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The sights and sounds of RMAF 2016

  • “I get knocked down, but I get up again.” The organisational disruptions to the thirteenth Rocky Mountain Audio Fest caused by the Marriott Tech Center’s ongoing renovations saw one of the most popular Stateside audio shows come on as same-same but different in 2016. After all, a dog with three legs is still a dog – it just walks in a different way.

    Despite an opening morning power outage, the Circus-tented CanJam came in a long way north of the doom and gloom that preceded it. Ditto the outdoor pods, one of which hosted Classic Album Sundays’ playback sessions which went down as follows:

    2pm Stevie Wonder – Innervisions
    5pm Talking Heads – Remain in Light 

    12pm Joni Mitchell – Blue
    3pm Radiohead – OK Computer

    11am  Billie Holiday – Lady in Satin
    2pm Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden

    With a self-imposed mandate to cover as much hardware as possible, I missed ’em all but anyone bringing the entirety of Spirit of Eden to an audio show deserves a trophy.


    More surprising was hearing CAS’ broader playback palette reflected in a wider-than-usual array of demo music spun by exhibitor’s in the main building’s eleven storey tower.

    Bowie’s Blackstar made a coupla key appearances. Aurender went with “Tis A Pity She Was A Whore” whilst KEF floored us with the quietly devastating “Lazarus” – the closest I’ve come tears at an audio show. Not tears of pain from the usual wafer-thin range of music choices, you understand. I heard more off-the-cuff jokes about “No more Diana Krall” than her music itself.

    RMAF 2016 Attendees were also treated to a broader, freer range of music than any other audio show I’ve attended to date: Radiohead’s “Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box” showd up in the SIMAudio room; Kraftwerk’s “The Robots” bleeped and blooped through the DEQX systems; a cut from Peter Gabriel’s Up swelled like a tidal wave in the Bel Canto room; Mark Sossa of Well Pleased AV dropped some Aphex Twin (“Windowlicker”) and a slice of DJ Shadow (“Midnight In A Perfect World”); David Solomon of Peachtree Audio included some CHVRCHES in his tightly-curated demo; Johan Coorg of KEF introduced us to some brand new Massive Attack.

    Elsewhere, more customary audiophile fare – classical, opera, white dude blues – could still be found but crucially, for once, it didn’t dominate.

    Look, listen:

    Best RMAF ever? In terms of musical diversity, double thumbs up from this techno-roller.

    However, one tower exhibitor stood head and shoulders above the rest when it came to otherworldly selections. And for once it wasn’t Zu Audio. Head on down here to learn who.

    Further information: Rocky Mountain Audio Fest


    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

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

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. Hi John – it was great meeting you and soaking in my first ever audio show. I attended the “How Low Can You Go” seminar on Friday (I can still picture your laptop cutting over to the Marriott WiFI prompt screen) and then chatted with you afterward about Dragonfly Red…DJ/electronic music…and your move to Germany. After that I spent a few hours in the tent checking out all the gear I keep reading about but otherwise would have never heard. I personally loved the Focal Elear best, with the Mr. Speakers Ether Flow C my close #2. I even made it a point to listen to the Chord Dave, because why not. My takeaway? Yeah, it’s good — but my ears are certainly more suited to something that’s a few hundred bucks versus twelve thousand. Finally, I spent the rest of the afternoon going floor to floor and room to room checking out the insane gear from around the world. After all was said and done, the one that I actually liked the most was again the most affordable — the Elac Uni-Fi demoed by none other than Andrew Jones. Go figure!

      • Good to meet you too, Brent. Yeah, I had to use my phone’s internet connection whilst the show sorted their hotspot connectivity. That Uni-Fi setup was easily the best */$ at the show. Their new integrated amp’s sub integration and room correction was most impressive also. I’ll be covering it in a separate post.

    2. Just the thought of someone spinning Spirit of Eden in it’s entirety makes me weepy. Very cool.

    3. How much of the musical diversity can be attributed to access to Tidal? On Friday at least, the in-room Internet connectivity seemed to be more than adequate and I don’t recall hearing any complaints related to streaming issues.

    The storm before the calm – setup day at RMAF 2016

    RMAF 2016: Through the looking glass with GamuT Audio