Capital AudioFest Chronicles 2022
Room310 VK Music
VK Music is also a source for some serious DIY tube amp kits. The one shown here features Lundahl transformers, Audio Note capacitors, and 2A3 tubes. That makes for a very nice SET amp. (Elekit TU-8900).
Room 311 Luminous Audio And MC Audiotech
Amplification consisted of Luminous Audio's LAT Archimedes 100-Watt monoblocks ($8,500), Arion II phono preamp ($8k), and Axion III Line preamp ($8k). The LAT Archimedes design has an interesting history which Michael Bettinger summed up on a flyer that was available and will hopefully be included on their amplifier web page when it goes online:
The LAT Archimedes is our tribute to James Bongiorno, the man, and his genius. This amplifier is the essence of his work coupled with our experience and advances in current audio amplifier design technology.
The front ends included a VPI Prime Signature 211 ($5,500) with a Soundsmith Zephyr MIMC cartridge ($2k), a Weiss 501 DAC, and Wolf Audio Systems Alpha 3 music server. The affordable cables used here were also from Luminous Audio including the Mega Linx power cables ($700), Synchestra Signature speaker cables ($40/foot), Reference interconnects ($599), and Silver Reference ICs used on the turntable ($599) .
I didn't get the scoop on the actual construction of this speaker and, strangely (or perhaps intentionally), details were left off the handout sheet. The speaker has also not been put up on their website. Maybe they're waiting for a patent to come through. But knowing what I do about the Forty 10, I can guess it uses a spaced array of the Wide Band Line Source drivers in the upper half, perhaps with some aimed out the side circles for wider dispersion. The lower half, no doubt, has some serious bass drivers. It wouldn't surprise me if the slots on the side were transmission line outlets for the large single woofer that is just visible through the grille.
The big plus here is each speaker can be driven by a single channel of amplification, rather than bi-amp'ed with a complex crossover like the earlier speaker. Furthermore, the TL-12, from a brief listen to three types of music, sounds like it is in the same league as the Forty 10. And that's a pretty high league.
The commanding presence of this speaker with its radiused back side and ports on the sides gives it a unique personality that will appeal to people with a refined appreciation for art and architecture — not to forget a strong desire for impeccable reproduction of recorded music. From my brief exposure, it is looking and sounds like a real winner.
Room 316 Border Patrol, Triode Wire Labs, And Volti Audio
The joint was jumping with bopping Motown sound coming through the Volti Audio Rival (Bearcat version in Cerajeira veneer, $15k). I hope "Cerjiera" is not a veneer of Saguaro cactus — I've never heard of it. In any case, this speaker is sounding like a modern-day, refined version of Altec's Voice of the Theater speaker with its 100dB efficiency, 15" woofer, 2" outlet midrange, and 1" compression tweeter. The internal volume is probably close, too, though the Rival has a smaller footprint and greater height. Greg Roberts makes his own crossovers, too. This adds up to a speaker with great dynamics that can be driven by low-powered SET tube amplifiers to give you music with emotion and soul.
I was also intrigued to learn Greg produces excellent crossover and modifications for vintage Klipsch Klipschorns and Belle Klipsch speakers. (I'm reminded of another project on my To-Do list.) As everything is sold factory direct from Volti, that means value added. Just add shipping from a small town halfway between Nashville and Knoxville, TN.
The camera focused a little too close on the gorgeous wood frame of the Border Patrol S20EXD power amp, but rest assured those were Western Electric parallel single-ended 300B tubes putting out 16 Wpc, which, in the context of the Volti Rival speaker, constitutes a muscle amp. Priced at $20k without tubes, you can add the WE tubes for $1495/pr. And if you're running just a single source, consider adding the volume control shown on the model above. The price as shown was $23,845.
Since the source was the Innuos Phoenix reclocker and Innuos Zen combination, the box next to the amp was the Border Patrol DAC SE-I, a non-oversampling R-2R DAC without any digital filtering. It also has a hybrid tube/solid-state power supply. Being rather primitive, it plays files only up to 24/96kHz. With USB or SP/DIF inputs, it is $1525; with both, it is $1995. Like Volti, Border Patrol sells factory-direct and ships from Bristow, VA. They are also the importer and sole U.S. retailer of Living Voice speakers from Great Britain. Wouldn't it be interesting to hear Living Voice speakers at a show again?
Not to be forgotten are the Triode Wire Labs cables that pulled the system altogether. They seem to be reasonably priced and worked well with the gear here. "The Obsession" power cords were $1499 (on amp and PI Audio Group power conditioner), and the "Digital American" power cords were on DAC and Innuos gear ($499). Their "American Speaker Cables" were $699 and the "Spirit II" RCA interconnects were $399. They also had Ethernet and USB cables in the mix. All were very reasonably priced, and they ship from Massapequa Park, NY on the south side of Long Island.