October 11-13, 2013
All prices in US dollars unless indicated otherwise
A couple of days ago I wrote an article under the "Future Fi" theme about the importance of quality all-in-one components to help grow high-end hi-fi's consumer base. The importance of convenience and simplicity, which is what these components provide, can't be underestimated.
Walking around this show was almost depressing. It didn't seem to be well attended, many manufacturers were complaining about the lack of business-producing traffic, and some of the products just didn't make any sense. Sound familiar?
I’m convinced now more than ever that in order for the hi-fi market to grow and be attractive to more consumers, the typical audiophile notion of more boxes (i.e., separates), and the many more cables necessary to chain the components together, must give way to all-in-one components that are still very high quality both in terms of build and sound, but are easier to use and more practical to fit in a room. Why? Let’s face it: most consumers today want less clutter in their rooms rather than more, and they like simplicity over complexity. I ran into two perfect examples of this approach in Sumiko’s and Hegel Music Systems’ rooms.
So there we were, having a coffee at the Front Range Trading Post at the Marriott Tech Center, which is where Rocky Mountain Audio Fest is held, just about two hours before the show was set to open. Doug Schneider and I were discussing the state of the audiophile marketplace and considering what types of products we would see and hear at this year's RMAF. Then Doug mentioned that at least one of our writers, a youngster in his 20s, had never even owned a CD. Like, not one.
Around five years ago the industry declared: the DAC is back! Well, it still is. There were a number of new DACs at RMAF 2013, and they all had something to differentiate them in the crowded marketplace. There were also a number of digital products that had DAC functionality built in. These products, shown at RMAF 2013, are featured in this article.
Is there any product category as polarizing as loudspeakers? Audiophiles can become so brand-centric that discussions on Internet forums can resemble guys at a sports bar raving about their favorite NFL teams. And why not? Models of loudspeakers vary wildly in look, build, and sound. Look no further than RMAF 2013 for proof of that.
Although we didn't see the bounty of new products we normally find at shows like CES in Las Vegas or High End in Munich, Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) saw a number of significant launches in the realm of amplification components: power amplifiers, integrated amplifiers, and preamplifiers.
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