Home Entertainment

Bona fide high-end audio has never been this affordable

The Audiophiliac visits Denver's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and discovers a treasure trove of affordable goodies.

Two Woo Audio WA7 headphone amplifiers
Steve Guttenberg/CNET

DENVER--The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, held in Denver, was a must-see event for audiophiles young and old. The biggest change this year was a bonanza of affordable high-end products -- mixed in with the usual crazy expensive gear -- along with a good helping of midpriced goodies.

Music Hall had a rather plain-looking little monitor speaker, the Marimba ($349 a pair), that 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.

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.

Magnepan was demonstrating its smallest floor standing speaker, the MMG, which I reviewed last year, but now there's a New MMG ($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 still buy the system from a dealer, and have Magnepan ship it directly to you for an in-home trial.

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!