Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2017 – Standout Systems that Turned Hotel Rooms into Listening Rooms, Part 2


I also enjoy the smaller Harbeth speakers, and the system in their room at this show was no exception. They were being driven by a Vinnie Rossi’s modular LIO “Super Integrated” amplifier costing a cool $13,995 as configured. I’ve got to get my hands on one of these as every room I’ve heard at the last three show with an L10 sounded great. It was driving the new Harbeth M30.2 40th Anniversary Edition loudspeakers at $6,495 a pair. The sound was what I’ve come to expect from the smaller Harbeths, rich, relaxed and very easy to listen to. I also liked the looks of the German, Ton Trager speaker stands at $1,395. They looked so good with the Harbeths and looked to support them very well

Of course, the LIO handled all of the digital playback and vinyl playback was from an Acoustic Signature Manfred Mk2 turntable and matching Acoustic Signature TA1000 tonearm for $4,999. This was one of the best systems for $25,000 at the show.

Xact Audio

Xact Audio’s room was sounding and looking good, Steve Dobbins himself was there spinning tunes for us on the new XX MagDrive turntable that cost $19,000. The tonearm was a Schröder Linear Tracker with the magnesium arm wand upgrade at a total of $12,500 for the arm. It was mounted with a Van Den Hul Grail SB cartridge moving-coil cartridge adding another $18,250. The Xact Audio #9 phono stage was $2,200 was connected to the CH Precision Electronics’ L1 line-level preamp at $34,500 and A1 amplifier for $37,000 that was driving a pair of Zu Definition MKIV loudspeakers costing $18,500. The cables were also from Van Den Hul and Echole while the equipment racks were from Stillpoints.

This was far and away the best I had ever heard a pair of Zu speakers sound. Though I should mention that on Friday morning when I was taking pictures they sounded very thin, and I almost didn’t go back to this room, but I’m glad that I did. The other thing I should mention is that until I looked at the show handout, I had no idea this system cost this much, but still on Sunday it sounded great.

Linear Tube Audio / Fern & Roby

I couldn’t wait to get to this room, so one of the first places I went on Saturday was the LTA and Fern & Roby room. I recently reviewed their incredible little 1-watt amp the MZ2-S and loved it. I also recently reviewed the speaker in the room, the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93s and loved them.

The two men who put together this system 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 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 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.

They were also showing their Montrose Heirloom Turntable with a solid bronze platter that weighs in at 35 pounds and sells for $8,500 with their uni-pivot arm. Mounted on it was a Schröder CB tonearm. that cost $12,500. On this setup, they were using a Soundsmith Sussuro – Low output – Moving Iron cartridge that sells for $4,999.99. It was matched to an F&R Maverick Phono preamplifier for $650. All of the cabling was from Black Cat Cables and power conditioning was from AudioQuest. The experience in this room was an extremely musical.

Bricasti Design

The Bricasti Design room was very striking to look at because of the beautiful blue grills on the Wilson Benesch A.C.T. One Evolution loudspeakers that are priced at $38,800 for a pair. For their size, these speakers really disappeared and had excellent clarity that was well controlled but not the one-note bass that plagued many rooms at the show. The system allowed me to hear the layering of the music as well as any digital system at the show.

The speakers were driven by a pair of Bricasti M28 monoblock amplifiers that go for $30,000. It was paired with their M12 dual mono source controller for $16,000 with a network player. The DAC was their M1 Limited Edition DAC at $15,000.  Yes, this is a pricy system, but it all fit nicely into a small hotel room and still sounded fantastic!


AVM was celebrating their 30th anniversary with some great commemorative products. You probably know that this company’s headquarters are in Germany. It was great to see and visit with Peder Bäckman, their international sales director. As good as these AVM products are, I wish him the best tying to find a place in the US market. I was excited to hear that he has worked out a distribution agreement with Music Direct.

AVM was showing some of their less expensive products like the new A30 110Wpc class-A/AB integrated amplifier for $2,995. They matched it with a Mobile Fidelity UltraDeck + turntable with the UltraTracker MM cartridge that sells for $1,999. The speakers were the  Wharfedale Reva 3 speakers for $1,499 a pair. The cabling was AudioQuest Niagara 5000. Congratulations, Peder for putting together what was one of the most musical-sounding system for the money at the show.

The rest of the 30th anniversary equipment on display was:

  • AVM30 PA30 Preamplifier, with phono input, digital inputs and Bluetooth $1,995
  • AVM30 MA30 Mono Block Amplifiers Class A / AB with 225 watts $3,795 a pair
  • AVM30 MP30 Media Player with HiFi Streaming, CD Player and DAC (incl. DSD64) $2,895
  • AVM30 CD30 CD Player and DAC (incl. DSD64) $2,195
  • AVM30 CS30 All-in-One HiFi Streaming CD Receiver with 2 x 125 W $3,795.99
  • AVM30 P30 Phono Section, Separate inputs for MM, MC and plug-in Phono Load adaptors $999

Previous: Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2017 – Standout Systems that Turned Hotel Rooms into Listening Rooms, Part 1
Next: Presenting the Beatnik Bongos Awards for RMAF 2017, Part 1

2 thoughts on “Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2017 – Standout Systems that Turned Hotel Rooms into Listening Rooms, Part 2”

  1. Good evening Jack I agree with your assessment of the Harbeth room it was really quite wonderful! There were so many rooms that sounded absolutely mediocre at RMAF. A group of us at RMAS went around to 6 hyped speaker rooms and for the most part we were driven out of the rooms . Very few rooms we visited drew us into the music. Thank you for all the work you do and I still love the sound of the pass 30.8 with my reference 3a Be Decapos. After hearing many speakers at RMAF I have decided to go ahead and purchase a pair of the Harbeths. I am not sure if I am just getting old but all the new hyped speakers at RMAF did not sound very good even when driven by supposedly ground breaking LTA amplifiers

    Best Always


    PS I wish I could have met you at RMAF

    1. Thank you for your comment! I hope you really enjoy your Harbeths. They are great speakers. And, I wish I could have met you at RMAF as well. We might have to think about an Audio Beatnik meetup at RMAF next year.

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