With house and family in Vail/CO, Mark Schifter spends 37 weeks out of the year in either China or Eastern Russia/ Mongolia. Dedicated to long-term personal goals and willing to engage the necessary intermediate family sacrifices, he had foreseen the unfolding shifts in how the audio business would be conducted when Audio Alchemy closed. The launch of AV123.com and his own Rocket loudspeaker brand was just the beginning. The Emotiva line of 8-channel pre/pro and 7-channel amplifier and the Onix series of affordable solid-state and tube electronics were next. Becoming a large-scale OEM supplier who knows American and European QC standards, who lives on-site and is willing to work with small manufacturers without insisting on prohibitive opening orders and massive volumes is the current manifestation of these dreams. And while I didn't really need further proof, Mark invited me and my better half to visit his Chinese factory in February of 2005 to document the inner workings of his operation in detail while taking advantage of the proximity to other famous Chinese factories like Shanling.

If you're a speaker manufacturer, your previously justifiable whining about changes in the global economy and your struggles to remain competitive have just gone up in smoke. Become a designer/marketeer and leave the manufacturing to others whose scale of operation and economics far exceed yours. The above purple e-mail in our site-specific Mason font is your key to connect with Mark L. Schifter and explore how you can take advantage of what he and partner Mr. Po have to offer. If you're an electronics manufacturer, Mark has the requisite connections to help you as well. Who would have thought that driving the 5 hours from Taos to Denver would net this kind of information for our manufacturing friends in the industry? Don't wait until March of next year to read my report on the Sound Art China facility - contact Mr. Schifter now to explore how he might be able to help you achieve your goals.

If you've wondered in secret how AV123.Com can offer their Rocket loudspeakers for such low prices, now you understand how - it's a function of leveraging the growing scale of OEM business for their own brands. It's simple arithmetic though the actual formula that makes it possible is anything but simple. Asked whether he spoke any Chinese, Mark replied - in Chinese. I can only surmise that he said "enough to get the job done"; or something to that effect. Perhaps one has to have been on the manufacturing side of things to appreciate the full implications and share my excitement about these news? As far as I'm concerned, this alone made the show and then some - for me. But as always, there's much more. This now brings me to certain product highlights of my Denver experience.

First, however, a brief comment about the spirit of camaraderie that pervaded this show, be it between the manufacturers themselves or members of different press outfits or how readily attendees, exhibitors and writers intermingled without pomp and circumstance. Staying in a $69/night hotel with truly affordable exhibit rooms sans union scandals must have lightened the burden on the manufacturers and retailers. It was literally more affordable to take things a bit easier, to be less in permanent "on-mode" that equates each actual show hour with a high dollar figure and the concomitant need to produce results. Like VSAC and what I've heard about the Montreal show, RMAF was collegial, friendly, of manageable size to prevent complete sensory overload, attention deficit and general melt-down and thus great fun.

On the speaker front, five rooms stood out by presenting models or even brands with which I was unfamiliar but which telegraphed serious performance potential. At $5,400/pr, the new Cabasse Bahia is a large-sounding full-range speaker of modest dimensions that incorporates a semi-spherical cross-section and a short-horn loaded tweeter. Powered by Joe Fratus' new Art Audio Carissa Signature 845 SET ($7,000), Dale Fontenot of Cabasse North America [below] had every reason to smile and beam with pride.

In France, Cabasse has surpassed JMlab as Numero Uno. In the US, this brand with the hi-tech drivers has had little if any visibility or recognition. Dale Fontenot assured me that this is about to change. His showing in this and the adjacent Art Audio room as well as the Jeff Rowland exhibit certainly had the true ring of great-things-to-come about it.

The sat/dual-sub system around the famous tri-concentric Cabasse driver and Art Audio's Diavolo with KR VHD 842s was very good and preferable to the Jeff Rowland room that used the same driver array in Cabasse's full-range tower speakers. For some slightly less than hard reason, however, this little system was the most fun of them all to listen to.

Part of the blame likely had to go to Joe's overachieving Carissa Signature with optional attenuator (the knob is available in all manner of rare hardwoods as well as chrome) and Jota-series output transformers, Cardas caps and other parts upgraded and beefed up over the standard Carissa. SoundStage!'s new writer Vade Forrester recently left Positive Feedback for the promise of doubling his pay and, sitting next to Fratus above, had all the ear markings of yet another AAA member - Art Audio Aficionado. Both the Carissa amp and the Cabasse Bahias should be on your list of contenders worthy of attention. Joe Cohen's Prana Wire unquestionably added to the good sonics in this room. Having heard it myself pre/post Prana insertion, anyone who claims that cables don't make a difference clearly occupies a different moon than this listener. On the subject of cable costs, Cohen was quick to introduce me to his newest cable series below the Cosmos and Nataraj called Deva claimed to benefit in a serious way from late-development trickle-down effects.

While we're still at $5000/pr speakers, Star Sound Technologies' new Carvelle monitors with integral stand were introduced by senior executive designer Brent Riehl as 17-element 1st-series 2-ways in cast granite cabinets with stepped-baffle time alignment and a tensioning system that connects the woofer magnet to an adjustable back panel bolt that can increase or decrease cabinet torsion to alter its harmonic resonance behavior. The unusual stand couples in a very deliberate way to the monitors and offers further adjustable tuning features. The sound here was effortlessly dynamic, transparent but most of all, coherent and scarily extended in both directions. I believe the JMlab Micro Utopias might just have met their match.

Certain listeners won't accept anything other than 2-way speakers. I for one understand their apparently strange and single-minded focus and dedication. Of course, bandwidth and dynamic limitations are part and parcel of embracing the peculiar strengths of this speaker genre. And this is where, like the Platinum Solo of yore, the Carvelle might just set a new standard. Unlike the Solo, it's a time/phase-coherent design. Those who can hear the differences will view this as a very significant asset. Let's just say that I was, as they say, impressed shitless. I would love to give these babies a spin in my own rig to proceed beyond initial impressions. But I'm already convinced that this is a very serious design worthy of the very best of ancillaries and the presence of dCS as source components here certainly compounds this notion.