Capital Audiofest 2023 Show Report / Chronicles Part
Wilson Room The
Voice That Is And Tidal
The Voice That Is, a boutique dealer of very fine audio lines in Philadelphia, works by appointment only. Their room here had a very familiar sound that was as identical as two rooms can be when spaced weeks apart at two different shows. That other room was the Wynn Audio room at the Toronto Audiofest, which featured the Tidal Akira speakers driven by Karan Acoustics amplification in a rig that was far more expensive than the one here.
A young boy was thrilled to have his picture taken with the new Tidal Audio Contriva G3 Loudspeaker. How cool is it to go to school the next day and show your classmates a $79k/pr. speaker? That's how audiophiles are born and awareness of high-end audio is spread. Kudos to the gentleman who volunteered to take the kid's photo. (Editor's Note: That 'gentleman' is the wonderful Doug White, who happens to be the CEO of The Voice That Is).
On the top shelf was the Tidal Contros Digital Controller ($60k) which is both a digital source and preamplifier. Below that was the Tidal Intra stereo amplifier ($28k), and on the bottom shelf of that very cool Ictra Design Proto rack ($25k) with cantilevered shelves was an Equi=Tech 2RQ balanced power conditioner, their flagship model ($7k).
To the left, sitting on the floor, were a pair of CAD (Computer Audio Design) products, the GC1 & GC3 Ground Controls, which I have heard in other very fine-sounding rooms over the past five years (Covid years excepted).
To the right of the rack was a Silent Angel product I didn't recognize. The cabling was from Siltech's new Ruby Crown collection, a series that includes RCA and XLR interconnects, loudspeaker cables, and power cords. This series commemorates Siltech's 40th anniversary and the results of its use in this system speak very highly of it.
The Tidal Contriva G3 (third generation) is a three-way design incorporating a Gen3 diamond tweeter, a Gen4 black ceramic midrange, and a pair of carbon fiber/aluminum woofers. It is a 4 Ohm design that requires >30 Watts. The finish is equal to other fine Tidal speakers, which is to say, exceptional in piano gloss black, or high-glass wood veneers.
The music here was very high resolution with extreme transparency, yet was very neutral with no hint of distortion. It was as close to hearing live music as I've heard from any audio system, ever. Yet while it was not irritating, it was as demanding as live music can be, just as being present at a concert can be over two or three hours.
Truman Room Convergent Audio Technologies (CAT)
The turntable on top was a VPI HW40 ($22k) equipped with a van den Hul Crimson cartridge ($5k). Below that was the CAT SL1 Legend Extreme preamp with phono ($80k), followed by a vintage hot-rodded Audio Aero Capitole top-loading CD player.
The CAT Black Path interconnects used here used an amorphous gold and silver metallurgy. A 1.5m pair was $10k while a 3m pair was $16k. A shielded phono cable was $8k. The Black Path Double Shot 2m speaker cables were $18k. Since the CAT rigs are the only place I've ever heard these cables, I have to wonder whether it is the components or the cables that make this rig sound so good.
I had a nice long chat with Ken Stevens in the hall again this year. We live not far apart in Upstate NY but only seem to get together at shows. Maybe it is just as well, as he's a man with endless stories. As much as I enjoyed our chat, I had to beg off to finish my coverage of the show.
Inside the room I touched base with Michael D. Griffin of ESP (Essential Sound Products) who makes the power cords used in the CAT systems year after year. The ESP Renaissance 1.5m ($5k) cable was also available hard-wired to the ESP Power Distributor 2m, ($7k). The more affordable ESP Reference 1.5m was $2,499, or $4,499 for 2m with the Power Distributor. Going very high end, there was also the Eloquence at $20k, or $27k when a 2m length was mated to the Power Distributor.
ESP also makes some very affordable power cords for just a couple of hundred dollars as well as price points in between that and the models mentioned above. Michael offered Show Specials on most of his products that would have offset the cost of attending the show in some cases.
Michael works out of Rochester, Michigan, and promotes his power cords in the pro-audio world with endorsements from jazz musicians such as Ron Carter as seen in the display above.
The back-to-back experience of the CAT room with the Tidal room was an invaluable lesson. They were both outstanding presentations, yet were quite different in their sound quality. The CAT room had an analog front end with tube amplification while the Tidal room had a digital front end with solid-state amplification — two of the biggest controversies over "what's best?"
The Tidal room, as I said above, has a "you are there" presentation where you are close to the well-lighted stage and the music has a commanding (and controlling) presence that doesn't let you ignore the music. This is great if you really want to be at the concert and you don't mind being somewhat exhausted by the music after a few hours.
The CAT room, on the other hand, is more of an Easy Rider that presents the music with high resolution but sets you back a little further from the stage with lighting that isn't quite as tiring on your eyes. The music invites you into the experience of enjoying it without demanding your attention. You can sit and listen for hours on end without strain or exhaustion. And if you can overcome the allure of the music, you can even multi-task.
So, two standards of excellence. And you get to pick. As the graffiti on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi says, "Know thyself."