Spaced Out at RMAF

There was a lot to see at the 16th Annual Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest (RMAF). The show is staggering in its sheer scale and in the variety of gear being exhibited. The show guide was not just a humble magazine like at some other shows, but a veritable book. Glossy cover, binding and everything. And almost nothing inside was filler. But the one sense that impressed us more than anything else was the amount of space.

Now, it’s no secret that space in New York City is at a premium. We have by far the highest population density of any major city in the US. We have to do a lot with just a little space.

Watching the street lights flying over the country to the show illustrated this experience: the whole metropolitan area was aglow with amber light. These lights grew fewer and more spaced out pretty quickly, and before long, the ground beneath us was mostly dark, with just a few lights outlining the cities and towns and the roads that connect them.

When we landed in Denver, the view, while not unexpected, underscored this impression. Denver is situated in the high planes; and across a vast expanse of yellow fields, the distant horizon was dominated by the rugged blue peaks of the Rockies. It was truly awe-inspiring.

The Gaylord Hotel, where the convention took place, took the whole impression of space to another level. The whole area surrounding the airport, in the municipality of Aurora, is an enclave of hotels, and the roads that connect them, surrounded by a lot of empty space. Inside the hotel too, the corridors on the ground floor felt like three lane highways. It took fifteen minutes to walk from the main entrance to the registration table to pick up our passes on the first day. The hotel encompasses an indoor arboretum with a waterfall and a train car, as well as a sports bar whose floor is a basketball court.

The actual convention was set up across two sections of the hotel, and they seemed so far apart that they might as well have been considered two different shows. Indeed, there were at least two other conventions, unrelated to audio, happening at the same time in the Gaylord. And as far as we could tell, the attendees from one show never even ran into the people from the other.

The one section of the show had all the conference rooms for the biggest brands with the most elaborate displays. This is also where they had exhibitors showing things that don’t need whole rooms to demonstrate – like audio furniture, and headphones. Honestly, when we wanted to take a break from listening to go dig through crates of records, we gave up on trying to walk that far before we even figured out exactly where the room was located.

The meat and potatoes of the show comprised the familiar hallways full of hotel rooms full of hifi systems, in a section far removed from the colossal conference rooms. Only, here, they were hallways full of hallways full of hotel rooms. Moreover, it was really hallways full of hallways, full of a lot of empty space, punctuated by an occasional hotel room with an audio system inside. It really felt like hiking, just to get around to see a few select rooms.

When we first arrived, we were told that we wouldn’t have time to see everything at the show. Not a problem, we thought, we’ll just pick and choose. But what we realized, was that the obstacle to overcome was not so much how much there was to see at the show (and there really was a lot), but rather, how much space we had to traverse just to get there!

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John Strohbeen Author

John Strohbeen was the President and Chief Engineer of Ohm Acoustics from 1978-2023.

John Strohbeen

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