Despite the challenges of mounting an audio show in the midst of renovations of the hotel venue, the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest was really a good results. Rumors of its demise prior to the show have been unfounded. Even though by my estimation there weren’t quite as several exhibitors as final year, there had been lots of good-sounding rooms with mouth-watering audio components to satisfy any audio enthusiast’s appetite. RMAF was far much better than I expected, and show organizer Marjorie Baumert and her team, as properly as numerous manufacturers and dealers, should be congratulated for overcoming the renovation-connected venue obstacles.
My beat was quite broad: electronics along with highlights of analog, and cables/power merchandise. Whilst I definitely could have utilized an additional day at the show, I was capable to cover a lot of ground and unearthed several noteworthy products and wonderful values.
Five Most Important Electronics Components
Hegel Röst integrated amplifier
A single of the greatest sonic gems at the show was Hegel’s new Röst integrated ($ 3000). The Röst is truly like having a smaller-scale version of Hegel’s highly regarded H360 but with the exact same DAC from its H160. It supports streaming and offers a “high fidelity version” of Apple AirPlay. The Röst produces 75Wpc into eight ohms but sounded far more powerful, organic, and dimensional. Compared with a Hegel H80, this new integrated amp’s soundstage was broad with photos extending beyond the plane of the speakers.
NAD Classic Series integrated amplifiers
One more excellent worth represented at the show was NAD’s new C 368 Hybrid Digital DAC amplifier, part of NAD’s completely re-engineered Classic Series electronics (C 338 at $ 649 C 368 at $ 899 C 388 at $ 1599). Extended known for its wonderful entry-level integrated amplifiers (1 of which helped get me began on my audiophile journey a number of decades ago), NAD now gives the C 368, a completely modern integrated with a modular design and style enabling a single to add functionality and a lot more power. In addition to a built-in DAC, the C 368 also includes a moving-magnet phonostage. What struck me about its sound was its lack of digital “edge,” making for fatigue-totally free listening demo when paired with PSB Think about XB speakers and a new PSB sub in a $ 3500 method. The sound was comparatively smooth and detailed, with excellent imaging and a low noise floor.
Wyred 4 Sound SX-1000R monoblock amplifier
The Wyred 4 Sound SX-1000R ($ 1499 every single), an updated model, is a fully balanced style generating 625Wpc into 8 ohms and a whopping 1225Wpc into four ohms. It is wired internally with Kimber Kable and sports a new input board to reportedly make it sound far more natural, refined, and engaging. Primarily based on my listening to a system bi-amplified with four Wyred four Sound monoblocks, and connected with Wyred’s own cables, plus music server, and an SST Thoebe II preamp driving PureAudioProject Stellar 12 speakers, it certainly does!
Nagra Classic preamplifier and Classic INT integrated amplifier
Nagra introduced two new products to these shores: the Classic INT ($ 18,995) and the Classic preamplifier ($ 16,995). The Classic INT is derived from Nagra’s not too long ago introduced separate Classic amp combined with a new preamplifier style in the energy amplifier’s input stage. It produces 100Wpc into 8 ohms and was on passive show. The Classic preamplifier is a new tube unit, derived from Nagra’s JAZZ preamplifier, with both balanced and single-ended inputs/outputs. When the Classic preamplifier was mated with the extremely musical Avalon Acoustics Indra Diamond speakers and a Kronos Pro turntable with a Black Beauty tonearm, EMT S75 cartridge, and Kubala-Sosna cables, the sound was very organic, dynamic, spacious and transparent, with no smearing on the leading edges of transients. This system was a powerful contender for very best sound of the show.
Bel Canto Black Series ACI 600 (Asynchronous Control Integrated)
Retailing for $ 25,000, this super integrated on Bel Canto’s new 4-processor platform delivers a lot of functionality, like a programmable mm/mc phonostage, internal DAC, headphone output, network streaming, MQA support, bass EQ, and so forth. It delivers 300Wpc into eight ohms, and its modular design efficiently isolates the analog and digital sections. Combined with Verity Audio’s superb Parsifal Anniversary speakers by way of WyWire Diamond Series cables, the system produced tremendous bass extension and ambience on Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, and outstanding clarity and excellent timbre on piano recordings.
Auspicious Debuts: Electronics
Crystal Cable Cube Program
Even though I saw a reduce-away section of this ingenious integrated at the Munich Show, this was the first time I heard it. Crystal Cable’s compact Cube Program ($ 16,995) has an output topology derived straight from Siltech’s terrific SAGA “Light Drive” output stage and produces 200Wpc into eight ohms. Its sophisticated controller provides a comprehensive technique control interface. With the Cube driving Crystal Cable’s Arabesque Minissimo speakers via its Dreamline Plus cables, and a Naim digital front end, the sound was really refined and transparent.
Devialet Specialist Pro Line Dual Mono 1000 Pro integrated
While Devialet’s Specialist Pro series begins with the 130 Pro model ($ 7690), the line extends to the potent dual mono 1000 Pro ($ 34,990) that generates 1000Wpc, has an sophisticated phonostage, and employs new ADH intelligence, which mates Class A analog amplification with strong Class D digital amplification. It is computer software-upgradeable through Devialet’s “Configurator” tool. The 1000 Pro sounded really powerful and dynamic, with fantastic bass drive, fine detail retrieval, and transparency.
Dynamic Sounds Associates (DSA) Amp 1 monoblock
Made by Douglas Hurlburt and priced at $ 25,000, this is one sweet-sounding 125-watt (into 8 ohms) Class A monoblock that does not run hot due to two internally mounted heatsink “towers” cooled by ultra-low-noise fans. It utilizes separate power transformers, energy supplies, and voltage regulators for the amplifier, driver, and output stages. The DSA Amp 1 definitely lived up to its name by making explosive dynamics with no any clipping and was an excellent all-around performer.
Esoteric F-05 integrated amplifier
Esoteric’s F-05 is derived from its Grandioso separates and is a comprehensive dual-mono design and style with a rated output of 120Wpc into eight ohms. Retailing for $ 10,000, or $ 11,500 with DAC option, this integrated created outstanding clarity, power, and manage driving Canton floorstanding speakers (the ideal I’ve heard them sound).
Micromega M-1 one hundred super integrated
The one hundred model ($ 4000 common finish) of Micromega’s M-1 series is in production and was creating gorgeous sound with Focal Sopra II speakers sitting atop isoAcoustics Gala 1 isolators and connected by Crystal Cable Micro-Cable. It is a Class AB style making 100Wpc, and features a mc/mm phono section, as properly as a dual-differential DAC. Of special note is that it will accept M.A.R.S. (Micromega Acoustic Space Program) area correction modules. This technique was one particular of the greatest values at RMAF, as properly as one of the most desirable.
Rogers High Fidelity 34S-1 integrated amplifier
The Rogers Higher Fidelity 34S-1, an eight-tube (EL34), Class A, 100Wpc tube unit ($ 19,900), made beautiful timbre with fine detail. The sound was particularly palpable and seductive on female voices. It gives a nifty application for Apple and Android devices to control functionality and monitor tube status remotely.
VAC Renaissance Mk V preamplifier
The Mk V of the VAC Renaissance series preamp ($ 9900 for linestage) is now shipping and attributes the exact same circuit topology from the VAC Statement and the same components grade as the Signature, according to designer Kevin Hayes. Like its predecessor, it consists of balanced inputs and output, an external energy supply, Class A triode circuitry, and an optional mm/mc phonostage ($ 2500) with variable loading. It was on passive show.
Voss Audio Auquus UltraClass A/B ST Reference amplifier
This unique, no-compromise, 150Wpc really high-bandwidth amplifier ($ 54,000) functions proprietary UltraClass A/B technologies and aerospace-grade circuit boards within a chassis of solid copper plate and carbon fiber. Even the transformer is cryogenically treated. Driving the Acoustic Zen Crescendo II speakers, with a Voss Auquus Reference linestage and Aesthetix Romulus Eclipse CD player, the sound was wonderfully transparent and quick. This is a quite promising amplifier!
In Other Electronics News
The Jeff Rowland Group introduced a new PSU ($ 8200 much less trade-in) that functions with its Aeris DAC and Corus preamplifier. It includes 24 super caps. Rowland was also showing its super integrated, the Daemon ($ 39,000), which is now in production. It is fairly gorgeous as well as really powerful (1500Wpc). Mark Levinson featured its new 526S Class A, dual mono preamp with an integrated DAC ($ 16k to $ 20k).
Auspicious Debuts: Analog
Zesto Audio Téssera phonostage
Ever since I heard Zesto Audio’s beautiful Andros 1.two phonostage in a very musical system in Munich, I’ve had my eye on it. But Zesto has out-accomplished itself by introducing an even much better phonostage, the Téssera ($ 12,000). It functions two entirely independent dual mono channels. Each and every channel has its personal front-panel moving-coil and moving-magnet impedance and gain switches, and functions all-analog tube circuitry with no solid-state devices in the signal path. Coupled with Zesto Leto 1.five and Eros 300 electronics and a Merrill-Williams Genuine 101.two turntable with two Tri-Planar U2 tonearms with a Benz Micro Gullwing SLR moving-coil and an Ortofon Cadenza mono cartridge, driving Marten Django L speakers with WyWires cables and energy items, the sound was stunningly quiet with extended highs, and all-natural timbre. I thought I was listening to master-tapes! One particular of the greatest sounds of the show!
VTL TP-six.five Signature phonostage
The TP-6.5 ($ 15,000) sports an integrated Lundahl silver wire moving-coil step-up transformer to manage low-output moving-coils. The sound was very quiet and transparent mated with the Brinkmann Spyder turntable and a Lyra Etna SL cartridge. On a recording featuring the brilliant Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov, the piano was reproduced brilliantly and seemed to emerge from an completely black background. It was paired with VTL electronics (TL-6.five Series II linestage and S-400 Series II amplifier), Nordost Odin two cables, and the new Wilson Audio Yvette loudspeakers to create 1 of the greatest sounds of the show.
AMG 12JT Turbo tonearm and DS Audio DS Master 1 optical cartridge
This new AMG 12JT Turbo ’arm ($ 8500) utilizes a new larger bearing assembly featuring dual micro-ball-bearing assemblies for enhanced stability and lowered friction. It also uses calibrated, locking thumbscrews for added rigidity and precise adjustment. The new DS Master 1 optical cartridge ($ 22,500) makes use of a newly created generator and a sapphire cantilever. The dual mono phono equalizer sports 3 sets of RCA and XLR outputs and each and every channel has a dedicated power supply with a third powering the optical circuit. Mounted on an AMG V12 Turbo turntable—one of two different analog front ends to the Vandersteen M7-HPA amps and Model Seven MkII speakers and SUB NINE subs—the sound with Audio Study electronics (Ref three phonostage and Ref 6 linestage) was really transparent, dynamic, and present, with extension at both frequency extremes. The method really seemed to gel on the final day of the show (that is a quite frequent occurrence), as it provided a very strong and extended foundation to the music.
Clearaudio Efficiency DC Wood turntable and Musical Surroundings SuperNova III phonostage
This new Clearaudio Functionality DC Wood turntable ($ 4600 with Satisfy Carbon Fiber tonearm) is the subsequent model up from the Functionality DC, and utilizes technologies from the company’s Ovation and Innovation series turntables. It was mated with a Hana SL moving-coil cartridge and the new Musical Surroundings SuperNova III dual-mono phonostage ($ 3500) which gives common RIAA, Columbia, and Decca equalization curves, and a bank of power provide capacitors to eradicate any sonic signature from its rechargeable NiMH battery packs. As an analog front finish to the Vandersteen M7-HPA amps and Model Seven MkII speakers and SUB NINE sub, this combo was really quiet and permitted lots of fine detail to emerge.
United Property Audio Phase 12-OPS-DC reel-to-reel deck
Greg Beron continues to eek more overall performance out of his globe-class United House Audio Phase 12 deck. This new version operates one hundred% on DC current supplied via its outboard energy provide with two toroidal transformers. It is said to offer the purest power delivery to the deck’s head amps and will retail for $ 19,000 (plus $ six,000 for the external OPS-DC unit). Combined with Atma-sphere electronics, Classic Audio T-three.four loudspeakers, and Purist Audio’s new Neptune Series cables, the method created totally effortless and spectacular dynamics and was a contender for Greatest Sound at RMAF.
In Other Analog News
Acoustic Signature introduced an updated Mk2 model of its Ascona turntable ($ 33,999). “Everything is new, except the name is the same,” mentioned designer Gunther Frohnhoefer. Mated with VAC electronics and Harbeth 40.two speakers, the sound was one of the ideal at the show. Bryston’s new BLP-1 belt-drive turntable ($ 3995) was on static show. The value involves a tonearm and a custom Bryston power supply for precise speed stability. Elac showed a preproduction version of its Miracord 90 turntable ($ 2500 with ’arm and an Audio Technica moving-magnet cartridge). VPI introduced a new Analog Drive Technique ($ 900) with a Class AB amplifier as the drive for the motor. The System helped the VPI ’tables make superb speed stability in several rooms. Technics introduced the regular model of its direct-drive turntable, the Grand Class SL-1200G. It replaces the sold-out Specific Edition of the ’table and is basically the identical, except for its isolation feet and nameplate. Zanden, identified for its outstanding electronics, introduced the TPM-1, a two-layer, gel-and-rubber turntable platter mat, and the ZVA-1 vibration absorber that uses related damping components.
Cable and Power Solution Premiers
Skogrand “Vivaldi” cables
Skogrand has brought a lot of the technologies and efficiency of its flagship Beethoven cables to a far more inexpensive price tag-point ($ 650, two-meter interconnect $ 750, two-meter speaker cable). Like its elder sibling, the Vivaldi makes use of solid core copper and an air dielectric.
Nordost Tyr 2 USB 2. interconnect
This new USB two. interconnect ($ 1300/per meter) is optimized for computer audio and higher-resolution downloads. Its style is stated to lessen cross-speak, decrease noise, and safeguard the USB signal path from any external interference. Nordost also debuted its new Sort Lift ($ 600 for a set of two) that not only elevates audio cables from the floor, but also incorporates Nordost’s proprietary Floating Spring Style, assisting to minimize the make contact with the cables have with the lift.
Cardas Clear Beyond interconnect
Cardas’ new flagship cable ($ 3750 for a 1-meter pair) was discreetly doing its job in several of the greater-sounding systems at RMAF. Designed by George Cardas, it attributes “ultra-pure, Cardas Grade 1 copper, matched propagation Litz conductors, sophisticated shielding, and air tube suspension.” Cardas also introduced an upgrade cable (cost TBD) for in-ear monitors that use MMCX or two-pin connectors. It also makes use of ultra-pure Cardas copper, is quite light and flexible, and is very durable.
Morrow Audio 10-Year-Anniversary cables
Morrow Audio premiered its top-of-the-line ten-Year-Anniversary cables ($ 9995 for a 2-meter pair of speaker cables), which provide functionality above Morrow’s Elite line of cables due to the wonderful boost in wire count more than the Elite, in addition to a cloth insulation material to lessen dielectric reflection distortions.
AudioQuest Niagara 5000 power conditoner
I’ve written about AudioQuest’s Niagara series energy conditioners in many previous show reports, but this is the initial time I’ve seen the Niagara 5000 ($ 3995). Occupying the middle position in the line, it gives “90% of the functionality of the 7000 at half the price,” according to designer Garth Powell. It does not have the 7000’s beefy isolation transformers, but it is still a 20-amp unit and “looks the same as the 7000 to amps,” according to Garth.
Purist Audio Neptune speaker cables
The newest addition to Purist’s Luminist revision series, the Neptune is the company’s flagship fluid-shielded cable. Fine, single crystal copper strands in a 7 AWG bundle comprise the cable’s core. An individual constructive cable and negative cable are employed for each and every channel to support keep flexibility and improve overall performance. These wires come normal with Purist’s new interchangeable spade/banana connectors. Mated with Classic Audio’s T-3.four speakers, Atma-Sphere electronics, a Kuzma Reference ’table with Tri-Planar ’arm and van den Hul Crimson Stradivarius cartridge, as effectively as United House Audio’s outstanding Phase 12 OPS-DC tape deck, the soundstage was wide and deep, the dynamics have been explosive, and the overall sound was effortless.
In Other News: Cables and Energy Merchandise
EnKlein displayed its new entry-level cable, the Zephyr II ($ 1795) which has scaled-down shielding from its flagship David interconnect. Kimber Kable introduced a new silver headphone cable ($ 2000) featuring a special balanced connector. Coupled with Sony’s new headphone and electronics, it sounded fairly impressive.
Jim Hannon’s Best of Show
Very best Sound (Expense No Object)
Tie: The Wilson Audio Yvette getting driven by VTL electronics (TP-6.5 phono, TL-6.5 Series II linestage, and S-400 Series II stereo amplifier) and Brinkmann Spyder turntable program with Lyra Etna SL cartridge, dCS Rossini player and clock and Nordost Odin 2 cables. This technique reproduced piano recordings exceedingly well and continues Wilson’s welcome move to a far more harmonically rich, but nevertheless detailed sound. Also, the Vivid Audio Giya G3 speakers, driven by Luxman electronics (EQ-500, C-900u, and M-900u) with a TechDas Air Force III turntable and cartridge with Graham Phantom Elite ’arm, and a Shunyata Research Denali energy conditioner with Magnan cables developed a enormous soundstage with relaxed and detailed sound and explosive dynamics in the Kyomi/On a Higher Note room. It’s the very best I’ve heard the Giya sound.
Very best Sound (For the Income)
Although this system’s all round price is not low-cost, the Marten Django L speakers ($ 9000/pair) sounded surprisingly very good when mated with the Merrill-Williams Genuine 101.two ’table, two Tri-Planar U2 ’arms, Benz Micro Gullwing SLR and Ortofon Cadenza Mono cartridges, Zesto electronics (Andros Téssera phonostage, Leto 1.five preamp, and Eros 300 monoblocks) and WyWire cables. It place a lot of far more high-priced systems to shame.
Most Substantial Trend
Surprisingly good-sounding “simple systems” featuring integrated amplifiers with streaming DACs with just a pair of speakers (and cables), ranging from the NAD Classic C-368/PSB setup to the Rowland Daemon/Joseph Audio Profile, Micromega One/Focal Sopra II, Bel Canto ACI 600/Verity Parsifal Anniversary, Aavik U-300/Raidho D4.1 combos, and other people.
Most Coveted Product
The Zesto Audio Andros Téssera phonostage brings the sound of a master-tape to vinyl playback. Of course, I’d also love to own the Raidho four.1 speakers, but the space at RMAF was as well small for them to totally showcase their incredible capabilities.
The Absolute Sound Articles