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Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2021 Show Report

Capital Audiofest 2021 Show Report
Back from the brink – with passion!
CAF 2021 Show Report By Greg Weaver

 

 

EIKON
Lincoln Room
I was anxious to meet with Gayle Sanders and hear both the new IMAGE.5 bookshelf system we had discussed briefly during our YouTube conversation back in mid-August with Episode 55, and the very exciting, newly announced FRS. The FRS is sort of a less cosmetically refined, full-range, floor-standing version of the magnificent Image1. Gayle and company were alternating between playing the IMAGE.5 and the FRS in the 650 ft2 Lincoln room every two hours, allowing attendees to hear both under the same conditions.

Both systems include the new, updated EIKONTROL II, which provides the system DAC, Wavelet room control, and the active four-way crossover. Your choice, these stunning IMAGE.5 bookshelves, or more conventional-looking floor standing FRS, at just $12,000 for either system! Each is a fully ready music system, just add your source!

 

Gayle Sanders new company, Eikon, was showing the original Image 1, as well as the new IMAGE.5 and FRS models.

 

The IMAGE.5 is an active bookshelf size speaker that can hit an honest 32Hz at 92dB, with active dynamic filtering when necessary to control the bass at higher volumes. This means that with some tracks, the system will manage the bass at high volumes, but with others, ones that don't have really deep bass, it will not have any effect on the frequency response.

 

The new Eikon IMAGE.5 standmounted loudspeaker.

 

The FRS is the latest member of the Eikon speaker family, a new, full-range active speaker designed using what was learned building the IMAGE1, but in a less exotic package. In other words, more cost-effective! It sounds so much like the Eikon Image1 that it is frightening. It offers ridiculously great bass extension and impact, offers a wide sound field and precise imaging. They found a way to preserve the performance of the IMAGE1, while providing outstanding value.

 

The new Eikon FRs floorstanding loudspeaker.

 

They are not exaggerating the low-frequency performance capabilities of the IMAGE.5. It played remarkably low in my listening, showing an exceptional low-frequency extension for its volume, yielding an astonishingly full-bodied sound from such a diminutive stature. It is truly amazing what they have accomplished with the implementation of the newer, more powerful DSP in the Eikontrol II. And get this, while I heard them on their beautiful, sturdy, optional stands, there are presets for other installations, like on a desktop or a bookshelf! Smart move.

 

The new Eikontrol II high-end audio unit.

 

While they may not have quite the same sense of scaling as the Image1, or the remarkable FRS for that matter, they may be just a tad more immediate in the upper bass and lower mids. I wasn't sure if that was the result of the use of twin midranges instead of one, the effects of the new Eikontrol II, or maybe the synergy of both. But it was seductive, and impressive as all get out.

While the FRS may present in a less sculpted, more conventional-looking enclosure, man does it ever represent a value! This system presents with the scaling, the power and punch, and the overall finesse remarkably similar to what I first noted from the Eikon Image1, at less than half its price! If you have the room for a floor-standing speaker, can live with the more conventional-looking aesthetic, and want to save a bundle, the FRS is the system to beat! Great work Gayle and the entire Eikon team!

As such, Eikon has earned a well-deserved slot in my Top Five rooms, and brings it home, especially when you consider the performance return on the investment. I can't wait to see what they do next.

 

 

VPI
Adams Room

Mat and Harry Weisfeld were on hand and put on a show in two rooms. I have to say that the system they set up in the 810 ft2 Adams room just crushed it. I had a blast every time I stopped in, no matter what was playing. But I have to say, I enjoyed an unidentified pressing of Blood, Sweat & Tears.

 

Big JBLs, and two VPI tables made this room at ton of fun.

 

Sources were either the HW-40 Anniversary Direct Drive table using the JMW-12 Fatboy arm ($20,000), fitted with superlative DS Audio's Grand Master cartridge ($15,000), or the second table, the new Signature 21 in Rosewood with a new VPI Prototype phono, and a new SDS 2 (actual name TBD) speed box. Digital was decoded by an EMM Labs Ed Meitner DS-EQ1 Optical Equalizer ($12,500).

Electronics were the T+A PA3100 HV integrated amplifier ($23,500), driving the JBL Everest DD67000 horn-loaded speakers ($75,000/pr), and cabling was all Nordost Odin 2 series. As you might guess, the system was dynamic as hell...yet still presented lush, liquid mids, with impressive dimensionality. This room just ROCKED, and... there were a shite load of VPI tables for folks to gawk at, and, to purchase so that Mat didn't have to pack them up and ship them home!

 

The new VPI Signature 21 in Rosewood and the big HW-40 Anniversary Direct Drive table.

 

McGary Audio And Salk Sound
Room 512

I have to hand it to Mike McGary and Jim Salk, two manufacturers who show together routinely. Their work so beautifully compliments each other's efforts, conjuring up indisputable musical magic, that they pretty much make it into every show report I do!

The system included the Salk StreamPlayer Gen III SE ($2,495), using the Exogal Comet DAC ($3,000) and its Exogal Comet Power Supply ($600). Mike was showing his new SA1-E integrated amplifier ($6,600), a beautiful Class AB Ultralinear output stage tube amplifier with low feedback, about 9 dB, that is remarkably output tube compatible (6L6GC, KT66, KT77, EL34, E34L, 6CA7, 6550, KT88, and KT90), making it a tube rollers delight. Output is rated at 40W RMS using KT77s, or 50W RMS with KT90s.

 

The new McGary Audio SA1-E amp driving the new Salk BePure 2 speakers.

 

The Salk speakers Jim brought to the show were so new that when I visited the 350 ft2 room on Friday, and, until I got back Saturday for some extended listening, they still didn't even have a name. What had been freshly christened the BePure 2 ($6295/pr.) were finished in sumptuously elegant claro walnut, featuring an expressive Beryllium tweeter, and a pair of new Purifi 6.5" woofers. All cabling was supplied by AntiCables.

I was very much impressed with what this combination delivered at this price point. Offering remarkable detail without being in your face, texture, and body of instruments was remarkably truthful as well. The system generated a convincing dynamic envelope and had no trouble delivering a nice sense of visceral punch. Microdynamic involvement was quite convincing, as was the captivating and highly authentic tonality. This system presented with an almost mesmerizing fluidity and ease, managing to sound much pricier than it was.

These remarkable accomplishments have allowed this room to land on my Top Five room list, representing the most engaging and faithfully musical performance at this show in their price range. Nicely done, gents!

 

 

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