A revitalized Rocky Mountain Audio Fest begins this Friday, October 6, in the completely renovated Denver Marriott Tech Center Hotel. The three-day show, which opens to the public at noon on Friday, promises 143 active exhibit rooms that will host 358 exhibitors from 27 countries and 36 states. In addition, the show’s widely lauded Canjam will host an additional 64 exhibitors within its walls, and seven more large exhibits in the lobby. Exhibit numbers would have been even greater, had not a few exhibitors lost everything in the recent hurricane onslaught.
These impressive figures place RMAF neck-and-neck with AXPONA as the North American show with most audio exhibits in 2017, and on top as the consumer audio show with the largest selection of headphone/personal audio/”inner fidelity” gear. The numbers also show RMAF on the rebound after last year’s unfinished hotel remodeling limited room availability and dissuaded a number of regular exhibitors from participating.
RMAF’s rebound is also reflected in some very imaginative programming. (You can find the entire show schedule here.) Some of the most provocative seminar titles include “Affordability: How Low Can You Go?” (with our own Herb Reichert on the panel), “The Young Guns of HiFi,” “Best Headphone Rigs vs State-of-the-Art Audio Systems,” “High Resolution Audio: Have Files Eclipsed Physical Media?” (with yours truly moderating), “A Conversation with Michael Howe, VP, Warner Bros. Records,” “The Four Wise Men of Design” (as if there were only four), “Innovating the Future of Portable Audio” (with Tyll Hertsens from our sister publication, InnerFidelity.com), and many more.
A few seminars include solo turns by manufacturers and, in the case of Danny Kaey’s “Why We in the ‘The Industry’ Are All Arguing Over MQA and So Much More,” members of the press. Given the current political climate of “get the guest,” good luck with that one, Danny.
Even more seminars, with subjects TBD, will take place between the eight Classics Album Sunday listening sessions scheduled during the show. Hosted by Sam Willett, these sessions will honor the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. That means The Beatles and John Coltrane (A Love Supreme, of course) on Friday; Carole King, Jeff Buckley, and Radiohead on Saturday; and Marvin Gaye, Massive Attack, and Pink Floyd on Sunday. That some of these artists had not yet incarnated in 1967 doesn’t seem of supreme importance here; what matters most is the music.
Due to what show owner/organizer/den mother Marjorie Baumert calls “an extraordinary number of applicants” for the Al Stiefel Legacy roomthe room the honors the show’s late co-founder, Marjorie’s husband Al, and which supports a new manufacturer with an innovative productRMAF has set up an Innovation Floor. In addition to the Al Stiefel Legacy Room honoree, JWM Acoustics of Austin, TX, these additional Innovation Rooms will include DIY loudspeaker construction from Madisound, 3D and spatial sound environments University of CO professor Jeff Merkel, Invoke Unified Sounds’ acoustic lens, and loudspeaker A/B demos from AudioKinesis. Interactive in nature, these rooms have been designed to appeal to a broad cross-section of attendees, including students from University of Colorado.
The hotel tower’s second floor will also host five “Entry Level Rooms,” with price points from $500 to $5000. Expect complete analog, digital, and headphone systems from a large number of well-known brands.
As for premieres, RMAF will have far more than a baker’s dozen North American, US, and show premieres. In no particular order, look for introductions from DEQX, PS Audio, Benchmark, Aavik, Zesto, Audio-Technica, Legacy, iFi, Mytek, Parasound, Merging, NAD, AVM, B&O, Bryston, Cambridge Audio, Henry, Technics, Nola, Peachtree, Swan Song, Wilson Benesch, SotM, Sanity, Skogrand, and Daedalus. Add to that any number of premieres for which press releases had not been sent by press time.
RMAF will again host “The Rocky Mountain International HiFi Press Awards.” Dubbed “The Oscars of the audio industry,” these awards are based on a poll of audio editors and writers. Stereophile‘s nominations for these awards were guided by how we voted in our own annual “Products of the Year,”the results of which will be announced in our December issue.
There is good news and not so great news on the remodeling front. Everyone will be pleased to learn that the hotel’s main restaurant, now relocated to the other side of the lobby, seats 80 more people than before. It also includes what has been described as an indoor beer garden. As long as kitchen and crew are equipped to handle so many people, this is a great thing. The hotel’s enlarged Starbuck’s also remains a viable eating alternative for people on tight schedules.
An additional remodeling plus is that the show now has 43 extra-size, large, and downright mammoth rooms, which is more than before. Given that many exhibitors have clamored for years for larger rooms, this is a major plus.
However, in a scenario best described by the phrase, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away,” the width of all regular-sized rooms has decreased. This is due to the addition of new, notably noisy heating/cooling ducts and built-in furniture. In the Atrium, the longer length of rooms may offer partial compensation. How exhibitors will adapt to the new room dimensions, which includes less space for seats, has yet to be determined.
Expect RMAF to virtually unfold before you at Stereophile.com, starting on October 6 and extending throughout the week, as Herb Reichert, Jana Dagdagan, et moi share our experiences. In addition, look for Tyll Hertsens’s headphone reports from Canjam and beyond at InnerFidelity.com, and Michael Lavorgna’s hits on computer/personal/digital audio at AudioStream.com.
One way or another, we’ll see you there.