Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2015 Show Report

Rocky Mountain International Audio Festival 2015

Denver, CO

October 2-4, 2015

This year, our main room (the Long’s Peak ballroom on the mezzanine level of the Denver Marriott Tech Center, as usual) featured a Luxman PD-171AL turntable sitting on an Artesania Audio “KRION” turntable base. The KRION base is made from a stone composite, sitting on an adjustable stainless steel frame. It removes any noise or mechanical vibration from the delicate low out cartridge’s signal.

We paired the PD-171AL turntable with a prototype Schroeder “Alto” tonearm, making beautiful music. It has an adjustable azimuth and SRA, a unique bearing design, ebony arm wand with first class fit and finish. Too bad we had to return the prototype and wait for the production model. Can’t wait to get our hands on our own!

We also had a Mola-Mola Makua with optional phono stage and prototype DAC delivering a full rich sound and huge 3-dimensional soundstage. And I even got a recording of Mola-Mola designer Bruno Putzeys explaining his DAC in a rather technical, but fascinating spiel he gave. You can read the transcription at AudioStream, thanks to Michael Lavorgna’s transcription.

Finally, we had the Merging NADAC running Emotion software, playing multi-channel music off of a PC. Sounded breathtaking through the Vivid Audio GIYA G3 loudspeakers with V1.5’s in the rear. Quad DSD sounds remarkably similar to the best analogue tape!

Each day at the show, we received a different multi-channel recording from Lori Lieberman’s upcoming album, Ready for the Storm from our Los Angeles dealer, Joe Cali to showcase.  The recordings were sent over as six individual WAV files. It was indeed very handy to have Dominque Brulhart from Merging Technologies who had Pyramix software and was able to mix the six individual channels into a playable multi-channel file.  Not having listened to multi-channel for about ten years, it was a real treat to trawl through my multi-channel music collection and rediscover forgotten gems.

One person in the audience commented that “YES” multi-channel mix from Fragile did not sound the same as the stereo mix, to which we both agreed that in this case, different was actually better.

This is the first time that we ever brought a statement rack with us to Denver and this was the best sound we ever produced in Denver. I would attribute this in part to the Artesania Exoteryc rack that was doing the heavy lifting (pun intended). Also, the Shunyata Research’s cables and power conditioning clearly made a noticeable difference to the system. The sound was relaxed, quiet, and effortlessly musical. Depending on the music played, we were able to throw a huge, wide and 3-dimensional soundstage. The system was utterly non-fatiguing.

RMAF 2015 Gallery

Awards

PFO Audio Oasis Award for On a Higher Note's Room at RMAF 2015
PFO Audio Oasis Award for On a Higher Note’s Room at RMAF 2015

Musical Highlights

Musical highlights on the Multi-channel Merging NADAC running 4.0 with a phantom center channel:

Lori Lieberman - ready for the storm
“Piece of Me” in multichannel 24/96 from Lori Liebermann’s new album Ready For The Storm
Nickel Creek Sabra Girl on This Side Album
Nickel Creek’s “Sabra Girl” DSD
Beck Sea Change
Beck’s “The Golden Age” from Sea Change DSD

Musical highlights on the Mola Mola internal DAC (name TBA):

Suzanne Vega live at Montreaux
Suzanne Vega – “Small Sweet Thing” from Live At Montreux 24/48 (unreleased)
De Falla Three Cornered Hat
De Falla / Ansermet – Three Cornered Hat DSD file transferred from the 1” master tape by Paul Stubblebine using the Grimm AD1 (also designed by Bruno Putzeys in 2005)

Musical Highlights on the Luxman turntable:

Gregory Porter Be Good
Gregory Porter “Painted On Canvas” from Be Good

Press

Jason Serinus gave us a very nice write-up in Stereophile:

OAHN Room at RMAF pc stereophile
pc: Stereophile

“The presentations were supremely musical, with Vega’s guitar strings having the absolutely right leading edge, and the body of the tone equally right on in timbre. Even sitting way off center, as I was, the size of the soundstage was quite impressive…In fact, the presentation was so superb in every respect that I felt as though I was hearing the track for the first time. (Certainly I had never heard the ensemble’s voices so perfectly delineated, yet not in the least bit etched.) Need I add that O’Hanlon is also a perfect master of volume, choosing just right level for each cut? Bravo and YUMMY!!”

Chris Connacker over at Computer Audiophile had nice words to say:

“One room at RMAF 2015 was truly an experience to remember. Philip O’Hanlon of On A Higher Note, the distributor for many fine products including Mola-Mola, Merging Technologies, and Vivid Audio, demonstrated both stereo and multi-channel playback at a very high level…The entire listening experience really threw me for a loop and is one I won’t soon forget…Again, great sound quality and an experience to remember.

Thanks to Greg Weaver and Neil Gader from the Absolute Sound:

Merging NADAC at RMAF 2015
Merging NADAC at RMAF 2015

“Philip O’Hanlon’s On A Higher Note hosted the Longs Peak Room on the Mezzanine level. Listening to 2-channel or 5-channel surround (by employing a phantom center mode) in this room was a very musical experience…Simply one of the most dimensional, spacious, and highly coherent presentations I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.”

Vivid G3 loudspeaker with Mola-Mola Kaluga power amplifer rmaf 2015
Vivid G3 loudspeaker with Mola-Mola Kaluga power amplifer

“Finally, as the show was coming to a close, the exhibit that hit the right note for me was in the On A Higher Note suite. The setup featured the Mola Mola Makua preamp ($13,450) Mola Mola and Kaluga power amp ($18,000). Driving the Vivid Giya G3 loudspeakers (with Luxman, Soundsmith LP front end), I felt as if I were hearing these wildly eccentric-looking speakers for the first time. The sound was detailed and relaxed, with superb soundstaging. Vivid indeed.

Eclipse Room at RMAF pc Enjoy the Music
Eclipse Room pc: Enjoy the Music

“The Desktop system TD-M1 at $1,300 a pair was one of the most versatile, and aesthetically pleasing, desktop speakers I have seen at the show. They feature an integrated DAC, amplifier, and Wi-Fi integration for wireless streaming. Even in nearfield the TD-M1 allows recording to have space that doesn’t just float around the middle of the screen immediately in front of you, as it dances around a wide open soundstage.”

Merging NADAC
Merging NADAC included in list of 2-channel audio discoveries from RMAF —pc: hi-fi+

“Merging’s approach may seem unorthodox at first, but no one can argue with the sonic results. Based on a brief but extremely compelling listen, I was struck by the NADAC’s extraordinarily vibrant, lucid, transparent, and highly three-dimensional presentation.”

Equipment Lists:

Longs Peak Room on the Mezzanine level:

Luxman PD-171, Artesania Audio Krion turntable platform, Mola-Mola Makua + phonostage + DAC, Merging Technologies NADAC at RMAF 2015
Luxman PD-171, Artesania Audio Krion turntable platform, Mola-Mola Makua + phonostage + DAC, Merging Technologies NADAC

Constellation Audio # Connifer 1

Eclipse Room #1002

Eclipse Room at RMAF
Eclipse Room at RMAF

Grace Design #9010

Prana Fidelity #538

Download RMAF 2015 Equipment List PDF

by Philip O'Hanlon

Music Evangelist and Master of Musical Enjoyment—Philip spends his time looking for fine music, tuning up synergistic electronic components to get the best sound, and making music compilations so he can share his listening journey and experiences with friends and acquaintances.

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