Capital Audiofest 2012 Show Report
Coverage By Scot Hull of Part Time
Continuing with the "curious" theme, I wandered into the
Oasis Speakers room thinking I'd made a wrong
turn by mistake. The pictures I snapped hardly do these speakers justice –
this room was really interesting! First, the whole "natural instrument"
thing is pretty cool – Oasis uses actual gourds for their speaker cabinets,
letting them cure for about a year before fitting them with bamboo-cone
full-range drivers. Putting the question of sound quality aside, this is
taking the whole sustainability thing up a few thousand notches, now isn't
it? Downright clever, if you ask me. Now, I spent the bulk of my time with the
oddly beautiful acrylic spheres, which were amazing to photograph. As I
wandered about, a kind gent turned the system on, so, I did actually hang out
to listen to the speakers for a while. SpyroGyra music being played at an
audio show? Yes!
The acrylic models are $6500/pair. I actually preferred them
to the three-piece $8500 Brazilian Purple Heartwood stand-mounts-plus-sub, and
was impressed when they two acrylic models were actually reversed – that is,
they faced exactly opposite from me, firing into the corners – and the sound
was, to some absurdly large degree, preserved. Very cool. For having zero expectations when I walked in the door, I
was very surprised by the sound I heard in here. More importantly, I was
really tickled by what they were doing. I thought the entire approach rather
whimsical, whether intentional or not, and I quite enjoyed my time here.
Looking for something different? And I mean, really
different? Well, Oasis Speakers are definitely that. Look, the
whole project may not be "audiophile", but while I was there, I didn't
find myself caring. They were having fun, and so did I.
That sense of fun carried directly into the Cathedral
Speakers room. Alex Rivera was showing off the room-filling (both physically and
sonically) 3113 speakers. There were a pair of Sophia Electric amps on the
floor, but while I was in the room, the speakers were driven by a vintage H.H.
Scott amp and a $1995 Bel Canto DAC 2.5 as a source/preamp. The 3113 is fitted with wide-band Eminence drivers with a
big ass Altec horn to create a wardrobe-sized, furniture-grade, 100dB
sensitive, dancing master of a speaker. I walked in and they were playing
swing. It was catchy, bouncy, fun and I immediately started smiling. I stayed
because they were playing swing, but I couldn't sit still – I wanted to
move. Which is weird, because I have no rhythm.At
all. When I left, they were still playing swing. Why were they playing swing?
Because, here, time stood still and swing, well, swing is awesome. And that
bounce in my step as I left? It stayed with me all the way down the hall.
$6995 gets you a pair.
Déjà Vu Audio
I was on something of a high-sensitivity kick at this point,
when I walked into the Déjà
room. Owner Vu Hoang had a remarkable system on display, all built using
as-new vintage and NOS parts. The system was called, appropriately enough, the
Vintage Collection. The $44,000 speakers featured a beautifully finished
hand-build folded-horn cabinet, stuffed with vintage drivers from Western
Electric and Jensen. A custom vintage $30,000 preamp matched the custom vintage
$27,000 4.5wpc 349-based amp. The aesthetic was a bit rough, but I suppose the
point was the... ahem... vintage
parts. They're all absurdly hard to find, I'm told, and hence rather
expensive, but many believe it's these specific parts that have a sonic
quality that is simply unsurpassed by modern equivalents.
Look, I don't have any opinion on the "NOS versus new"
debate, but I can say that the sound was as refined and elegant as I'd heard
at the show, very intimate and rich sounding, with a tone that was incredibly
dense and tactile. I was struck by it, and given the number of DIY and
horn-based systems I was running across, even I could sense a theme building
here at the Capital Audiofest.
I like Ty. He's one of the most relaxed, unassuming guys
in the audio business today. He makes quality products, by hand, and refuses
to indulge in the price gouging and general tomfoolery many of his competitors
get caught up in. His speakers are extremely popular, but he doesn't come to
many of the big shows anymore as he thinks they tend to get dominated by the
big guys. You want glitz and glam, go to those shows. You want good-folks; you
can go find Tyler Acoustics.
Ty was showing his PD15s today. I've never seen or heard
these speakers before. They're big, but after having just visited Déjà
Vu Audio and Cathedral, they seemed almost modest. 8ohms, 98dB/W/m
sensitivity, a horn tweeter, and a big 15" driver – all wrapped up in a
rather handsomely finished, 125 lbs cabinet for $3000 per pair.
This speaker is part of Ty's "Pro Dynamics" line,
which features the Eminence pro drivers (the top-line "Decade" series
features custom-made, Tyler-branded drivers). These pro drivers like to be
played loud before they come alive … but maybe that's just me. Okay,
that's probably just me. Anyway, Ty's inclusion of them here is a nod to
those of us who prefer to be able to play whatever we want, with whatever
electronics we have, but on the off chance that wild hair creeps up the
you-know-where, well, turning it up to eleven -- while still preserving the
strain-free musical flow – is just a step away.
Sonist Loudspeakers / Snake River Audio
Another room with the high-sensitivity speaker/low-power amp
chic was the Sonist Loudspeaker.
Owner/designer Randy Bankert was showing off his top-of-the-line $5,895/pair
Concerto 4 speakers. These speakers are 8 Ohm, 97dB/W/m, and sport a
horn-loaded Fountek Neo Cd 2.0 ribbon and a pair of proprietary design
paper-cone woofers, which all together gives the loudspeaker an impressive 27
Hz to 40 kHz frequency response. The cabinet is all real wood and heavily
braced, and the whole is rather fine-looking. I want to say that this look
should have a reasonably high WAF, but I'm almost always wrong on this, so I
ought to not hazard a guess. What I can tell you is that the sound is worth
investigating – this is a long way from a DIY design, and the sound is not
only dynamic, but coherent, with robust bass and great detail. The asking
price isn't peanuts, but finding a tube-friendly speaker with articulate
bass below 30 Hz for less than $10,000 is an exercise in frustration. The
Concerto does just that – Randy routinely shows with a tiny $650 5wpc Glow
amplifier. I think this is a fine little amp for the price, but honestly, I
think this speaker would really dance with a more upmarket matching.
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