Pacific Audio Fest 2022 Show
Just in case I didn't make it totally clear within part one of my PAF 2022 report on this foundational and newest audio show to join the annual audio show cavalcade how great a time it was, let me try further, with this, Part 2, and then with my final report, which will cover my "Fab Five," the five best sounding systems heard in Seattle at the Pacific Audio Fest's maiden voyage.
One of the many truisms that emerged as I moved from room to room and shared my experiences and impressions with others, was that the rooms in general, even in the more standard-sized hotel rooms of the two-leveled Wings 2 and 7, with room sizes of some 15' 4" x 21' x 8', sounded good!
As many of us began to compare notes, especially when we contrasted this experience to the general sounds of other annual events, it became clear that the consensus among showgoers, manufacturers, and journalists alike was that, for some reason, whether it was something with the size and shape, or maybe the construction techniques, the rooms - by and large – offered better overall sounds than we experienced in many other venues.
So, let's pick up my virtual tour where I left off in Part One. Time for Wing 7.
The source here was the Small Green Computer's signature sonic Transporter i9 music server ($2,999), and the Sonore Signature Rendu SE optical ($4,800), their ﬁnest streaming USB streaming source. Digital to Analog conversion was rendered by the UK's sw1x Audio Design's DAC III SPX ($7,500). Electronics included the LKV Research Line 1 Line Preamplifier ($3,500), and Veras Power+ Power Amplifier $10,000, driving Gunny's Legato Duo loudspeakers ($9,500/pr.) in a beautiful Rosewood finish.
The Legato Duo's are two-and-a-half-way slim, sleek, floor-standing loudspeakers, that are swept back to take advantage of the mechanical time alignment of the drivers, giving them a rather stately presence. This was a really nice listen, with fully fleshed out sonics, and presenting a soundscape convincingly larger than you might be led to expect given the speaker's svelte, compact proportions.
String tone was more than merely convincing, and instrumental body was very good, as was imaging and staging. The system was remarkably coherent, with a very authentic sense of tonality, and solid, deep, and fast bass extension.
Moving to Olympic Room 1 found a remarkably engaging and large system in this fairly large space, some 30' x 21' x 7'4".
Sources here were the VPI Industries, Inc. HW-40 Direct Drive Reference Turntable with is Fatboy Anniversary Tonearm ($22,000), fitted with an unidentified model of Soundsmith moving-iron phono cartridge ($4,999.95), or a Red Wolf 2SX Music Server ($16,600) feeding the EMM Labs DA2-V2 DAC ($30,000).
Electronics were all from Audio Research Corporation and included the Reference 3SE Phono Stage ($18,000), the Reference 6SE Line-Stage ($18,000), and the Reference 80S amplifier ($15,000) .
The loudspeakers here were the Arion Apollo 9 System ($35,900), with full DSP and advanced room correction, and the optional Apollo Dual-Pack Woofer Package ($5,900), which adds 2 additional woofers and their necessary amplification.
All cabling came from JPS, including interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords, with no prices given, power treatment was provided by Chang Lightspeed Advanced Technology Powerline Filters (from $645 to $4,195), and minimal room taming was accomplished using ASC / TubeTrap Bass Traps and Acoustic Treatment, again with no pricing.
This system presented with an engaging sense of instrumental body conveyed in a convincingly realistic space. Listening to a standard Arista LP pressing of Alan Parsons, I, Robot, not a remaster or special release, I was very impressed by both the textural fullness presented by instruments, and the sense of space, air, and separation of the backing vocalists.
Next, I meandered into 7208, sponsored by Elite AV Distribution. The system was set up in a decidedly nearfield configuration, with the primary listening seat being very close to the front of the room and the plane of the speakers, and proved to be an excellent sounding setup.
LP transcription was handled by a walnut-based Kuzma Stabi R turntable ($12,139), the Kuzma Reference 313 Tone Arm ($6005), fitted with a Kuzma CAR-50 Low-Output MC cartridge ($7458), using a Plinius Koru solid-state phono stage ($3450). Ones and zeros originated with a Dell PC ($200), and a High Resolution Technologies (HRT) Music Streamer HD USB DAC ($500), but I only heard vinyl while I was in the room.
Electronics included the Manley Labs Jumbo Shrimp all-vacuum tube line stage ($3995) and a Plinius Audio SA-201 stereo amplifier ($6545). Loudspeakers were the Chapman Audio T-7 Floor-Standing Speakers ($14,995).
Cabling and ancillaries were all from Furutech, and included the DSS-4.1 Custom 2M length loudspeaker cables with FP-201 R spade lugs ($2500/pr.), DPS-4 interconnects ($480/meter) using their CF-102 RCA plugs ($193.00/pr.), their GT2Pro USB cable ($278.00/1.8 M), as well as various power cords, including the Project V-1 ($9550), and others made from their FP-S55N, 10 gauge Nano AuAg ($212/meter), or DPS-4, 11 gauge DUCC Ultra-Crystalline bulk power cable ($480/meter), terminated with Furutech FI-50/50M NCF power and IEC pugs ($377/each)
Other accessories from Furutech included their Destat ($387), the NCF AC Boosters ($435), NCF Booster Signal ($262), their Pure Power 6 Power Distribution system ($8850), the e-TP80 NCF power blocks ($1015) and the NCF Clear Line Filter ($275).
Listening to the 1979 Lyrita pressing of English, Scottish, & Cornish Dances, by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Malcolm Arnold proved to afford an extremely effective demonstration. This well-balanced nearfield setup delivered spectacular staging with hauntingly honest string tone, credibly faithful horn texture, expressive dynamics, an impressive sense of focus, and a visceral placement of instruments throughout the entire stage. It also offered intoxicating midrange purity, while delivering excellent rhythmic drive and richly detailed and shaded microdynamic nuance. Bravo.
Moving to 7220 found the PureAudioProject room. Sadly, about the only system details I can provide are that the loudspeakers were the PureAudioProject Trio 315, a configurable three baffle loudspeaker that uses a pair of their proprietary15-inch open baffle woofers and allows personal configuration of its sonic signature by offering the user the choice of some five different "center drivers." The center driver option is easily configurable, allowing its perspective owner to select the "voice" that they prefer by selecting one of five different and easily "swappable" full-range driver choices.
One can use the PureAudioProject proprietary "Horn1," a wide-range, 1.4" throated horn with a soft polymer dome driver, their own proprietary 10" coaxial mid/tweeter driver, or one of three versions of the Voxativ 8" full range driver. This one was configured with the Voxitive AC-PiFe driver ($4,795/pr.), and the sound was, well, pretty interesting to a cat who doesn't much care for single-driver speaker solutions. And to be fair, this Trio 315 doesn't really fit that description, does it?
Listening to a David Bowie cut revealed a voice so articulate and natural sounding, with good overall tonal balance, a surprisingly well-demarcated, evident gradation of dynamism, with a convincing fluency of scaling. The very lowest octave was just a tad loose and blurred.