RMAF 2017 Zu Review
Great show, the best yet, our best—funny what just a day or two prep can do when you have great people to draw from, not to mention having a few hundred shows under our belt.
The Denver hi-fi show, RMAF (Rocky Mountain Audio Fest) has always been a great show, this year was the best yet, at least for us. We teamed up with Peachtree again for this show, a matchup that really exemplifies what is possible from a regular guy budget when you have great engineering in both product and production. We were in the same big room, Pikes Peak, a large conference room in the back corner of the mezzanine—a perfect spot for Zu and our spectrum of music and life-like playback levels and the legendary Saturday night party, which is also pretty close to club-level play. Yes, the show organizer and hotel have grown accustomed and give us a pass, at least until the sun comes up, during show hours we mind our pints and quarts. And speaking of Irish antics, one more mention, our neighbors, VAC and distributor On A Higher Note, both tolerate us, even with welcome—I think. Thanks Kevin Hayes and Philip O’Hanlon. Both companies have grown to understand and maybe even enjoy the color we bring to the Pikes Peak slack waters, we certainly enjoy their natural and unpretentious savoir-faire.
So, the show. David Solomon of Peachtree Audio was running the demo a good bit of the time, great sounding and still real stuff, combined with just a touch of dog and pony—me, Gerrit, Harvey and Ian swapping in every now and then to keep the music grounded, and Nicolo, the good Italian he is, was making sure the coffee was up to Zu standards.
Here’s the back story on our room’s theme. In 2001 the first Zu Druid was dropped on the planet and much of the marketing art was poached, with style of course, from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. With the latest version of Druid [Mk.VI] being such a leap forward we were compelled to bring the future that was 2001 back (posters from the show and sister shirt for sale on the website).
Two main systems were in play the bulk of the time, the new Druid Mk.VI ($10,000/pr), driven by the Peachtree Nova 300 ($2,500), cabled with Zu Event ($3,000) of course. Supporting the very bottom octave we were also running a pair of our Undertone subwoofers ($2,500 each) filtered at 28Hz low-pass, 3rd order, and basically in play with the Druid’s to even out the bass response of the room, and give you the needed sub-bass energy and life that doom soup, black metal, big orchestra and big pipes require. We also had the Soul Supreme setup on the Monolith wall and would give those play an hour or two each day.
While the Druid rig was amazing in sound and looks, the Omen rig was the one bringing show goers to reality—a thousand bucks per pair, driven by the little twelve-hundred dollar Peachtree, embarrassing the sound most all the other exhibitors were making—save for VAC and On A Higher Note of course, and so people were saying, we are pretty much married to our room. And if you are wondering, nope, no subs, filters, EQs or any other tricks were ever running in the Omen rig, that big, deep, energetic, warm and rich sound was all Omen.
Show-goer and exhibitor reception was amazing, I think it helps that Zu has finally built a solid rep for playing real, maximally divers music at these things, and yes, we also play music you bring, especially if it’s a nice bit of wax—Jim of Record Collector News, you are always welcome to bring your own, hell, I would give you your own show! Yeah, it’s been a long time coming, since 2001, mixing great music and fully avoiding soulless sound effects and state-of-the-art recordings of shit music and expressionless musicians. A big thanks to those that get what we have been doing at these hi-fi shows all these years.
The show rig:
Rupert Neve Designs 5060 desk top summing mixer. This is an all analog EQ-less mixer that is both fun to run and sounds sweet and pure. How else are you gong to run 4x vertical Serato decks and 4x Ones & Twos!
Technics SL-1200 Mk.II turntables (Ones & Twos).
Shure M44-7 pickups. (For $100 each, yeah, they sound amazing and have excellent shove).
Rega P6 turntable with Zu Audio Zu/DL-103 pickups (standard grade).
Luxman PD-444 vintage direct drive.
K&K Audio phono-stages.
Out in the Zu foyer space we again hand printed “Stolen from Zu Audio” tees and passed out treats. This might have been our last year for the hand stamped shirts, but don’t worry, we have plans for something fun for 2018. We were also serving up espresso and pour-over coffee. Coffee was Caffe Ibis from Logan Utah, their Highlander Grogg. Complimenting the coffee were biscotti, made by The Lavender Kitchen, a sister company of Lavender Vinyl, also Ogden born.
The Saturday night party was excellent, but very light on dancing (we’ll get that fixed for 2018, guaranteed), but it was fun. Ian laid down a healthy mix of endure-dance tunes, Gerrit stuck to his perfectly timed dub and electronica, and then around 11pm Harvey After Dark gave us a sick mix of doom soup. Dance sound was the best yet, connecting Druid, Soul Supreme and Omen together with the Undertone subs—George was particularly impressed. And speaking of, a big thanks to George Volinsky for his contribution to the Saturday night party—blender of the best and sneakiest margaritas on the planet. Also thanks to his close friend Sarah (Revolution in the Kitchen) for spending all day cooking up a storm of her locally sourced vegan inspired fare. Photos: instagram (@photographean)
As always those who had their ears on took away the sound and music we were serving up—not to soon be forgotten. A big thank you and welcome to all that attended.