Run by Gary Gill, a Maryland construction manager with a passion for music, Capital Audiofest is nine years old this year, and is a bit of an anomaly in the industry. To me, the real attraction of this show, beyond the amazing opportunity to witness the staggering, all-out assault on state-of-the-art two-channel audio as presented, now for the second year, by The Audio Company, is its welcoming, über-friendly "vibe." It is currently the most friendly, hospitable, convivial, laid-back, lets-all-just-listen-to-music-and-be-cool show I've attended. And, dear readers, I've attended more than a few... Over the decades, I quit counting show attendance when I hit 100 back in the early 2000s. Given how much fun I had at last year's event, I honestly couldn't wait to go again this year. Spoiler alert: I wasn't disappointed!
And the venue, while somewhat limited in terms of allowing this event to grow much larger, is simply gorgeous. Entering the lobby, you come in on floor three. Check in is on your right, but a few steps further straight ahead, and you see down this marvelous layered staircase, into the vast open center of the hotel, and can look up into the entire open atrium above. With a view of all eight floors.
And what an atrium! There are numerous booths set up on this grand floor, but off to the south east corner, to your right at the bottom of the enormous sweeping staircase and up half a flight, is the Potomac Room! This is a grand room, with an all glass front, that is 50 feet wide, 50 feet deep, and 10 feet tall, with a totally open space, half again that size, just above the suspended ceiling! Imagine filling that room with sound! Yeah, we'll get to that soon enough!
This year, much as last, the show had exhibitors spread across floor 5, floor 3, and on the Atrium level. I counted some 66 rooms, plus over 20 booths on the Atrium floor, with nearly 200 manufacturers and companies represented. I learned from Gary late Sunday afternoon as we chatted that he had broken all previous attendance records this year with 3000 paid attendees! Not bad for a "regional" show, right?
One of the more high-profile and fun events to run over the entire weekend was the VPI Industries 40th anniversary celebration. Founder Harry Weisfeld was on hand, along with son and current President of VPI, Matthew "Mat" Weisfeld. Together, the VPI Team launched the new 40th anniversary product, the $15,000 VPI HW-40 turntable.
The system in the Jefferson room was pretty impressive, using not one, but two, of the new direct drive VPI HW-40 tables, which includes the JMW-12- Fatboy Gimbal tonearm for the price. They were using two to do a head to head comparison between a Lyra Etna ($8,995) cartridge, and the new Peter Ledermann SoundSmith Hyperion MK II ($7,999.95). Both carts fed the VPI Voyager Phono Stage ($2,500), which handed off to the Krell Illusion preamp ($15,000), a Krell Duo 300 XD amplifier ($8,000), driving a pair of Wilson Alexx Speakers ($100,000), all hitched together with Nordost Odin 2 Cable.
To be honest, I had so much fun catching up with Harry, who I hadn't run into in some time, and chatting with Mat about Shyla and what was going on with VPI these days, that I didn't really take any notes on the sound of the system. I will say, it sounded surprisingly good, and I think I'm going to try to take a closer listen to Peter's new Hyperion Mk II cart!
Now, let's get into the fray, shall we?