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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

Sound Insight And Triode Wire Labs
Hosted by Steven Rabitz of Sound Insight, Charlie Rollo, SI Ditributor and Pete Grzybowski (a.k.a. Triode Pete) of Triode Wire Labs hailed the debut of the SI-300 Open Baffle Servo Subwoofers $7900/pr. Modeled after a GR Research design, the SI-300s have 3 12" drivers designed for open baffle loading, a spec built Rythmik servo plate amp, and a heavy duty, lined with NoRez double thick cabinet. All you planar owners (Magnepan, Quad, ET, and ESL) who can't get a sub to integrate with your panels, here is your solution. The servo action quickens the return of the cone after a transient and prevents boom and overhang, thus allowing the bass character to match the planar. The radiating pattern of these OB subs also matches the planar lending to less room irregularities and seamless integration, you're welcome. There was a lot of supporting equipment from various brands, Esoteric K-01X SACD $21,000, Coincident RC preamp $5999, a pair of Pass Labs XA60.8 monos $12,800/pr driving BG Radia FS 880 planar magnetic speakers $35,000/pr. The entire rig was wired with TWL, HP Digital American power cord $699, Seven Plus PC $549, Spirit XLR Interconnects $449 ($349 for RCA), American Speaker Cable $699. Triode Pete's cables greatly contributed to the overall cohesiveness of the system, they are true bargains. Nothing at the show had more bass impact, and power down low than the SI-300s, while integrating invisibly with the panels. A couple of people not familiar with the Kodo drum track were startled and a little frightened when the first huge whack exploded into the room, the Sheffield Drum Record was so fun we listened to both Ron Tutt and Jim Keltner, the system put the drum kit in the room, very realistic. On one of my many trips to this room, Lyn Stanley came in and sang live in the room to her newest release "Interludes", available soon in SACD and CD formats, giving us a live versus Memorex moment to Led Zep's "Whole Lotta Love". Sensational!


Viva HiFi, Daedalus, Modwright, And WyWires
Scott Dalzell's Viva HiFi
shop is local to DC and it's filled with audio candy. Scott had his Daedalus Athena V.2 speakers $11,950 on display being driven by ambidextrous genius Dan Wright's (solid-state/tubes ) prototype amp, Ambrose. The Ambrose is a single ended EL34 pentode design with about 10 watts output. The beautiful case is the handiwork of Daedalus' excellent woodcraft-man. If the amp is well received, and it was universally praised here, Dan has more powerful variations for RMAF ready to show. Scott assembled a ModWright system that debuted another new product, SWL 9.0 Anniversary Edition Tube linestage, Elyse Tube DAC $6900, PH 150 Tube Phonostage $7900, and a ModWright Truth modded OPPO 105D $2495 for the mod. A VPI Aries 3D with 12" JMW 3D arm $10,000, handled a Dynavector XX2 cartridge and shared the top of the rack with the Ambrose. Alex Sventitsky's WyWires latest Diamond series cables were lacing it all together. This system really brought home how important dynamic aliveness is to drawing you into a musical performance. Many systems at the show just didn't have that jump factor that is present in live music, this room had IT. I used Michael Hedges' Rickover's Dream cut all through the show to cut the wheat from the chaff, his percussive style was startling in this room, dynamics leaping forward, great body and tone, loads of detail, and bass that didn't overpower the room, great job Scott of room matching.



John Vernon of Fyssion was enjoying his first audio show and having fun with it. Let's start with "The Chair", it's comfortable, vocals seem to come from inside your head, plenty of detail, and the sound didn't radiate loudly into the room, perfect for the 'Turn down the TV dear" conversations many people have. The Chair's price is in flux, but expect $2000 to $5000 depending on the framework and leather quality. The speaker lineup is mostly a variation on a theme, bigger cabinets and more drivers. They took us for a tour of all their speakers in 4 minutes, as we played the larger of the Omega series I got better deep bass, more ambient retrieval, and more impact. The use of 30 degree off axis radiating pattern really widened the sweet spot and opened up the soundstage nicely.



Resolution Acoustics
Credit Resolution Acoustics with putting together the best A versus B comparison possible. Simply put, take two identical audio systems in two adjacent rooms, and add acoustic treatments to only one, and play the same music simultaneously in both environments. Voila, swap rooms and listen, I liked the treated room much better, no surprise. I noticed more focused vocals, a relaxed feel, less in your face, tighter bass, the stage opened up both laterally and front to back, and voices and piano just sounded more real, job well done. They used some fine kit to play music starting with Sonus Faber Stradivari speakers, a pair of Pass Labs XA 100.5 amps, Pass XP-30 preamp, and a Meitner MA-1 DAC. The treatments aren't cheap, but they are beautifully made, will look unobtrusive in a living room, and make whatever gear you have sound better.



Now Listen Here, Rogue, And Joseph Audio
Matt Early of Now Listen Here had 2 rooms filled with goodies. I first let Jeff Joseph explain how carefully he labored tweaking the Prism speakers $3699/pr, trying to get them as close to his wonderful Pulsars and still being less than half their cost, nice results. The really affordable Rogue Sphinx Integrated amp $1395 with remote beautifully matched the Prisms. Rogue surprised me with an update to the Sphinx, a V.2 edition shipping soon. The improvements include a lower noise floor (yea), reworked phono stage adding 6dB more gain, new headphone amp with 1 watt output, the remote now has a mute feature, and the faceplate will have a machined groove across the front, all for the same price making a great value even better. The second room, when I visited, had a pair of Rogue M180 tube mono amps $5995/pr driving a pair of Totem Forest speakers $6400/pr, fronted by a Rogue 99 Super Magnum preamp $2995, Triton Phono Stage $995, and an OPPO 105. The system sounded relaxed and rich with focused voices and punchy bass.



Bettinger Audio Design, Fern & Roby, And Luminous Audio Technology
I was drawn into this room as I heard Anne Bisson spinning on the turntable. I walked up to the TT and asked "Is that a Syrinx?", and the reply was yes and you are the first one to identify it. The Syrinx PU-3 was an arm I had on my SOTA Star 3 decades ago, bettering the FT-3 it replaced. The PU-3 had a Soundsmith Hyperion cart $7500 installed. Chris Hildebrand of F&R explained the construction was a byproduct of using their forge to make product prototypes for clients. If absorbing vibrations was good for a TT, then a 70 pound cast iron plinth and 35 pound bronze platter should do the job. We put on some Basie and the system was swinging. The F&R Turntable $4500 w/o arm sounded as solid as it looked. Mike Bettinger had a hand in developing two other products being used, the F&R Integrated Linestage amp $2850, and the Luminous Audio Technology Arion Phono Preamp $6400. Tim Stinson of LAT told Mike to build the best phono stage possible without cost constraints and the Arion proves what a good designer Mike is because it's a world class stage, and yet still costs less than many other options. If a 110 lbs. turntable didn't catch your eye, how about The Beam speakers $4500/pr, stunning looking with a cabinet that starts out as a solid heart pine beam, gets routed out, and incorporates an 8" woofer and 1" tweeter using a phase accurate first order crossover. Tim, who helped with the design, said he recently tweaked the xover and to me they sounded more neutral in the lower midrange, way to sweat the details. LAT cables were used throughout, and I got a close up look at their Lynx Mega Power Cord $649, Tim explained that instead of dynamics robbing ferrite rings to combat noise, LAT uses neodymium magnets instead, reducing noise and letting the dynamics come through.




Vinnie Rossi And Harbeth Speakers
Every time I opened the door to Vinnie Rossi's room, it was like "Vinnie you got some splaining to do", packed with people and Vinnie explaining the change from battery to capacitance power supply. The star here is the Vinnie Rossi LIO Modular Integrated amp, $2,495 to nearly $8,000, depending on modules incorporated. If you need to conserve space, and don't like cables, here is your solution. All the bases are covered with an MM and MC phonostage, tube linestage, headphone amp, DSD/PCM DAC, and two methods to vary volume- resistor stepped or autoformer (Slagelformer). An Acoustic Signature Manfred TT had a Dynavector 17D3 cartridge installed, and a favorite of music lovers everywhere, Harbeth Super HL5 plus speakers made the LIO's magic audible, or should I saw inaudible. Very black backgrounds in this room, when it was less populated, helped the musical details flow from the system. Voices and violin/string tone were sensational here, nothing bombastic just very real sounding. The after-hours pairing of the LIO with Greg Robert's Volti Vittora horn speakers proved spectacular. The 104dB/W/m sensitive Vittoras had all the power they needed, no noise floor – zero. The dynamics were stunning especially noticeable on drums/percussion and horns, low level details revealed easily, and thus a perfect combination.



Salk, Wells, LampizatOr, Ginko, And DanaCable
A beautiful room in every way, sonics, scenery, and people! Is there a nicer couple at shows than Jim and Mary Salk? They had to tackle a big, live room and after four hours, and with the help of Vinh Vu and Norm Ginsburg of Ginko Audio, got a handle on it. An impromptu use of stacked folding tables behind the speakers draped with cloth was the finishing touch helping to allow a rock solid center image. The center image was so engaging that many guests were forced to look under the folding tables to assure themselves a center speaker wasn't hiding underneath the cloth. A Salk StreamPlayer $1495, fed a LampizatOr Big 7 DAC/Preamp $13,500, a Wells Innamorata amp $7000, and Salk's Exotica 3 towers $12.995/pr. finished the system. All of their hard work paid off in big dividends, sensational soundstage wider than the speakers with tremendous depth. The Exotica 3 towers use SEAS Exotic drivers with Alnico magnets, and servo aided twin 8" self-powered subs developed with Brian Ding of Rythmik to bring a 92dB/W/m sensitivity to the plate, hello tube amps. The atmosphere and sound made this room an oasis to just relax and listen to music. The system did it all, big dynamic contrasts, stupendous bass power and depth, great tone and body, detailed and musical. Jennifer Warnes "Famous Blue Raincoat" was special, voices here were wonderful. Michael Hedges Rickover's "Dream" had the explosive live dynamics I expected, and the guitar sounded like it was in the room. Jim played at levels that were loud enough, but not over the top 'mine will play louder than yours' and he knows how to get the most from a system. I only heard the Exotica 3s playing even though I stopped in half a dozen times, didn't matter, the system with the E3s was spectacular.


---> Part 2 of Kemper Holt's CAF 2015 show report.









































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