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Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2016 Show Report
Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2016 Show Report
DC DIY Audio Club
Report By Kemper Holt


  The relaxed, casual plus friendly feeling the Capital Audiofest projects might be traced back to this room and the DC DIY members. Each year they volunteer to help Gary Gill at the registration desk, while they also build enough gear to put on a great sounding room with almost everything built from scratch. I believe the Ortofon cartridge, Schick tonearm, Garrard 301 turntable (rebuilt by Joe Roberts), and a Behringer crossover were the only commercial products displayed. Here you could talk about vintage speakers, Daphile servers, and DACs without anyone trying to sell you something.



The first things I noticed were how much bigger in person Dave McGown's GM70 20 watt Class A single-ended triode amps looked compared to pictures I'd seen. They are huge and heavy at 120 pounds each! Dave picked the GM70 Russian triode, similar to the less powerful 845, because he wanted a SET amp that could drive real world speakers not just highly sensitive ones. Dave has been building SET amps for 20 years, guided by Joe Roberts' Sound Practices magazine writings as many in DC DIY have been influenced. Dave's experience building amps led to the power supply's ability to deliver over three times the current the design demands, just to be sure.




Stuart Polansky is a planar aficionado, Maggies especially, but a new room forced a change so he went to his shop and made the MTM two-way speaker I listened to during my first visit. Stuart picked out two GR Research M165 drivers and put a Fountek NeoX 2.0 tweeter in the middle, and mounted the crossover externally on the back panel for easy access / upgrades / bi-amp'ing. Dave McGown supplied the DIY sub and the Behrenger merged the two seamlessly together.



The photo shows Joe's beautiful Garrard 301 turntable, a tube line level preamp using Light Dependent Resistors (LDRs) so there are no contacts or moving parts in the volume control, the Behringer crossover, and the silver box that house a tube passive RIAA phono stage. The box below it is it's outboard power supply. Sitting off to the side on top of the DIY Daphile server (built by Roscoe Primrose), was a perfect first DIY project, a Hi-Rez DAC for under $200 that doesn't require soldering, a screwdriver is enough. Rich Hollis (HAL) used an AKM AK4490EQ chip and a simple power supply to build a DAC featuring minimum phase filtering resulting in performance you can't buy anywhere it's parts cost.



In the background are Joe Roberts' Western Electric 756A speakers, big brothers to the famous WE 755A drivers. If tone, warmth, and listenability are your hot buttons, start your search now for these hard to find speakers.

I hogged the center sweet spot for a while with Stuart's MTM speakers playing, and got a dose of vinyl & digital, and didn't want to give up my seat. There are many ways to obtain great sound, and this room proved elbow grease, determination, and a little help from your friends, (Dave Berning, Joe Roberts), can bring musical enjoyment equal to rooms that cost many times the investment here. I heard Dire Straits, Junior Wells, and the Chicago Symphony on vinyl and enjoyed an expansive 3D soundstage, shimmering cymbals, and realistic vocals. Switching to digital, I listened to my CAF CDR, Louis Armstrong, and Reference Recordings Exotic Dances and got a dose of the big dynamic range and image focus the system could produce. A very fun and enjoyable room with many projects that came together for a wonderful system, great job my friends.



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