Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2014

Part 2


More to support our claim that "personal stereo" is growing trend.

































Benchmark SMS1 Loudspeaker $ 2,450.00 (pair)



Response: 44 Hz - 22 kHz
Crossover Frequency: 3 kHz
Sensitivity: 88 dB
Impedance: 6 Ohms
Recommended Power: 30 - 200 W

Note the very low sensitivity rating of 88db. We'd recommend 30wpc in good tube amps only.

At least 100 wpc in solid state.










  Carl Marshisotto and NOLA is the undisputed master of open baffle speaker design.

We have reviewed many of his models, most being worlds first reviews, and have always been impressed

with the clarity, bass response and the most spacious, detailed and lifelike soundstages of any speaker.

They just sound like real, live music. Live recordings of jazz, singers and orchestras are uncanny in their

 no boundaries presentation. They also make studio recordings sound much more like live recordings.

 Always extremely musical.


Carl's  Studio Grand Reference Gold, debuting at the show,dis no exception. In fact, it is a progression on his

previous designs. They incorporate all of the above seamlessly. We could talk specs,

but suffice it to say that this is one of the very few rooms where we had to tear ourselves

away from what we were experiencing. Outstanding and easily one of the best in Denver.

The speakers employ alnico magnet woofers, alnico dipole midranges and true ribbon tweeters.


We should add that in glowing piano gloss rosewood, it is also one of the most gorgeous speakers you have to see to appreciate.


Response: 32Hz to 100kHz


 after hearing many more expensive speakers and being familiar with Nola's other speakers and their prices,

we were very surprised that these didn't cost significantly more. We're just saying.... in the under $20,000

category, these are real contenders on the verge of a KO.




 In addition, we saw these little stand mounts sitting on a table on the way out so we turned around and asked Carl about them.

 he said he wanted us to listen to them, so he moved the big speakers and set up Brios,  surprisingly in the big room, almost as far apart as the floor standers.

 He played Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?".  Carl doesn't know this, but Elvis plays a big part in our marriage! I met Linda and her birthday party

on the night Elvis died. The party happened to be at the home of  a minister who was world-famous in his own right, in  fact it was he who conducted Elvis's funeral.

So, as Linda and I were the only ones invited to stay after the party, we watched the network coverage of Elvis's death interspersed with many

personal anecdotes about his life from the minister and his family. It was quite a memorable night.


 While the Brio's brought back those memories, they also amazed us with their lifelike presentation despite being in a very large room.

Anyone who believes Elvis is still alive, hearing that demo would add fuel to the fire. True, there wasn't overwhelming bass or limitless upper extension,

but dang if it didn't seem like Elvis was standing right in front of us. Remarkable in that room and at that price - under $1000.

That is "Stereo for Cheap Bastards" territory. If you're not familiar, S4CB is our featured reviews of equipment $1000 and under.


 Carl told us that the small fries are a one-and-a-half-way design with two 3.5" drivers, one  being open-baffle of course, while the other is reflex-loaded.

Simply amazing.








Music servers abounded. We were among the first to adopt and review a topline music server by Qsonix.

having the ability to instantly access your entire digital library without hunting through stacks of discs where you

always got frustrated and just played something with which you were familiar again. From the comfort of the listening position,

via iPad you are able to search dozens of different ways to find something that fits your mood, drag it to the playlist (either an individual song

or two or three songs from the same disk or play the whole disk) and it just starts playing!  While those songs are playing, you are inspired

to think of something else. Maybe the bass player like Jaco was playing incredible lines so you think you might want to listen to one of his solo albums.

Touch, drag to the playlist queue in any playing order you want, and it's there ready to go. We typically listen for four hours on any given weekend

night. I can hand the iPad to Linda and she can easily choose some selections. How great is that? You don't have to be a computer guru to enjoy

listening to your collection. It certainly change the way we listen to music completely. No getting up and down to change discs or being forced

to listen to lesser cuts when you just want to hear the best from a CD or music file. That's huge!


The Aria Mini is a music server in a stand (left picture above) on which you place your iPad with the custom designed interface. Download the

dedicated app and you're ready to go. It has a 2 TB capacity and includes a DAC supporting PCM music files up to 32 bits plus D XD and DSD 64/128.


It's compatible with AirPlay and DLNA.  one of the major problems with most music servers is that they just don't have enough fields for

much-needed metadata. This one has extended metadata fields for all music genres and is fully automatic for populating a wealth of classical musical info

Such as composer, conductor, orchestra, soloist,., Instrument, label and more. Not enough? You can customize your own.


Most servers, even the newest ones, don't come with a built-in CD Ripper. Very inconvenient. The Mini  has one. Once ripped, the machine accesses many

premium databases, not just one, to fill in the most accurate metadata. Again, that's huge. Use an external NAS or USB hard drive  and/or import from them.


Starts at $3200




 Need more?


There is a pappa  music server from Digibit simply called the Aria as opposed to the Aria Mini above.

 It has all the same features as the Mini  except it's more robust and has a built-in DVD Ripper instead of CD

and it has a greater variety of digital outs as opposed to USB 2 only for the Mini.


It starts at $5000. Both were extremely impressive.






Vandersteen showed an experimental update to the Model Seven, which were powered by the very latest iteration of the M7-HPA liquid-cooled amplifiers, and Brinkmann Audio debuted a brand-new turntable design called the Spyder that can accommodate up to four (!) tonearms. The table was configured with two arms, with a LYRA Atlas cartridge for stereo and a LYRA Kleos Mono for mono records. Trick! Audio Research provided the preamp and phono stage, while AudioQuest provided all the cabling and HRS the isolation system.


 The "experimental" Model Seven is priced $10,0000 more than the standard model at $62,000.








Chapman was showing their new T-5 speaker $4,995/pr. The T-5 is a 3-way floor-stander incorporating their exclusive compression line bass design

coupled with a 5.25" midrange and a 1" silk tweeter.


 They sounded good, but we weren't overly impressed, even at the impressive $4100 a pair.







Abis, TA1L tonearm  at $2300, Iris 12 Reference 12" tonearm $5000..


Jasmine Dragon cartridge ($2,800).  Eye-catching as well as you're catching in its ceramic Porcelain body







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