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Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2016 Show Report
Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2016 Show Report
VPI, KEF, Nordost, And Odyssey
Report By Kemper Holt


  VPI's leader, Mat Weisfeld, brought his entire staff down to Rockville again for 2016 including his "retired" dad Harry. In retirement, Harry has so much time on his hands he's fleshing out design ideas he didn't have time for when running the company, and is working harder than ever. Harry's Titan (approximately $48,000) is the culmination of his ideas, current materials and production techniques, and began with a sketch on the flight home from a successful show in Munich.



There was a lot of buzz about this room at CAF, and a lot of new introductions. We all came to see and hear the KEF Muon speakers ($220,000 per pair) and they did not disappoint. These polished aluminum monoliths are the result of KEF's engineers, mind melding with the industrial design vision of Ross Lovegrove, and the Muon's are a tour de force of sight and sound. They are big and heavy weighing in at 250 pounds, over 6.5 feet tall, have 9 drivers in a four-way configuration, and are truly full range being only a few dBs down at 20Hz. They are visually stunning, with curves that would make Ferrari jealous, I found it hard not to stare. I listened to KEF's Johan Coorg expound about the gleaming towers, he was especially proud of the Uni-Q coaxial driver array, and the Muon's low bass reach and authority.



The Titan is VPI's most ambitious project and incorporates a 40 pound, 4" thick platter with "magneto rim drive", which is two motors driving a sub platter by the rim and magnetically moving the platter. There is an ingenious double stacked chassis too! VPI also introduced the Prime Signature ($6000) coming complete with a JMW 3D 10 tonearm, and an all Mat design. VPI also figured out how to update the Nomad, now called the "Player" ($1000), by including an aluminum platter, 9" tonearm, pre-mounted Ortofon 2M Red cartridge, and inboard phono stage for plug and play enjoyment of records.



Always looking for better performance, VPI asked Mike Bettinger to update the VPI SDS motor speed controller. Mike said he would design something with components he was familiar with, analog not digital. Mike used analog oscillators instead the digital ones in the SDS, a high current power amp, and updated parts for a prototype and brought it to Harry and Mat, who were very skeptical about it being a notable improvement over the 1998 designed well regarded SDS. Before half a song had played the Weisfeld's sported big grins as the new controller was much better than the SDS. The new ADS ($1000) ended up being such a hit that VPI found many more places they could use EE advice and now Mike is a VPI employee. Mike and VPI will expand the ADS range with an entry level, $300 to $500 unit, and an über one north of $1500.



In the equipment rack I spotted three phono preamps, a DSA, an Arion, and a Modwright, McIntosh did preamp duties, and a pair of Klaus' Odyssey monoblocks drove the Muons connected with Nordost cabling. Friday I heard some cello and piano which were presented with exquisite detail, lovely tone, and imaging which was a little vague. Harry in his quest for perfection worked late Saturday on setup and dialed in the VTA on the cartridge. Sunday when I came by the sound was just WOW! Now I had the very wide soundstage with pinpoint instrument placement, tons of information, vocals right in the room, and no strain exciting dynamic contrasts. I really enjoyed The Who's "Behind Blue Eyes" from Who's Next. It was loud and fun, with plenty of impact from Keith's drums and Roger front and center perfectly sized. If you didn't hear this room Sunday, you didn't hear it sing at its best.





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