction as “perfect” sounding as we’re ever going to find. What they achieve objectively leaves nothing to be wished for on the engineering table when it comes to cabinet interference. The only thing left to be judged is the subjective parts of the design, which through a well built crossover and the best driver selection, leave little room for a range of opinions. I triple-dog-dare you to hate this speaker. […to read more, click here]

#4 NOLA / VAC

Despite the hotel space being grossly undersized for a speaker this large, the Grand Reference Gold 2’s still made my best-of-show top five list for exhibits. Given a larger room, the GRG2’s would likely walk away with all the awards for the year.

The use of light-weight and fast moving dynamic drivers, along with open-baffle arrays that eliminate box colorations, and are the main contributor to the Nola GRG2’s open and live sound. This solidifies for me that the Nola way of doing things is the right way (if there were to be such a thing as one-right-way) with this over-built monster of a loudspeaker.

The bass delivered from the GRG2’s is deep, authoritative, and in this small exhibit space, I could feel it tickling my lungs when the volume knob got a little wild. So what does this all mean? It means that if you have the requisite deep pockets, and long arms to boot — this halo type product reference speaker from Nola should be near the top of your shopping list. If you’re pockets are still deep, but you have T-Rex arms, then also consider Nola’s other tower offerings as they too can play inconceivably large space with absolute control, authority, and that Nola signature sound. […to read more, click here]

#5 Vinnie Rossi / Well Pleased AV

These QLN Prestige Three SE loudspeakers are familiar to me with Well Pleased AV exhibits, and with the Vinnie Rossi L2i-SE integrated, and statement pieces from Innuous, it’s the overall best they’ve ever sounded. On day one I was ready to professize that this system would definitely set a high bar for all others to come, and likely be a shoe-in for best in show.

Then on Sunday, when I swung by for a return visit, things were even better as the tubes had been changed to something a little more exotic from Western Electric. What was already great, just got greater. This system more than almost any other at the show sang like angels on the mountain tops. […to read more, click here]

Honorable Mentions

Endow Audio

Let’s get the easy part out of the way. I found the bass to be more than solid, tight and articulate. Although it didn’t dig as deep as other speakers in the price range, the frequencies it did cover were present and had aplomb in spades.

The array is where the magic happens, and it was indeed magical and live sounding. These speakers, like open-baffles and panels, play the room. The array uses time delay both in boundaries and those delivered from the PSP (Passive Signal Processor) to present music that is spacious as a summer day is long. Sonic acrobatics are the key to how the FS301 play, so if you’re into landscapes of sound, with little physical room to spare — these may be the best option. From the photos you can see how close they were placed to the back wall, and I’d gamble the house that they could be placed closer if need be and still present this huge concert hall like sound-stage. […to read more, click here]

Wilson Audio

The most interesting feature of the Chronosonic XVX is it’s $329,000 pr USD price tag. Which in comparison to the $750,000 pr USD street price of the WAMM, puts a big ole’ grin on many of us inside and out of the Wilson Audio fanship. With the lower price does come a few engineering compromises that do equate to this “value version” of the WAMM being less articulate in some regions, as is evidenced by the four-driver array found in the new Chronosonic XVX versus the WAMM’s five-driver array, and larger size.

The more you dig into the new Chronosonic, the less it comes across as just a baby-WAMM, but more Darryl Wilson’s compact re-imagining of the WAMM design and feature set. […to read more, click here]

Lu Kang Audio

It’s true, the Spoey230 is larger than what I consider a stand-mount bookshelf speaker to be. It looks a lot like a big Harbeth on the stands. The music begins and it sounds big. Considering the air volume of the cabinets, the Spoey230 do play a lot like floorstanders. The bass is full, rich, and deep. The front mounted bass-port remains free of chuffing as we climb the volume ladder, I know this, because I got in close for a listen. The treble is smooth as silk, and it should be as the Hiquphon soft-dome tweeter is well regarded for its smooth extension, which it displays here handedly.

What is remarkable for a speaker with a front baffle is three things: one – they disappeared very quickly as the music started playing, and two – the driver coherence was reminiscent of point source designs, three – the attack, speed, and time of this driver combination was snappy and impactful. Furthermore the tone of these speakers was enjoyable and fun, while also being slightly laid back, reserved and precise, with enough insightful micro-details. Mid-range is where these speakers bloom, and so it is that I am a fan of them. These aren’t exactly a “bicycle kick to the chest” kind of loudspeaker, but they do play loud with great control and ability to maintain character.

To answer the question I asked earlier, what are these? They come at me like Taiwan’s Harbeth. Not to say they sound alike, because they don’t. More to say that in a parallel universe, like Taiwan, this is the kind of speaker that architecturally took domestic hold of the “Harbeth market position” in Asia. The Spoey230 is an absolute charmer, and I can’t wait to experience more from them as they engage the new western market. […to read more, click here]

Under Forty RMAF 2019

Best After Hours Party

Under Forty Dinner

The aim of the Under Forty Dinner is to welcome anyone and everyone attending Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2019, who feels they accurately represent the Under-Forty-Crowd — be that literally or spiritually — and gather ourselves with other young audiophiles and industry people. Together in one place, for one evening, we can have a good time, along with sharing and refining our generations thoughts and message about the hobby, the industry, and the future of music listening.

So often it’s one lonely voice of youth: in an exhibit room, on a panel, or in a thread discussion online — solely representing an entire generation or two. Having us together, around one big table, can maybe help us target what we want this hobby/industry to be for its survival and clarify our message going forward.

The idea began simply with no real forethought or complicated plan. Just an email discussion about attending RMAF 2019 between Cynthia (The Audio Belle) and myself. I mention to her how much fun it would be to finally gather all of the young people at an audio show for an evening of discussion and dinner. She asks me to explain my idea further, and I do with the above two-paragraph intro that opens this article. […to read more, click here]

Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2019 coverage sponsored by Core Power Technologies A/V










2 Comments on Eric’s Best-of-Show, RMAF Wrap-Up | RMAF 2019

  1. Appreciate the coverage, but please go and buy a camera to take photos, the blurry phone shots just don’t do equipment justice.

    • Eric Franklin Shook™ // October 3, 2019 at 9:49 AM //

      I totally feel you on this. Would you believe it’s a Ricoh GR that I’m using? The issue is having to shoot at ISO 1200 even with an APS-C sensor at f2.8 max aperture. Along with us shrinking our 16MB photos down to around 200KB (1200 pixel wide) for easier publication. These factors add up. Maybe a full-frame Sony A7 and FE f1.8 lens would get us better results in such dark environments. What do you shoot with at audio shows?

      https://500px.com/ericfranklinshook <—- same camera

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