Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2009 Show Report


These flat panels are by Podium. We had the first review of their second generation models last year. We agree with an attendee/owner who said they were an "acquired taste", but they do sound much better with the new upgrades than the version we reviewed.




Steve Rader tells us about his CH-11R true exponential folded horn 2-way speaker that weighs in at over 200 lbs. each. Yikes! The tweeter is a constant directivity compression driver with a 1.25" titanium diaphram. The bootm is a specially designed 12' with a die-cast basket with paper cone. He said efficiency was "107 db".

Steve is not the first who made the mistake of powering his babies with an old solid-state receiver, thinking that it would be advantageous to demonstrate how good the speakers sound with "any old amp". We think people and the press want to hear how good they can sound - period - not how minimal. People who take their time and money to attend this show don't want to hear mid-fi, we think. For anyone thinking about exhibiting at any show, please know that after seeing so much great gear, it's off-putting to walk into a room and see ancient mid-fi. A simple little SET tube amp would have been so much better. Still, there is some good potential here and we have agreed to review them. In his follow-up email, Steve said, "I have 3 other requests to review the speakers, but you will be the first." Thanks Steve. We are grateful and can't wait to see how good they can really sound.

Jaton is like Hyundai - they started a little slow but are catching up very fast, perhaps faster than any other newer Chinese company. The new Operetta AP2300AX stereo power amp you see above bears no resemblance to the version we reviewed just last year - it was an "amp on a card" model. As you can see, the new one is fully stuffed with, including Mundorfs and other parts from Germany. They've added a fully balanced XLR system, too, and still just $6,000 for 300 watts per side.

Our reviewer Bill Schuchard is anxious to get the new Jaton preamp. You can see the outers and innards above. It has 2 models, RC2000P and RC2000S. The RC2000P is a pure analog design and it has "the most soft and warm output for your vinyl and CD", we were told. "We add in the digital input for RC2000S with a controllable LFE sub-woofer signal output. Both of them are ready to deliver after the show at the retail price range $ 1200 ~ $ 1500."

The new REAL A3 version floorstanders with immaculately lacquered exotic wood finish are $6,000 each. We checked that we heard that right. "We decided to change the tweeter and woofer drivers also took one more step forward by changing the crossover network but still keep the same wood finish sound box", George said.



Like actors in Hollywood that want to direct, it seems some audio distributor's like Vinh Vu aspire to design and make their own speakers.

Designed and hand made by Vin are the new Gingko Audio speakers -$2,900 in red cherry finish. The black gloss option, usually more expensive, is actually cheaper here.


We recently reviewed a turntable accessory by TT Weights, a ring that goes over the LP on the platter as seen above. But now Larry Denham has gone the rest of the way and put together the rest of a massive (200 pounds) new turntable he named "Chiristine" that caused a bit of interest at the show. Larry explained that he wanted to do a table that incorporates all the ideas he had without real regard for cost, just to see what could be done. He does not plan on making many more of this one, but wants to make it quieter and less expensive, paying a little more attention to cost savings. As you see it here, the price is $50,000 to $60,000. We can't wait to see what he comes up with.



Say you heard it here first. Einstein (the German audio company, not the dead scientist) is working on turntable prototype should be ready for CES in January. Isn't it interesting that in this age of exploding digital, people are still bringing new turntables to market. Hmmmm.....




Triode is a Japanese company that makes very high quality tube goods at very reasonable prices. They showed a new preamp that when ready will cost $2,500 and $2,800. It was very difficult to nail down prices of many products this year because the companies are fearful of quoting prices, especially goods made in other countries, because of the plunging American dollar. A weak dollar makes foreign goods more expensive for Americans. So that means for right now, American made goods are a bit cheaper.  Many economists believe that high, maybe VERY high, inflation is right around the corner, too, which will inflate prices. Just a thought.

The big monoblock you see above is the TRV-M88PP which weighs 100 pounds, puts out 200 watts in ultralinear and 125 watts in triode mode and costs $6,000 each. Triode makes about a dozen different tube products and are definitely worth checking out.


Another tube product company we like a lot is Ayon which makes extremely high quality products in Austria. We saw their new tube CD player, the CD-2, in several rooms being used as a source for speaker and amp companies. Perhaps they heard what we did in our world's first review of the CD-2. We liked is so much we made it our CD Player of the Year for 2009. This $5,500 tube CD player

really is something special - so special that our publisher is buying it to use as his reference player. He says that he was in a room before the show opened when a speaker maker was setting up his display. He was using a very expensive CD player, but was not satisfied with the sound he was getting. He substituted the Ayon CD-2 and suddenly his face lit up. The improvement was stunning.


Stereomojo CD Player of the Year for 2009


Darby also has this 120 pound KT88 Triton integrated amp from Ayon in for review. Don't tell anyone, but we hear he likes it - a lot! Importer Charlie Harrison and his stunningly gorgeous wife Susan also showed us a new CD player, the CD-5 that is supposed to be even better than the CD-2. It costs over $10,000 though. Charlie wants us to review it, though a $10k player is a little on the expensive side for us. Hearing how good the CD-2 is though, we're very tempted. VERY tempted. Stay tuned.


Darren and Bonnie Censullo of Avatar distributors are another couple that are some of our favorite people. Bonnie could not attend because of some serious health issues and we really missed her. We always tease her about being so "zesty" , but she truly is. Get well Bonnie!

AMR (Abbingdon Music Research) showed the CD-777 CD player ($3995) and the AM-777 integrated amp at $3,995. AMR is most known for their much more expensive lines, but fortunately looks like their timing is good to introduce their new value priced products that we know have been in the works for at least 3 years. Darren siad he just got them in the day before the show.

Jacob George of Rethm, a speaker company from India, showed the unique Maarga loudspeaker ($6995/pair) that has a single point driver incorporated with a powered woofer. The larger Saadhana has been a past "Best Sound at Show" winner in the past and has been updated with several improvements. George and Darren assure us we will get the AMR pieces and the new Saadhana's very soon.



Dr. Chris Feickert was also there to demo his new Analogue Woodpecker Turntable ($4995) with Analogue DFA 10.5 tonearm ($1250,/$1000 with the table). He said he was anxious for us to review it, almost as much as we are.



Here's something we won't be reviewing - the new MBL 111F speakers. They are $32,000/pair. We didn't ask for a review because everyone else on the planet want s to review themand they will undoubtedly be on every cover of magazine on the planet. We might be interested in their smallest speaker at around $12,000. MBL VP told us years ago the "everybody wants the big stuff". He didn't say why, but we pretty sure it's all about prestige for other publications. We don't care about prestige. Value. Quality.

The 111f's were playing in a very small room, accompanied by, oh, maybe close to $100,000 worth of MBL electronics, surely the most bling worthy components around. There's nothing wrong with bling for some people. For them, bling is one of their top priorities. And, so is the high price. Don't believe that? Here's a story we have heard many times from different companies that make value oriented products. It goes like this: "So a customer took our (fill in the blank) $10,000 speaker home. He said they blew away his $50,000 speakers. But when he asked how much ours were, he said, 'Oh...I can't buy these...they don't cost enough. I can't tell my friends I have $10,000 speakers! Don't you have something more expensive?"

The new 111F's sounded very much like every MBL speaker which is always a controversial sound. You either love it or hate it.


We're just getting started. More gear, more Products of the Year

and our Best of Show Awards still coming.

Go to page three.