Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2012



James & Linda Darby, Dr. John Richardson

Brian Boehler, Mike Galusha

News from the show

McIntosh has been sold!

J.P. Lizars, President of Sumiko Distributing who imports such brands names as

Sonus Faber, REL, WADIA, SME and Pro-ject, tells Stereomojo owner James Darby that Sumiko will be the distributor of the classic McIntosh line of products since it has been sold to Fine Sounds SpA of Milan, Italy, which also owns Sumiko.

Sumiko is one of the premiere, top of the class outfits in high-end audio. We're hoping JP and Sumiko can give the venerable company the notice it deserves.


Harry Pearson leaves The Absolute Sound

After 40 years,Harry leaves the pioneering magazine he founded. It's been no secret that he was not happy with his diminished role at TAS since he was unceremoniously ousted as the publisher and editor several years ago.

He is starting his own webzine named HPSoundings. In a statement from a circular distributed at the show he says, "We shall bring back the idealisms, integrity and love of the music that prompted me to found 'The Absolue Sound' years ago". He adds,it will be "beholden to no one save its readers".

To us, this strongly implicates a lack of integrity and being "beholden" to advertisers that plagues not only TAS, but virtually every other high-end audio publication,

something we have been saying from day one.

That is the reason Stereomojo was founded 8 years ago. We are not and never have been beholden to anyone but our readers. Virtually everything about us has been built on feedback from our readers. It's the only way to publish an honest, truly independent publication.

We hope Harry finds his true voice once again and we wish him nothing but happiness and success.




Two years ago we were first to review the massive Legacy Whisper XD, a speaker that both surprised and amazed us. New at this show was the speaker we were told performs closely to the XD but is smaller and less costly. It's a 4-way technology powerhouse dubbed the Aries featuring an all new driver complement, with an ICEpower® bass section and digital room correction, just like the XD. We have been promised the first review of this exciting new speaker.

The system is the first to use the new dual Air Motion tweeter (an advanced AMT design) with high power handling and high efficiency, a titanium encrusted 8” midrange with an enormous motor structure imported from Italy.

Stereomojo Publisher James Darby & the Legacy Aries


The bottom end is highlighted by a 10” midbass and dual 12” subwoofers with a linear volume displacement of nearly 200 cubic inches. The bass section is powered by 750 watts of ICEpower® amplification and offers exceptional extension to 16Hz . The included 24 bit DSP includes balanced and unbalanced analog inputs and outputs, level control, and both SPDIF, coaxial, and USB inputs. Yes, a speaker with digital inputs! The design employs a 2.25” thick baffle with 2” side walls. The upper portion of the speaker cabinet is open air dipole, again like the Whispers. Frequency Range: 16-30kHz Sensitivity: 95 dB (@2.83 volts/1m), very similar to the XD!

We will be the first to receive the new Aries for the first review. They were easily one of the best souding speakers at the show. We're excited!


Designed and made in Austria and distributed by top importer Charlie Harrison, Ayon is one of the world's premiere tube amp makers.

They've been very busy, rolling out a whopping 14 new products over the next few months.

This is the new Spirit III, updated version of the Spirit II


And this is the new Version III of the $12,500 mighty Triton integrated, coming in for review

as soon as they have one that's not already sold.

Full-featured pure class-A tube (KT88) stereo integrated amp or pure power amplifier
Switchable between pentode (100 wpc) and triode mode (60wpc).


Ayon's new S 3 tubed Music server $8,500 is on our list of upcoming reviews.

Conversion rate
192kHz / 24 bit
Tube complement 6H30
Dynamic range > 118dB
Channel separation >105dB 20 Hz to 20 kHz
Output level @1 kHz  / 0,775V -0dB /RCA
2V fixed or 0 – 2V rms variable
Digital ouput 75 Ω  S/PDIF (RCA)

Digital inputs
75 Ω  S/PDIF (RCA & up to 24/192kHz),
TosLink (up to 24/192kHz)
110 Ω  AES/EBU (up to 24/192kHz)
75 Ω  BNC  (up to 24/192kHz)
I2S (up to 24/192kHz)

Front ANd rear mounted USB type ‘A’ socket for USB “pen”/hard disk drive
Network inputs
RP-SMA plug Wifi Aerial input (“wireless” network connection) 802.11b/g
 UTP RJ45 10/100Mbps socket (“wired” network connection)
S/N ratio> 110 dB
Frequency response
 10Hz – 50kHz  +/- 0.3dB
Total harmonic distortion @ 1kHz
< 0.002%
Remote control
Analog – Line Inputs & output
2 pair RCA and 1 pair RCA out
Analog – Main outputs
1 pair / RCA & 1 pair / XLR
Dimension (Wide x Deep – incl. terminals x High – incl. feet) cm
48 x 39 x 12 cm
Weight, unit only
12 kg



Charlie also distributes the made-in-Germany AVM line. We reviewed their all-in-one C8 and were very impressed with this company

that is well known in Europe but just breaking in here in the US.

Top left is the AVM A5-2T, integrated amp with tube preamp stage. A whopping 350 wpc

for just $4,900.

Top right is the AVM 5.2 tubed CD player for $4,850.The CD5.2 offers connectivity in plenty: 2 x USB (1 x 192/24 asynchronous, 1 x 48/24), 2 x SPDIF coaxial, 2 x SPDIF opt. and one AES EBU digital input. The XLR- and cinch outputs use different drivers and may be operated simultaneous. Each channel sparks two DACs operated in balanced mono mode. This way the SNR is optimized to the theoretical maximum. The upsampling allows switching the output samplerate between 44.1 and 192 kHz and simultaneous allows the choice between two digital filter characteristics (sharp or smooth). With the upsampling circuit the master tact is regenerated completely and jitter is kept away from the DACs. The PureCD mechanism is spring mounted and completely capsuled.


Lower left, the CD3.2 CD player offers a large variety of connectivity and control options: USB DAC input (without external driver installation) and six digital inputs in all possible shapes (AES EBU, coaxial, optical). The RS232-control and the port for an external IR-sensor allow the operation in custom installation environments. The XLR- and cinch outputs spark separate driver stages and may be operated simultaneously. Cutting edge technology is applied when digital signals are being processed in the CD3.2. Both channels offer separate DA converter chips, operated in double mono configuration. This results in optimized signal to noise ratios and eliminates distortions almost completely. The upsampling circuitry allows an individual adjustment of filter characteristics and sampling rate alike. By using upsampling technology the master tact for the digital signal is generated internally and makes the signal processing independent from the master tact stored on the CD, possible jitter originating from the CD is eliminated in this way. The PureCD drive with the slot-in loader is shielded against acoustical influences and rests in a suspended mounting, which protects the CD drive against footfall.

Lower right is the is the AVM PA3.2, very versatile preamplifier in a very cool black chrome: 5 line inputs, a front input and 3 slots for the optional plug-in modules connect it to any source. Poweramps can be connected via RCA Cinch or XLR alike. Active subwoofer may connect to the processor in/out. Menu functions allow an individual configuration of the PA3.2 according to your personal likings (input names, sensitivity etc.)


The new Legacy Aries were being powered by the AVM MA3.2 mono power amps with 420 watts each of class D power

There was a lot more Class D amplification at the show as it seems to be coming of age, loosing its previous stigma

of being unmusical and sterile. This technology is improving rapidly.



Bobby Palkovic of Merlin Audio displayed his updated VSM MXM speakers which we reviewed last month, driven by the

Ars-Sonum Gran Filarmonia integrated tube amp (lower shelf), a hand made 60 wpc model with three inputs plus monitor and tape outputs. It now includes a Cardas Clear power cable. It is already in house under review.



We were also to first review the Vaughn Cabernet speaker (see a trend here?) that became a reference speaker for our publisher. Now there's a new version. The Cabernet II is the new top of the line speaker, 100 DB efficient with 8 ohm impedence features, 17 active & 2 passive drivers per cabinet. There are 8 drivers in the fron and 8 in back! Big dynamic sound with the resolution and finesse of a smaller system in a surprisingly compact enclosure.



The back is as impressive as the front! We will also be the first to review these new puppies.

The Vaughns were driven by Gordon Rankin’s  top-end dual chassis Crimson USB DAC.  Also on static display were the Cosecant, Brick, and Proton, all USB DACs, as well as the Wavelink HS 24/192 USB to SP/DIF converter.  Prices range from $900 for the Proton up to just shy of $10,000 for the fully tweaked Crimson DAC.  Gordon is working on developing a new tube-based headphone amp, a class-T power amp with built-in DAC, and a single box AD/DA unit with balanced analog outputs.  I’m looking forward to checking all of these new beasts out... If they’re as good as Gordon’s other stuff, they’ll be worth the wait.




Here's some big news. Jim Salk, well known in the audiophile speaker industry for his custom made, great sounding models, has acquired the rights to the late Bud Fried name and designs and will be producing them under the Bud Fried name.

The first product, the Bud Fried Tower, is a slim, floorstanding loudspeaker, incorporating a transmission line design for extended yet controlled bass. The three drivers are arranged vertically in an MTM configuration, with a 20 mm, ferrofluid–cooled Hiquphon OW2F tweeter and two 7" Peerless Exclusive midrange/bass drivers. The dual mid/woofer MTM design is easy to drive, and offers better power handling than a single low frequency speaker. The enclosure is a mass–loaded, quarter wave transmission line, yielding extended bass response for a given diameter. The 45" tall tower has a 8.5" face and 14" depth, making it easy to place, with a family friendly footprint.

Jim Salk, the engineer who brought the Bud Fried–inspired yet modern model to life, aimed this product squarely at the audio enthusiast on a real world budget. “We’re known for our excellent value and, for me, value is really about musicality. You shouldn’t have to spend megabucks to derive true enjoyment from your system,” he said. When asked about the technical specifics behind the leading entry from the new Bud Fried stable, Salk replied that “Bud Fried’s philosophy of transmission line enclosures and low order series crossovers has motivated this design from the start. Our approach was to remain as true as possible to Bud’s philosophies, but to utilize current design tools, techniques, and driver technologies to prudently update those principles where improved performance would result.”

We're on the list for first review of this one, too.

Arion Audio

HS500 - $5,995 

This is so new it doesn't even have switch labelling yet.

Integrated hybrid class D

500 watts into 8 ohms -  1000 watts into 1000 ohms


Over Current Protection

Short circuit Protection

JPS Labs Hookup Wire Proprietary Hookup Wire at Inputs

Cardas Gold Over Solid Copper 5 Way Binding Posts

Gold Over Solid Copper RCA and XLR Inputs

Machined Billet Aluminum Case (0.25 Inch Thick 6061-T6)
Machined Billet Aluminum Faceplate (0.375 Inch Thick 6061-T6)

High Quality Fasteners Used Throughout

Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20KHz Input Impedance : 200K Ohms Damping Factor : 900 Ref @ 8 Ohms Nominal Maximum Output Current : 35 Amps
Tube : 6N6P (6H30 Optional) Dimensions : 9.75 in W x 4.75 in H x 14 in D

Arion also has the LS200 true dual mono preamp for $2,995


Music Hall showed their new Marimba bookshelf loudspeaker ($349/pr) and Creek EVO 50A ($1,000-$1,200 tba), both firmly in our famous and beloved Cheap Bastard category. in fact, they featured a whole system you see in the picture for under $3,500 based on these two with a ready-to-play-turntable and DAC included.





Pure Vinyl 3.1, to be released on October 23, represents a significant update including performance and usability enhancements including new easy to use Jog and Insert Track controls for editing and splitting LP recordings into individual tracks.

Pure Music 1.9, included with Pure Vinyl or available as a stand-alone product, is slated for release on October 30 and includes over two dozen performance enhancements and new features, including automatic “Playthrough” mode activation for playing Internet radio or DRM protected tracks; playback directly from CD disks without ripping; improved support for room correction plug- ins, improved handling of FLAC and DSD files, and much more.

The Pure Vinyl 3.1 and Pure Music 1.9 updates will be free for all users.

Pure Vinyl includes an innovative feature using virtual iTunes "Bookmark Tracks" for creating playlists of tracks from LP recordings, without needing to waste storage space on individual music track files (the Bookmarks simply point to locations in the original high resolution recording).

Also included are the “Noise Gate” stylus drop detection with automatic record and pause; standard RIAA compensation plus over 60 antique (pre-RIAA) built-in (and customizable) compensation curves; adjustable low-cut rumble filter; a virtual line-level source selector (acts as a multi-input preamplifier); and of course the unique, innovative (patented) and fun “grab and spin” vinyl track editor that features realistic “vinyl” cue guide images which are generated from the audio to aid in cueing, track selection and editing, and more.

High resolution (192 kHz 24 bit) recordings made from vinyl also can be converted to iPod or CD compatible portable formats by using the built-in high performance ultra high quality sample rate conversion feature.


They also introduced their new Seta Plus Phono Preamplifer and Seta DAC Buffer. The new Seta Plus Phono Preamplifier represents the continued evolution of Channel D’s ground-breaking ultra wide bandwidth Seta “flat” phono preamplifier. The Seta Plus includes an updated, ultra low impedance, low noise rechargeable internal AGM battery power supply based on the original Seta phono preamplifier design, delivering superb transparency, detail and three-dimensionality for vinyl playback, a key benefit of the Seta’s ultra wide bandwidth battery powered design. An optional high quality headphone output is available.

The new Seta DAC Buffer solves a critical problem with today’s Computer Audio that occurs when driving power amplifiers directly with the output of a DAC: setting the proper system gain structure. The Seta DAC Buffer provides a sonically transparent, analog way of adjusting the attenuation of any DAC’s output (in 6 dB steps from -6 to -30 dB), permitting using the DAC or computer playback software’s digital volume control in its optimum sweet spot (-10 to 0 dBFS).

According to them, unlike passive signal attenuators which would be used for a similar purpose, the high (2 megohm) input impedance of the DAC Buffer insures that electronic loading of the DAC’s output is kept to a minimum, while providing a sonically transparent, ultra wide bandwidth (DC - 12 MHz, -3 dB) and low (20 ohms) output impedance for driving any power amplifier load or long interconnect run without adding noise or distortion. The net effect is one of stunningly deeper, more well controlled bass with greater impact plus lower listening fatigue and improved ease of presentation over the entire audio frequency range.

Lynx A to D and D to A Converter

Of equal interest to me was the new Lynx Hilo converter.  This unit does both A/D and D/A conversion, and would be an ideal choice for a high end computer DAC and/or A/D converter for those of us who like to convert vinyl to digital.  I particularly liked its touch screen interface and cool looking VU meters.  The sound was excellent (including the ability to process native DSD files), and I’ll be talking with Mr. Moon about arranging a review.  Look for it here first, folks!  Retail pricing looks to be around $2500, so given its capabilities, digital and analog routing options, and user interface, this guy could turn out to be a real audiophile bargain.






Our friend Danny Richie showed the new speakers he is building for new company

Serenity Acoustics called "Super 7". At $20,000, the 7 is in the middle of the line. It uses four large planr magnetic mid-bass panels and a planar magnetic tweeter in an open air baffle. The bottom end is a pair of 12" servo woofers with their own amps, making it easier to drive the 8 Ohm, 96db sensitive planars. Driven, of course, by Gary Dodd's new battery powered EL34 monoblock tube amplifiers ($2600 per pair respectivel) and a $900 Dodd battery powered preamp.

The problem has always been matching planars with conventional cone drivers because of the big textural and speed differences. When we asked Danny how he did it, he said, "It's the servos, man. It's the only way to get the speed!"




Some audio systems sound like X-rays of the music, very detailed and finely edged. Others like very fine photographs or high-def movies of a performance.

In this room with Nola's new KO speakers with their spacious, unfettered, boxless, open baffle soundstage, sounded as close to a real, live performance as we heard at the show.

Driven by ARC amps and a small fortune in Nordost Odin cable, this was one room we didn't want to leave. Another Carl Marchisotto masterpiece. These simply smoked many other speakers we heard well over the KO's $9,800 asking price.


Not a bad start. Got more?

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