Presenting the Beatnik Bongos Awards for RMAF 2017, Part 3

This post is the final installment of our winners’ list for the Rocky Mountain Audio Show 2017. There were way too many systems that deserved recognition than I could possibly cover. We thank you for your feedback on our show reports. I enjoy giving you my opinions, and I encourage you to remember that my reviews are simply that, my opinions.

Salk Sound / Schiit Audio – Best System Under $10,000

The Salk/Schiit system started with a Salk Streamplayer Gen III-SE prototype for $2,495. It was the source feeding a Schiit Gungnir Multi-Bit DAC at $1,249. The preamp was the new Schiit Freya at $699 connected to a pair of  Schiit Vidar monoblock amplifiers at $1,398. So, the total cost for this system is $9,536.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect the quality of sound that I heard from this system. I could not believe that such a relaxed and listenable sound came from an all digital and all transistor system. This was very simply a system that made listening to recorded music fun.

ELAC / Peachtree Audio / VPI Industries – Best System Under $5,000

The Entry Level $2,500 Room at the RMAF was, in fact, the best system that I heard for under $5,000.  it was shockingly good and built around the incredible ELAC Debut B6 loudspeakers at a mere $269 a pair! At this price, they could be driven by Peachtree Audio’s Decco125 SKY integrated amp that cost $1,199, and yes, the ELACs are good enough for this pairing. The source was a VPI Cliffwood turntable that included a VPI cartridge for $895.

This system was true hi-fi to my ears. It was rich with great micro-dynamics. It also had enough detail and transparency to sound almost like a high-end system.

Vanatoo / Polk Audio / Pioneer  – Best System Under $1,000

Yes, there was a room with a $1,000 system that did more audiophile tricks, but there is something extremely musical about the big tone of these powered Vanatoo Transparent Zero speakers at $359 a pair. I reviewed, loved and purchased these speakers, and we are giving away a pair on our site this month. They are a great choice for any beginning system, and they were paired with the $120 Pioneer PL-990 turntable with built-in phono stage and a $110 Polk PSW10 subwoofer.

I encourage you to read my review of these speakers to learn more about how special they sound. The system put together for this room had a surprisingly open soundstage, which helped it sound more like an audiophile system. What I loved most about this system was the big, smooth and vibrant tones it could produce, even from the digital source of the speaker’s built-in DAC. By the way, the digital-only system comes in under the $500 price point even with the subwoofer.

DeVore Fidelity Gibbon Super Nine Speaker – Best Product Debut at RMAF 2017

John DeVore’s newest primate design is the Gibbon Super Nine. The Super Nine’s price is technically to be announced, but the estimated $10, 800 seems pretty specific for an estimate. It is a compact, 2.5-way floor-stander. The sound of the Super Nine was the best that I have ever heard from a pair of non-Orangutan DeVore speakers. The new Super Nine plays music in an emotionally involving way that reminded me more of the Orangutan O/96s than of the DeVore X speakers. It was a sound that I would describe as steady and dynamic; fast and full with beautiful, colorful musical tones and a sound that was startlingly life-like.

Congratulations, John, I hope you sell a ton of these beautiful little speakers!

Previous: Presenting the Beatnik Bongos Awards for RMAF 2017, Part 2

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