Quick, who's big and bald and beautiful? No, not Telly Savalas as Kojak - John Tucker as the head honcho of Exemplar Audio and maestro of active tube loading as recently profiled by our own Jules Coleman in his review of John's tubed Denon DVD-2900 makeover. Incidentally and without taking detailed notes, there were a lot of Denon and Sony modified universal players at the show, in many instances in rooms that also had upscale vinyl on tap. Coincidence? Surely not. One Tucker-modified Denon 2900 I remember distinctly was in the Overkill Audio room. And then there were 4 VRS computer-server systems in Denver, also mostly associated with SETs and vinyl. Is trendy the word du jour for that?

If trendy be associated with fad, that's not John Tucker's domain. For years, he's been quietly refining his own tube electronics which take the form of production 300B monos and a preamp and various one-up contract commissions. John also has designed a pair of large two-way horns around Altec drivers that had since been discontinued but are now available again. What thus was a stalled project, with only a few customers able to enjoy it, has recently been revived and Coolman is already on the books to kick off next year's odyssey into the land of never-reviewed hornspeakers with one of John's creations.

Thom Mackris of Galibier Design turntable fame shared this room in person and with his table and Jim Hagerman's Hawaiian Trumpet phono stage can be seen tucked between the massive legs of the table's support. John and Thom had another one of those really good-sounding rooms that made it essentially impossible to pick any unequivocal "Best of" exhibits. In my experience, this Denver show was unique in recent memory for sporting an unusually high percentage of truly outstanding sound, supported in no small part by a modern hotel with solidly constructed rooms not just on the ground floor. I also believe that those manufacturers and retailers who chose to support this first -- and hopefully not only -- RMAF installment truly cared and took extra precautions when assembling their systems. In fact, if there was anything like a real trend to be teased out rather than just a large cornucopia of different aural flavors, it was the tendency to err on the side of smoothness, e.g. shaving off perhaps a bit of realistic edge/energy in favor of never getting hairy. This included bass which often gets boomy and overdone at shows. Not in Denver. Whether by deliberate design or as a function of superior physical construction and copasetic geometries/size, it was the very rare exhibit that had the usual obvious LF problems. Those who had a few minor room modes tamed those as well as possible so one could easily listen thru them rather than blame the equipment. And, there were those unusually clever about this subject who shall be covered by Richard Bird in his upcoming RAM:EF column.

Colorado native Roy Johnson of Green Mountain Audio and his new high-power marketing director Janet Lynn -- yousa, a femme fatale handling audio sales to become a counterpoint to Thiel's Kathy Gornik -- shared a room with Audio Magic whose Jerry Ramsey had set up GMA's top Continuum 3s on the first day. When I revisited this room on the last day while Roy manned it, I noticed that the speaker positions, their toe-in as well as distance from each other and possibly even the alignment of the head unit all had changed. Very much to Jerry's credit, he had the room sounding very good indeed. Very much to Roy's credit, the maestro's fine-tuning of the time domain functions were audible without a doubt and really begged the question that if phase/time coherence is inaudible as so many claim, why is it so bloody audible when someone who built oscilloscopes for Hewlett-Packard at the ripe old age of 19 and knows the Physics of 1st-order networks demonstrates it?

Employing cast marble for all his models. Roy [above] introduced the new Callisto (the curvaceous monitor next to the $995/pr factory-direct-only Europa) which sports two downfiring ports that couple with the integral base. Through the end of October 2004, GMA offers special $1,795/pr pricing and Roy's personal signature on the serial number plaques for this new 56 lbs/ea. 6" two-way with claimed in-room extension to 45Hz if placed on 24" stands and 8' apart. Starting November 1, the regular pricing of $2,295/pr will apply.

With Janet flashing me a huge smile and Ivette looking appreciatively on another woman unafraid to enter a male-dominated arena and kick ass, I also got a pic of the two gents who handle all marble casting and wood work at Green Mountain Audio: Nick Guenther & Greg Stankovich. With Janet's arrival, one senses that Roy's famous design expertise has now found its outgoing match in the public relations area which should bode very well for the ongoing success of this underappreciated marque. Make no mistake: Had I not known the Continuum 3 from prior shows, it would have featured in my show introduction pages as one of the most exciting full-range dynamic speakers extant. Roy and Janet's showing here merely confirmed prior impression of rare excellence and due to geographical proximity and gregarious feistiness, Mrs. Lynn will now hand-deliver the long overdue review pair to our little digs in Taos. Can't wait!

Danny Richie's GR Research is not a player you'd likely see at CES teaming up with Dodd Audio, Cryo Tweaks and Ack! Industries to spend the bick bux and set themselves back a couple of months in the sales department. But with the friendly pricing at RMAF, this type of value-oriented company catering to both the turn-key and DIY markets has an opportunity to showcase their offerings which is just another reason why shows like the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest are vital for our industry. Doc. B has already announced that there won't be another VSAC under his leadership though his event might be revived under the aegis of new organizers who won't have a clue about the potential nightmares this could entail until they do it - which isn't said to scare them off but merely to give credit to those like Dan Schmalle and Ron Welborne and Al Stiefel and Mike Maloney who've already done this show-hosting gig and slain their own dragons in the process.

Does this look like a serious subwoofer driver or what? It's what Danny put in his own sub but he also sells this as a raw ingredient to adventurous solder slingers and garage workshop fiends. If that describes you but you've been unaware of GR Research, check out their website - you might be surprised by the kind of projects that await you there.