RMAF 2013…Ella Lives Pt. 1

Hello gentle reader,

The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest happened earlier this month…This year, I decided to take a different tack than in year’s past. At previous Rock Mountain shows, I’d rush around, attempting to “take in” the whole show. Then I’d rush to crank out coverage. Bah, I say! This year, I moseyed along the corridors of amplified power and am taking a  leisurely approach to coverage. Though I didn’t find a single room that killed it, there were quite a few bits and bobs that did…

Most of the fun for me this year was in CanJam, so I’ll start there: in no particular order, I talked with and enjoyed offerings from Woo, Philips, Fostex, Ultimate Ears, Cardas, MrSpeakers, ALO, Lake People, iriver, AURALiC, JH Audio, Sony and Aurisonics. Philips had some nice entry level products while Fostex was demming their new HP-A8C DSD-capable premium DAC, quite nice RP Planar prototype cans(≈$600) and a yet–to–be–released DAC+cans amp…Their HP-A4 handles up to 192k via USB, or AES. Plus, it supports 1x and 2x DSD. As with most of the USB DAC at CanJam, it’s bus–powered.

Kawahata-san of Fostex, with their new RP Planars & DAC

Kawahata-san of Fostex, with their new RP Planars & yet to hatch DAC

I finally got to hear Cardas’ in–ear critters; quality, dude.

Cardas’ in–ear Ear MIrror 5813

Cardas’ in–ear Ear Mirror 5813

I then spent some time with Dan Clark, head disciplinarian at MrSpeakers. His new Alpha Dogs employ Foster components in additively manufactured (aka “3D printed”) cups. The result is a fantastic closed design, especially when you consider the price, US$600.


Dan Clark of MrSpeakers

Dan Clark of MrSpeakers

I found ALO audio to also be significant in that they, like MrSpeakers, do all their manufacturing onshore. In the case of ALO, it’s in the beautiful town of Portland (OR). Their diminutive The Island, a balanced 192k–capable DAC+cans amp, looks so damn pur’dy.

Ken Ball & his The Island

Mæstro Ken Ball & his The Island

Along with all their new, full sized boxes, the Sony clan also had a small bit of groovy kit, the PHA-2 portable DAC, capable of 2x DSD! Plug in your laptop plus fave cans and go crazy…


Sony’s PHA-2 double speed DSD DAC

Sony’s PHA-2 2x DSD DAC

Crazy is as crazy does, and the kids at AURALiC are bonkers. They’ve created a new product category, the “headphone dock.” Specifically, their GEMINI Headphone Dock is a spendy 192k, 1x & 2x DSD and DXD–capable DAC + 1 or 2 Watt Class A cans amp, nestled into the base of a very schwingy headphone stand. Stuff in your music via SDXC cards…


AURALiC’s upcoming GEMINI headphone dock

AURALiC’s upcoming GEMINI headphone dock

By now, all the kidz have heard of iriver’s Astell&Kern player. At RMAF this year, they were showing a smashing DSD–capable version, which I may be driving around in a bit.


iriver’s new Astell&Kern player, now with DSD

iriver’s new Astell&Kern player, now with DSD!

I know the folks at Lake People indirectly from their pro audio gear, but was surprised to find them at CanJam. Fried Reim, major dude at Lake People, geeked with me regarding his Violectric line of DAC and cans amps. This is a nice range of solidly built gear, hopefully will be digging into their boxes this winter…

Another crossover manufacturer, Aurisonics, was also a newcomer at RMAF. Known in the pro world for their in–ear monitors for performers, I spent some time with product manager Andy Rowley and a prototype in–ear. Not there yet but very promising…looking forward to next year, man!

Last up for today is JH Audio, another purveyor of in–ear monitors for performance. They’re also know for their personal models. As with Aurisonics this year, last year Jerry was showing a promising but notchy pair of cans that, this year, are all grown up. They’ve blossomed into the Roxanne; with 12 drivers per ear (damn!), and an estimated price of US$1600, this bad grrrrl isn’t for light weights. Mighty sweet sounding though…

That’s all for this round, still have a ton of catching up so, watch this space for a link on to Part 2


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