Having recently attended the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF), and no, this is not a show report - at least not per se - one thing I had hoped to discover was some new and interesting music. Anyone who has ever attended an audio show realizes all too well that the same or similar artist's works can often be heard in multiple rooms. Diana Krall - need I say more?
Audio shows are challenging at best. First, there is the tragedy that is air travel to get to the show. Even flying first class, as is my custom, still finds the airport a collective series of discomforts. Even so, there's no other practical way to get from Charlotte to Denver and back in the course of a weekend.
I decided some years ago that it was best to find different lodging than the Marriott when attending RMAF. One year, while staying at the Marriott, I found myself next door to an audio company who worked well into the night in a desperate attempt of getting right their subwoofers. And trust me, no hotel, regardless of how nice it may be, is equipped to drown out the sound of subwoofers to the adjacent room. So my preference these days is a room at the Hyatt which is basically across the street.
For the 2016 RMAF, attendees found themselves faced with a venue under construction. So the common issues with an audio show, large crowds crammed into a space not especially designed for the purpose, was further burdened by the entire show held in one half of the building. Elevators are typically the one thing that suffers and this year was no exception. On Saturday, it took me almost thirty minutes to get from the lobby to the eleventh floor. Seasoned veterans of audio shows know its best to start at the top and work your way down by the stairs - which was my intention once I actually reached the top floor.
Having said all that, in all honesty, the audio systems make all the discomforts worthwhile. Anyone given to the proclivities of high performance audio will find the requisite temperament to endure the "discomforts" of travel, lodging and yes, even those pesky elevators to see and hear all of the wonderful equipment and share the goal of all audiophiles - music.
For my purposes, I attended RMAF for fun. Having recently been burdened with family issues, I found the trip to Denver a very welcomed distraction. Besides, I was hoping to hear some really great music played on really great systems. I was also looking forward to seeing some of the people I've met that I would only realistically see at an audio show. While I wasn't especially looking for any new equipment, I was hoping to find some new and interesting music. Maybe I'd find some music I didn't know previously, or something that I now liked, whereas before I would have discounted as not for me. While most rooms are no longer guilty of the common joke that has become playing yet another Diana Krall song - and for the record, I like her music, just not one of a few songs played in every room at almost every audio show - what I did hear was variety.
What drives the average audio show exhibitor in regard to music selection can be quite varied. Obviously, and generally speaking, music is selected for one purpose - to present the audio system in the best light. Audiophiles are listening as much to the sonics of the system as well as the song itself so music selection is very important. I heard some music I knew well but for the most part, I kept asking myself the same basic question - who is performing that song? Happily, and more often than not, I liked the music I heard.
Classical music is on full display at most shows and RMAF was no exception. This stands to reason as classical music, provided it was recorded unamplified, really showcases what a system sounds like. And as long as you like classical, you'll feel right at home. Fortunately, I like classical, to a point anyway, so most of what I heard sounded really wonderful. From there, things can be very diverse in terms of music selection.
I would also have to imagine that most exhibitors get a little frightful when someone from the show going public asks to play some of "their" music. I always find it interesting to hear what people enjoy musically. I'm not talking about reviewers who will typically carry their well known reference songs to a show, I'm talking about the general public. I once heard a guy become totally eyes closed enthralled at something that could only be best described as a series of pops and clicks - imagine two dolphins communicating to each other is a close proximity. Everyone else in the room was looking at each other with a "what's this crap" look on their face. Yet to the guy who requested the music - Mozart, as far as I could tell.
In any event, I did hear some really good music in Denver that I could easily add to my music library. So from that perspective, and as the one takeaway I hoped to achieve at the 2016 RMAF, the show was, for me, a success. I had fun, I got to see some acquaintances, and even make some new ones. I was able to hear some really magnificent music played on some really magnificent audio systems, and in short, I was able to accomplish what every audiophile would like to accomplish at an audio show - an enjoyable time.
There is, however, only one issue and this is all on me. I forgot to write down any of the artists who's name I didn't recognize but who's music I liked. How's that for being an idiot?