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Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2015 Show Report
Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2015 Show Report Part 2
CAF 2015 Coverage By Kemper Holt

 

ModWright, Daedalus, WyWires and VPI Industries
In one of the big rooms on the 3rd floor, Rickie Lee Jones like a Siren called to me as I approached, "come in and relax" the music said. I was just in time for an A/B comparison with the new DIDs, Daedalus Isolation Devices $120 each. Lou Hinkley, Mr. Solid Wood speakers, demonstrated the effectiveness of the DIDs as he added and removed them from under a ModWright Instruments OPPO 105D with "Truth" mods Universal player $3,880. We listened several times to Rickie Lee Jones' "Easy Money" from her 1st release, and each time the 6 other listeners and myself could hear a better focus on her voice, tighter bass lines, and highs that just floated. The DIDs use dissimilar materials to dissipate vibration, wood, metal, and ball bearings and the result was an audible gain. Lou had his newly updated Poseidon V.2 speakers $16,450 in cherry ($21,450 in Baked Flamed Maple with "Art Deco" front baffle) firing cater-corner in the room trying to tame the bass. The wood finish is extraordinary, and the look is luxury heirloom quality. The V.2 upgrade uses new woofers and a tweaked crossover, well worth the effort. Dan Wright brought the whole inventory to power the system, LS 36.5 DM linestage $9,995, KWA 150 SE Signature Edition amp $8,495, Elyse DAC $6,900, PH 150 Tube Phono Stage $7,900, and the MW OPPO 105D. VPI had the new Avenger $9,000 turntable and 3D arm ready to spin vinyl. WyWires cabling was used throughout, including their new Diamond series Interconnects $4,495/pr.

Poking around behind the equipment I found a wire loom to keep the wires separated, a nice detail, and Lou can build you one if you want it. My cut from Michael Hedges, "Rickover's Dream" was as dynamically exciting here as it was on the Daedalus Athena V.2s, guitar tone on the button, plenty of detail, and solid bass, deep and powerful. Lou played a favorite of mine that he has on his server, Jesse Colin Young's "Ridgetop", just beautiful on this system. At the end of the song, Jesse uses his voice like an instrument and has a wonderful interplay duet with the saxophone, I've never heard the two better delineated, best sound yet from Lou and Dan at CAF.

 

 

Backert Labs, Martin Logan, Odyssey, And Chord
Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why" from Come Away With Me was playing on the turntable when I walked into this lowly lit room, relaxed and engaging, but I didn't see a phono stage? A prototype Backert Tube Phono Stage was being used to good advantage, 2016 availability and price TBD. The focus here was on the Backert Unnamed Tube Linestage $2,995, looking classy in silver and showing the new acrylic tube cover to allow that valve "Glow" to accent a darkened room. Andy Tebbe Explained to me that Bob Backert kept the same circuit topology as the more expensive Rhythm 1.1, but used less expensive parts to be able to offer most of the Rhythm's beauty at less than half the cost. High quality polypropylene caps instead of Teflon, an ALPS pot not a TKD, and less expensive casework helped shave the cost, yet retain most of the Rhythm's sonics. A of pair Martin Logan Montis speakers $10,000/pr were driven by a pair of Odyssey Kismet mono amps $5,000/pr( shown here in Stratos cases ), a VPI Classic with 3D arm and Dynavector XX2 mk II cartridge spun records, and a Chord Hugo DAC $2,500 fed from a laptop completed the system. Although a ML sub was in the corner, it was never used during the show. Attention ML Montis owners, the Odyssey Kismet amps really brought the stats to life, sounding the best I've heard them. The system had a tight vocal focus, was very transparent and clear, and conveyed good emotion evident on Norah Jones, and Eva Cassidy's Songbird, had a big soundstage with precise imaging. I sure like the idea of bringing such a good sounding and looking preamp down under $3000, should be a winner.

 

 

EMIA
Starting with the 1,000 watt Russian transmission triode lit up in the hall, to the redesign of the Quads inside, nothing here is off the shelf. Dave Slagle, Ijaz Khan, John Pessetto, and Jeffery Jackson have built " and they are close to finalizing the details. Since the Quads are a two-way design, they eliminated the passive crossover, and use two custom PP Triode wired EL 34 tubed amps (15watts each) with specially designed transformers, each dialed in to drive their specific panels, the best part is the Quad's transformer is kicked to the curb. The panels, courtesy of Wayne Picquet, are re-furbished using three-micron film, and the dust cover is not re-installed. They sit up higher than stock on a hardwood base/frame, and the panels are clamped to the frame using brass cones for superior rigidity resulting in wider dynamic swings and better detailing. A vintage Garrard 301 turntable with a machined brass platter used a Siggwan tonearm and Soundsmith modded Denon 103 cartridge, feeding an EMIA Silver Phono Stage $12,000, and EMIA Silver Autoformer Volume Control $5,400. Miles Davis was on the platter when I finally got in, after three futile tries, and he was resplendent, his trumpet clear and powerful, dripping with emotion, I felt transported to a small club. I got to hear "Industrial Disease" and "Love Over Gold" from Dire Straits' Love Over Gold, and the speakers just rocked out, big deep stage, great vocals, solid bass, and toe tapping PRAT.

 

 

VPI Industries And KEF
A corporate president that knows, cares, and appreciates all of his employees? Harry you did right passing the reigns to son, Mat Weisfeld, who brought the entire gang down to Rockville along with, maybe for the first time, every turntable VPI Industries makes! The room was awash with vinyl spinning glory, turntable heaven. VPI turntables were everywhere at the show, many sporting multiple arms allowing cartridge comparisons and proper mono record playback. The energy and "esprit de corps" of the whole VPI staff was on abundant display, led by Mat, who insisted fiancé Jane Cai pick up the trombone and jump into the lineup for a picture. On display up front in the system were the fruits of both Weisfelds, Harry Weisfeld's Avenger from $9,000 and Mat's Prime $3,800 with JMW 3D arm. The system used to audition the 2 tables was anchored by a pair of "arrest me red" KEF Blade 2 speakers $25,000/pr, VAS monoblock amps, ModWright LS 100 linestage $3,750, and a choice of phono stages, either a Luminious Audio Arion $6,395, or a DSA Phono II $13,500. On my third visit to this room, I spied a Backert Rhythm 1.1 Line Preamp $7,500 tucked into the rack, not sure if it got any play, but it sure is pretty. I was too distracted by all the VPI candy to sit and listen, but from the back of the room the sound filled the large room with punchy bass and good dynamic swings. Mat is doing a great job helming the VPI ship and is aware of the human condition, the thoughtful chief gave the staff half a day off when they returned home to recover from the show, Mat "you da man". If you are in the market for a turntable, from entry level to reference, please start with VPI Industries and get great sound from your records, tremendous value, and a made in the USA product.

 

 

 

United Home Audio, JoLida, MBL, And Synergistic Research
Reel to Reel is alive and very well as this room proved. Greg Beron of UHA had his UHA Phase 12-PB-OPS $25,000 dishing out some of the best sounding music at the show. Every part and function of this deck has been painstakingly honed over seven years to provide the best source for any system. The most important change to the 12 model is a complete redesign of the preamp section, eliminating output capacitors from the signal path, improving all aspects of the sound. Partnering with Jerred Dunkerson and Mike Allen of JoLida / Luxor, and MBL as in previous shows makes for an inviting room. In addition to the UHA Phase 12 deck, was a JoLida Fusion DAC/Transport $5,000, JoLida Luxor Preamp VTSP $8,500, four Luxor VTM 100 mono amps $9,000 each, and a pair of MBL 116F Radialstrahler Speakers $32,500/pr. Synergistic Research linked it all together with Atmosphere Level 4 cables and room treatments. One of the highlights of any show is the after-hours tape listening sessions Greg hosts on Friday and Saturday nights (mornings), you can't believe how good your favorite artists' music sounds until you've heard a master tape of the album, sensational. The system was throwing a huge soundstage very wide and deep, front row perspective, and doing a holographic thing with voices, very focused and in the room sounding. I don't think there is a better source than tape played back through a world class system like this, powerful bass transients, huge dynamic swings, details missed on other formats, and a "they are in the room" effect to die for. Both RTR analog tape and vinyl are staging comebacks, it's no secret why as they convey music with staggering realism. Greg's persistence in improving every aspect of his UHA Phase 12 has produced the most exciting and involving source for any system, combined with the 20 sources of New Generation Master Tape Copies, have created worldwide demand for this one of a kind deck.

 

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