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AXPONA 2020 Show Report

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Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2019 Show Report

Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2019 Show Report
CAF 2019 Show Report By Enjoy the Music.com

 

Capital Audiofest 2019
Bounty for all who attended!
Capital Audiofest 2019 Report By Greg Weaver

 

Room 508 - McGary Audio / Salk Audio
Mike McGary and Jim Salk have been teaming up routinely at shows for some time now, and the sonic alchemy experienced in their room served as a perfect example as to why. A Salk StreamPlayer Gen III ($1,695) fed an Exogal Comet ($3,000), with its optional external power supply ($500). This digital source fed a McGary SA2 ($7,985) amplifier, which drove a pair of Salk Sound SS 9.5 ($9,995) loudspeakers.

 

Up close and personal with the McGary SA2 integrated.

 

The SA2 is an all vacuum tube design with 80 Watts RMS per channel, with self-biasing KT88 / KT90 / KT120 tubes. It has user adjustable global negative feedback control and is switchable between Triode or Ultralinear output mode. With single-ended, unbalanced RCA inputs located on the front panel (with a diamond shaped cover to conceal them when using the XLRs on the rear) and Balanced XLR inputs in rear, the SA2 is a bridgeable design, and can be configured as either a stereo amplifier or for mono operation. Here's the really cool bit... they are all handmade by Mike McGary in Gainesville, Virginia and come with a Lifetime Warranty! Tubes are only warranted for 90 days from date of purchase.

The SS 9.5 is a relatively new speaker (also shown at AXPONA 2019 last April) that uses the Satori Be tweeter and the same custom Audio Technology midrange used in the Song3 BeAT's. It then adds the Satori 9.5" woofer used in the Salk Song3 Encore as well as the dual passive radiators and open back midrange from the Salk SS8. This is one special speaker at just under $10,000.

 

The Salk Sound SS 9.5 loudspeakers.

 

This system offered superb texture and near faultless color, especially through the upper midrange. Space was surprisingly accurately represented. Listening to Dire Straits "Private Investigations" from Love Over Gold revealed a wonderfully recreated piano, with an amazing sense of instrumental placement and its surrounding space, with remarkably authentic dynamic scaling and bass that was full, fast, and very well detailed. This system was fluid and coherent with an ease and sense of flow that is highly engaging, with a seemingly perfect balance between tone, texture, and detail. Well done, gents.

 

Plaza III - Command Performance AV
This was a big room, and one where I ran into some old and new friends. Jeff Sigmund of Luxman America was teaming up with Jon DeVore of DeVore Fidelity for a pretty exotic and pricey system. Sources were either the Luxman D-08u SACD Player/USB DAC ($14,995), or a J. Sikora Standard MAX Turntable ($18,195), with their KV-12 VTA arm ($6,995), and the Ortofon Anna Diamond Cart ($10,449), hitched to the Luxman EQ-500 Tubed Phono Equalizer Amplifier ($6,495).

Linestage was the Luxman CL-1000 preamp ($19,995), and power was provided by the Luxman MQ-300, a 300B Based stereo amplifier ($20,995). Speakers were Jon DeVore's new DeVore Fidelity Orangutan Reference four-enclosure speakers ($88,900/pr.). All racks and stands were from Box Furniture (starting at $925), and all cabling and isolation was from Transparent Audio.

 

The J.Sikora Standard MAX Turntable and all Luxman electronics.

 

The DeVore Fidelity Orangutan Reference system is an impressive looking, low profile, four-box speaker system, two cabinets per side. All four enclosures share the same form factor, 18" wide, 12" deep, and 36" tall. The first of the two enclosures per channel, labeled the O/Ref/A, consists of an off-center (set mirror imaged to the inside) 0.75" silk dome, rare-earth magnet tweeter, loaded by a cast and machined bronze horn. Next, a centered 1" silk dome, rare-earth magnet tweeter, loaded by a cast and machined bronze horn, just outside and below the 0.75" dome. Finally, just below the 1" tweeter is a centered 10" paper cone woofer with a cast bronze chassis. The second enclosure per channel, labeled the O/Ref/B, houses two centered 11" reinforced aluminum woofers, with an all-new motor system that DeVore Fidelity says are capable of an extreme 2.25" excursion!

 

The new four-box DeVore Fidelity Orangutan Reference loudspeakers.

 

With LPs, the system afforded very nice dimensionality and scale, with only a slightly compressed stage front to back. The system had delicious lower midrange tonality and texture, was very revealing and resolute, with breath, air, and shimmer up top. But the real surprise came when David Solomon, of Qobuz, whom I had finally just met Friday night, streamed some 16-bit/44.1kHz tracks using nothing but his mobile phone and the Gordon Rankin designed $300 AudioQuest Cobalt Dragonfly! The sound was big, bold, and still offered remarkable definition and focus. Had I not known this was a stream, I could have easily believed we were listening to optical disc or renderer playback. It was a remarkable demonstration.

 

 

Best
Twinbrook - 20/20 Evolutions Systems
Twinbroo / 20/20 Evolution Systems of Potomac, MD, featured a nearly all Danish Gryphon system in a showcase that was just as beautiful to look at as to listen to. Starting with either the Gryphon ETHOS CD player ($39,000) or the Kuzma Stabi R turntable ($9,499), with their 4Point arm ($4,899) and CAR-50 cartridge ($$5,895), the Gryphon Pandora Dual Preamplifier ($32,500) fitted with their optional Legato Phono board (add $8,800), fed the majestic pure class A, 175 Watt (@ 8 Ohm) Gryphon Mephisto stereo power amp. Speakers were the Gryphon Pantheon ($52,000/pr.), everything rested on Artesania Audio stands and racks, and all cabling was a prototype debut from local 20/20 Evolution dealer Jay Truitt, of Truitt Physics.

 

Denmark's Gryphon showing off its style and sonics.

 

I got to spend a good deal of time here while our consummate host, Philip O'Hanlon of "On A Higher Note," played all variety of music for an enraptured crowd. This stirring system offered utterly superb tone color, full of texture and inner detail. The great detail was only enhanced by the stark and startling dynamic authority it mustered. Listening to a particularly well-done Julie London digital file (DSD128), the system showed off how easily it could render intimate detail, with oodles of air and space. While I found the system to be just slightly darker than natural overall, it offered an amazing sense of immediacy.

 

 

Room 417 - American Sound of Canada
While Angie Lisi, who is American Sound of Canada, had three rooms in the attached 417 / 418 / 419 suite on the fourth floor, it was the big system within room 417 that caught my attention. Imagine that!

Fronted by the Wadax Atlantis, a full-on, three-piece digital system, consisting of a server ($20,000), transport ($45,000), and DAC ($69,000), it was making its North American debut here at CAF. The Linestage was the Phasemation CA 1000 ($32,000), and amplification came from the 25-Watt, Class A, tubed, Phasemation MA2000 monos ($32,000/pr.). The Avantgarde Acoustics DuoXD ($45,000/pr.), with its built in 1000-Watt bass driver amplifier, converted electrical energy back to acoustical energy in this room in magical fashion. Everything rested on HRS stands and platforms, and cabling was from Transparent Audio throughout.

 

All Wadax digital front end, driven by Phasemation electronics.

 

This system pulled an amazing vanishing act, leaving only the music. As you'd expect, the dynamics and scaling were off the charts! I got to hear Dire Straits "Private Investigations" yet again, and I have to say, macro dynamics were scary, microdynamic shading and inner detail were off the hook, with space and air recreation that was phenomenal. Guitar tone was rich and textured, but the deepest bass seemed just a tad lean, yet entirely vibrant and defined. This was a super sounding room.

 

The Avantgarde Acoustics DuoXD, with built in 1000-Watt bass driver amplifier.

 

Room 321 - Perfect8
I have been a fan of the Swedish Perfect8 designs since I first heard the Perfect8 Point MKII Evolution ($115,000/pr.) at CES 2013. I've stayed in touch with Jonas Räntilä, Perfect8's Chief Executive Officer, over the years, and we keep trying to do a review... Maybe it will happen with this new Cube / The Subwoofer system he introduced here at CAF.

 

The new Perfect8 Cube / The Subwoofer system with Ypsilon electronics.

 

 

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