The Hub: Numbers unclear, but strongest RMAF yet!

If you've never flown into Denver before, the final descent over the desert might provoke a pang of panic. No city is in sight, and the sense is more that one is about to go MIA (missing in action), than DIA (Denver International Airport).

Those feelings pass as soon as the tires hit the tarmac and the engines begin to reverse. Phew. As one of the world's largest, busiest and most modern airports, Denver International excels at moving folks along, and sure enough, after a few relatively-painless polylingual exchanges, we're on our way to the seventh annual Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.

Held once again at the pleasant, tree-shrouded Denver Marriott Tech Center, RMAF has become the audio show of note in the United States, as an increasing number of exhibitors seek refuge from the declining ROI (return on investment)of CES. Led by the wonderfully-unflappable Marjorie Baumert and a throng of devoted volunteers, RMAF's attitude and vibe are unfailingly supportive and upbeat, in contrast to the infamous Vegas litany of "that'll be another $500".

If you think we're kidding about that, then you've clearly never worked in Vegas. Sheesh.

Enough bitterness. The important story here is how RMAF has something for everyone in the audio world, whether it's Old School, Noo Skool, or "We Don't Need No Stinkin' School". From fractional-watt spud amps to "Oh my God, what are they rolling down the hall?", you could see it and hear it here. From the funky handicrafts of Experience Music to the retro-nuevo of Oswalds Mill and the works of industrial art from Magico and others, it was here. Better still, you could talk to the men and women who design, build and sell the stuff, and get the straight scoop.

Presentations varied from a laid-back, "sure, why wouldn't we jump at the chance to play 'Enter Sandman' on a quarter-million dollar rig?" to informative, incredibly-polished, highly-professional demos as shown by MIT and others. Again: if you couldn't find a style that matched your needs and taste--well, you just weren't trying.

Seminars featured leading designers such as Paul S. Barton and Charlie Hansen, and press-legends such as Harry Pearson and John Atkinson. Edgiest of the presentations was Michael Mercer's "Embracing the Industry's Future" panel with Head-Fi's Jude Mansilla and Positive Feedback's Dave Clark, amongst others. The general sense of the group was that the industry's best days are ahead of it--and if you don't agree, quit whining and get the hell out of the way! Awesome stuff.

In days to come, Audiogon will present our high-def photographic coverage of EVERY ROOM at RMAF, along with our worldwide-exclusive audio clips. We may even have a bit of commentary from a tired blogger with bad feet.

RMAF 2010 was a call to action, a slap in the face of anyone in the audio world ready to roll over and die. It ain't gonna happen--not if any of THESE folks have anything to say about it!

If you weren't at the show: start planning for next year. Do it NOW.

It was a great pleasure to have met you.

I think your proposed plan of action is right on the money.

Keep it up.

Until next time, stay healthy.
Great write up, I look forward to the coverage. I agree that the best has yet to come, those who still long for the "good old days" need to realize they are gone! It is a new era which requires new ideas, new products and new business models in order to be successful.
I'll be there if I'm not on deployment. Guess I better put in for leave now! Got dates yet? hehe
Let me be the first to respond with a mildly cynical comment. You are undoubtedly right that the industry is moving forward from here. The question you might ask is where we are now? Perhaps there is only one direction to move in. BTW I don't think it whining that I don't embrace in ear devices and that the more portable the better philosophy. I am sure that while computer audio represents a strong future direction, our analog friends might still insist on spinning their vinyl. Are you telling them to get out of the way. Are the glass amp, hollow state fans to be run over as well because they are out of touch, with their fingers clearly not on the pulse of what is happening? I think it wise to temper the rush to accept "new models of this industry" with some lessons we should have learned by now .
Fantastic Show ! I will attend every year !
Lot's of serious stuff to look at & purchase !
Serious gear !
Who said High end is fading ?
It's alive & kickin !
Loved AUDIO ! 24/7 2 days....Just Paradise...
Come to the show in Newport Beach and say hi !
Edgiest of the presentations was Michael Mercer's "Embracing the Industry's Future" panel with Head-Fi's Jude Mansilla and Positive Feedback's Dave Clark, amongst others. The general sense of the group was that the industry's best days are ahead of it--and if you don't agree, quit whining and get the hell out of the way!
I seem to agree with Mechans that the computer audio road is one road that our hobby is going to take. It certainly seems to be drawing a lot of attention & a lot of the newer/younger generation of audiophiles into it, which is all good. This path/road is not the only road that our hobby should be taking - we already see a huge resurgence in vinyl which was left for dead & considered low-fi due to CD's very large S/R with even 16-bits. Clearly vinyl, CD/SACD, reel-reel tape, cassette tape will not draw in as many of the newer generation audiophile but to tell the folks not (entirely) subsrcibing to the computer audio model to
get the hell out of the way!
would be sending a very wrong message. It would be very good to remember (very clearly) that it is these older/traditional audiophiles who have carried this audio hobby this far & that many of them have stuck with this hobby thru much industry & personal turmoil. It might be a (very) bad thing to lose the patronage of such dedicated members.


I heard there might be something occuring in Orange County. Would you have information, perhaps in another thread?

My spouse and I were unavailable for this year's RMAF, but I would have made a point of seeing and hearing the BAT REX power amplifier (my understanding is BAT was an exhibitor at this year's show).

Nhocti: Thanks for the kind words, and it was a pleasure to meet you, as well.

Bwp: Thanks for getting it. I'm not saying everything must go in our biz, but come ON guys, wake up and smell the coffee. Nostalgia is SO overrated!

Mech: Where we are right now has been detailed in numerous pieces right here in The Hub. Never have we suggested that analog should disappear; indeed, many of our readers have suggested that we've devoted an unhealthy number of pixels to the continuing development of turntables and LPs. Similarly, tube amps as a class are in many ways better than ever. Also note that Michael's panel discussion had a far broader scope than just computer audio (and shame on me for not making that point crystal-clear), as it also dealt with a range of downloaded/streamed/stored/distributed technologies.

What we ARE saying is that new technologies will allow a broad new range of listeners to experience remarkable fidelity with an ease of use and transportability that would be impossible to achieve with "old tech". Okay?

Smer: Just to clarify for everyone else, THE has announced a show in Newport Beach on June 3-5, 2011.

Bombay: See preceding response to Mech. Not telling anyone to get lost, but you are correct in referring to "older/traditional audiophiles"--many of whom, sad to say, are dying or are simplifying their lives by eliminating elaborate systems. In order to continue as a viable industry, the high end needs to adapt. Simple. That's all we're saying.

C1: No news on the OC. BAT did show in a couple rooms at RMAF--our full pictorial coverage should be up in a few days.

Thanks to all of you for your comments!

Thanks for the info...I expect Albert is working tirelessly and efficiently to make the highest quality pics available from RMAF 2010!
This is good news indeed, at least a positive light at the end of the tunnel. It appears during this down turn in the economy, many companies are shifting their focus to products for the future, for when the economy rebounds.

Of course the brain trust in DC has reported the recession is over and what we now have is our new reality. I pray they have once again miss judged the economic outlook.
hi audiogon bill:

i have an observation and a question for you :

it sems to me one of the issues entailed in the listening to music at home is the hhuge gulf between its "sound" and what the music would sound like if it were live. inother words, if you listen to an orchestra in a concert hall and then listen to a CD recording of that orchestra on speakers that are much smaller than the area occupied by the musicians, you will notice huge differences in sound between the two media--recorded and live.

having atteneded rmaf can you comment on the narrowing of the gulf betweeen live and recorded music based upon the stereo systems that you heard ?

could you say , although stereo systems sound different those differences are insignificant in comparison to the difference between any stereo system and a live orchestra ?

it seems that all the fuss about components--new and old and the new technology obscures the fact that we have not much progress in reproducing the sound of an orchestra, to date.

i realize it is difficult to capture the realism of a "large sound" from speakers, whose size is much smaller.

how large is a stage containing 100 + musicians, in comparison even to a magnepan 20.1, given a speaker's dispersion characteristics ??
ThanX for the kind words about the panel!!!!

I wholly appreciate it,
and I'll keep fighting the good fight!

Yours in Sound,

Michael Mercer
The Daily Swarm
Positive Feedback Online
Elite A/V Distro
Tennis: I think Jason Victor Serinus' posts from RMAF regarding pianist Robert Silverman made clear the point that even the best mega-buck systems out there have a long way to go before they can emulate the dynamics and power of live music.

I think of music-reproduction as being akin to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle: you can do dynamics but not efficiency, at the same time. You can do extended frequency response but not a reasonable size, at the same time. And so on and so on, ad infinitum.

There is a mind-bending string of trade-offs that go into the design and configuration of an audio system. Being obsessive souls, we will cling to one or two parameters as being "the important ones"; naturally, choices of WHICH ones are most important differ from person to person.

The elements that say "real" to me more than other elements are instantaneous, unfettered dynamics and a lack of edge on the highs. Most other elements strike me as architectural artifacts, and those two elements can NOT be faked: it's either right--or close to it-- or it ain't. Period.

Most of the time it ain't. ;-> Do I really need to point out that these are my opinions, and my opinions only? Well, they are, and they're not humble opinions, either. I've spent decades of my life formulating them, and humility be damned.

And by the way: this completely sidesteps the whole metaphysical dilemma of "which is more real: I am THERE, or the music is HERE?" Oy. Sometimes it pays to just shut up and listen.

Michael: more power to you, dude.

Thanks to you both for your kind comments.