Show Reports

Rocky Mountain Audio Festival Show Report

ARTICLE INDEX

Day 3: Chris Groppi

On day three, I went through the show to see all the rooms that were too crowded before, and to hear some recommended systems.

MBL Uber-System

I heard MBL's omidirectional speakers for the first time today. This was a true reference class MBL system, with all their top of the line electronics. The sound was the most open and spacious I have ever heard period. They do image in a rather odd way, and can be a bit bright, but the openness can't be beat. I personally think they look cool, too. Some think they're the ugliest things around, but I like them.

Studio Electric 4

Yesterday, I showed the fantastic Studio Electric T3 speaker. This is what was driving them in the Studio Electric room. The model 4 amp is a 275 WPC dual mono hybrid tube and solid state amp. It also sells for $7900, just like the speakers. This system was my pick at the show if it was my money on the line.

Vienna Acoustics

These $27,000 Vienna Acoustics The Music loudspeakers, driven by Jeff Rowland Design Group electronics had a stupendously real presentation of piano when I heard them. The flat driver in the top enclosure covers 125 Hz to 20 kHz. The tweeter below covers 15 kHz to 100 kHz, both with no crossovers. The top enclosure is adjustable with detented screws for toe-in and vertical tilt, allowing the user to precisely set up the speaker, and change things without fear of losing the starting point.

Conclusions

The show had some interesting finds for me. One was two completely different paths to good sound. In the Bamberg Audio/Emotiva room, the $799 Emotiva XPA-2 amp and $699 RSP-2 preamp were driving the $8000 Bamberg Series 5 TMW loudspeakers. In the Dodd audio room, the Dodd 100W amplifier ($4900) and Dodd preamp ($2600) were driving the AV123 X-Statik loudspeakers ($799). Both of these systems sounded excellent. Both cost about the same amount of money, but where that money was placed in the system was very different. The one common thread was both used equipment that performed well beyond it's price for the budget components involved. Another interesting find was that many of the mega-buck systems with 6 figure price tags were decidedly underwhelming. My favorite system of the show was the Studio Electric T3 loudspeaker, driven by the Studio Electric model 4 amplifier and Benchmark DAC with built in volume control. While this wasn't the best sounding system here, it was close. And it was less that $20k MSRP for everything. I heard a few $100k systems that were better, but the Studio Electric was the most impressive for the dollar. Another favorite was the Daedalus audio room, with the Daedalus Ulysses speakers and Manley tube electronics. This was well set up, in a big room, and it rocked. Too many rooms played polite, boring, unoffensive music. In the Daedalus/Manley room, not so much. And the big Ulysses in a decent sized room loved it.