|For those who attended the 2008 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest this past weekend, what were your favorites? (If you're a dealer or manufacturer, please name products *other* than the ones you sell or manufacture.)|
This was my second year attending RMAF, and I found that I enjoyed many of the same products that I heard last year, although there were some new discoveries, and I had some different impressions from hearing the same equipment this year.
Regarding speakers: I was smitten with the Feastrex concentric speaker drivers. They sounded good in the Maxxhorns, but I thought the Feastrex room (particularly the one with the tall Arusha models) really stood apart. They also make their own tube amplifiers and preamp, and those sounded remarkably good. Very natural, balanced tone with good definition and sense of space.
Other speakers that impressed me this year were the large Joseph Audio RM55LE's. I liked their smaller speakers last year as well, so this came as no surprise. What did surprise me was that they sounded so good with the Bel Canto class D monoblocks, which sounded awful last year. Obviously, the quality of the sound those amps produce has a lot to do with the choice of speaker.
I also give kudos to the giant Yokohama Baysidenet speakers. They looked a little bit like space aliens, but the sound was quite good. I didn't imagine they could get that much bass from such a small driver, but if anything, the room was too small for them. Very nice design.
Although there were a number of interesting horn speakers, I'd have to say that my favorites were the AvantGarde duos. Nice neutral sound, good imaging, good bass.
As amplifiers go, I do enjoy the single-ended tube amp sound, and this year was no exception. I think I was perhaps most impressed with either the Feastrex amps, or the Tektron Italia's, which I somehow missed last year. The Tektrons were paired with some nice concentric speakers, I believe they were called Ridge-? Other pleasant surprises included the German-built Thoress amplifiers, which exhibited some of the finest qualities of tube amplification to my ears, although they seemed somewhat constrained by the speakers they were paired with. The deHavilland room had some new Kara Chafee amps, the "KE" models, which I enjoyed very much. I thought they had a somewhat tubier, warmer sound than the standard deHavilland monoblocks, but they were very inviting. Of course, it's hard to go wrong with the Wilson Benesch speakers, although I think I prefer the smaller "bookshelf" type speakers to the uprights.
As usual, there were a number of really excellent turntables on display (although fewer this year than last, it seemed - I hope that trend is reversed next year). If I had to choose a favorite, I'd say it was the TW Acustics 4-armed model in the Thoress room, playing a very fine Ortofon cartridge and tonearm.
As digital sources go, there were a number of nice cd players, but being a Squeezebox fan I was partial to the Modwright tube-modified Transporter.
I may have to amend this list as other items come to mind, but those are my favorites from this year's RMAF.