Friendly, laid back and low-key were the key vibes to the second annual Rocky Mountain Audio Festival in Denver. This event was a sharp contrast to the pressure cooker atmosphere at this year's Home Entertainment show in NYC. Must be that mountain air. The venue, the Marriott Tech Center, was excellent - clean and spacious with excellent service and staff. I must thank Alan Stiefel for putting together a great show. This was no doubt a monumental task. Major kudos to Al and his staff for their efforts. I only hope that a similar show can be created on the East coast. As far as I could tell, there were only a couple of rooms doing Home Theater. The rest was all two-channel. I felt like Homer Simpson frolicking in the Land of Chocolate. I thought I had plenty of time to cover every room, however, my eyes were clearly bigger than my ears. Unfortunately, I must report that I missed at least a floor's worth of exhibitors. Not to mention, I neglected to bring an extra memory chip for my digital
camera. If I missed something, it wasn't for any other reason than time or lack of bytes. Next year, I'll stay the entire weekend and bring a gig of memory!

Song Audio is an outfit that deserves far greater attention than it has received thus far. I know the folks at SoundStage! would agree. Just check out their thumbs-up reviews of Song Kim's SA-300 MB monoblocks ($4900) and SA-1 tube preamp ($4500). Song teamed up with the folks at Zu and offered a killer system featuring Mr. Kim's awesome gear and Zu Druids. A HiFi match made in heaven if there was ever one. Zu's Sean Casey and Adam Decaria were so impressed, they used Song's gear in their own room. Only with the gain cranked up on the SA-1 and my ear an inch away from the main driver could I detect the faintest hiss from the 101dB Druids. Now, that's from a tube preamp and tube power supply! Sweet. Also on display was Song's Acoustic Monitor loudspeakers, Vasant-K solid-state integrated, SA-34 SB 4 watt SET ($1900) and gussied-up Cecilia integrated. I hear EnjoytheMusic's Steve Rochlin was so impressed, he requested a review loaner.

The $55,000/pr King is the flagship model of Canadian speaker manufacturer Hansen Audio. The King is a full-scale SOTA assault on the high-end speaker front and features in-house designed drivers, a high-tech composite cabinet and a 1st-order time and phase-coherent design brief. While completely beyond the price range of products I normally cover, I’m impressed that someone else has jumped on the time/phase coherence bandwagon.

Hailing from Owensboro/Kentucky, factory-direct Tyler Acoustics offers budget-conscious audiophiles a wide range of attractively finished loudspeakers. On display were the $1825 Taylo Reference Monitor with Scanspeak and Seas drivers and the $3250 Linbrook Signature Monitors with Seas drivers and Hovland caps, Alpha Core inductors and DH Labs cabling. The main system featured the $3600 Linbrook System II floorstander, also equipped with various goodies from Seas, Hovland, Alpha Core and DH Labs. A wide variety of real wood veneers are available. Based on what I saw and heard, Tyler is a name to put on your list if you're on the hunt for speakers. Oh yes, Tyler's Ty Lashbrook is a super-friendly, easy-going gent too.

A big thrill for me was meeting Green Mountain Audio's Roy Johnson and Janet Lynn. When I reviewed GMA's Callistos, I was so blown away that I bought my review pair. If you don't already know it, Roy is a steadfast champion of 1st-order time and phase-coherent loudspeaker designs and has done the math to back it up. He must be on to something. More and more speaker firms are cropping up espousing the same mantra: phase and time coherence is vital in loudspeaker design. On display in one room were the
Callistos ($2900/pr) with Edge amplification, EAD disk spinner, Birdland Odeon digital and Audio Magic silver cabling. GMA's other room demoed the flagship Continuum 3 ($16,995) with DeHavilland tube gear. On static display was the new Calypso ($9995), the Europa ($995 factory direct only) and the top portion of the Pico Executive ($4995). Acoustic room treatments were ACS Tube Traps. Mel Brooks once said that merchandising is the secret of the universe. Janet must be a Brooks fan as GMA will be offering a full line of swag in the near future. Janet was showing off lovely slip covers customized for each speaker model. Prices start at $139/pr. I had a long talk with Janet who has very definite plans to expand deeper into the market. Not content to merely sell products to the same group of audiophiles over and over as most firms seem happy to do, she has some very innovative ideas to reach a wider audience. Interestingly, this was a common theme with Art Audio's Joe Fratus and Zu's Sean Casey who have similar plans.

Music Direct and Acoustic Sounds not only showed with their customary wide range of software on the vendor floor but also displayed equipment in several rooms. Music Direct showcased Mobile Fidelity OML-2 speakers ($1995/pr) along with Edge, Shunyata and Avid equipment. Acoustic Sounds displayed their range of Cayin gear along with Harbeth loudspeakers, Richard Gray Power Company, VPI, and AcousTech. Of particular interest was Cayin's CDT-17A tube CD player which retails for a very attractive $1795. Down on the vendor floor, Music Direct was offering the complete range of MFSL hybrid SACDs. I'm thrilled -- as are many audiophiles -- that Mobile Fidelity is back in business and I'll have more to say about a few of these discs later.

The Herron/BPT room showcased Herron's massive ESP-1 loudspeaker, M1 monoblocks ($6850/pair), VTSP-2 preamp ($4495) with BPT balanced power conditioning. BPT's Chris Hoff showed me his new speaker cable which was notable for its flexibility and lack of excessive dielectric unlike most other cable designs which appear to be 80% plastic and 20% wire. Having tried prototypes of BPT's new power cables, I can tell you that less dielectric is a good thing. To my ears, Chris is on the right track and I hope to soon report on his new L-10 power cables and speaker cables. On passive display was Chris's new BP-10.5 Ultra Isolator balanced power line conditioner which starts at $1795.

Welborne Labs featured a wide assortment of very attractively priced equipment. Ron Welborne's 7-watt Terraplane 300B monos ($1825 kit/$2250 assembled) drove a pair of Classic Audio Reproductions' T3 horn loudspeakers ($6630/pr) via Ron's Ultrapath battery-powered valve linestage ($1200 kit/$1700 assembled) with modified Denon 2900 digital player and Teres turntable. Power filtration was handled by Welborne's Gatekeeper. Rack and stands were Symposium Acoustics Ultra Platforms and Svelte rack. On static display was the Zephyr remote-controller/attenuator ($425 kit), DRD 300B (starting at $1050/pr) and 45 Star Chief monos ($1775 kit/$2200 assembled).

One of my fave rooms featured Dan Wright's SWL 9.0SE tube preamp ($2200), ModWright modified and tubed Denon 3900, ModWright Sony 999ES, Channel Islands D-200 monoblocks ($2299/pr), Penaudio Serenade speakers, World Power Wing PLC and Jorma cabling. I had a pleasant chat with Dan and Positive Feedback's Dave and Carol Clark. What a nice group of people. Oddly enough we talked about everything except audio. Dan was more interested in showing us family snapshots instead of trying to sell us on his products. This exchange just highlighted the good-natured, friendly vibe of the show. Elsewhere at the show, I had the pleasure of meeting PF's David Robinson and Bryan Gladstone. Here too were two approachable souls completely devoid of ego or attitude. The PF crew was a refreshing contrast to the over-inflated audio reviewer egos I normally run into at shows.

Gini systems demoed their line of JAS loudspeakers as well as Hong Kong-based Audio Space equipment. Gini has recently announced that they are now the official US distributor for this fine line. I've had experience with this brand in Canada and I can heartily recommend it. Sound, build, features and price are first rate. While I am familiar with most of the Audio Space lineup, what caught my eye was the tiny Mini 2004 integrated. With a quartet of 6V6 tubes, two inputs, headphone output, negative feedback adjustment, this little cutie puts out 13 watts and comes in a variety of colors. Perfect for a bedroom or dorm system. I apologize for the blurry photos as I was shaking with anticipation. I gotta get me one of these!