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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

 

 

Treehaus
Room 530
Thanks to my colleague and friend, Jeffrey Smith, of Silversmith Cables, for making sure I gave this room a good listen. Though I had never heard of Connecticut's Treehaus, I soon discovered that they were just turning four years old and that this was their first-ever audio show! It turns out that they not only made the striking-looking high-efficiency, three-driver, full-range, open-baffle, loudspeakers, called the National Treasure ($16,000/pr.), but they ALSO collaboratively built the rather simply named electronic components to drive them, the tubed linestage call the Preamplifier ($16,000) and a 300B powered stereo amp called the Amplifier ($16,000)!

I was visually taken with the remarkably attractive National Treasure, which features an Atelier Rullit "Aero" full-range field coil (with a custom tube rectifier power supply). A Fostex T90A Super Tweeter, mounted just above and to the outside of the midrange (at about 45), and a larger permanent magnet woofer, below and just offset of the vertical axis of the field coil, set this speaker apart visually from most any of its competitors.

 

A remarkable system, all Treehaus components.

 

The two-box Preamplifier has an unmistakable and unique appearance, and will not likely be mistaken for any other device. While the Amplifier is rather conventional-looking, when compared to the speakers and Preamplifier anyway, the system synergy simply cannot be denied.

I have no problem freely admitting to not being terribly fond of "single driver" loudspeakers, even those using exceptional performing field coil drivers. Yet this single-brand system had earned my attention and had me wanting to hear more. I'm certain that without the contributions of the super tweeter and woofer, it is likely that I would have found this system considerably less engaging. But I have to say, it truly excelled at what good tubed and single driver systems can do, recreating a realistically three-dimensional image and soundscape, while maintaining realistic instrumental sizes. What further impressed me was its remarkable dynamic expressiveness, especially in the micro realm, and its ability to recreate delicate and expressive nuances, while offering robust body and pure tonality.

 

GT Audio
Roosevelt Room
As I walked into the enormous 3570 ft2 Roosevelt Room, I ran into Steve Rabitz, vice president of sales at Sound Insight in Huntington, NY.

 

The GT Audioworks Reference 3 Planar Ribbon Speakers with Pass Labs electronics, VPI, and LampizatOr sources.

 

Sources were either a VPI HW-40 Direct Drive turntable (no details were provided on the cartridge), using the Pass Labs XS Phono Preamp ($45,000), or with a Small Green Computer Sonic Transporter i9 "optical storage" Roon server ($3075), or a Sonore Signature Rendu SE optical streamer ($4490), feeding the spell-binding LampizatOr Pacific DAC ($30,750). Both sources fed the Pass Labs XP-32 preamp ($17,500), connected to a pair of Pass Laboratories XA160.8 monoblocks ($27,300/pair), which in turn drove the four-tower GT Audioworks Reference 3 Planar Ribbon Speakers ($49,000/pair).

Comprised of a pair of panels housing both a six-foot-tall, ten-inch-wide full range planar driver and a six-foot-tall, one-half inch wide ribbon tweeter, they included their optional, nearly five-foot-tall subwoofer towers, each implementing four dipole woofers, which augment the lowest frequencies and are active from 60Hz down to about 15Hz.

 

All components sitting on a special TimberNation rack.

 

Cabling included Magnan Signature RCA ($1800) and Magnan XLR ($1200) interconnects, and the Magnan Signature speaker cables ($1225), and power conditioning was managed by the Richard Gray Power Company Substation ($2995) and RGPC 400 ($795).

 

A view showing the backs of the open baffle woofers.

 

Everything Steve played for me demonstrated a large, well-delineated, and shaped stage, rendering an amazingly spacious soundscape. The system was dynamic as hell, and though it presented with fabulous scaling, it was still able to depict musical detail with delicacy and fitness. Its startlingly lifelike dynamics bordered on world-class.

 

 

Dr. Vinyl, McGary Audio, Qln, Backert Labs, Reed, DS Audio, Kleinbeck And MosArt
Room 303

There is no question I was looking forward to seeing what Dr. Vinyl, Baltimore Maryland area retailer Jose Ramirez, was up to. As you may gather from his choice of a trade name, Dr. Vinyl is all in and completely understands the advantages of Long Play record playback.

The Lithuanian Reed Muse 3C Turntable ($21,750), was fitted with either a Reed 3P 10.5" Tonearm ($7,750), or the Integrity Canada Tru Glider Pendulum Tonearm ($5,600). The Reed 3P arm is very versatile, allowing for VTA and azimuth adjustment while in play. During my visit, I heard the Integrity Canada Tru Glider Pendulum Tonearm using the wonderful sounding new DS Audio DS 003 Cartridge ($2,500). The DS Audio approach is rather unique, using an optical system to detect music signals by capturing shadow changes (brightness changes), rather than a typical coil and magnetic assembly.

As such, it required DS 003 Energizer ($3,500) in place of the typical RIAA phono stage, and while there was a Delaware-based Backert Labs Rhumba Phono 1.1 on hand, ($7,500), the linestage was the Backert Labs Rhythm 1.3 ($10,750).

 

The full set up featuring the Qln Prestige One monitors.

 

Further, a DS Audio Ion-001 Ionizer ($1,800) was used to negate static and its extraneous noises, all cabling was from Tom Kleinbeck, of Springfield Missouri's Klienbeck Engineering, whom I spoke with at great length during this show. Everything sat on MosArt Inc. racks, featuring the MosArt Custom Quieten in Spalted Maple Finish ($14,500), their Turntable Platform ($1500), and custom Amp Stands ($999).

Jose was featuring the McGary Audio SA-1E Amplifier ($6,600) to drive a pair of Qln Prestige One monitors ($7,100).

 

The Reed Muse 3C Turntable, Tru Glider Pendulum Tonearm, DS Audio DS 003 Cartridge (mostly hidden by the clamp!) and Ion-001 Ionizer.

 

This 350 ft2 typical hotel room was perfectly suited to allow the virtues of the QLN monitors to release all of the magic they were receiving from the remarkable gear they were paired with, providing exhilarating space, with surprising depth. While the system exhibited limitations on scaling, an understandable shortcoming suffered by all monitors, it nonetheless revealed rich, textured tone, presenting piano with a relaxed, percussive, yet natural and persuasive expressiveness. Two thumbs up here.

 

 

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