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Capital Audiofest 2012 High-End Audio Show Report
Capital Audiofest 2012 Show Report
Coverage By Scot Hull of Part Time Audiophile 

 

Legacy Audio
I can't remember the last audio show I've been to that Legacy Audio has not been there, anchoring it, with an impressive demo room filled with their big speakers. Capital Audiofest found Legacy's founder, Bill Duddleston, showing two pairs of his full-range, multi-driver speakers -- the $20,500 Whisper and the $9200 Focus SE – with electronics from Sherbourn. I've always found the Whisper to be curiously complex – lots of drivers, open baffle, external digital crossover. The XD version takes this up a notch – but also down a notch. There is a new external crossover system, the new Wavelaunch, but the new Whisper only needs one stereo amp to drive – a pair of 500wpc ICEPower amps in each cabinet handle all the lows, man-handling the four 15" subs.

One of the things I've found big speakers do well – perhaps better than any other speaker – is handle big music. And no, I'm not talking the 6' tall guitars that many panel speakers will handily evoke for you, but I am talking orchestra. Large-scale, complex, dynamic music – you know, all that stuff that old people listen to. I say that only semi-facetiously – I happen to love classical music, but almost never actually listen to any. Like ever. I may need to explore that a bit at some point. Anyway, here at the Capital Audiofest, I got treated to some classical music here in the Legacy room, including something that I think was Mahler – it made me scan the room, looking for Jason Victor Serinus – but I quickly stopped all irrelevancies and focused while the Whisper XD stood up and practically paraded it's total musical dominance over the piece. That's an odd way of saying, holy crap, this speaker owned it. Yikes!

I introduced myself to Bill and, in response to my throw-away question ("got anything new coming out?"), found out that, well, yes – there is something new coming from Legacy Audio – a brand new AMT tweeter that Bill and crew will be setting to both the Focus and the Whisper come this Fall. Should be ready by RMAF! Let's just say Bill's pretty excited about this change. I could tell, because that Cheshire grin he sported was still hanging there in space long after he had entirely vanished.

 

Davone Audio, Woo Audio, MA-Recordings
Yes, I have found my Mojo. And for $2,300/pair, you can find yours too. Was that cheesy? I've been working on that, but "mojo" jokes are a bit pass้ since all those Austin Powers movies came out. Ah, well. I've found these little buggers at the last several shows – and at each show, they've happily created a minor stir. Perhaps it's the modest price that the Davone Audio Mojo carry, or perhaps it's the 3-D sound stage that they throw around, or perhaps again, it's simple the fact that they're really cute. Whatever. I think they're really doing some interesting things with the sound. Interesting, engrossing kinds of things. And did I mention they were cute?

The Mojos were shown here with a Woo Audio $3150 WA5, a single-ended, dual-chassis 300B-based 8wpc amp, which is also a very impressive headphone amplifier, too. The music was all sourced from Todd Garfinkle's eclectic and outstandingly well-recorded M-A Recordings collection. In the adjoining room, Woo Audio had five more headphone stations set up. This is stunningly clever, by the way, and an easy-peasey/lemon-squeezy (I have five year old twins, my apologies) way to completely eradicate the issues with audio show hotel room acoustics. Duh. Headphones? No room interactions at all. Double duh. Which is, no doubt, one of the reasons why the music in this room sounded so fantastic.

First, a note about the music. Each of the Woo Audio stations had a Woo Audio DAC and transport – and a serve yourself laptop music server. There was AC/DC and YoYo Ma. M-A Recordings' Sera Una Noche, Dire Straits, and Eric Clapton. Coltrane, Hancock, and Blakey. Diana Krall, Alison Krauss, and Frank Sinatra. Guns-n-Roses. Hilary Hahn. Pink Floyd, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Patricia Barber. Yeah, I was pretty much set. This is how you do it, folks. Power to the people! Speaking of power, Woo had a suite of head amps on display, both dynamic and electrostatic. I got to listen to Stax, Audez'e, Sennheiser, and Ultrasone headphones – bam, bam, bam, all in a row. My favorite? The Audez'e LCD-2 wired into the little $1,050 dual chassis WA6SE. I think I'm in love with those ‘phones, and that amp lit them up like a, well, a tube. Hee-hee. In all fairness, the tube in question was a rather special NOS tube, a USAF-596, sitting in a Teflon adapter with a pair of anode wires falling from the top in a rather Dr. Frankenstein kinda way. All the same, this was a great match and I enjoyed the combo thoroughly.

 

DeVore Fidelity
I never saw the bird, but to hear John DeVore tell it, apparently the room was drawing a feathered crowd. They would sit on the branch, outside the window, and just hang out listening to the tunes. The song would end and off they'd go. I've heard about audiophiles and their pets, and laughed along with the jokes about the dog "having complaints" about the sound of a system, but this one was a new one to me. Whole new layer of meaning to "for the birds". Hmm.

Anyway.

John was here in support of his local dealer, Jeff Fox of Command Performance A/V who's new retail store out in Falls Church is opening in September. John and Jeff had three different DeVore Fidelity speakers on display, including the new Gibbon 88s, the compact Gibbon 3XL, and their newest sibling, the impressive Orangutan O/96. On all three trips through this room, it was this wide-baffle, 96dB, 10ohm, 25Hz-31kHz, newcomer that were attracting the avian reviewers – and us not-so-feathered ones – and gluing us all to our seats. Driven by a "meager" 8wpc from the disproportionately beefy $5000 Line Magnetic LM-210IA 300B single-ended triode amplifier, the O/96 was rich and lively – and, perhaps strangely for a 300B, it was also extended in both directions. It's not like I was looking for faults in this room, which is lucky, because I would have been disappointed. And as for those big Orangutan speakers, well, they are now on my own personal short-list. Yeah. Really, really nicely done.

 

Joseph Audio
Around the corner from DeVore Fidelity was another Command Performance A/V room, actually a two-fer suite, with $11,800 Joseph Audio Perspectives in the main area, and in a second space, a pair of Joseph Audio Pulsars, set up across a corner. Whenever I find Joseph Audio speakers at an audio show I'm covering, I wonder if I should recuse myself -- I'm hardly unbiased. I've been in love with the Joseph Audio sound for the last couple of years and several of my earliest posts on my site Part-Time Audiophile, which explored exactly how amazing these designs are. The latest in the lineup is the Perspective, a 2.5-way design using some custom SEAS drivers and Jeff Joseph's patented Asymmetrical Infinite Slope crossover design to create one of the most seamless presentations you're going to find outside of a full-range single-driver speaker. It is stupid-good.

So, while I've gone gaga over the Pulsar – and now actually own a pair that I use as a reference – I have to say that the Perspective is a clear and definite step up. They reach deeper, sure, but they are also even more transparent through the mid-bass than the stand-mounted Pulsar. Here at Capital Audiofest, the Perspectives were driven by an all Bel Canto line up, including the Ref500 monos and the top-shelf DAC3.5, wired to a very interesting USB converter that we'll all be learning more about in a week or so, with the handsomely turned-out XLO cables making all the connections. A new $10,000 Audience AR12TSS brought 12 outlets of power filtering with the new Teflon capacitors to the system.

The sound? Outrageously good. Chris Jones' "No Sanctuary Here", off of his Roadhouses and Automobiles album that is a torturous tune with some freaky big-speaker deep harmonics that are extremely difficult to reproduce with all the menace and mayhem that's appropriate. In this room, with these speakers and these amps, this tune will cause your head to snap around as you frantically look for the volume knob on the subwoofer you can't find. Strain? What strain? Heehee. Ahem. For those of you that have been pining for the big Pearl 2 speakers, I think you may need some Perspective. Sorry, couldn't seem to help myself there.

Slipping through the adjoining door, I found the Pulsars, wired up with more XLO cables to some more Bel Canto gear. In this case, a C7R integrated, a CD3t transport – and a candy-apple red VPI Traveler. It's hard to come down from the Perspective, but at $7,000, the Pulsar will bring most of that Perspective magic into a package that you could set up anywhere. Like a hotel room, for example. These speakers have a ninja-like ability to disappear. It's a two-way thing, I guess, but what's not typical of a stand-mount is the sheer output of deep bass coming from such a small driver. I don't really get it, but luckily, all I have to do is enjoy it. Having had a bit of experience with these speakers (ahem), I didn't dive for the sweet spot, but I did pull out the Chris Jones CD again, and again played the same "No Sanctuary Here" track -- only to watch another gentleman start scanning the room. A friend of his looked behind the dresser that had been set up as an impromptu equipment rack. It took me a second before I realized they were looking for the subwoofer. Whoops! I played innocent, just nodding and saying "I know, right? Wow" over and over as they muttered to themselves. "Yeah, I don't know how Jeff Joseph does it, but ain't it cool?"

 

That's A Wrap!
And there you have it, Capital Audiofest 2012. The future of the local audio show is still an undecided thing, but given today's market realities, the ability for many consumers to reach out and touch a prospective acquisition has become decidedly difficult. The local audio show is, perhaps, a way for us to still do that, and for that reason alone, I think a show is a good and valuable thing. It's also a whole pile o' fun.

Seriously, name another hobby where an enthusiast can go and meet the artists he admires, question their motives, challenge their assumptions, gain insight to their personal biases and predilections, get a side order of real education around the whys and wherefores, and at the same time, actually be in a position to experience and evaluate the creations themselves? An audio show is a pretty sweet deal, if you ask me. Which you didn't, but I'm telling you anyway. That's how I roll. Apologies to all those I didn't cover adequately, but fear not! More in-depth coverage will be appearing on Part-Time Audiophile over the next couple of weeks, so be sure to tune in there.

Thanks to Gary Gill and Crew at the Capital Audiofest for putting up a great show! See you at the next one!

 

Scot Hull
Part-Time Audiophile

 

---> Back to main Capitol Audiofest 2012 main page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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