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Capital Audiofest 2012 High-End Audio Show Report
Capital Audiofest 2012 Show Report
Coverage By Scot Hull of Part Time Audiophile 


  You know what would be great? Winning the Lottery. That would be great. I mean, honestly, I would make a fantastic rich person. I would! Okay, I probably wouldn't. Most likely, I'd be that guy that won the jackpot and blew it all on the 250' yacht he keeps on blocks next to his doublewide. Of course, instead of a yacht, I'd blow it all on audio gear, but that's only to be expected.


Tidal Audio
I like to pretend that my first stop, after my visit from the heretofore absent-from-my-life Lotto Fairy, will be to Doug White of The Voice That Is to check out the latest and greatest from Tidal loudspeakers. In the meantime, while I sit and wait for Godot, I got a taste of what my future (never hurts to dream) holds, here at Capital Audiofest.

Doug had two rooms here, both showing Tidal speakers. In the more expensive of the two, Doug was showing off his personal pair of Contriva Diacera SE speakers in a magnificent custom veneer. These $64,190/pair speakers were actually the first and second off the line as you can see from the engraved silver plaques mounted just over their rear-facing ports. Nice touch. The finish is something of a one-off, a super-dramatic custom-stained version of the standard-finish African pyramid mahogany. As Doug tells it, this finish took about six months of finishing and fussing over before Tidal designer Jrn Janczak was happy with it and once complete, said he'd never do again. Doug says he's never going to sell these, and quite frankly, he'd be nuts to do so. Interestingly, these speakers also predate the move Tidal made to all-black Accuton drivers. Anyway, these speakers were not only shockingly beautiful; they put out the most glamorous sound at the show.


Volti Audio
Greg Roberts in on to something. He's been chasing that Klipschorn sound and by God, he nailed it here with his Vittoria. The "three-way, fully horn-loaded" 104dB/W/m sensitive speaker has a brand-new 1" ring-radiator compression tweeter that sweetens up the top end considerably. The styling is very retro in the best possible way. I sat there, with the two speakers set along the long wall a good 8' to either direction, and I couldn't help but be transported back to my childhood, hanging out with my grandfather and listening to his collection of classical LPs on his big speakers. The sound, the stage, the effortless dynamics, and all that flood of memory, well, it made for an emotional visit.

These speakers are currently retailing for $12,600 and can be paired with the matching subwoofer for an additional $2400. A sub is probably good idea with the Vittoria, given that they will roll off at around 50 Hz because, well, because they're horns. Bass out of a horn isn't hard, but it does need a large cabinet far larger than a room-friendly enclosure like the Vittoria. My advice? Get the sub. The tasteful, furniture-grade enclosures are all hand-made in Maine, constructed of Baltic Birch, and require approximately 240 hours of labor to build. Hmmm, a $15,000 for furniture-grade heirloom quality horn speakers? Sign me up.

Around the corner from the Volti Audio room was the Volti Audio room. Or, rather, their second room. Shown here with Mojo Audio were the new $8,000 Volti Veretta speakers. These show with a Feastrex NF5 driver in a hand-made "boat-tail" cabinet design when viewed from above, the widest point in the cabinet happens about mid-way back from the front baffle. The Veretta is spec'd at 35 Hz to 25 kHz, carries a 94dB/W/m sensitivity, and the sound is quite revealing. I walked into the room, shared by Mojo Audio and Dj vu Audio, to a familiar recording of Keb Mo'. I love this guy's sound, but here, it sounded flat and boring. I was surprised and not looking forward to hanging out, but Benjamin Zwickel of Mojo Audio changed over to Harry Belafonte's Belafonte Sings the Blues, and it was like someone poured another cup of coffee into me. The sound, which had been flat and not involving, suddenly went 3-D. A track Peter Breuninger of AVShowrooms left behind, a sad, quiet female vocalist covering "All the Lonely People", gave me goose bumps. Chris Jones' "Roadhouses and Automobiles", off the album of the same name, is a track I like to use for resolution my so-called "Cricket Test", had the little buggers chirping all over the sound stage. Convincing sound -- with great source material and easily resolving enough to let you know when your source material just isn't "there".


Purity Audio Design
For my birthday, I want a Purity Audio preamp. Come to think of it, Christmas will work too. Either or. You know, whatever is convenient. Okay? Good! Oh, and no, I'm not choosy, but since you're asking, I think the Ultra GT preamplifier would look and sound smashing in my main rig. You can, perhaps, imagine my delight when Purity showed at Capital Audiofest with a pair of their one-level-down "Statement" preamps. These preamps, retailing for $19,995 for the all-silver and $14,995 for the all-copper versions, are exercises in audiophile wizardry. Dual-mono power supplies sit in a separate chassis. Inside the main box, you'll find Bybee Purifiers, V-Cap Teflon capacitors, autoformers instead of resistors to implement the volume control, an option to turn the entire unit into a passive oh, and tubes! The difference between these two models, as the name suggests, is that in one of them, everything is done in pure silver. Yeah. Hook. It. Up. The Silver Statement Purity preamp in the Tidal Audio/Audio Power Labs room was sporting the standard piano black finish, but Lou Hinkley of Dadelaus Audio had dressed his Copper Statement up in an all-wood cabinet with the same color, finish and dovetail joints to match his Athena loudspeakers. That's a $1500 upgrade for the twin chassis models. Very sexy work. Got wood? Okay, that was uncalled for.



Speaking of Daedalus Audio, I spent some time playing my Chris Jones CD here, just to see. I got detail, great tone, and surprising bass out of the corner-filled setup. The 95dB/W/m sensitive $9950 Athena includes the upgraded crossover bits found in Lou's top-of-the-line Ulysses speakers. These Lou had matched up with a pair of $12,500 Carver Black Beauty VTA305M monoblocks. These Carver amps use six KT-120 tubes to crank out 305wpc into his Athenas, which seemed... excessive... but based on how effortlessly the Athenas held their poise at concert levels, well, what do I know?


Audio Power Labs
I mentioned that Tidal and Purity Audio shared a room this was the second of the two rooms that The Voice That Is had running. Here were the lovely, delicate and refined $37,690 Piano Diacera speakers from Tidal, matched to the Purity preamp and a pair of new monster-tube amps from Audio Power Labs. Not quite as crazy as their $175,000 833TNT amps, these new 572B-based amps faithfully uphold the "Our tubes are bigger than yours" motto the company seems to have adopted, but the price on this new offering comes down to a far more comfortable (if still more aspirational than affordable) $47,500 a pair. Good for 50wpc, these amps are showpieces for sure, all glitter and glow locked up tight in an elegant art-deco case definitely not amps to hide away in the rack. Nice work!  


Swap Meet Audio
I came in here, looking for the Soundfield Audio Monitor 1 that I'd heard would be on display in here, but didn't find it. I found a bunch of other nifty bits, though. First up was Triode Pete, happily pushing beer and soda into the hands of everyone who walked in the room. Nice guy, with some giant... wire?


I'll spare you the inept attempt at grade-school humor. But let me say that the Triode Wire Labs "Seven Plus" is simply massive. Like the name suggests, ahem, the wire is 7 gauge (which is really big), but the whole is remarkably flexible. I say this because most low-gauge wire that I'm familiar with is about as easy to use as a two-by-four. Most shocking of all, ahem (I can't seem to help myself here, but at least I've moved electrical humor, that's worth something, right?), is the price: $399 for 5' lengths. Compare that, and weep, ye heathen. And for that, you get cryo treatment, top shelf connectors, a special metal-alloy blend, and, yes, it's all made by Triode Pete himself, in his secret underground lair. Wicked. And yes, I will have some. Oh yes, yes I will.

Another odd bit I found in here was the secretive qlSignal Completion Stage from BSG. I still have no idea how this thing works, but from what I understand, the $3995 unit corrects phase errors among other things with the result of, predictably, improved audio quality for the system it gets embedded in. It's not a replacement for any particular component, but instead, sits inline and works its magic on the signal as it passes through. There's a remote, which allows you to turn the unit on and off as well as switch the ql circuit in and out of the signal, so you can "test" what it sounds like on the fly. Look, I have no idea if this thing works, or what differences I would hear if I were to A/B the unit with a separate, parallel, BSG-free chain, but what I did hear with the unit powered on and inline was, well, a significant improvement to the audio quality. Color me curious.


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