Rocky Mountain Wrap Up

Rocky Mountain Wrap Up

We had a busy time at Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest last weekend in Colorado. In case you missed any of our coverage, we're compiling all of it right here for your viewing pleasure. Feel free to contact us with any questions you have about new gear or if you want to schedule a time to come in and test out some products.

Moon Audio Gear List for Rocky Mountain

RMAF 2019 - Day 1 Coverage

RMAF 2019 - Day 2 Coverage

Moon Audio RMAF Table Tour:

In case you missed it, CEO and Founder of Moon Audio, Drew Baird gave a thorough overview of the gear we had at Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest. We'll link the video below and provide a transcript in case you want to check out any of the gear more in-depth.


Drew Baird at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest

"Hey, this is Drew from Moon Audio.

We’re here at Rocky Mountain 2019 – we’ve got a lot of cool stuff to show you today. As you can see here, we’ve got a big array of headphones that we brought – these are just a few of them; we’ve got a lot more of them on and behind the table.

At our first system we have the Auris Nirvana headphone amp hooked up to the Focal Utopia’s – one of our favorite headphone and amplifiers. The Nirvana is a very powerful headphone amp that will drive the snot out of just about any headphone. In fact, we’ve plugged two HiFiMan Susvara’s into this headphone amp and it drives them absolutely splendidly. It’s an amazing amp.

It is driven by an Aurender server and a Matrix Audio Sabre Pro MQA DAC. We’re really excited about the Matrix Audio products. If you’ve seen some of the reviews, the noise levels and digital measurements are unbelievable on these products. These guys are really making a lot of noise in the audiophile market right now.

The Sabre Pro is processing the D/A conversion from the Aurender via the USB connection. The Aurender ACS10 is a server, a ripper and a metadata organizer for all your CDs. With Aurender products previously you had to rip everything on computers and then transfer to the servers; now they have the ACS10 that does all your ripping of CDs straight to the internal hard drives. It comes with a bunch of different configurations of drive sizes you can get, and you can plug drives into the back. The products from Aurender are really amazing.

Then right after that, we’ve got the Focal Stellia – basically a closed back Focal Utopia headphone; a huge favorite at Moon Audio. It’s connected to another Auris headphone amp/DAC – the Auris Euterpe. Both a headphone amp and a USB DAC with EL95 tubes. It also doubles as a headphone stand for your headphones based on the way they’ve shaped it as a standing enclosure.

It's connected also to an Aurender – so it’s doing all the D/A conversion out of USB input from the N100H 4TB server. This is probably one of the first products that came out from Aurender. We’ve had it forever – it’s been a great product, never had any issues and really simple to use. All the Aurenders use their own enclosed software to control them. A little bit different from say, Roon, which we’ll talk about in a few minutes. The Aurender software just works. Very simple, very easy. You can integrate both Tidal and Qobuz accounts. It merges your hard drive library with Tidal and Qobuz, so it looks like a master library. A great setup.

Next up on the table we have all the Astell & Kern players. The new KANN Cube just won an award last night here at Rocky Mountain for its unique abilities. It’s built like a tank. It has so many functionalities, tons of power, and quite large, but I still consider it a nice portable player. It has a 5-pin mini XLR line output that you can use to connect to your stereo. You can also control it from your iPhone with the A&K Connect app. Like other Astell & Kern players, the Cube has the normal single-ended and balanced 2.5 outputs. Lots of power – this is probably the most powerful digital audio player that’s ever been produced. A big favorite at Moon Audio.

Then we have the SP1000 that’s been around for a while, but the new SP1000 amp has taken this product to new levels in the headphones it’s able to drive. Now we can drive power-hungry headphones with this product. Behind it – the SE100 and the SP1000M that have been around for a while, so we won’t get into a lot about those. They’re also here for you to demo.

The next products are a new at Moon Audio. We found qdc at the Singapore show about six months ago. We brought in the first three IEMs that were the best of the lineup: the 8SH, the 8SS, and the Anole VX. These are all universal IEMs that can also be purchased as a custom. These are the three that I [Drew] thought sounded the best and wanted to bring to the US first. The 8SH is a Hi-Fi sound – a very “audiophile” sound; very smooth and musical. In fact, the whole lineup is very smooth and musical with great detail; just with different characteristics.

The 8SS is a very neutral, forgiving, and linear from top to bottom. A great performer for all sorts of genres.

And then my favorite of the lineup, of course, is the Anole VX, which has the ability to change dip switches that adjust the tonality based on the crossover points and more. It’s an amazing IEM – very detailed, very resolute – yet still smooth. It’s not analytical and overbearing. All of these are very smooth and musical; I like them a lot. The Anole VX will have a US price of $2,100, and the 8SH and 8SS are $1450.

Then after that, we’ve got our tried and true JH Audio IEMs for the people of Denver – all in universal fashion. The Layla, the Lola, the Roxanne, the 16’s, and the 13’s. I’m sure no introduction needs to be made for Jerry and his wonderful IEMs. They’re all here for people to play with.

Then next to the JH Audio IEMs – we’ve just picked up Empire Ears. We have their two new IEMs they’ve just come out with – the Valkyrie and the Wraith. The Valkyrie uses an interesting combination of an electrostatic driver for the high frequencies, a balanced armature for the mids, and a W subwoofer driver for the bottom end.

We also have the new Wraith. This one uses four super high tweeters, two high-mids and two lows. Both of these are new from Empire Ears. We just received them the night we showed up at Rocky Mountain. We haven’t had a whole lot of time to demo them, so I can’t tell you a lot about the sound signatures, but people’s responses about them have been good.

Just behind there we have the IEMs that they’ve had for a little while now. The very popular Legend X in the middle, which is their best selling and best sounding of all of their IEMs, I think. The Bravado which is a little more affordable; a great way to get into the Empire Ears brand for not a huge amount of money. And then the Phantom.

In front of that we have some products from iBasso: the DX150 and the DX220. These are a new line for Moon Audio as well. We just picked up iBasso. These are essentially Android phones without the phone. They have all the abilities that an Android phone would have; you can download apps; it works exactly like an Android phone OS in terms of the ergonomics of getting around to all your stuff. On the bottom of each one of them, they have a removable amp card. We’ve brought two of the amp cards with us: the Amp8 and Amp9 replacement amp cards. One has an interesting tube design using more of a solid-state nomenclature but gives it a tube-like sound. The other is providing a 4.4mm balanced output which is sort of becoming the new standard around town. The DX150 and 220 come with a standard card that has both single-ended and balanced 2.5 outputs as well as coax outputs. We’re big fans of iBasso and we should have picked them up a long time ago, but hey, now they’re at Moon Audio and you should check them out!

Next is the top of the line Sony digital player which is one of our favorites. It’s very warm and musical. It weighs a ton – it’s a solid chunk of copper that’s gold-plated. This has been one of our reference players at Moon Audio and we love it, so we brought it along as well.

We have the new Meze Audio IEMs that came in last week. They’re very popular with our customers. These are using a planar dynamic driver. I think these are going to be very popular on the market this year.

After that we get down to Matrix Audio again. This is the powerhouse of the lineup – the Element X, which is like the kitchen sink. It’s a headphone amp, it’s a DAC, it’s a preamp, it’s a streamer by both network connection and Wi-Fi, you can plug a hard drive into the back of it, it’s Roon ready; it’s a master of all crafts. Essentially the Sabre Pro that we talked about a few seconds ago uses the exact same DAC. The Sabre Pro DAC runs for $2000; the Element X runs for $3000; really for another $1000 you get a lot of bells and whistles. Once again, incredible measurements, low noise floor, great digital measurements. Just take a look at some of the reviews, it’s absolutely stellar. We’re going to be sending this off to Chris Martins after the show for him to review at hi>fi+.

All of the products that I’m going to talk about now are being run off of the Roon Nucleus, so Roon software is being used. It’s very similar to the Aurender but it’s a more open-based software. Tidal and Qobuz accounts are integrated into it. We have a hard drive in the Nucleus that is propelling all the music to all these endpoints, which is what we call it when we pick an audio source in Roon that’s network connected, they become an endpoint or a SharePoint. All of these devices are being utilized in that manner.

The next headphone amp + DAC that we are using is by a true, built-in-the-USA, American story: Bricasti. These guys have been around for a long time, they make some brilliant equipment, built like tanks and everything is machined in house. The buttons: all machined in house. The feet on the bottom: machined in house. The chasses: everything is done in Boston, Massachusetts. Brilliant company.

This is the new M3 headphone amp and DAC. You can buy it as a DAC-only for $5500. Add another $500, which I find is a great bang for your buck, for an amazing headphone amp that can drive just about any headphone we’ve got in house. It’s true balanced from start to finish. And I mean, it’s really true balanced in that the power supplies for left and right are separate and the power supplies for analog and digital are separate. It’s very rare to see balanced all the way through the circuit path, not only in the digital and headphone sections but also in the power supply sections as well. Everything is independent between right and left.

A product that they also have is the M5. The M5 is a network player, essentially it gives you the ability to add to devices that don’t have an endpoint Roon, so it has a CAT5 network connection on the back of it and you can output USB which we’re doing into the Chord stack here: the Hugo TT 2 and the M Scaler. Now you can make your Chord products Roon ready by adding the Bricasti M5 to it.

Of course, we need no introduction on the Hugo TT 2, a beast of a DAC and headphone amp. Tons of power; so much power you can drive an efficient pair of bookshelf speakers off it. However, I would prefer to use the TToby in most cases, to get a little more “balls” if you will, for the music. But you can do it with the XLR outputs on the back – it has 9 watts per channel – which is enough for a small pair of efficient bookshelf speakers.

The M Scaler does all kinds of upsampling for your PCM material up to 768 by using dual BNC digital connections on the back. You can use the M Scaler with other DACs as well to upsample up to 384. It is a very versatile and exciting product that has basically taken the level of the performance of the TT 2 to that of the DAVE, with a much more powerful headphone amp. When you add the M Scaler to the DAVE – then forget about it. The TT is no longer (with the M Scaler) better than the DAVE.

Then after that, we’re using the popular Chord Mojo and Poly being used as an endpoint over Wi-Fi using our MacBook. Not many people think about using this as a home desktop portable amp and Roon endpoint, as I tend to see people use it more as a portable device, but it makes a great endpoint in your home.

Of course, the rest of the headphones on the table are here for everybody to enjoy. And hopefully, I’ve gone over everything we have to play with this weekend."

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