The Hub: TidBits from RMAF 2009: Introduction

Audio shows have been a part of my life for 35 years. Some have been so small, attendees spent most of their time talking to one another; while a lot of good can come from that, it doesn't represent good value to the ticket-buyer. Other shows, like most CESs, have been so huge that hallway note-comparisons are vital in order to find all the hotspots. Even then, the really bad rooms are sometimes more memorable than the really good ones. The worst thing a show can be, is BORING.

RMAF was NOT boring; bigger and better than before, but still far friendlier and far more manageable than CES. The quality of sound, in general, was higher than that at most CESs. I was sorry to see some regulars missing, but the number and quality of exhibitors was very impressive. Kudos to Marjorie Baumert and her staff, who carried on after the sudden death of her husband, show organizer Al Stiefel. Great job, and a fitting memorial to a good man.

The show was held at the Marriott Tech Center outside Denver, and while the hotel may be less-glitzy than its Vegas kin, it is an attractive facility in a heavily-forested area. For one used to sea level and 80% humidity, just being a mile high in dry air takes some getting used to. Note to future visitors: drink lots of water and bring saline spray. You'll figure it out.

Audiophiles and music-lovers come in all colors, shapes and sizes; while there were a number of female attendees, the genus Audiophilus remains male-dominated (and more on that another day). In general, attendees were cordial, though I did see a few examples of the social cluelessness that is sometimes associated with audiophiles. Not saying that I make that association, but....

The Vendor Area on the main floor offered a wide variety of records and CDs as well as tweeks, gizmos and toys. The ├╝bercool Virtue Audio amps were displayed in a number of nearly-radioactive colors; nearby, Jeffrey Jackson of Experience Music showed pics of commissioned projects in tube amps and horn speakers to potential patrons. Around back, Richard Bird of Rives Audio discussed room design services, and down the way set-up expert Jim Smith offered copies of his book, Get Better Sound. More about him soon.

Like the attendees, exhibit rooms came in all shapes and sizes, from ballrooms to rooms that barely accommodated a small system and 6 chairs. Many exhibitors compensated for the dimensions and acoustics with use of traps, panels or drapes, as well as the occasional diagonal placement. I didn't hear any truly execrable systems, but some were better than others. Besides which, I missed a few.

In the Kia end of the price-spectrum, Virtue had a second room where they showed an impressive new CD player and DAC, along with their "big" amp, Sensation. Sensation is still smaller than many desktop systems, and was well-demoed with half a dozen different speakers. A new iteration of the tiny TWO amp, predictably called the TWO.2, was most impressive with an optional battery-supply designed by Vinnie Rossi of RedWine Audio. Great stuff, at any price (or size), but even better given their I-can-still-pay-the-rent pricing.

Not in Lamborghini territory, but perhaps firmly in the Audi range, were the Tocaro speakers. Made in Germany and descendants of the legendary Danish-French Rehdeko speakers, Tocaro's two models feature solid tonewood cabinets and highly efficient widerange drivers. The model shown is the Tocaro 45, with two drivers, and no crossover. Price is $24,995 per pair. I heard the smaller 40s, with one driver and while less-expensive at $7995, they're still not cheap. Fit and finish was lovely, and while the sound had some interesting aspects, it wasn't my cup of tea.

More to come on both the high and the low, along with people seen and heard.
I too traveled from a humid environment at sea level to the mile high city of Denver to attend my first RMAF, although I have attended CES and THE SHOW in Las Vegas the past 10 years. Just outside the elevator at the Marriott Tech Center is a sign that read 5,409 feet above sea level, so I do concur with the recommendation to drink a lot of water. There are water coolers throughout the exhibit halls which makes drinking water easily assessable.

The Marriott Tech Center has a pretty well equipped air conditioned fitness center with well maintained cardio fitness machines and ample weights. Coming from sea level, I found it a bit harder to complete my daily exercise routine due to high altitude. The hotel facility has two restaurants, one with an open area restaurant/bar and the other offering a breakfast and dinner buffet (not sure about lunch). Prices were reasonable and the food was average or better. There are many good restaurants or eateries within one to two miles outside of the RMAF facility.

I did not plan to attend the 2009 RMAF but a few friends encouraged me to do so, promising a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. May I say that I was not disappointed in any way. People were very friendly and there was more than ample opportunity to make new friends or socialize with designers, exhibitors, reviewers, and even show officials. In fact, I was approached by at least two RMAF officials who inquired if I was enjoying the exhibits and experience.

Although the RMAF venue is smaller than CES, the number of exhibits were just right (and interesting) to keep you busy throughout the entire show, which began on a Friday at 12 noon and concluded a few days later on a Sunday afternoon at 4:00. I finished visiting all exhibits, with a few repeat visits, at 2:00 PM, two hours from RMAF's conclusion.

Overall, my experience was well worthwhile and the show cost is inexpensive, especially for those who travel by car. The fact being, RMAF is indeed a friendly venue with a good cast of exhibitors who are poised to the consumer. Certainly, RMAF is an open invitation geared to audiophiles or consumer enthusiasts versus to CES with an overwhelming number of exhibits (virtually impossible to view all exhibits in a brief four day span) reserved strictly to industry businesses or affiliates.
Wow: what HE said. Thanks.
Unfortunely Lamborghini type product lines don't pitch with fat rapping hamsters... it's always a winner to show that you have some soul and product made of unoptainium can be boring, sorry ;^)

Happy Listening!