by Oliver Amnuayphol
This year we here at Aperion Audio decided to debut our brand new Verus line of speakers at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, and I gotta say--what a great time we had! In case you're not familiar with the RMAF, it's generally a show where speakers priced in the tens of thousands of dollars are the norm, so of course we were very curious to see how the Verus Grand towers and bookshelf speakers, which retail for a comparatively modest $1798 and $598 a pair respectively, would stack up against the pricier competition. And since showgoers got to hear our speakers immediately before or after some much, much more expensive systems (and audiophiles aren't generally known for pulling punches when it comes to giving feedback), we thought attendees would naturally be in for a shock when they heard our speakers and their prices. And boy we were right: Almost every one of 'em seemed genuinely excited about the sound he or she was hearing and the value of our speakers. In fact, on Saturday there were so many showgoers (both those who were and weren't familiar with us) who stopped by to hear our Verus Grand towers and mini-monitors that it seemed like Mike Hopkins and I were continously spinning cut after cut, without a break, as attendees kept rolling in, wondering how we could offer so much sound quality at such affordable prices.
Of course, paying attention to proper setup and taming room acoustics helped a bit, but even still it's always tough getting great sound out of a hotel room; we also couldn't quite fit all the room treatment items we wanted to, so some of that congested "hotel room sound" still lingered a bit. Nevertheless, we think we got the room sounding as good as we could, and listeners told us on many occassions that they greatly preferred our speakers to some that were 10 times the price of our Grand towers. What's more, they usually followed that up by saying many of the super-high priced speakers they saw couldn't hold a candle to our build quality. Wow! Talk about high praise indeed! The buzz seemed pretty high among the attending hi-fi press as well; many web and print publications stopped by our room and most requested review samples, so keep your eyes peeled for forthcoming Verus Grand reviews out there!
Since I spent most of my time at RMAF as an exhibitor and not an attendee, I didn't get to visit a lot of the rooms there, but I did manage to hear some premium (i.e. super-expensive!!) gear at the show that sounded really good--like the Quad 2805 electrostatics ($9000/pr), the German Physiks HRS-120 ($33,500/pr), and the Lowther America Field-Coil EXR (circa $15,000/pr). As you've probably noticed, all these speakers have unique design characteristics, so it could very well be that I was enjoying an unfamiliar type of sound projection in the room. But, I've heard the Quads on several occasions, in several different settings, and loved 'em every time. Now, they're almost 5 times as much as a pair of our Verus Grands--are they 5 times better? Seeing as how I work for Aperion I'm a little biased, so of course my answer would be no--I mean the law of diminishing returns definitely kicks in well below 10k if you ask me; but if I had that kind of scratch to spend on one pair of speakers I just might buy them. Or help design a 10k/pr Aperion speaker that's much better, haw!Seriously though, Taiga LLC/Quad had some great looking gear in their room, including their all new Quad II Classic integrated amp (about $6000, I think) pushing the 2805s for some very natural, easy-going sounds. Better still, they were spinning the vinyls on Merrill-Williams' all new R.E.A.L. turntable ($4400) which looked like a complete stunner, what with its thick platter, inverted adjustable hemispheric feet, and overall high-level of fit 'n finish. R.E.A.L. stands for Rubber Elastomer Acoustic Management and, if I remember correctly, is the name for the rubber-like material used for the plinth. This is part of Merrill-Williams' focus on what they're calling Energy Management design, and from what I can tell there's some great new think in TT design going on here to help effectively control unwanted energy in the TT replay system. Partnered with an Ortofon AS-212s tonearm and Black Cadenza cartridge, the 'table sounded rock-solid and natural with a super-quiet background/noisefloor. If you're in the market for a fine TT in this price range, you've got to check out the R.E.A.L. 'table.
Speaking of vinyl stuffs, it was also great to finally meet some industry friends who I've previously only virtually spoken with, including Louis Dorio from Ortofon, who wasn't exhibiting at the show, but was on hand for plenty of exhibitors who were using his wares--including the Quad/Merrill room I mentioned and numerous others. And keep your eyes peeled for blog/review I'll be posting soon on my Thorens TD-124 restoration project with the aformentioned Ortofon arm and my Jubilee cartridge. Also good to finally meet the Zu Audio folks, the masterminds behind the great modded Denon DL103 cartridge I wrote about in a previous installment of All Things Vinyl here.
So all in all, it was a great show for Aperion and the new Verus line. I wish I had more time to attend some of the seminars, browse more gear, and buy some of the bountiful stacks of the vinyls on hand--but it was still a lot of fun to see so many music lovers gathered in one place. Many, many thanks to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to stop by our room and give us a listen--let's see if we can do it again next year!