RMAF 2019: The Wrap-up

Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2019 was an interesting journey. From a personal perspective, I had a great time, seeing friends, people like Jameson Mourafetis of F1 Audio, Eric Franklin Shook of Part-Time Audiophile and many others.

It coincided with a road trip through the Rockies on I-70, which is a gorgeous ride if you ever find yourself in a place to drive it. The Under-40 industry dinner hosted by Shook was spectacularly well attended and was truly a blast, drawing headphone and two-channel enthusiasts, press, dealers and manufacturers.

From a sound perspective the show was quite good as well – most of the setups I heard were quite nice, I suspect the higher prices and somewhat remote location of the Gaylord encouraged exhibitors who tend to put a lot of effort into putting their best foot forward. Zach and Bevin Mehrbach from ZMF, who always bring an incredible selection of exotic and tube gear, were a great example.

From a show standpoint I’m less optimistic. The prices of just about everything at the hotel were high, exorbitant in some cases, and while I can’t speak to attendance numbers just from a subjective observation, the hotel was enormous and certainly not the easiest to navigate. That’s the negative end of things though; the Denver Tech Center venue had its fair share of problems over the years. What the new venue did well was encourage attendees to stay close to the show and spend more time per room or booth. Once you’d made the trek out to the exhibit halls or rooms, you didn’t want to leave. The excess of space also meant the listening environment was generally a little quieter and attendees could afford to spend more time with each product, which I see as a very positive thing.

I think one of my big takeaways from RMAF this year, despite the departure of CanJam, is that despite maturing a lot in the last few years, the headphone industry still has a lot of space to grow and innovate. I found both very expensive and relatively attainably-priced equipment that all sounded great. Standouts were the ZMF Verite Closed which I’m reviewing currently and is quickly becoming one of my favorite flagship headphones, and the Etymotic ER2SE and XR seemed like excellent products to investigate at the under $200 USD price point. One need look no further than Meze or Focal who just a few years ago were producing modestly priced consumer headphones with middling sound, and now are at the top of their game with products that are setting new standards in the industry. While the sun seems to be setting on the speaker industry, the wild west has just begun in the headphone world.

I don’t know if RMAF will continue in its current guise next year, but in a certain sense, I see the audio convention world fragmenting into smaller, regional shows. With the shrinking of RMAF, Capital Audio Fest, the growth of AXPONA and the announcement of a Chicago CanJam, there will be plenty of audio show goodness to go around, but it will be of the cozier, more community-driven kind, at least from my perspective.

Still, I think RMAF is well worth the trek for western-state natives, as it remains the largest show in the area, at least for now.

Rocky Mountain Audio Fest

Simply Nobody's picture

Some of us were also under 40, when William McKinley was re-elected as the president :-) ........

Both California and New York states were Red Republican states at that time :-) ..........

JRT's picture

Grover Neville,

What is your basis for that observation?

Yours seems like an overly bold statement, and I am being kind in the wording.