in ,

RMAF 2016 to showcase fifteen affordable audio systems

  • Snow. Eskimos have it in abundance. No need for them to pay a hefty premium for a better quality product when their existing supply of the cold stuff arrives for (next to) nothing. The money conscious eskimo requires exposure to incremental improvements if s/he is to be convinced that making the giant step from standard to state-of-the-art is worthwhile.

    Ditto audio gear. Why point the mass market at $20K hifi systems when they can acquire cheap-as-chips portable Bluetooth speakers and headphones for (next to) nothing? What do the in-between steps sound like?

    For the audio show promoter this also presents a conundrum: how to attract the right kind of newcomer? Spending big on radio and billboard campaigns is a waste of cash if the show floor itself remains bereft of properly affordable systems. In the absence of entry-level gear, the high-end audio show will deter newcomers more than it will have ’em hang out.

    Denver’s Rocky Mountain Audio Festival (RMAF) takes place at the Denver Tech Center next weekend (7th – 9th October). Despite the challenges of the host hotel’s ongoing renovations, hats off to show organiser Marjorie Baumert for not only continuing with the ‘exhibitor neutral’ affordable audio programme introduced in 2015 but expanding them.

    This year we get two more spaces. A total of five rooms have been set aside to display complete hifi systems that range from US$500 to US$5000. Digital, analogue (turntables) and headphone listening are all covered. The rooms break down as follows with all pricing in US dollars:

    $500 Analogue
    Speakers: Peachtree Audio M24
    Turntable: U-Turn Audio Orbit Basic Turntable
    Total: $548

    $500 Digital
    Loudspeakers: Peachtree Audio M24
    Device: User (Bluetooth)
    Total: $369

    $500 Headphones
    Headphones: HiFiMAN HE400s
    DAC: AudioQuest Dragonfly Red
    Total: $498


    $1000 Analogue
    Loudspeakers: Law HiFi Sentinel Towers ($800)
    Integrated amplifier: Lepai LP7498E ($199)
    Turntable: Audio-Technica AT-LP60 ($119)
    Total: $1118

    $1000 Digital
    Loudspeakers: Law HiFi Sentinel Towers ($800)
    Integrated amplifier: Lepai LP7498E ($199)
    Device: User (Bluetooth)
    Total: $999

    $1000 Headphones
    Headphones: Fostex TH-610
    Amp/DAC: Fostex HP-A4BL
    Total: $998


    $1500 Analogue
    Loudspeakers: Audioengine HD6
    Powered subwoofer: S8
    Turntable: Sony PS-HX500
    Total: $1697

    $1500 Digital
    Speakers: Audioengine HD6
    Powered subwoofer: S8
    Wireless DAC: Audioengine D2
    Total: $1497

    $1500 Headphones
    Headphones: Focal Elear
    Amp/DAC: Schiit Audio Jotunheim w/ DAC module
    Total: $1498


    $2500 Analogue
    Speakers: Elac Uni-fi UF5 ($998)
    Integrated amplifier: Peachtree decco125 ($999)
    Turntable: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB ($599)
    Total: $2596

    $2500 Digital
    Loudspeakers: Elac Uni-fi UF5 ($998)
    Integrated amplifier, DAC: Peachtree decco125 w/  wifi streaming module ($1199)
    Total: $2197

    $2500 Headphones
    Headphones: MrSpeakers ETHER C Flow ($1799)
    Amp/DAC: Chord Electronics Mojo ($599)
    Total: $2398


    $5000 Analogue
    Loudspeakers: Ono Lava ($2995)
    Integrated Amplifier: Wyred4Sound mINT ($1499)
    Turntable: VPI Player ($1199)
    Total: $5693

    $5000 Digital
    Loudspeakers: Ono Lava ($2,995)
    Integrated Amplifier, DAC: Wyred4Sound mINT ($1,499)
    Device: Apple Macbook Pro ($1299)
    Total: $5,793

    $5000 Headphones
    Headphones: Sennheiser HD800S ($1600)
    Amplifier: Moon Audio Dragon Inspire IHA-1 with tube upgrade ($1249)
    DAC: Schiit Audio Gungnir Multibit ($1249)
    Total: $4098


    It’s great to see this entry-level audio initiative gain traction at one of my favourite Stateside audio shows. Mind you, I would say that – the Audiophilliac Steve Guttenberg and I had a hand in its inception.

    This year I’ll once again be chairing a panel entitled “Affordability – how low can you go?” Joining me will be some serious industry muscle. Apologies in advance for it being such a dude-fest: Michael Lavorgna of Stereophile/Audiostream; Steve Silberman of AudioQuest; Enno Vandermeer of Roon Labs; David Solomon of Peachtree Audio. (Steve Guttenberg sends his apologies).

    We’ll be covering a range of issues as laid out in the seminar’s introductory blurb: “Where to start with entry-level hardware? Is getting into vinyl financially prudent? Does Spotify really sound that bad? Can we make Bluetooth sound any good? Does good sound only arrive via a fat wallet or deep pockets?”

    Hope to see you there. If not, RMAF show coverage of entry-level rooms and much more will start to spill soon after doors close.

    Further information: Rocky Mountain Audio Fest


    Written by John

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

    Waiting for the bass to drop with Devialet’s SAMlab

    KIH #36 – Von Australien nach Deutschland