With the number of exhibitors at a show the size of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, the fairest way to pick winners seems to be by price point. Like any reviewer, my personal taste enters into the equation as well. Here are four more winners that made my cut.
Best System Under $150,000 – Joseph Audio Room
I was so happy to walk into the Joseph Audio room and discover that Joseph Audio was showing their Pearl 3 speakers. The Pearl has been one of my favorite speakers for many years. The Joseph Audio’s Pearl 3s cost $31,500, which is in no way cheap, but when you compare the sound to speakers that cost over five times as much, they seem like a bargain. So I was very excited to hear the latest Joseph Audio Pearl 3 speakers. They were paired with Doshi Audio’s V3 monoblock amplifiers at $34,999 per pair, a V3 line stage at $16,995, a V3 phono stage at $16,995, and a Studio Series tape playback preamplifier at $16,999.
Best System Under $100,000 – DeVore Fidelity / Tone Imports Room
In the DeVore Fidelity / Tone Imports Room, they were debuting their Gibbon Super Nine speakers at the price of $10,800 a pair. Two years ago at this same show, they debuted the Gibbon X which cost $15,890. So now we have the Super Nines at $5,090 less. They were driven by a Sugden Masterclass LA-4 line preamplifier at $3,750 and a 40Wpc class-A Sugden Sapphire FBA800 amplifier at $7,500. The source was the SPEC turntable at $25,000 USD paired with an EMT 997 tonearm at $5,000. When I was listening, it was using an EMT JSD6 cartridge. The sound was everything and more than what we have come to expect from these brands.
Best System Under $50,000 – Linear Tube Audio / Fern & Roby Room
The two men who put this system together were Mark Schneider of Linear Tube Audio and Christopher Hildebrand of Fern & Roby. They chose the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 loudspeakers that cost $8,500 per pair to showcase their equipment. They were driving them with the new ZOTL10 Mk.II power amp that sells for $3,200, and they were using the MZ2-S as their preamp; it sells for $2,100. The sources in the system were from Fern & Roby.
They were also using a Montrose Turntable with an On-board Maverick phono preamplifier with their uni-pivot tonearm for $5,450. The table was set on their own Isolation feet for $160, and they were using the F&R LP weight for $110. The cartridge was the Soundsmith Paua Low output, Moving Iron cartridge that sells for $3,999.95. All of the cabling was from Black Cat Cables and power conditioning was from AudioQuest.
Best System Under $25,000 – ELAC
The ELAC system consisted of the Adante AF61 is $4,998.99 per pair. What you can see in the picture above are three 8-inch passive radiators sitting in a machined aluminum fascia. The “active” woofers are mounted behind the radiators. The bass was deep and controlled and the midrange was very transparent with excellent imaging and wonderful musical flow. They were powered by the excellent electronics from what is now called the Alchemy Series by ELAC. The price of the monoblocks and digital gear comes to a little over $5,000, but this was an incredible system at any price. Becky and I listened to this one together, and we both agreed that it was one of the best sounds we had heard at the show.