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

 

Command Performance AV, Audia Flight, And Neat Acoustics
When I first dropped by to say hi to local dealer Jeff Fox of Command Performance AV, the overhead lights were doing an intermittent strobe effect that was distracting, it was repaired soon. CPAV has an amazing assortment of the top shelf equipment at their Falls Church, VA location; stop in if you want to audition the latest kit. New to me was the Audia Flight gear, Audia Flight Strumento No 1 Preamp $17,500, Strumento No 4 Stereo Amp $27,500, and FL Phono stage $9,995. The AF front end drove a sharp looking pair of Neat Ultimatums XL 10 speakers $32,500/pr, in an eye catching figured birch finish. Sources included a Berkeley Audio Design Reference DAC $16,000, BAD Alpha USB $1,895, and 2 turntables (and a microphone), a VPI Avenger $9,000 with a Lyra Kleos cart $2,995, and across from the Avenger, a Clearaudio Ovation TT $6,500 and Stradivari cart $3,750. The system was wired with Wireworld Platinum Eclipse Level cables, the speaker cables, Bi-Wire in a 2.5M length are $20,500/pr. StillPoints Ultra footers were under everything, and their StillPoints Aperture Acoustic Panels $650 each, were strategically placed around the room. Early Friday when I first visited the room, the Neats were overpowering the room and the bass was boomy, I made a note and went again on Sunday after some "changes". I heard Yes' "Roundabout" played at a party level and it was intoxicatingly fun, powerful bass line, effortless, big dynamics, and clear vocals.

 

 

Dynamic Sounds, KEF, Joseph Audio, Wells Audio, And Tweek Geek
My good friend, Chuck Cabell, USAF Retired Brigadier General now living in Colorado Springs, CO, made sure I returned to the DSA room on Sunday to hear the re-dialed in acoustics. It's a shame, but most rooms at any show sound their best on Sunday as everything has had some burn in and room modes have been tackled, and it has the lowest attendance. Chuck was enthusiastic about the DSA Phono II preamp stage $13,500, having bought one for his system after a wide and long search. Pointman David Sckolnik of DSA was hosting and playing record changing DJ, and designer Douglas Hurlburt was busy answering questions. The Joseph Audio Pearl 3 speakers $31,500/pr were being driven by a Wells Audio Innamorata Signature amp $15,000, and a DSA Pre 1 preamp $16,500 controlled levels and switching. Tweek Geek supplied a Bybee Stealth Power Purifier $6,000, Kanso the rack, and Luminous Audio Cables connected everything including their Mega Power Lynx AC cord, Synchestra Silver Reference ICs, and Synchestra Signature speaker cables. Since the phono stage was the focus here, nothing would do but the latest, heavily optioned VPI Avenger, with the "Magnetic Drive" platter and three tonearms (Why? Because we can), two 12.7" Classic 4 arms and a JMW 12" 3D Printed arm, approx. $30,000.Miyajima supplied two cartridges, a Mandake stereo $5,995, and a Zero-Mono $ 1,995, an Ortofon MC A95 $5,995 completed the analog setup. Comparing the sonic virtues of different cartridges has never been easier, a push of a button and voila, quick A/B listens. The geezer stuff I listen to, Crosby, Stills, and Nash was better suited to the Ortofon 95, being lighter in color, more detailed and tighter bass lines. David played The Band's eponymous second album and we listened to "The night they drove old Dixie down", again the Ortofon 95 edged ahead with better delineation of their voices and more drive from the drums and bass. Then we went Mono, playing cuts from The Beatles in Mono box set. Hearing The Beatles in mono, on this system with a bona fide mono cart was spectacular. It's not what you expect, instead the stage is wide with depth, plenty of detail, and since the material was recorded in mono you hear the original intended mixes, what an eye (ear) opener to enjoy some old favorites in glorious mono. I was rewarded with a wonderful experience on Sunday, thanks David, Douglas, and Chuck!

 

 

Technics
Technics
showed a one brand system at 2015 CAF. When I visited, the floorstanding Technics Reference SB-R1 speakers $26,999/pr were playing Mozart, clean and clear, but the bass was overloading the small room. The much smaller Premium C-700 speakers $1,699/pr matched the room better and came close to the SB-R1s above the bass range, they might be a contender in the ring that the KEF LS50 reigns over currently. If you like big meters, come on down and oogle the SE-R1 Stereo Power amp $16,999 that produces 300 wpc. A Technics SU-R1 Network Audio Player $8,999 acted as the controller for the system. I really wished they had dished some info about their upcoming turntables but I didn't get a scoop.

 

 

Urban HiFi And David Berning
Heads up headphone users, Mark Schneider has convinced the ubiquitous David Berning to let Linear Tube Audio build a revamped version of Berning's microZOTL headphone amp $1,100. Dick Olsher writing for our own Enjoy the Music.com reviewed the original microZOTL in October 2000, giving it an excellent report. With David's guidance, the microZOTL has been improved, both sonically and cosmetically. The retail outlet for Linear Tube Audio is Urban HiFi, located in Washington, DC. I listened through a pair of Audeze headphones and found a noiseless black background that let music flow naturally with tremendous detail and driving tempos, this is an affordable kick ass head-fi amp! If that wasn't enough, Mark showed me the soon (October / November) to be released ZOTL 10 $2,400 at 10 watts of OTL beauty. The ZOTL 10 will have a headphone jack for those cans that want/need 3 to 4 watts to be happy, you know who you are. The ZOTL 10 will be a great amp for high sensitivity speakers, hello horn lovers. An even more powerful ZOTL is in the works, but details are sketchy, perhaps 30 to 40 wpc?

 

 

LKV Research, Joseph Audio, And VPI Industries
My second audition of Jeff Joseph's Prism speakers $3,699/pr yielded a better impression of the junior Pulsars. Another VPI was spinning records, a Prime $3,799 and the focus was on the phono stage, LKV Research's Veros One $6,500, and their LKV Line One Preamp $3,500. They used a conrad-johnson Premier Eleven tube amp and connected it all with Kimber Cable and Cardas wire. With a much better supporting cast, the Prisms really reminded me of the pricier Pulsars that wowed me at RMAF 2014, surprising bass impact from such small enclosures, big soundstage, precise imaging, natural vocals, a relaxing room. Bill Hutchins of LKV has worked relentlessly to lower the noise floor of his phono stage and listening to this system confirms he's done a good job of it. Low level details did not get lost, but were still audible even at soft volumes.

 

 

Madison Fielding
The best sounding planters at the show, no contest, numero uno. The well-equipped patio will have a pair of these designer speakers. The new Piermont 17 Planter Speakers $6000/pr, offer a modern slatted teak look that would look great on my back deck. Driven by a Parasound pre and power amp, they offer much better sonics than any other outdoor speaker I've ever heard. Art Powers of Planter Speakers is always fun to be around and plays great music too! My best laugh at the 2015 CAF occurred after I saw the host's Tee shirt, ‘Best Pot at the Show".

Microphone drop!

 

If you missed my part 1 CAF coverage, please click here to see it.

 

---> Back to main Capital Audiofest 2015 report page..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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