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Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2013 Show Report
Part 1 Report By Kemper Holt

  The The larger The Voice That Is room featured the Tidal flagship Sunray speakers, Wow! They dominated a huge room, reminding me of the Duntech Sovereigns, albeit made-over into beautiful, slim giants. Doug White added a Tidal Preos pre, Impulse amp, an Aurender W 20 server with much more storage than the S 10, Bricasti M1 DAC, and top of the line Purist Audio cables. The vocal music I heard was perfectly rendered, tight vocal size with plenty of air and space.


Classic Audio showed some Paul Bunyan sized speakers in a big room. Atmosphere OTL monos fed these behemoths, along with a Stahl-Tek DAC and PAD cables. Big dynamics to go along with the giant speakers.


John Gatski of Everything Audio Network had a hospitality suite featuring "a stack of DACs". Through a maze of wires and devices, John had close to instant switching between five DACs; a Benchmark DAC2 D, Parasound Zdac, Lynx Hilo, Mytek Stereo192-DSD, and a TEAC UD-501. A Rogue hybrid integrated, the new Pharaoh drove a pair of Legacy Studio HDs. Like most of Mark's gear, the Pharaoh avoided a vintage "valve" flavor, opting instead for dead on neutrality, easily conveyed by the evenhanded Studio HDs. With any of the DACs the sound was relaxed and neutral, very detailed, and voices sounded right. Listening through speakers, it was hard to detect even slight differences among the five DACs, which is why John revealed that it takes the resolution of good headphones to reveal the signatures of DACs more easily. He played some DSD recordings through the Mytek and the system perked right up, smoother, richer, more meat on the bone, and better imaging clues. My takeaway was that the Zdac is a sleeper, punching above its weight class and affordable, nice job.


Modwright, Daedalus, Purity, and WyWires shared a big room on the first floor. Dan Wright, an engineer who doesn't care for the spotlight, brought a "to be ready late in the year" prototype DAC. The one piece DAC, sporting a pair of blindingly bright LEDs, uses transformers on both ends to eliminate any caps, Tenor USB implementation, and a Burr-Brown 1794 chipset for Modwright's first entry in standalone converters. Purity showed their Silver Statement preamp, large for a preamp making the volume levels easy to see, with a hefty buy in. Lou Hinkley said he massaged his Argos.v2 speakers enough to make them sound considerably better than the last version, but not enough to change their name. The improvements are retrofittable to the older Argos, demonstrating Lou's dedication to his customers. Combining a furniture quality look with great sound seems to the Daedalus' goal, nicely done Lou. Dan's KWA 150 SE provided the juice and WyWires the cabling. Despite a room induced upper bass issue, I returned to this room many times to kick back, relax, and listen. I was able to play my own selections as well as hear some of Lou's favorites. We listened to Dire Straights, Cat Stevens, Eagles, Eric Clapton Ray Brown, Ella, and Cowboy Junkies to name a few. The highlight for me was a blast from the past, Jesse Colin Young's Ridgetop, a 70's recording that displayed a wide and deep stage, open, airy, natural voices, and a catchy tune I hadn't heard in decades, I had a smile a mile wide as I tapped my feet and let the music wash over me.


The Robert Lighton room showed that exquisite looking furniture can also sound good. The RL8 speakers and stands were designed together and made of solid mahogany, a perfect match. The electronics were Audio Note, a vintage Thorens TD124 with an Audio Note arm and cart spun vinyl, and of course an Audio Note CD4.1X spun silver discs.


Soundfield Audio teamed up with Kevin Kemp Audio for another room that was packed all during the show. I expected to see AJ's 1812 speakers; instead he was demonstrating his newest baby, the VSF T-1s, finished just before the show. Like many rooms, this one sounded much better on the weekend than on Friday. Using the Variable Sound Field adjustments, and dialing in speaker position and sub levels, AJ made a substantial improvement in the system's sound. This is one great sounding full range speaker for a small amount of cash, only $3500/pair. In this reasonable sized enclosure, AJ gets a pair of side mounted, opposing 12" open baffle woofers internally powered and EQ'd by a 300 watt plate amp, dual 8" aluminum cone mids, a horn loaded planar magnetic as a mid-tweeter, and a ribbon super tweeter. At most shows reasonably priced speakers are often paired with great sounding (expensive) electronics, and this was no exception. Kevin Kemp provided a slew of Audience kit, a pair of Mono Class D amps based on Hypex modules, preamp, and an AC power conditioner for each, six nearly identical satin silver boxes totaling $50k with cables. I don't think speakers @ 93dB/W/m sensitivity needed them, but boy did they know how to use the new Audience gear to their advantage. I must have dropped in on their room 5 or 6 times during the show, got to hear my selections on Saturday (fantastic), and heard lots of music genres on this system, all good. They focused Margo Timmons voice perfectly in the church she sang in, the Eagles voices spread across the room on 7 Bridges Road, and were top shelf pounding out Flim and the BB's Tricycle, great impact, effortless, wide and deep stage, delicate, engaging. Hope you heard them on the weekend; they were really singing by Saturday.


The first Stereodesk room I entered had me doing a double take at the Teresonic Magus TX 65 monitor speakers. They have a round front with the driver mounted via an adapter for a funky look that does help them image wonderfully. Along with their stands, the WAF is fairly low. The vinyl setup was also unorthodox; a stunningly finished refurbished Garrard 301 with a stand alone 12" unipivot arm from Siggwan. Like many, this room sounded much better late in the weekend, nice vocals and very clear.


The next Stereodesk room had the coolest furniture at the show, a vintage wood table with curved metal legs, a standout piece. This room also had some of the most visually arresting speakers on display at the CAF, the Albedo HL 2.2s. At first glance the inverted taper, boat hull shaped cabinet looks top heavy and prone to tipping over, nothing could be farther from the truth. The beautiful striped ebony finish is hiding a sophisticated Helmholine system which uses Helmholtz resonators tuned to specific frequencies to remove unwanted bands from the transmission line bass loading. At the bottom, a heavy and sprawling base with rigid spikes is connected to the cabinet by an ultra-stiff coupling making for a very stable and inert base. The Albedo designers worked on achieving a linear phase response on two fronts, physically aligning the acoustic centers of the ceramic drivers, and working on a crossover to help with time coherence. The system had tremendous detail retrieval, big soundstage, and natural vocals. The bass lacked weight, but by Sunday made gains in that area as the fresh ceramic drivers broke in. A breath of fresh air in looks and performance.


Click here for CAF 2013 Part 2.























































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