The 2009 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest

Al’s Legacy Celebrated

As the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (October 2-4) entered its fifth year, the latest show was tinged with a hint of sadness as Al Stiefel, the chief architect behind the RMAF Show was not present as he sadly passed on, on 27th January 2009.

In keeping with the selfless nature of Al Stiefel, his wife, Marjorie and the RMAF organisers decided to create the “Al Stiefel Legacy Room” which is a “no cost” exhibition room chosen for up and coming audio companies. Carnegie Acoustics was selected to exhibit their speakers in room 9010. Carnegie Loudspeakers selected Teo Liquid Cables, Abbingdon Music Research, McAlister amplifiers and EMM Labs chosen to demonstrate their products in room 9010.

In room 1030, Daedalus Loudspeakers also chose to exhibit the AMR CD-77 in their room.

In the Avatar Acoustics room (423), the system comprised of:

CD-777 Disk Processor / Dr Feickert Analogue Woodpecker Turntable > PH-77 Phono Equaliser

AM-777 Pre-Main Amplifier

Rethm Maargas / Axis Loudspeaker’s Voice Box S Bookshelf Monitor

Cabling by Acoustic Systems International

TaaLaam Equipment Rack by Rethm

Room treatment by Acoustic Systems International
Room treatment by Accoustic Systems
Source: Stereophile

In the Al Stiefel Legacy Room (9010), the system comprised of:

CD-77 Disk Processor / Dr Feickert Analogue Twin Turntable > PH-77 Phono Equaliser

Bella Extreme Pre-Amplifier

McAlister Power Amplifiers

Cabling by Teo Liquid Cables

Carnegie Acoustics Loudspeakers

It was great to meet the guys in this room from Brian and Taras of Teo to Eric of Carnegie to Peter from McAlister.
It was great to meet the guys in this room from Brian and Taras of Teo to Eric of Carnegie to Peter from McAlister.
Source: AVS

In the Daedalus audio room (1030), the system comprised of:\

CD-77 Disk Processor

Modwright Transporter / Gill Audio Elise DAC

Modwright Pre-Amplifier / Power Amplifier

Daedalus Loudspeakers
Daedalus Loudspeakers
Source: AVS Forums

We would like to thank Lou Hinckley for organising the great tunes coming from his room. Keep up the great work!

Being the third year that AMR has exhibited at the show, its line of components and other products from the Avatar Acoustics portfolio of products meant that we are starting to see reviewers coming to RMAF to seek out and enquire about AMR products.

Of the reviewers that came through, we were more than pleased to have demonstrated the sonic capability of the Avatar system to:

Robert Harley – The Absolute Sound

Joey Weiss (assistant to Harry Pearson) – The Absolute Sound

Michael Fremer – Stereophile

Neil Gader – The Absolute Sound

Jason Serinus – Stereophile

James Darby – StereoMojo

Constantine Soo - Dagogo

Douglas Schroeder - Dagogo

Robert Smith – Dagogo

Paul Bolin – (newly launched audio review e-zine)

Ron Nagle – Enjoy The Music

Just about every reviewer or customer that came through the Avatar Acoustics room was impressed by the musical performance of the system. Rather than try to describe the sound ourselves, we leave it to the professionals…

Robert Harley of The Absolute Sound:

“Abbingdon Music Research showed the PH-77, the most ambitious new phonostage I’ve seen at this or any other show.”

Jason Victor Serinus of Stereophile:

“I was glad that Darren and Bonnie Censullo's Avatar Acoustics demonstrated four new products at RMAF, because they created a synergistic match that produced beautiful sound.”

Alan Sircom of HiFi+ and The Absolute Sound:

“Best Sound:….. and the AMR/Rethm room was making some distinctly un-horny horn sounds.”

Neil Gader of The Absolute Sound:

“Although Avatar also distributes Rethm loudspeakers, the AMR in this instance was driving a fine newcomer to the loudspeaker market, the Axis Voicebox S. Designed and built in Australia its designer Brad Serhan demonstrated just how well a small but well designed bass reflex compact could perform.”

Dr Feickert deserves more than a honourable mention as his operatic voice honed from his choir singing days meant that he chose to chime in on one more than one record – live music always pleases the crowd! In particular, the Harry Belafonte “Live at Carnegie Hall” on the “Mama Look a Boo Boo” track saw Dr Feickert sing along and his fabulous musical performance saw the room full to the extent there was a small queue leading into the hallway to catch a glimpse of Dr Feickert as he virtually sang this song from beginning to end! We were lost for words as only “Bravo” came to mind!

Dr Feickert singing

Given the current climate, Avatar Acoustics chose to demonstrate a relatively affordable system that totalled US$15,000 or €10,000 (digital setup only) which went against the grain. This struck a chord with customers and reviewers alike and after this show; reviews have been lined up for not only the AMR 777 series, but also the other products in the Avatar stable.

Photo of Dr Feickert / Michael Fremer presentation

We also took time out to attend the Friday demonstration of vinyl setup by Michael Fremer and Dr Feickert which we thoroughly enjoyed. Both Mr Fremer and Dr Feickert were in good form and the crowd most enjoyed the seriousness of their approach to vinyl setup and their occasional wise cracks! We noticed that at least one-third of the attendees were female which certainly bodes well for the future of vinyl and long may it continue.
Source: AMR

Picture of The Sussurro

Whilst we are on the point of vinyl, we must say that we were particularly impressed by the showing of the “Sussurro” cartridge by Peter Lederman aka “The Soundsmith” who has carved a niche much like Len Gregory, “The Cartridge Man” in England. This highly unusual moving iron design seemed to take the best of MM and MC worlds and to blend them into one fantastic cartridge that had dynamics that were literally jumping out of the unassuming Sound smith system.

In the not too distant future, we hope to secure this stunning cartridge and to audition it with the PH-77 Phono Equaliser – heaven on earth indeed!

We must congratulate the RMAF team’s decision to consolidate the show all under one roof at the Marriott Tech Center unlike splitting it between two hotels like last year. This helped to ensure a very healthy attendance of some 3,700 visitors which is slightly up y-o-y by 200. While this does not compare to the larger shows, especially those based out in Asia, its heart is bigger than that of many other shows and this is reflected in the satisfaction of visitors to this show year in, year out.


Photo of visitors in Avatar room:Photo of CanJam:

Furthermore, on the back of the exponential rise in popularity of “Generation iPod”, for the first RMAF held its “CanJam” which was a hall decked out with headphone companies.
In terms of food and beverage, while the Denver Mariott Tech Center serves fabulous local micro brewery beers, there are only so many buffalo burgers one can devour. We revisited two, excellent restaurants within a short 10-15 minute walk. The first is “Cool River Cafe” which serves the most mouth watering steaks ever encountered. Cafe is not really the best description as they are a very high class eatery.


At AMR, we appreciate classic designs and on leaving the Cool River Cafe one evening, we saw this absolutely mint condition Cadillac that we simply had to take a shot of.

Source: AMR

The other, slightly more affordable eatery is “Bone Fish Grill” which is just as delicious, but slightly less expensive as the ambiance is not quite so plush but the food is just as mouth watering.

Last but not least, the only fly in the ointment with regards to the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest is the aging quality of the mains electricity at the Denver Marriott Tech hotel. Our prediction was only too true when on Saturday, the mains without warning, cut out to the whole hotel and as a matter or protocol, the fire service had to be called out to check the power outage to ensure there was nothing too untoward.

As with typical show gremlins, this could not have happened at a worse time as it was 2pm on Saturday afternoon, the busiest section of the most popular day! Despite the power taking 1 hour to come back on and tripping the mains electricity once more, visitors quickly came back into rooms and this ensured a busy afternoon until closing at 6pm.

We cannot but help be impressed every time we attend the RMAF – the camaraderie in unmatched by any other show and we have attend quite a few shows in our time.

All we can say is long may RMAF continue and we look forward to attending again next year.


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