Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2015 Show Report Part 1
CAF 2015 Coverage By Kemper Holt
August in Maryland is usually peppered with thunderstorms and suffocating
humidity. I don't know who Gary Gill paid off but the Capital Audiofest 2015 was
graced with spectacular good weather all three days. The team of Gary, Christina
Yuin, and Paul Elliott put together one of the best sounding audio shows ever.
Great music was everywhere and the crew worked tirelessly to make sure everything
went smoothly. Congratulations!
CAF has a friendly and relaxed atmosphere that
can be hard to find at the bigger shows allowing for more time in each room and
a chance to ask questions of the exhibitors. The attendance was strong Friday
and Saturday, with Sunday starting slowly but by 12pm it picked up. Many rooms
were busy past the 4pm close. I made it a point to quickly interview several
women at the show, most were brought along by a husband/boyfriend and all
admitted they were actually having fun, and all the men said the gals had better
hearing. Saturday had the most diversity of ages/gender and it was gratifying to
see youngsters and women enjoying themselves. Two of the couples I talked with had
both husband and wife very interested in their two-channel setup and said
playing music daily was the norm. They actively share their hobby with
friends and guests too.
On to the show!
Pleased Audio Vida
registering, the first room I found was Well Pleased Audio Vida, run by
Mark Sossa from Alexandria, VA. What an auspicious start from a CAF rookie, one
of the better small rooms and the gear just got out of the way of the music. Alta
debuted their newest speaker, the Rhea $4500/pr, which is a
two-way sporting a ribbon tweeter and curved cabinet sides for a pleasing form.
A trio of Clones black boxes provided the drive, AP 2 preamp
$1120, and a pair of 55 PM monos $1400/pr delivered 100W into the 4 Ohm
Rheas. Antipodes DS $2700 server fed the star of the room, aqua's La
Voce DAC $2600, an Italian product that is their entry level model. The
system had great tone and texture, smooth vocals, and surprising bass extension,
and a convincing soundstage, and for a room whose total cost was under $12,000,
a bargain. Congratulations to Mark who was just named US Distributor for aqua,
and if you are lucky enough to have heard the top of the line La Scala $5500,
you understand what I mean. Both aqua DAC's convey music's elusive details
with unerring accuracy always being faithful to the original, and sounding oh so
Audio, Electrostatic Solutions
was passing the Democracy room, when some Funk/Disco seemed to be coming from Quad
57's? Robin Robyatt was jamming out with TK Disco's Do What You Wanna
Do, and swiftly the whole room was dancing. Using Kent McCollum's
rebuilt Quad 57s and a Sopranino electret supertweeter on the top, I was
awestruck at how full range and loud the Quads were playing. Miyajima's OTL
2010 22W monos $18,500/pr, and WO-1 preamp $18,500, perfectly matched
the Quads, a special VPI Classic 3 with 10.5 tonearm, was wrapped
in 'rich Corinthian leather" and a Miyajima Mandake cartridge with
bamboo cantilever $5895, completed the stereo table. A Miyajima Zero mono
cartridge $1995 on another table played back a mono LP of the Pink Panther
theme, glorious. TEL Wire and Kanso Stands held it all together.
The transparency, body and tone of Kent's 57s are amazing, vocals special, and
that they can play pretty loud and produce tight impactful bass was surprising,
I had a great time in this room, about four times.
and GIK Acoustics
into the Odyssey room felt like a visit to a Planetarium, stars on the
ceiling, Klaus was using a projector to provide a cool atmosphere. I
don't know how Klaus does it, but he always has great rooms that sound
wonderful and the cost is a true bargain compared to others within the
marketplace. The news here is a big brother to the Kismet 2 two-ways is the Kismet
Liquids $5900/pr a 2.5-way design. The Liquids add a second ScanSpeak
Revelator woofer and keep the beryllium tweeter. The two woofers are different
impedances, one 4 Ohm the other 8 Ohm, paralleled and piggybacked on the
crossover, plus each woofer has its own chamber. An Odyssey Candela Tube
Reference Preamp $1600, a pair of Khartago mono amps $1999/pr, a Suspiro
phono amp $1250, and Groeneberg Quattro cables supported the Liquids.
As usual GIK room treatments were everywhere helping tame the room. A VPI
HR-X turntable was used to spin the same Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here
vinyl as I heard in Denver last year. Just like at RMAF, the most relaxing
enjoyable 20 minutes of the show was listening to an album side where nobody
spoke or interrupted, as it was musical bliss. The Liquids are more relaxed than
the Monitors, have more detail especially throughout the midrange, and go lower
with more authority. The system produced a wide stage with good imaging and a
lot of depth, immediate vocals, killer tone and delivered a dynamically alive
presentation. It's easy to see why Klaus, Alex, and Odyssey are so busy, their
products are sensational sounding, yet very affordable, and real value is hard
to find today.
GT Audio Works, Paradox, And Hollis Audio Labs
Greg Takesh of GT Audio
Works took a year off from CAF in 2014 and put that time into R&D,
time well spent as the debut of his GTA 2.5 Hybrid Planar Speakers
$8995/pr, was sensational. The full range planar magnetic driver uses
neodymium magnets and is driven directly without any crossover between it and
your amp. A single cap protects a ribbon tweeter, 48" long, same as the mid.
Two 10" drivers in a sealed box form the bottom of the sleek cabinet and are
driven by a Hypex plate amp, crossing over near 100 Hz, but the Hypex gives
plenty of flexibility to match a room or personal tastes. The woodwork is
handcrafted and furniture quality, and as these are built to order you get to
choose your favorite wood and maybe a contrasting color as well. Right down to
the Propeller binding posts and the fit of the grille, the GTA 2.5s got
all the details sorted out. Paradox Pulse mono amps $12,000/pr, provided
100 watts, a PrimaLuna Dialog Premium preamp $3199 connected a Paradox
modified JVC 1050 CD player and Rich Hollis' HAL MS-3 server,
$799, and Danville Signal dspMusik DAC $1500. Paradox Red
wiring connected everything, and a power conditioner was tried and rejected as
it solved some noise issues but robbed the system of dynamics and clarity.
Thinking like a veteran, Greg had ATS Acoustics supply some room
treatments, very helpful.
What a great sounding room, the system checked off all I
want a speaker to do, huge soundstage, wide/tall/deep, the best depth from any
of the small rooms. The GTA 2.5s are spaciously open, very
detailed/transparent without tiring your ears , react instantaneously to
transients, are dynamically exciting, exhibit good tone and body, play very
loud without strain or glare, integrate the woofers seamlessly, go very low
with authority, and can make a singer appear in the room. Until Rich Hollis
pulled up some Reference Recordings, including their HRX series, I'm not
sure Greg knew all his speakers were capable of doing. Triode Pete was sitting
in the room and Rich played a RR track from Pomp and Pipes, "The
one point the orchestra and organ are playing full tilt (and very loud), when
a drum is pounded louder than everything else and the impact was so stunning
that Pete actually jumped out of his chair! The Kodo drums were scary, "Jazz
Variants" by O-Zone was spellbinding, and Bela Fleck's "Flight of the Cosmic
Hippo" showcased Victor Wooten's virtuoso bass abilities. On the quieter
side, Jennifer Warnes version of "Famous Blue Raincoat" was deliciously
delicate and emotional, and I felt like I was in the Church with Margo Timmons
as she sang "Mining for Gold". I now lust for a pair of GTA 2.5s, and Rich has
shown me that a server can be affordable, thanks guys.
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