Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2016 TABlog
ngoing renovations to the Denver Marriott Tech Center, leaving one wing of the hotel closed off until at least December, forced the move of the ever-expanding CamJam section of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest into a giant tent erected outside the hotel.
In the days leading up to the shows opening on Friday, Jude Mansilla, head of Head-Fi and CamJam, overcame numerous logistical obstacles and installed the registered headphone exhibitors in two long columns of tables, filled to almost overflowing with all the well-known names in the headphone world and lots of relative newcomers. The number of new-product launches in the CamJam tent was overwhelming, requiring a winnowing of ones attention, lest the entire three days be spent in a tent. Highlights included some very interesting new headphones and amplifiers.
Sonoma Acoustics is composed of a group of engineers who developed the Sonoma DSD recording and editing system to record high-resolution material for SACD. They maintained the Sonoma name for their new project: the Model One headphone system ($4995), consisting of electrostatic headphones and a class-A amplifier, sold as a unit. Sonoma was showing a final production version of the system, slated to launch in November. The headphones use what Sonoma has patented as High-Precision Electronic Laminate (HPEL), magnesium ear cups and Cabretta sheep's leather. The amplifier is based on a 32-bit ESS Sabre Reference DAC. Under noisy show conditions, the feather-light headphones were as comfortable as anything on the market and sounded superb.
Ultrasone was showing several new headphone models, all handmade in Germany, including the $2199 Edition 8 Carbon, the $2999 limited-edition (above, 777 units) Tribute 7 and . . .
. . . two versions of its more affordable line, Edition M. The on-ear version (left) is priced at $899 and the over-ear version at $1149, with the black-pearl finish shown here.
Cavalli Audio was featuring its latest product, the Liquid Spark ($499), a fully discrete portable amplifier. With loads of power and a long-lasting battery, the Liquid Spark promises to drive any load and hold its charge throughout the day. Its unique space-age look is a little unCavalli-like, but it should spark plenty of attention.
Speaking of attention, nothing in the headphone tent could outdo the HiFiMAN Shangri-La electrostatic headphones and amplifier. Shown at CES in an earlier version, the system on display in Denver was claimed to be a final production model. The headphones look much like HE-1000s, except for the grid opening onto the electrostatic diaphragms, with claimed frequency response of 7Hz to 50kHz and weighing in at a very light 13.2 ounces. The imposing amplifier will demand a lot of space, with its aircraft-carrier-like design.
Shown here dwarfed by ten-time NBA all-star David Robinson, who was discussing the finer points of the amplifier with HiFiMAN's Dr. Fang Bian, the system sounded as good as any headphone-amplifier pairing has a right to sound. Although the Shangri-La system to slated to be released soon, the price has not been decided. Lets assume you may need an NBA salary to afford this beauty.
© The Audio Beat Nothing on this site may be reprinted or reused without permission.