Greg's Exciting Capital Audiofest 2023 Show Report
This year's mammoth, and monstrously successful, Capital Audiofest 2023 marks the completion of an even dozen such shows... Though not all twelve were held at the current location, the Twinbrook Hilton Hotel & Executive Meeting Center in Rockville, Maryland, this annual late fall event has become, and remains, my favorite show on the entire annual calendar.
CAF 2023 show, even as large as it has grown to be – and let me assure you, it has matured into a full-blown colossus – has always had such a very special, low-key, hip, and friendly vibe that I just can't resist. And while Gary is reticent about sharing actual attendance figures and such, this year, there were over 110 listening rooms and a vacant spot couldn't be found among all of the bustling and diverse booths in the Atrium!
DAMN, this show has grown. It may be worth mentioning that the first Capital Audiofest, which was held in 2010 at the Glenview Mansion, just about two miles from its current location, the beautifully appointed Rockville Hilton Hotel & Executive Meeting Center. If these two decidedly different locations may be seen as any indication, these two shows wouldn't seem even remotely related.
This year was by far the busiest I've seen Gary Gill, the show Owner and Organizer. Normally, we have time to sit and catch up over a beer or cocktail, but I only saw him twice this year, and both times he appeared to be hyper-focused and seemingly on some specific, purposeful mission.
Another change for me this year was that I was asked to present two after-hours curated LP sessions, one on Friday, and another on Saturday evening. These sessions saw their genesis with Capital Audiofest 2017 and have become immensely popular and well-attended. More on both of those events as I share the coverage of the rooms in which I hosted these presentations.
But let's get this party started, shall we? We will, "Take it from the top," by starting up on floor eight and descending into the bigger suites and meeting rooms at the lower levels.
Room 812 - Treehaus
Clearly, this is a system that, at first glance, seems to be comprised of interdepended component types that would typically fall outside my range of interest.
Rich's Treehaus linestage, quite simply named the Treehaus Preamplifier, uses a separate power supply, with a variety of transformers to power its various circuits. A pair of 6CJ3s provide high-speed DC voltage tube rectification to the audio circuit, and volume attenuation is performed using a custom-made pair of Finemet transformers, with Elma rotary switches for input selection.
The Treehaus signature amplifier, called, you guessed it, the Treehaus Amplifier, utilizes a directly heated triode driver interstage, transformer-coupled to another directly heated triode acting as the power tube. This design is based on the work of the Japanese master-of-the-art Susumu Sakuma, and Rich has chosen to use the 10/ 801A series of tubes as drivers with a venerate 300B output stage, with no capacitors in the signal path. A larger Finemet transformer performs impedance-matching output duty.
Then there is the Treehaus Moving Coil Step-Up Transformer. Starting with Urushi lacquer-coated Finemet Japanese transformers, they are packed with Showa Period silk into handmade pure copper cases before mounting them to a heavy aluminum plinth.
This event saw the official premiere of the Treehaus Audiolab "Phantom of Luxury" loudspeaker. This latest iteration of the Treehaus Field Coil loudspeaker leverages the Atelier Rullit field coil driver, a Fostex T900A super tweeter, and a fifteen inch Acoustic Elegance woofer, in an open baffle design using exotic wood.
The system in this room included...
While I freely admit to having no predilection for the more typically editorialized sound created by similar loudspeaker designs, especially when driven with lesser tube electronics, this single-brand, field-coil-centric loudspeaker, and valve-based electronics system really spoke to me.
In many respects, the Treehaus "Phantom of Luxury" loudspeaker was somewhat reminiscent of the remarkable $125,000/pr Granada UB II loudspeakers, featuring an active crossover and the Feastrex Type II Field Coil Driver, that I heard at CES 2010.
I'm certain that without the contributions of the included Fostex super tweeter and Acoustic Elegance woofer, it is likely that I would have found this system considerably less engaging.
But as it was, it quickly won me over with its remarkably accurate timber, tonality, and texture, and with its ability to recreate a realistic three-dimensional image and soundscape, all while maintaining credible instrumental sizes. I was further taken by its ability to recreate delicate and expressive nuances while rendering robust body and pure tonality. This system was astonishingly transparent, offering remarkable dynamic expressiveness, especially in the micro realm, and in its ability to scale, rendering lifelike dynamic contrasts – even at lower listening levels.
Rich and I have discussed the possibility of my taking a closer look at/listen to this system, perhaps in the late spring of next year. Time will tell.