Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

RMAF 2017: Audio Electronics, Part 1

The 2017 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest showcased a wide variety of new audio products shown for the very first time in public (or at least for the first time in the US). Of course, there were lots of new amplifiers and other audio electronics on display. I probably saw only a fraction of them, but here’s the first batch of electronic components that most caught my interest, with all prices in USD.

Aavik

The new U-150 integrated amp ($12,000) will likely further enhance Aavik Acoustics’ rep for building some of the world’s coolest-looking audio electronics. It incorporates a class-D amp rated at 300Wpc into 8 ohms or 600Wpc into 4 ohms, as well as a DAC with USB, coax, and TosLink optical inputs. Analog connections include three unbalanced RCA line inputs and a phono input.

Carver

Probably the most exciting new product in the affordable (or at least somewhat affordable) amplification category was Bob Carver’s Black Beauty 275 tube power amp ($2499), which delivers a rated 65Wpc from a quartet of KT120 output tubes running in class-AB push-pull configuration. Surprisingly for the price, the Black Beauty 275 is hand built and point-to-point wired -- and beautifully finished, too.

Gryphon Audio Designs

RMAF 2017 marked the return of Denmark’s high-end Gryphon Audio Designs brand to the US. According to Philip O’Hanlon, president of US distributor On a Higher Note, the brand pulled out of the US market 14 years ago because it couldn’t find a suitable distributor. On a Higher Note’s room at RMAF showcased Gryphon’s Diablo 300 integrated amp (top, $16,000) and Scorpio CD player ($9400) driving a pair of Gryphon Pantheon speakers ($52,000/pr.).

Legacy Audio

Legacy Audio’s Wavelet DAC-preamp-processor ($4950) is preprogrammed at the factory with time-domain (phase) correction curves for whichever Legacy Audio speakers the buyer owns, and it also comes with a microphone that allows it to do room equalization. Demonstrated with the company’s new Valor speakers (price to be determined), it produced more precise imaging and a wider soundstage with no ill effects I could hear. It has XLR and RCA analog inputs and outputs, as well as coax and optical digital inputs and outputs.

ModWright Instruments

Without question, the new electronics product at RMAF I most wanted to own was the ModWright Instruments HA300 ($7995), a combination integrated amp / headphone amp using 300B tubes in a single-ended configuration powered by hand-wound transformers. It can drive the headphones of your choice, and flipping a switch converts it to an integrated amp rated to deliver 8Wpc into an 8-ohm load. It’s available in a variety of automotive finishes, all of which employ a powder coat covered with a clear finish. C’mon, there’s no way you can’t want this thing.

Brent Butterworth
Senior Contributor, SoundStage!