Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2009 Show Report


Speaking of famous German analog experts, this is Frank Schroeder, maker of some of the finest and most sought after tone arms in the world. He has teamed up with Artemis Labs to produce two turntables:

SA1 - $7,800 table (above) with bamboo base - no model # for new Schroeder designed arm produced in the states

They are shooting for price around $4,000 - hopefully ready by CES.

The darker and larger table on the right is the

SA 1S at $11,000. The base is wider for 10 -12" arms. Mostly sold in Asia. Base is made from more exotic palm. Centered layer is built differently with better sonic charcter.

New from Artemis are the Phono stages: PL1S $3,500 & PH2 $3,500

On the floor is the 2-chassis ST1 stereo amp 16wpc SET $18,000


You can't tell it from the picture, but these small Venture stand mount speakers have a pearl white paint job that looks like it was stolen from a Cadillac STS.

Dubbed the "Ultimate Charm" by Hoo Knong Njoo, they go for $30,000 per pair. Yes. $30,000. On the back is an unusual Speakon connector, but most of the money is in the crossover, he told us. We're not sure if that $30,000 includes the aluminum stands, but it probably should, don't you think?

If you think that's expensive, these monsters from YG, marketed as "The best speaker on the planet. Period" are priced at

$107,000. If you have read our reviews, you know we tell you that there is no such thing as the "Best speaker on the planet".

How would these sound in your 12x12' bedroom? A $1,000 stand mount speaker would sound better.  What if you put these in a huge room driven by a 2 watt SET amp?  System matching is all important. We stress it. These did sound very fine, though. Better than at previous shows.




This is Seth Krinsky and Michael Mardis of VIRTUE AUDIO. Michael holds the Stereomojo Award for

2009 Best Value Product of the Year for the Virtue One integrated amplifier.

It does not sell for $107,000 or even $30,000. Nope. The price has gone up a little though. All the way to


Wow.  This is a serious audiophile product. It smoked two other more expensive competing amps in a shootout we did this year.

It's based on a Tripath chip and puts out 40 wpc, or up to 55 wpc with the optional stronger power supply. We talked to another amp maker about the Virtue and he said, "Yeah..they're good. They have Mike Mardis..." We like Mike and Seth a lot. We've spent a lot of time talking to Seth in particular. Enough time to know that he's brilliant and as dedicated and sincere as they come. He's also a big time perfectionist and frets over every aspect of their products. We wish more were like him.

But wait. The Virtue 1 is sold out. There's a new Virtue 1.2! More than twice the capacitance, upgraded parts and function.

Still a steal at $349

This is the new Virtue 2.2. The extra heat fins are for the extra power - up to 120 watts per side. Adds a new very high quliaty stepped attenuator and imporved copper propeller post in back.

It sounded eve more amazing with the 4 different speakers they had for the demo.

There will also be a Virtue 3 featuring fully dual mono design in a cool looking horizontal case with fins on both sides. Seth said around $549.

Not enough yet?

This is half of the new DU MO for DUAL MONO based on the Virtue 1.2. $449


Our James Darby has had a prototype of the top-of-the-line Virtue Sensation for some time.

But the one he has is ancient history. The new version is totally different inside and way better - the ultimate Tripath amp.

It will sport three analog inputs, remote control, pre and subwoofer outs and a massive 130,000 uF capacitance. Beautiful exotic wood inserts on top.

Projected price is about $1,300 and we expect it to set the high-end amp industry on its ear. Oh can be run on Red' Wine's $500 outboard battery, too.

Seth promises we'll get it first! Oh baby!







Controversy. We tried to get the first review of one of these German turntables about three years ago, but it fell through amongst some gauzy facts, rumors, semi-facts and first hand information.

Distributors changed, but over time we saw no products at shows, no reviews, no news, no dealers, no nothing about Musical Life tables. Googling Musical Life Turntables produced scant little. Even their website was flimsy looking. We were told that the company was in financial trouble and owed money to the person affiliated with the company who told us that. So, when we published a page of links to every known turntable maker in the world. Next to the Musical Life link, we inserted four words - and four words only; avoid these for now. We didn't say that the products were bad, or anything else. We didn't know. And neither did anyone else.

A few months later we get an email from the new distributor asking us to remove those four words. We recounted what we were told which he denighed. But there was still nothing about the products anywhere.

So we offered to review one of the tables - any of them, so we could make some kind of determination. We would talk to the head of the company, get the real lowdown. He refuse to send us a review unit and instead threatened to sue us because we trashed his turntables. Remember, all we said was "Avoid these for now". Meaning until we could get some better info. We were accused of trying to extort a review when it was nothing of the kind. We found out later that the distributor had placed on his website a notice that what Stereomojo says about their tables were "lies". Yikes. The phrase "Avoid these for now"  is just an opinion, not a statement of fact, so it cannot be "lies".  When we saw that the guy and Musical Life tables were to be at the show, Stereomojo owner James Darby made a beeline for the room on a mission to clear up the situation and solve the Musical Life mystery once and for all.

We are happy to report that after a very cordial conversation with Tom Vu, everything is, indeed, cleared up. James spent a good hour with Tom and left as friends. We still don'tknow how sound the company is, but we don't know that for sure about most of the companies at the show. What we DO know is that there were three very nice looking turntables on display a couple years after we were told that the company was unsound. That syas something, right? So, we are removing our four word notice as we promised to Tom, who said that he would be happy to have us review of the tables down the road.

Also as promised, Tom sent us an email with a list of products he was showing:

The Jazz is pictured on top, with the Symphony table below on the left and the Conductor on the right.

Analog system:
1. Musical life conductor table retail is $20000.00
2. Musical life vocalitas 12" tonearm retail $8500
3. Musical life Symphony MKIII table retail $9500
4. Musical life conductor SE 12" tonearm $7200
5. Musical life Jazz reference MK3 table retail $5799
6. Musical life Fortissimo 9" tonearm retail $3799
7. ZYX Omega-X cartridge retail $7500
8. ZYX 4D-G cartridge retail $4500
9. Gamut El Superiores S9 retail $155000
10. Gamut M250i monoblock power amplifier retail $26000
11. Gamut D3i Dual monoblock preamplifier retail $9500
12. Gamut CD3 retail $8900
13. Gamut swormhole signature cable
14. Gamut Phi7 speaker $7800
15. Gamut Phi5 speaker
16. Gamut Phi3 speaker
17. Gamut Si100 integrated
17. Gamut Di150 dual mono integrated

Thanks Tom!


Wow! Great pictures and lots of good info. Show me more!

Take me to Part 4