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Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2015 Show Report
Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2015 Show Report Part 1
CAF 2015 Coverage By Kemper Holt


Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2015 Show Report

  Late August in Maryland is usually peppered with thunderstorms and suffocating humidity. I don't know who Gary Gill paid off but the Capital Audiofest 2015 was graced with spectacular good weather all three days. The team of Gary, Christina Yuin, and Paul Elliott put together one of the best sounding audio shows ever. Great music was everywhere and the crew worked tirelessly to make sure everything went smoothly. Congratulations!

CAF has a friendly and relaxed atmosphere that can be hard to find at the bigger shows allowing for more time in each room and a chance to ask questions of the exhibitors. The attendance was strong Friday and Saturday, with Sunday starting slowly but by 12pm it picked up. Many rooms were busy past the 4pm close. I made it a point to quickly interview several women at the show, most were brought along by a husband/boyfriend and all admitted they were actually having fun, and all the men said the gals had better hearing. Saturday had the most diversity of ages/gender and it was gratifying to see youngsters and women enjoying themselves. Two of the couples I talked with had both husband and wife very interested in their two-channel setup and said playing music daily was the norm. They actively share their hobby with friends and guests too.

On to the show!


Well Pleased Audio Vida
After registering, the first room I found was Well Pleased Audio Vida, run by Mark Sossa from Alexandria, VA. What an auspicious start from a CAF rookie, one of the better small rooms and the gear just got out of the way of the music. Alta debuted their newest speaker, the Rhea $4500/pr, which is a two-way sporting a ribbon tweeter and curved cabinet sides for a pleasing form. A trio of Clones black boxes provided the drive, AP 2 preamp $1120, and a pair of 55 PM monos $1400/pr delivered 100W into the 4 Ohm Rheas. Antipodes DS $2700 server fed the star of the room, aqua's La Voce DAC $2600, an Italian product that is their entry level model. The system had great tone and texture, smooth vocals, and surprising bass extension, and a convincing soundstage, and for a room whose total cost was under $12,000, a bargain. Congratulations to Mark who was just named US Distributor for aqua, and if you are lucky enough to have heard the top of the line La Scala $5500, you understand what I mean. Both aqua DAC's convey music's elusive details with unerring accuracy always being faithful to the original, and sounding oh so real.



Robyatt Audio, Electrostatic Solutions
I was passing the Democracy room, when some Funk/Disco seemed to be coming from Quad 57's? Robin Robyatt was jamming out with TK Disco's Do What You Wanna Do, and swiftly the whole room was dancing. Using Kent McCollum's rebuilt Quad 57s and a Sopranino electret supertweeter on the top, I was awestruck at how full range and loud the Quads were playing. Miyajima's OTL 2010 22W monos $18,500/pr, and WO-1 preamp $18,500, perfectly matched the Quads, a special VPI Classic 3 with 10.5 tonearm, was wrapped in 'rich Corinthian leather" and a Miyajima Mandake cartridge with bamboo cantilever $5895, completed the stereo table. A Miyajima Zero mono cartridge $1995 on another table played back a mono LP of the Pink Panther theme, glorious. TEL Wire and Kanso Stands held it all together. The transparency, body and tone of Kent's 57s are amazing, vocals special, and that they can play pretty loud and produce tight impactful bass was surprising, I had a great time in this room, about four times.



Odyssey and GIK Acoustics
Stepping into the Odyssey room felt like a visit to a Planetarium, stars on the ceiling, Klaus was using a projector to provide a cool atmosphere. I don't know how Klaus does it, but he always has great rooms that sound wonderful and the cost is a true bargain compared to others within the marketplace. The news here is a big brother to the Kismet 2 two-ways is the Kismet Liquids $5900/pr a 2.5-way design. The Liquids add a second ScanSpeak Revelator woofer and keep the beryllium tweeter. The two woofers are different impedances, one 4 Ohm the other 8 Ohm, paralleled and piggybacked on the crossover, plus each woofer has its own chamber. An Odyssey Candela Tube Reference Preamp $1600, a pair of Khartago mono amps $1999/pr, a Suspiro phono amp $1250, and Groeneberg Quattro cables supported the Liquids. As usual GIK room treatments were everywhere helping tame the room. A VPI HR-X turntable was used to spin the same Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here vinyl as I heard in Denver last year. Just like at RMAF, the most relaxing enjoyable 20 minutes of the show was listening to an album side where nobody spoke or interrupted, as it was musical bliss. The Liquids are more relaxed than the Monitors, have more detail especially throughout the midrange, and go lower with more authority. The system produced a wide stage with good imaging and a lot of depth, immediate vocals, killer tone and delivered a dynamically alive presentation. It's easy to see why Klaus, Alex, and Odyssey are so busy, their products are sensational sounding, yet very affordable, and real value is hard to find today.



GT Audio Works, Paradox, And Hollis Audio Labs
Greg Takesh
of GT Audio Works took a year off from CAF in 2014 and put that time into R&D, time well spent as the debut of his GTA 2.5 Hybrid Planar Speakers $8995/pr, was sensational. The full range planar magnetic driver uses neodymium magnets and is driven directly without any crossover between it and your amp. A single cap protects a ribbon tweeter, 48" long, same as the mid. Two 10" drivers in a sealed box form the bottom of the sleek cabinet and are driven by a Hypex plate amp, crossing over near 100 Hz, but the Hypex gives plenty of flexibility to match a room or personal tastes. The woodwork is handcrafted and furniture quality, and as these are built to order you get to choose your favorite wood and maybe a contrasting color as well. Right down to the Propeller binding posts and the fit of the grille, the GTA 2.5s got all the details sorted out. Paradox Pulse mono amps $12,000/pr, provided 100 watts, a PrimaLuna Dialog Premium preamp $3199 connected a Paradox modified JVC 1050 CD player and Rich Hollis' HAL MS-3 server, $799, and Danville Signal dspMusik DAC $1500. Paradox Red wiring connected everything, and a power conditioner was tried and rejected as it solved some noise issues but robbed the system of dynamics and clarity. Thinking like a veteran, Greg had ATS Acoustics supply some room treatments, very helpful.

What a great sounding room, the system checked off all I want a speaker to do, huge soundstage, wide/tall/deep, the best depth from any of the small rooms. The GTA 2.5s are spaciously open, very detailed/transparent without tiring your ears , react instantaneously to transients, are dynamically exciting, exhibit good tone and body, play very loud without strain or glare, integrate the woofers seamlessly, go very low with authority, and can make a singer appear in the room. Until Rich Hollis pulled up some Reference Recordings, including their HRX series, I'm not sure Greg knew all his speakers were capable of doing. Triode Pete was sitting in the room and Rich played a RR track from Pomp and Pipes, "The Vikings", at one point the orchestra and organ are playing full tilt (and very loud), when a drum is pounded louder than everything else and the impact was so stunning that Pete actually jumped out of his chair! The Kodo drums were scary, "Jazz Variants" by O-Zone was spellbinding, and Bela Fleck's "Flight of the Cosmic Hippo" showcased Victor Wooten's virtuoso bass abilities. On the quieter side, Jennifer Warnes version of "Famous Blue Raincoat" was deliciously delicate and emotional, and I felt like I was in the Church with Margo Timmons as she sang "Mining for Gold". I now lust for a pair of GTA 2.5s, and Rich has shown me that a server can be affordable, thanks guys.


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