The 2019 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest kicked off with a press day on Thursday, September 6, and three days of general admission to follow. I was able to fly up from Los Angeles for only a very abbreviated, roughly six-hour visit, but I was able to see several notable product launches -- although I know I missed a couple of them, too.
The 2019 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest took place from September 5 to 8 this year in its new home at the colossal Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, near Denver International Airport. For the last several years, there has been a CanJam headphone show held as part of RMAF, but CanJam pulled out this year. Still, the HeadSpace section of RMAF held a large variety of headphone companies -- not as many as the CanJam/RMAF did, but still quite respectable, and I found plenty to write about in the large, quiet ballroom that hosted HeadSpace.
In June of this year, I attended an interesting product pre-launch event at a unique venue. Let’s take the product first.
On the evening of August 20, 2019, I attended an event at Georgia Home Theater in Marietta, Georgia, at which MartinLogan previewed seven new loudspeakers in its Motion series. The revamped Motion series includes two stand-mount models, three floorstanders, and two center-channel speakers.
Audio retailer Larry Borden (Distinctive Stereo in River Vale, New Jersey) and I recently paid a visit to Ralph Glasgal at his large, ultra-modern New Jersey home. Ralph, the inventor of three-dimensional (3D) imaging digital signal processing technology Ambiophonics and founder of the Ambiophonics Institute, is generally not known for aiming low. In fact, he hopes that Ambiophonics will succeed the stereo and 5.1 surround-sound formats. Before proceeding, though, I should address Ralph’s interesting background.
I’ve been to a couple of dealer events over the years, and they’re all pretty similar. There are free snacks and usually alcohol. Two or three rooms might be set up for group listening, with a couple of talking heads -- sales guys or someone of note from the manufacturer -- giving a brief spiel, before talking through several pieces of well-trodden jazz music. Questions are encouraged, with brief answers the norm.
Here’s the last installment of my coverage of the CanJam SoCal 2019 headphone show, which occupied a large ballroom at the Irvine Marriott in Irvine, California, just south of Los Angeles. Although the show featured lots of new headphones and headphone amps, most of the action was in earphones -- and we’re talking high-end, exotic earphones, not the stuff you find at Best Buy. Here’s the second batch of cool earphones I found at CanJam SoCal 2019, presented in alphabetical order with all prices in USD.
CanJam SoCal 2019, which ran June 22 and 23 at the Irvine Marriott in Irvine, California, featured not only lots of headphones and earphones, but also a whole bunch of new amplifiers -- as well as the debut of a couple of surprising and stunning new audio electronics we didn’t expect. Here’s what we saw and heard, with all prices in USD.
Here’s the second part of my coverage of CanJam SoCal 2019, a headphone show that took place June 22 to 23 at the Irvine Marriott, in Irvine, California, just south of Los Angeles. This time we’ll focus on headphones, with all prices in USD.
CanJam is a series of headphone-focused shows that take place several times a year, in locales as diverse as London, Shanghai, New York City, and Irvine, California -- essentially a vast business park that sits anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours south of Los Angeles, depending on traffic. This year’s CanJam SoCal took place at the Irvine Marriott, just south of John Wayne Airport. Like every CanJam SoCal of the past few years, it was packed with headphone enthusiasts hoping to get a listen to the latest and greatest cans.
The last installment of our High End 2019 coverage focuses on power conditioners, speaker cables, connectors, and accessories -- the things that can help jazz-up a hi-fi system and bring out its best. All prices are in euros (€) or US dollars ($).
Streaming is becoming the default source of music for more and more people. In 2018, streaming accounted for 75% of music-industry revenues in the US, and 46.9% globally. This trend was apparent in many of the new products launched at High End -- all-in-one wireless streaming speakers, amps, and DACs with streaming capability, and active speakers with built-in amplification. All prices are in euros (€) or US dollars ($).
These days, many audiophiles prefer to hide away their electronics where no one can see them. Either that, or they want those huge enclosures out front and center as talking points when someone enters the room. A company from the Netherlands presented another option . . .
When Jason Thorpe can’t make it to a hi-fi show, we sorely miss him -- he just won’t stop until he uncovers every last new turntable and phono-related product at every show he attends. Jason, unfortunately, wasn’t at High End, so it was up to me to look for new and interesting products for analog playback. Here’s what I found, with all prices in euros (€) or US dollars ($).
This year’s High End show had plenty of introductions of reasonably priced electronic components, even though I would say that many of them were network-streaming products. And even those that were not, like integrated amplifiers, preamplifiers, and DACs, often had streaming capabilities built into them. So, while my colleague Gordon Brockhouse, of SoundStage! Simplifi, concentrated his efforts on streaming-type products, I found a few more intriguing electronic component introductions from High End 2019 that were not mostly streaming-based. All prices are in euros (€) or US dollars ($).
At High End 2019, it seems you can’t walk more than a few meters before you trip over a new loudspeaker. Although there were innumerable new models to see this year, there were a few that really caught my eyes . . . and ears. All prices are in euros (€) or US dollars ($).
When I first heard that two of Miles Davis’s classic albums, Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain, were being remixed in Dolby Atmos, I feared the worst. As I headed into the packed demonstration room to listen to the remixes of these great albums, I had thoughts of Davis, Coltrane, Adderley, and others bouncing around above my head.
Speakers, speakers everywhere! We experienced the wildest, most-ambitious design at the show, and a high-end stalwart introduced more affordable models. And, oh, a Danish brand demonstrated its best loudspeaker yet . . .
About a week before I got on a plane to Munich, Doug Schneider asked me if I’d like to cover headphones and related products at the show. Absolutely -- a big chunk of my listening is done through ’phones, so I’m really interested in the category.
Big, impressive speakers are always a highlight at High End, and the 2019 event was certainly no exception. Speakers I saw came in lots of configurations, sizes, and at every price point imaginable. Multi-way dynamic speakers seemed more common than any other type, though an array of horn-type models were also plentiful. Let’s start with the former . . .
Even though the audio show held in Munich each spring is called “High End,” it still offers frugal audiophiles like me plenty to see and hear. High End 2019 didn’t feature a lot of gear at mass-market prices, but it did include many excellent new products that provide high value for their cost. Here are a few of the electronic components that caught my eye for providing interesting features at relatively reasonable prices. All prices are in euros (€) or US dollars ($).
In the online hi-fi world, I noticed a new and welcome trend. Instead of companies waiting until High End actually starts to announce new products that would be shown there, as most did in previous years, many companies announced them days or even weeks in advance to start getting word out. They either e-mailed the information out to group lists or posted it on social media (usually Facebook) as a story or a link to their website. Since I’m online almost all the time, these early releases helped me get my initial coverage up more quickly. Here’s the first batch of hi-fi electronics, with all prices in euros (€) or US dollars ($).
Munich’s High End is mostly about serious high-end audio, but this year’s edition also had a lot of fodder for my primary beat, “convenient, lifestyle-oriented hi-fi,” to quote the blurb for SoundStage! Simplifi on our network portal. On the first day, I came across more Simplifi’d audio products than I can cover in a single report, and there are many halls that I haven’t yet visited, so check back for further updates. All prices are in euros (€) or US dollars ($).
Munich’s High End still reigns supreme as the world’s largest and most important hi-fi show, which is why we love it. One problem its size poses, however, is that it’s next to impossible for our team to cover every product presented during the show’s four-day run. I doubt we’ll achieve 100% coverage of the show this year, either -- but that doesn’t mean we can’t do better than in the past.
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