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Impressions: Robinson on RMAF 2015, Part 1

10-21-2015 | By David W. Robinson | Issue 82


Damn! Unbelievable! Yet another trip to Denver done; another annual circuit in the Earth's orbit; the 12th RMAF is in the books. The only one of these that I've missed was the 2008 show, when I had just temporarily relocated to Virginia Beach, Virginia. Otherwise, I've seen them all, from the very beginning, when Al Stiefel was still gracing us with his presence. Since Al's passing, Marjorie Baumert has been carrying on in yeoman's fashion, working with the Colorado Audio Society to keep this event flying. And every year she's done a magnificent job of it.

So, what was this year's show like?

Well, for me fine audio is about friends, good times, and good music. Let's put people and place first, where they belong, and start there. And as a photographer, for me that means portraits wherever possible...

The people…the place…


Party time! Ye Olde Editor and Danny Kaey…he of many faces!...in a selfie moment…. (Don't ask.)

As usual, RMAF was a great audio party. I ran into lots of friends and audiobuds, did a pretty fair amount of eating, drinking, and even got in a cigar or two. (A tip o' the hat to Dave Clark and Scott Hull!) The Marriott Tech Center fire pit is a really good place to hang out, and the folks who came out with their bongs to share the space…marijuana being legal in the state of Colorado…were quite polite, asking we cigar smokers if we minded. No, fine with us, and congenial times followed, as various smokes arose. Peaceful coexistence, you see.


Bryan Gladstone, Positive Feedback's Advertising and Marketing Manager

Craziness with old audio friends is the order of the day at RMAF, very much in keeping with its reputation as an excellent party event, as well as a fine business show. For example:


Good audiobud Alan Kafton of audioexcellence az playing ketchup with the rest of us…a truly Dali-esque moment!


…or PF's Jeff Day photographing me photograph him in the Marriott Atrium…


…which looks like this just in case you've never been there.


Seeing Carol Clark at RMAF once again, and now recovered from a two-year fight with cancer, was a highlight of the show.


My long-time audio friend Arturo Manzano of Axiss Audio Distribution:  A portrait in the Atrium.


Toby Boydell of Blue Circle Audio:  A photographic moment….


Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds/Analogue Productions/SuperHirez, digging the moment!

Dinners were excellent. I got together with Bill Parish, Joe Kubala, Peter and Terry Breuninger, et al., for a great meal at Del Frisco's on Thursday night…great times, a superior table, and damn! Del Frisco's has steak and wine list to die for! Friday night Dave and Carol Clark and I went to Yaya's with Ted Denney III and Peter Hansen of Synergistic Research, along with Robert Stein of The Cable Company. A highly congenial lot…Ted is always wild and crazy; Robert is rather quiet and focused by contrast, while Peter is a man of many beers!


Robert Stein of The Cable Company and Ted Denny III of Synergistic Research

I rounded out on Saturday night with a quiet dinner at Garcia's with my old comrade-in-arms at PF, Lynn Olson, with his good friend Thom Mackris of Galibier Design. Great Mexican food, and discussions of the audio arts at a number of levels…much on SET's and turntables. Hard to beat this level of audio discourse.


Lynn Olson of Positive Feedback and Thom Mackris of Galibier Designs

Music, audio, business, food, wine, beer…all topics for conversation. A highly engaging set of nights.

Some brief thoughts on the show itself.

First of all, for some reason the sound in the rooms sounded generally better than I remember over the past several years. I don't know if some upgrading was done to the hotel's power system, or to the local power grid, but for whatever reason things seemed to be more musical and right this time around. Mysterious, that.


Second, CanJam was particularly good, and very busy this year. This time around, I spent time there upfront, instead of waiting until later in the show, when my schedule is usually getting eaten alive. It made a difference; by going early, I was able to spend some uncompressed time there, meeting friends, listening to the best of what was there, and lining up some future review projects.


Things were jammin' at CanJam throughout the three days of RMAF 2015…


Caleb Rosenau of Campfire Audio


Jonathan Scull at the Audeze display…the LCD-4's and The King reference headphone amp on display prominently! These are on my list for a future review ASAP.


Speaking of Audeze, I got to meet CEO of same, Sankar Thiagasamudram, while chatting with Jonathan Scull. A very good guy, and a fine company making great products. What's not to like?!


My good friend Jason Liao of Oppo Digital on the job at their CanJam space…new designs from Oppo are on the horizon!


Jimmy Moon and Owen Kwon of Astell & Kern were demonstrating the brilliant AK-380 portable player with its soon-to-be-released docking station and CD ripper. Outstanding! These are also on my list for a review ASAP.


James Bullinger manning the display at the Astell & Kern space:  A portrait in black and white.

Great booths included ALO Audio, Audeze, Campfire Audio, Oppo Digital, Kudos to the organizers of this section…personal fi was alive and doing extremely well!

Next, I'd mention that the Marketplace, featuring media companies like Acoustics Sounds, Elusive Disc, and Reference Recordings, among others, were doing their usual steady traffic. I saw a lot of LPs and SACDs going out the door while I was there…several times.

Finally, speaking of traffic, I've been asked by a handful of people how this year's RMAF attendance was compared to other years. Good question. In asking around, I got answers that ranged from "down noticeably" to "about the same" to "somewhat better than last year." Go figure. I reckon that nobody except Marjorie and company knows, and quite often shows are loath to share such numbers too quickly. Certainly I don't know for sure. So while I had a great time this year, my qualitative impressions can't address this quantitative question.

Coming next:  My Audio Oasis! Awards for RMAF 2015....