Capital Audiofest 2021 Show Report
Dealing with the realities that a global pandemic imposes upon the world, in particular, the travel lockdowns and need for avoiding congregating in numbers, especially in smaller living spaces – like hotel rooms full of audio gear for an audio show, has been truly trying. On me, you, everyone, and on our general music – and audio-gear-loving population at large.
I landed at Ronald Reagan airport shortly after 2pm on Thursday, and after a thirty-odd minute ride, arrived at the beautiful and accommodating Twinbrook Hilton in Rockville Maryland. I immediately started catching up with the dozens of my similarly excited and joyful colleagues and friends milling about the lobby and other public areas....
Looking down into the over ten-thousand square foot atrium, showing the sweeping stone staircase, the music vendors, and the entrance of the nearly twenty-five hundred square foot Potomac room (under the VAC banner) populated with over two million dollars' worth of magical, musical gear.
Both Montgomery County Maryland and the Hilton required that a mask be worn, and either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid-19 test, for indoor gatherings, except for while eating and taking pix, of course, and virtually everyone cooperated, most without complaint.
Early registrants on Friday morning.
Coincidentally, the last show I was able to attend before the lockdown was the 2019 Capital Audiofest. For the past two years, I've been dying to get back to an audio show and to be able to see all my dear friends and colleagues, the vast majority of whom I've not had the pleasure of being able to have a face-to-face conversation with. I'm sorry, but, as humans, I believe that it is a fundamental "need" to gather in groups for the exchange of ideas and pleasantries.
When I had the pleasure of interviewing Gary Gill, CAF Owner and Organizer, back at the end of September (that conversation posted on October 10th, 2021, and seen below), while we were all very hopeful that the world was ready to re-emerge from our self-imposed isolation and connect and congregate in public once again in celebration of music, gear, and camaraderie, there was still a palpable sense of, are we just being hopeful... All of us, Gary included, were wondering, almost aloud, were we ready; if he builds it, would they truly come.
An evening view of the main entrance of the Hilton.
Well, Friday, November 4th provided a resoundingly positive answer, one that was even more telling than Gary, or many of my colleagues and members of the press, had dared hope. With NO ticket pre-sales for this year's event, Gary shared with me that he sold nearly 750 tickets on that first day! Saturday was off the charts, and Gary was so busy that at that time, he hadn't had time to track ticket sales – but it was BUSY! So busy that he ran out of show programs by late morning. Yeah, we were ready to become a community again... We took precautions, masking indoors and maintaining distancing whenever practical. But, DAMN folks, weeeeee're baa-aaak!
The mood was both undeniably joyous and rife with nearly unbridled excitement. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, was engaged and interested. We, as a community, were so ready to be back to this kind of event, to go listen to new and fabulous gear, to meet and greet our friends and colleagues, and to actually purchase gear, that it was bound to be an astonishing celebration and a more than a merely successful event. What a show!!!
At 10am Friday, it was ON! There were good crowds buying tickets starting about 9:00 or 9:15, and there were some before that. But as the crowds started to grow, I spent most of my Friday trying to visit rooms in hopes of grabbing photos before the traffic got too insane. Realistically, as busy as it was, most people still have jobs and need to be at work during the day on Fridays. Saturdays were usually a total zoo, so...I wanted to be prepared and not have to interrupt folks trying to present their products by asking them to move for photos....
Now, so far, Enjoy the Music.com has put up a lot of photos of many of the different rooms so far. But as I normally do, I'm going to take you on a little deeper dive into some of the most engaging and musical sounding rooms at this year's event.
Børresen Acoustics, Thrax,
United Home Audio – High End by
Showing no less that three World Premier products!
Greg was premiering his new United Home Audio Super Deck ($89,998), Bulgaria's Thrax was debuting their new Audio Teres II Mono Amplifiers ($34,500/pr.), and Denmark's Børresen Acoustics was premiering the new Børresen Acoustics 05 Silver Supreme Speakers ($214,500).
The new United Home Audio Super Deck.
The digital front end was a Vitus Audio SCD 25 MK II CD/DAC used as transport ($26,400), feeding the Thrax Audio Maximinus DAC MK III ($38,500). The linestage was the Thrax Audio Dionysos ($23,000), everything sat on a HifiStay Mythology Rack ($4,900), and all cabling was from the Ansuz D-TC Supreme Cable line ($17,600 – $70,000).
The new Børresen Acoustics 05 Silver Supreme loudspeakers.
Most of the time I found myself in that room, sources were Master Tapes on Greg's new flagship deck. That first night, things were a tad edgy and bright, as would be expected, given that the amps and speakers were essentially brand new and had only a few hours on them at that point. Oz and I talked about the room situation, as it was clearly an issue. As he explained how they had chosen to deal with the situation, I understood and agreed with the compromises he had to make. This system is BIG and offers huge potential, but this room conspired to hold it back.
I made it back for several visits, and while the edge did burn off over time, I just felt we weren't able to hear anywhere near all the potential this system had to offer. As impressive as it was, the room was pushing back on letting this rig shine.... Transparency and resolution were off the hook, but deep bass was diminished, and imaging and staging were severely limited and terribly shallow by comparison. I look forward to hearing this system again, in a room that puts up less of a fight and lets everything breathe.