Audio delicacies know no boundaries at this year’s Rocky Mountain AudioFest. Improvements on previous designs, digital evolutions, and good old fashion engineering continue to move things forward and reward us all with more and better choices when it comes to our poison of choice. From top flight audio statements that continue to wow to the downsizing of the DAC, I found there was is a little bit for everyone hidden away in the corners of the Denver Tech Center Marriott.
KEF had it’s new desktop X300A powered speakers sitting on the sidelines in their main room. Unfortunately they were not hooked up for a listen, but I was able to steal a few photos of them. These puppies have taken the traditional computer/powered speaker to the next digital step by including a DAC inside the speaker along with the amplification. A USB input allows you to connect your computer as a source and save on precious desk space more than ever. These should be released to the wild before the years end and will retail for $800 for the lot.
One of the classic standalone DAC units that often bridges the chasm between audiophiles and professional use is the Benchmark DAC1. Well beloved by both teams, the time has come to meet it’s replacement with the DAC2 ($2k). Boasting additional inputs and refined innards the new Benchmark includes a dedicated headphone amplifier, native DSD conversion, balanced outputs and a remote.
On the more analog side of things, Jolida, a company know for their budget-consious tube amplifiers is now branching out into a more digital domain. At RMAF they were showcasing a new tube-based DAC, headphone amplifier and music streamer.
The headphone amplifier and streamer were still prototypes, but they are both something you may want to keep an eye out for if you are looking to get involved on a budget.
Woo audio, know for their top-flight tube-based amplifiers really stole the show with these drop-dead gorgeous audio cubes of bliss. The new WA7 headphone and DAC combo will retail for around $999. Jack also brought his classic WA22 amp ($1,900) and his new standalone DAC the WDS-1 ($1,200).
Computer audio company AudioEngine had a good chunk of their product line on display. Known for their powered speaker line which maxes out with the reasonably priced 5+ ($400/pair) AudioEngine has recently struck a chord with their budget-inspired D1 DAC ($169). The setup at RMAF included the use of the D2 streamer (full review here), with one table wirelessly streaming music to the other.
Beyerdynamic makes some of my favorite headphones. Their newest model the Custom One Pro is the companies latest stab at the expanding custom headphone market. The Custom One includes adjustable portholes in the rim of the ear cup that augment the sound and bass presentation.