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The world's best hi-fis rock Denver (pictures)

The Audiophiliac reports from the 2012 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, and discovers spectacular products from $349 and up.

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headshots_Steve_Guttenberg.jpg

Steve Guttenberg

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1 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Transrotor turntable

I don't know much about this turntable made in Germany, but it looked fantastic.
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2 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Woo Audio WA7 USB DAC headphone amplifier

Woo Audio's stunning new USB DAC/vacuum tube headphone amp, the WA7 ($777), with a solid-glass top piece was the best-looking product I saw at the show, regardless of price. It's still a few months away from production, but I can't wait for this one!
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3 of 19 Brent Butterworth

Magnepan's New MMG flat-panel speakers and flat woofer

Magnepan was demonstrating its new MMG speakers ($600 per pair), and a matching separate woofer. The three-piece system sounded luscious. If you don't live near a Magnepan dealer, you can buy the system from a dealer, and have Magnepan ship it directly to you for an in-home trial.
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4 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Sony MDR-1R headphones

Sony's Naotaka Tsunoda handed me a beautiful new headphone model, the MDR-1R ($299), that sounded remarkably clear and precise; he also had a neat little portable headphone amplifier. Seems like Sony's getting serious about making audiophile headphones!
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5 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Sonus Faber Venere 1.5 speakers

I've long admired Sonus Faber speakers for their sound and style. The made-in-Italy speakers boast Old World craftsmanship and stunning sound quality. The new Venere 1.5 speakers sounded fabulous.
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6 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

DEQX-Mate Processor

I'm rarely impressed with speaker correction processors, but the DEQX-Mate is a special case. I've heard it work wonders with high-end speakers, but at the show the Mate radically transformed a cheap and awful speaker's sound into something semi-decent. If I hadn't heard it with my own ears, I wouldn't have believed such a thing was possible. The DEQX engineers must be doing something right!
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7 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Steampunk headphones

These one-of-a-kind Audeze LCD 3 headphones were reworked by artist Special Technique.
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8 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Vivid Audio Giya G3 speaker

The Vivid Audio Giya G3 speaker's complex curves are a radical alternative to traditional box design and sound.
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9 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Music Hall Marimba speaker

Music Hall's rather plain-looking little monitor speaker, the Marimba ($349 a pair), sounded big and truly powerful. I have never heard that level of bass "slam" coming out of such a diminutive speaker; I can't wait to get it in for review.
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10 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Dynaudio Xeo wireless speakers

The Dynaudio Xeo wireless speakers are the real thing: true high-end speakers that just happen to be wireless. A phone or tablet loaded with tunes and a pair of bookshelf or tower Xeos is a complete hi-fi system. Dynaudio Xeo is, by far, the best-sounding wireless system I've heard.
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11 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Studio Electric Monitor

The Studio Electric Monitor may look retro, but the sound is definitely 21st century modern.
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12 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Ray Samuels A10 Thunderbolt II headphone amplifier

Ray Samuels Audio offers the widest range of portable and home headphone amplifiers in the business. Here's the company's seriously potent A10 Thunderbolt II ($6,500); I was also treated to the sounds of one of Ray's downright tiny integrated DAC/headphone amps, the Intruder. Prices start at $295.
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13 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

SoundScape 8 speakers

The SoundScape 8 speaker looked gorgeous and sounded, as we audiophiles say, musical. The SoundScape 8 lets you forget the tech and enjoy the tunes.
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14 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Triangle Art Reference turntable

The Triangle Art Reference is the sort of turntable that'll stop you in your tracks. I didn't get to hear it, but it looked like a serious contender.
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15 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Thiel Audio CS2.7 speakers

This is a close-up of the new CS2.7 speaker's unique midrange/tweeter driver. Thiel has always excelled in making speakers that disappear as sound sources; the CS 2.7 was one of the more magical-sounding speakers at the show.
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16 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Wavelength Audio Proton USB DAC

Wavelength's Gordon Rankin has consistently designed superb USB digital-to-analog converters and amplifiers, and he makes them in Ohio. He was using Vaughn Cabernet II speakers, and Rankin had the best digital sound at the show. It was so good it sounded like analog!
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17 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Todd the Vinyl Junkie headphone amplifier

That's Todd Green previewing his superskinny portable headphone amp; I'll be reviewing it soon.
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18 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Sanders Sound Systems electrostatic speakers

Roger Sanders built his first electrostatic speaker in 1972, and he's clearly learned a lot about sound over the past 30 years. For the ultimate in transparency, there's nothing better than 'stats.
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19 of 19 Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Schiit Audio balanced headphone amp and digital converter

Schiit Audio makes some of my favorite desktop headphone amplifiers and digital-to-analog converters, and it has a radically new affordable product due in a few months.

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