Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2019 sponsored by Underwood HiFi Part 1

Marjorie Baumert moved the Rocky Mountain Audiofest to its new home the Gaylord Rocky Mountain Convention Center in Aurora Colorado. The new venue gives Marjorie the opportunity to continue to grow the show with its vast elegant size and accommodations. The new resort has 8 restaurants and a addition to a wonderful gift shop.

The large venue presented a challenge for showgoers, many of who are aging, to walk the long distances. Fortunately, I covered the Headspace which was located in the Colorado Ballroom and right next door the Marketplace which featured some personal audio companies as well as vinyl record dealers. The show attendance on Friday was busy with lines formed and all the rooms in the tower packed and flux of traffic kept vendors busy.

Impressive to look at, most companies had no complaints during the first day and many were ecstatic. Good to see friends and socialize with many that I was unable to see last year since due to a family emergency I was unable to attend. This year’s show was exciting and special with hardly any hiccups and we were happy for Marjorie who worked hard to make this show run successfully. Our coverages begin with the personal audio family and we have some surprises in store for our readers so enjoy our coverage.

We would like to thank Walter Liederman affectionately known as Underwood Wally in the audio community. Wally sponsored our show coverage and made it possible for us to take our team of writers to this beautiful venue. Without the support of Underwood HiFi, it would have been difficult to provide our complete coverage and for that, we are truly grateful Please check out Wally’s website and support him so we can continue to offer our special coverages.

Drew Baird CEO of Moon Audio had his dedicated team on board and had some interesting new products to show. Moon Audio, one of the leaders in personal audio with his creative dragon cable designs located here, left no corner unturned with his wide variety of headphones, amplifiers, music servers, and portable players. Drew had everything covered and many show attendees kept him busy the entire show.

The Moon Audio booth had consistent traffic on Friday and was manned by the Moon gang to perfection. The flow of traffic and amount of attendees on Friday in Headspace was both unusual and busy for a Friday at the Gaylord Rockies. Many vendors were happy with the traffic flow and it was the sign of good things to come at the venue.

Drew brought every major reference headphone to the show. Attendees had choices from Focal, MrSpeakers, Hifiman, Audeze, and Meze. The Auris Nirvana tube EL 34 amplifier with a separate power supply was used to drive reference headphones. Priced at $5700 the Nirvana offers exceptional transparency with superb musicality and nails instrument tonality

The new Auris Euterpe includes a built-in ESS 32 bit Sabre Dac which upscales to 384 kHz and does DSD 256 with the ESS 9018 chip. also will hold a headphone on the wood stand making for a sharp-looking spouse approval piece. Using 2 PL95 tubes and 1 ECC81 driver tube driver for complete tube design, the Euterpe priced at $1699 is an exceptional product for any home or desktop.

The Astell&Kern portable digital players were on display ranging in price from the $699 A&norma SR15 which includes a dual DAC Cirrus Logic chipset with quad-core CPU, Native DSD playback and built-in amplifier, to the state of art SP1000 priced at $3499 and has a stainless steel body with a touchscreen and the highest quality DSD conversion makes it easy to listen to high-resolution files on the go and is the world’s finest portable player.

The $3999 Focal Utopia was paired next to the new Matrix Audio Element X priced at $2999 which includes a high-quality music server. Plug any USB drive into the server and have a powerful payback system that plays all the popular formats as well. It streams MQA and also DSD through an included powerful balanced headphone amplifier and also can serve as a pre-amp. This player is packed with high-quality parts and sounds sensational. I will be reviewing this for Headphone.Guru. An exciting product that when paired with the Focal Utopia was making music.

The Bricasti M3 is handmade in Boston and incorporates 2 separate digital conversion paths that utilize the same sigma-delta type processor found in their award-winning M1. One is used exclusively for DSD and is unique to the industry while the other is for PCM. The converters create a true differential analog waveform producing a true balanced signal.

Using 2 separate linear power supplies for the digital and analog processing to ensure low noise and superior isolation the amplifier can drive balanced headphones or signal ended and offers exceptional liquidity. The Briscati will be reviewed by The Audio File for Headphone.Guru shortly.

At the Schiit table, the Dekoni Blue priced at $199 was making music with the Schiit $99 Fulla 2 which offered exceptional transparent sound much greater than the asking price. Using the Fostex driver, Sam Roney was able to extract the most while using the Fulla Schiit with its incredible synergy.

The Schiit Fulla 2 amplifier is a marvel, offering 550 MW power at 16 ohms it will drive many headphones easily and sound liquid and transparent with good power that is always musical. All this for $99- WOW.
The brand new Schiit HEL is priced at $199 with 1000 MW of pure clean power that can be used to drive most headphones and sounded fantastic with the Dekoni Blue.

The Joutunheim R is the world’s first ribbon drive amplifier DAC combo designed specifically to drive the RAAL Requisite SR1 $3500 ribbon headphone The amplifier delivers over a 1000 watts of power into the RAAL ribbon and created a vivid and lucid soundstage and drives the RAAL Requisite SR1 easily. The sound was transparent, liquid and dynamic. The synergy of the amplifier and SR1 ribbon headphones was excellent. The price is suggested to be $999 for the Jotunheimen R. and $3499 for the SR1a but look for package pricing,

The 4490 DAC adds an additional $100 and the multibit DAC adds $200 to the base price. The $399 Asgard 3 has the multibit DAC will put 3.5 watts into 32 ohms making this ideal for hard to drive headphones. Exceptional value and built in the USA. Schitt continues to offer amazing prices at affordable prices,

The Asgard which was the founding amplifier that introduced the world to Schiit is now in its third incarnation with nice options. The Asgard 3 starting at $199 is a pure class A design which can be fitted with two various DAC option selected by the user.

The Schitt table before the show opening on Friday had all products on display including the Ragnarok 2 starting at ($1499$) and Yggdrasil DAC($2399) and the new turntable the Sol($799).

Fine Art by Schitt co-founder Jason Stoddard

Samy Roney’s company Dekoni has captured the personal audio community with his innovative ear pads for headphones. Sam has now added a new case to his product line.

Dekoni earpads are made of the finest quality leather for all current production headphones. Starting at $69.99 for sheepskin models, Dekoni earpads improve the comfort and performance for most headphones on the market.

The Bullet series IEM tips start at $15.99 and are available direct or through authorized dealers worldwide.

Antonio Meze has quietly been creating new designs that are sensational. The Empyrean Planar Magnetic design is the world’s first Isodynamic Hybrid design, priced competitively at $2999 it offers top quality materials in a light and comfortable design which makes long listening sessions a total experience.

The Empyrean was paired with the dCS Bartok reference DAC/amplifier. The synergy was incredible and lifelike. Listening for a long session was a total experience. The Bartok brings their ring DAC technology in a more affordable package to address a new way of listening to digital music at its finest. The headphone amplifier is world-class and will drive most headphones easily.

DXD upsampling in the Bartok is standard, the oversampling design offers DSD upsampling and a variety of DSP filters. The interface runs at 24 bit 384 kHz and DSD 128. Firmware upgrades make the Bartok future proof and the sound with the Empyrean was transparent, delivering a wide and deep soundstage that made all recordings sound 3D. Priced at $15000 and made in England it brings the sound of the reference line in a more affordable package. The Bartok is a true end game solution and one of the finest listening devices in the world. (Full Review Coming Soon)

The new RAI Penta IEM 5 driver design offers a balanced and detailed sound with exceptional musicality. The hybrid technology delivers without any phase issues. The drivers work seamlessly and deliver exceptional tonality and are lifelike in delivery and exceptionally priced at $1099 is another world-class design from Meze that needs to be heard to see what is now possible in in-ear monitor design.

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Frank Iacone

Frank started his journey in high-end audio in 1978 and was quickly hooked. Frank’s passion for music and great sound reproduction is stronger than ever. His main focus is with high-end headphones and portable related gear. He is a regular contributor and is a co-founder of Headphone.Guru.


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