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Audio Federation
Sights & Sounds
Copyright 2004 Audio Federation, Inc.

The 2004 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest Show Report
Part 2

(Part 1)


Denver, Colorado
October 8, 9, 10 2004

 


This is our report of our abbreviated impressions of the sights and sounds at the show. Because we were an exhibitor at this show we will not comment on the sounds of the other dealers. It was my (Mike's) feeling that the quality of the sound in the rooms at RMAF was not up to the quality that is heard at your typical CES, and on average about the same as a Stereophile Home entertainment Show (which usually has some truly awful sounding rooms that brings down their average).

I did not hear any truly awful rooms at this show, but there were plenty that sounded like someone's (like me, I am sad to say) first-mid-fi-stereo-at-a-typical-quote-high-end-unquote-dealer that are compressed, completely non-linear, bright, toneless (if you are lucky), and boomy. There do exist systems that are quite musical and enjoyable at every price point; just because they do not (or if they actually do) have the nth-degree in terms of audiophile bells-and-whistles doesn't mean they can't be listenable.

   

The Star Sound Room

Srajan at 6 moons pointed us to this room indicated it was in his opinion one of the better sounds of the show, especially considering the speakers were priced at $5,000. He was right. The Caravelle speakers were constructed out of molded granite, and, similar to Intuitive Designs' granite enclosure monitors, there was a lack of boxiness, a good even top-to-bottom treatment of dynamics, and a clarity that was refreshing for a relatively low cost monitor.

   
A close up of the speaker on top of the Sistrum speaker stand.
   
The Red Rock Audio / ESP room

A very nice, if somewhat hifi-ish sound. Having heard an earlier version the Red Rock Audio amps in our shop sounding quite good, we can only speculate about what was causing the sound to be just a little overly polite in this room. One of the better rooms at the show.

   
The Cogent True-to-Life Loudspeakers,
Dowdy Lama,
Teres Audio Room

I liked the sound the first time I listened in this room; true to life size and dynamics, at least as one stayed away from the frequency extremes.

The second time, listening off-axis, it sounded much less coherent and less realistic.

 
   
 
   
Looks like a car battery is powering part of the speaker.
   
 
   
The music source in this room was often streaming off of a hard disk.
   
The Cain & Cain loudspeakers.

I heard this room while they were playing an opera piece. It was a long piece so I had to eventually go on to the next room, but though it sounded a little bright (could be the source material, though it was an LP), the dynamics and articulation of the note envelopes were all top-notch.

   
 
   
The Exemplar room

This room was somewhat disappointing as there was digital glare heard coming from system as they were playing a CD. A poorly recorded CD might indeed sound bright but this sounded like a (albeit highly-modified) Denon. Another Exemplar-modified Denon seemed to sound better in the Overkill room.

 

   
More of the Exemplar Room

A similar disappointment was the ModWright room (sorry the picture is too cluttered for publication). We have owned many Sony DVD players over the last 10 years - they have a signature sound: a slight compression and sweetening of the midrange, a lack of articulation in the bass, not much air, etc.. This was the same sound, again albeit highly refined, that the ModWright room had.

   
The Audio Magic / Green Mountain Audio Room

This room had a nice musical sound to it, in the flavor of, say, Sonus Faber - a warm, forgiving sound (as opposed to, for example, the Star Sound Caravelle highly accurate and transparent sound).

   
The Almarro Room

We wish Almarro would go back to their original designs, which we thought were amazingly musical for the money (compete systems for about $3,000). Here we see the $2,500 or so amplifiers coupled with their new speakers.

   
The Creative Sound Solutions Room

They make (optionally preassembled) kits and the sound was quite musical here.

   
The Audio Limits room with Dali speakers
   
The Edge / Epiphany room

This small system sounded better than it did at CES, though still very bass-centric. I think these speakers were made with rock and roll in mind.

   
 
   
The big Epiphanys, again with Edge amplification.
   
The Audio Unlimited Avalon / Boulder room
   
The Audio Unlimited JM Lab / Boulder room
   
The Audio Unlimited Tannoy / Airtight / Transroter room
   
The Placette Audio Room

With Placette / Edge / Magnepan this room sounded clean and clear - but was missing musicality and involvement. Not sure what the source was.

   
The ListenUp Room

Sonus Faber Stratavarious / Musical Fidelity

   
The Overkill Audio Room

Well controlled and prodigious bass, nice and clean sounding. This room could perhaps have used a little more finesse and resolution, particularly in the mids (hope to hear these driven by a turntable at CES2005). One of the better rooms at the show.

   
   

 

(Part 1 - Our Exhibit)