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Southwest Audio Fest 2024 Premium Audio Show Report

 

The Inaugural Southwest Audio Fest
A new 'must-see' show joins the annual event lineup.
SWAF 2024 Show Report By Greg Weaver

 

The Inaugural Southwest Audio Fest A new 'must-see' show joins the annual event lineup. SWAF 2024 Show Report By Greg Weaver

 

  What an amazing new spectacle! This remarkable inaugural event was held at the four-star rated Hilton Anatole in the Design District just north of the heart of downtown Dallas, Texas, from March 15th through Saint Patrick's Day, the 17th. I want to take a moment to comment on what an overwhelming success it was. Veteran showrunners, Gary Gill, who founded and has run a dozen Capital Audiofests in Rockville Maryland, and Lou Hinkley, founder of Daedalus Audio in 1992, and show director of the now two-year-old Pacific Audio Fest of Seattle Washington, have teamed up to bring us this new and extremely promising show in Dallas, a modern metropolis in north Texas, which is both a commercial and cultural hub of the region.

First of all, the Hilton Anatole is exceptional as its venue. Opened in 1979, with over 1,600 guest rooms, it is one of the largest hotels in the region and is a major convention and meeting facility. Displaying over 1,000 art objects, including one of the four castings of "Riding Into the Sunset" (a bronze sculpture by Electra Waggoner Biggs, depicting Will Rogers, the famous American vaudeville performer, actor, and humorous social commentator, on his horse, Soapsuds) as well as two sections of the Berlin Wall, all available for visitor's to view throughout this inviting and spacious resort setting, it makes for quite an impressive collection. With more than 600,000 sq. ft. or nearly two-and-a-sixth square miles of functional space, encompassing nine ballrooms, seventy-nine meeting rooms, six restaurants, including the high-energy steak house, SĒR on the 27th floor of the western Tower wing, and a seven-acre park.

Jade Waters, a 20-million-dollar seasonal resort pool complex was opened in late July 2016, spanning three acres of the Hilton Anatole's seven-acre park area. Featuring two 180-foot water slides, a children's area with a beach and activity pool with play areas, a 630-foot-long lazy river for tubing, its own 46-piece art collection, a full-service restaurant, and a large year-round leisure pool, it is an exclusive amenity for hotel guests.

While the bulk of the guest rooms are included in that 27-floor tower section of the hotel, this event was focused in and around the area of the 14-floor East Atrium. My room was on the 10th floor, with a beautiful view down into the Atrium, where the event Registration and Marketplace booths were situated.

 

 

This large open space in the Atrium included nearly a dozen booths for vendors as varied as retailers Snake River Audio of St Riggins, Idaho, and Enmusic World, manufacturers like Audio Crafters Guild and Kimber Kable, as well as several important LP service providers like WAM Engineering and their remarkable lineup of WallyTools Analog Setup Tools and Kirmuss Audio.

To the east side of the Atrium floor were the three Stemmons Ballrooms, the two semi-circular shaped, and resultantly rather challenging sonic spaces, of ballrooms A and C, and the more normal rectangular ballroom B, which was home to the Record Row. Immediately to the south of the three Semmons ballrooms, was the Cooper Room, which was sponsored by JMF Audio of France, and was the room where I held my first after-hours LP session Friday night.

To the southeast corner of the atrium was the entrance to the enormous and grand Carpenter Ballroom, which spanned the length of the atrium's south wall, sponsored by the Valve Amplification Company and Acora Acoustics. This monstrously large and open location, with its primary space some eighty-six feet deep, thirty-one feet wide, and opening to a cavernous eighteen feet in height, is where I held my Saturday evening after-hours LP session.

As a brief aside, before I get into the show coverage, if you've seen Episode 160 detailing how I scoured Vienna to share my experiences visiting some of the residences, the site of the first performance of his glorious Ninth, and the final resting place of Ludwig van Beethoven, it will come as no surprise that I was drawn to the infamous Dealey Plaza, the site of the assassination of our 35th president, John F. Kennedy, on November 22nd, 1963, which is less than three miles to southeast of this magnificent resort.

Now, please understand that the room coverage here is presented in no particular order and in, more or less, the order in which I wandered the event, drawn to one room or another by the request of a colleague or friend, or as I just happened to walk into it.

 

 

But, my choice of the Top Five sounding rooms each has an Enjoy the Music.com Best Of SWAF 2024 Blue Note Award in front of the room number. I will be the first to admit that it is getting much more competitive for the top honors at shows these days, and that further complicates my ability to assign the rooms in any numerical order of preference. As such, just know that, given your personal biases and musical preferences, ANY of these Fab Five rooms might have filled your top honor qualifications. They were ALL fabulous and deserving of such remarkable recognition.

 

 

Cardinal Room Mezzanine Level
YG Acoustics, Supra HiFi, And Reference Analog

 

I spent a good bit of time here Friday morning, talking with YG Acoustics of Arvada, Colorado's Marketing Honcho, Duncan Taylor, and listening to the simply splendid presentation achieved by the remarkable union of exceptional products.

 

System details:
Pure Fidelity Harmony Turntable (quilted maple finish) with Illustrious SE tonearm - $11,790
Pure Fidelity Stratos Cartridge - $1995
Audio Research 3SE phono - $24,000
MSB Premier DAC - $27,500
Constellation Virgo III preamp - $43,000
Constellation Centaur II Mono amplifiers $114,000/pair
YG Acoustics Sonja 3.2 - $99,000/pair
MIT 2C3D Level 2 speaker cables - $12,299/pair
MIT 2C3D Level 3 balanced interconnects, 3 meter - $6,299/a pair
MIT Oracle Z Cord Reference AC power cord, 3m - $2299 each
MIT 2C3D AC power cord - $3649 each
Nordost QBase Reference AC Distribution Network - $18,000
Nordost QNet Network Switch - $3,200
with Nordost QSource Linear Power supply - $2,750
and Nordost QNet stand and AC Sort Kones - $299

 

Hearing a standard track here, like Willie Nelson's "Stardust," from his 1978 release of the same name, was simply enchanting, sounding very natural and relaxed, yet full-bodied and detailed.

Duncan was kind enough to give me some time listening to the nearly twenty-five minute long "Ode to Joy," the "Presto Allegro Assai," from the 1972 London / Decca release of Beethoven Symphony No. 9 "Choral" by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under Sir Georg Solti. This is a track I know intimately and have used as evaluation material routinely over the decades.

 

 

The spatial recreation of the orchestra with this track was extremely accurate and engaging. The voices of the Chorale, and the four soloists, were nicely rendered and presented with an excellent sense of size and spatial relationships. Overall, tonality was remarkably faithful broadband, with excellent texture and color. My only nit to pick here was a bit lightish development below about 30 Hz.

 

 

 

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