Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2019: Show Opener

As my ride to the airport pulled up to the house it slowly became apparent that the car was a well maintained Model 3. A nice win for a basic UberX, but as I peeked into the passenger side window I noticed that the camera ready driver was oddly dressed in white linen from head to toe. Still, within the boundaries of Los Angeles pretty much anything qualifies as work appropriate wear. What was really curious was his choice of music. The single song playing on his car stereo ended up encapsulating the entire 25 minute trip to the airport. As we both drove around and ‘round the roughly eight-bar repeating melody that proceeded managed to drill itself into my head like a bright yellow power tool. When we finally made sight of the airport there was already a strange hope rising in my chest that this opening sequence to my RMAF 2019 wouldn’t turn into a metaphor for the barrage of audiophile favorites that would follow in the next four days. Spoiler: The show was awesome and I was lucky enough to get some solid demo songs, both new and old.

Aside from the usual show conversation pieces, Rocky Mountain Audio Fest was proceeding in Denver as planned. The new location at the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center turned out to be much closer to the airport than the previous Denver Tech Center, a welcome change from the near 45-minute ride of previous years. The new digs also included a much larger overall space, sprawling across multiple convention-type halls and ballrooms of assorted sizes. By the end of the Thursday media day, it was clear that it would take no effort to reach 10,000 steps in your Fitbit.

The impact to the show was really twofold: There was plenty of leg space to make your way around to the 70-ish rooms, but the RMAF-organized “head space” and market area were located more than a stone's throw away from the main demo tower. Between show coverage and podcasts for both AudioStream and InnerFidelity, I was able to log a total of 20 miles in my fitness tracker over the course of the show. Almost all the manufacturers I spoke with praised the foot traffic on Friday, with the usual big draws like Elac/Andrew Jones and PS Audio/Paul McGowan seeing little relief in the days that followed.

The slightly more remote location in relation to the city of Denver didn’t allow for steak dinners at Shannahan's like previous years, however the internal atrium of the hotel housed a total of four restaurants of various culinary directions with a large assortment of fully stocked bars to complement them. Like preceding RMAF shows, product launches sprung up aplenty and the digital domain was no exception. Overall the rooms I visited at the show sounded exceptionally well controlled, with both high end (Sonus Faber) and more budget aspirations (Primare, Focal) showing interesting debuts. Even with a lower room count than previous years, the show felt did feel like a product-filled RMAF of old to me, complete with a new facelift - kinda like Los Angeles but without all the showy white linen.

Qobuz's David Solomon (left) and Dan Mackta are islands in the stream.