AKFEST 2010 Show Report (Audio Karma Fest) Coverage By Wayne Zufall
On Sunday I was able to visit with Mark Markell, owner of Analysis Plus, having the opportunity to briefly discuss and try to find out how and why his new Oval 9 black speaker cables performed better then cables costing many times more. I appreciated all of the engineering reasons he gave me and although I did not understand all of what he explained, I can simply tell you from personal experience that his cables really perform.
The fact that I was able to get a picture in the Mc room was a small miracle with people being in the room all day Saturday and Sunday. They had enough blue lights in there to light up the Michigan nights. The system consisted of the XR 200 speakers ($20,000), C-2300 preamp ($6,000), MC 402 amplifier ($7,000) and MCD CD player ($6000). While I may have gotten a picture and a little information, I have to say that despite going back three times, I never really got to the hear this system, not counting standing in the door. For you Mc fans, I suggest you go see Ryan Kilpatrick of Audio Classics or a local Mc dealer and take a listen and send me your review. I am sure you will be pleased with what you hear.
Here was one of my first opportunities to hear a pair of monitors that were big on performance and small in price. I was fortunate to get to spend a few minutes with Rachel Grant, who was kind enough to discuss 300B tubes with me and then provide me with information on their $3,000 system. This was one of two monitor systems that deserved the "most music for the money award", had there been one. It consisted of the Grant Fidelity DAC-09 tube D/A converter/preamplifier with USB input ($300), Sheng Ya PM 150 hybrid monoblocks with 150 wpc (first 10 watts is class A and $1600) and the Grant Fidelity MBS-1 Vifa monitor speakers ($1150). The audio source, not included, was a laptop with music stored on the hard drive. This was a room filling system with great dynamics, clarity and punch, and more bass than you would have expected from such a small speaker, a really great full sounding
Arte Forma Audio
This was one fun room, watching people come in and then listen to these very small mini-monitor speakers, which pumped out very clean, dynamic and transparent sound with bass that was just short of amazing for the size of the speaker. The speakers and components are built by
Dayen's Audio, with the speakers costing $600 a pair as were the 25 wpc amplifier and preamplifier.
Everyone who came into the room and listened for a few minutes eventually walked behind the speakers and then looked around the room, trying in vain to find the sub-woofer that did not exist. This system cost less than $2,000, and although it did not include a CD or source, it was an amazing system. These are new products to our country and can only be purchased through Michael
Gill (404) 840-6052.
Bamberg Audio / Modwright / Soundstring
Bamberg Audio was another popular room with their Series 5 TMW speakers and Modwright electronics; using the LS 36.5 linestage, KWA 150 amplifiers running in mono and the Truth Mods transporter and Soundstring's new GEN 11 cables throughout.
Here was another case of getting to barely listen and having to email Steve Fay to get the information on the system due to the many people and small room syndrome. My impressions from afar, meaning near the door, was this was a very dynamic, natural and big punch system that had a lot of potential and was one of the very few "larger" speakers that had controlled, clean and detailed bass without being
This room featured Tyler Acoustics Decade D1 speakers with a tube amplifier, CD player and preamp that as of this writing I was not able to identify. This is a speaker that needs a lot bigger room to play in to give the bass a fair chance, however, the mid-range and upper end were detailed, clear, transparent and very fast. Give this speaker and system some wide open space and you will be rewarded with some very natural sound.
Bogdan Audio Creations
Perhaps one of the most unique speakers at the show was the Bogdan. The gentleman who builds the speaker gave me his card, which did not have a usable email address, phone number nor his name. While he did not do so well on his advertising, his speaker was very, very good. Hearing it on Saturday with a really packed room and music that was very poorly recorded would have sent you running to Radio Shack. Fortunately, on Sunday I was able to hear the system with only a few people there and listen to music I was familiar with for a good 15 minutes.
This is a unique speaker because it is totally hand built and finished and no CNC machines are used. The speakers on Saturday were playing through a 32 year old Sansui integrated amplifier (AU-919) and a Pioneer CD player with cables that looked, well less than very "basic". Believe me, there was nothing the least bit fancy about the components, wiring or setup. On Sunday a tube amp of probably 25 wpc was being used with the same CD player and cables. Hearing the speaker with music I was familiar with and power that was probably still well below what the speakers could use simply knocked your audio socks off, they were superb.
They had all of the prerequisite dynamics, transparency, speed, detail and the usual well used reviewer words plus they were musical and very natural. I would love to hear them on a big tube system in a larger room. Regardless of the room, they clearly had the best bass and bass control of the show without any boom. They are $17,000 a pair and I believe he said it takes him three months to build them. They look like large lipstick tubes and are quality finished, weighing a little over 200 pounds each. These speakers may have some "unique" qualities in the conventional sense, but I do not think you will ever think about that while you are listening to them.
Radio X Tuners
Mike Williams, who owns and runs Radio X Tuners, in Flint, Michigan, does alignments and repairs on tuners and components. Of particular interest was his modified Sony digital tuner, the XDR-F1HD. This $200 modification to the basic Sony tuner was sounding very fine, even when compared to a beautiful old Sansui TU-9900! Mike is an Audio Kharma
Below are a few pictures of some of the other Audio Kharma member's
These Audio Kharma members are to be congratulated for a fun two days that mixed friendship and audio. While there was some business going on for sure, it was hard not to be interested with the variety of components that were available, however, no one who was there would probably have felt like they were being sold anything, they were happily buying. You never had the feeling that this was a commercial or business show for them; it was more like visiting people who were showing you their stereo at home and having a great time doing it. It was a wonderful and pleasant two days and when I got home; I was able to continue the show by
"Enjoying the Music". I am looking forward to next year's show!