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Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2022 Show Report -- CAF 2022 premium luxury audio event coverage.

Capital AudioFest Chronicles 2022
Musical mastery within the 3rd floor Meeting Rooms.
CAF 2022 Show Report By Rick Becker

 

 

Truman Room  Convergent Audio Technology
Speaking of cutting-edge designers, here's a guy who has been around so long he got into designing his own capacitors! And this is the show CAT lovers look forward to as Ken Stevens offers his once-a-year show specials, not just for the demo models (40% off), but two weeks after the show on select models (30% off).

 

 

That was looking like a CAT SL1 Renaissance Black Path Extreme preamp with phono stage, another variation just below, the Legend Black Path Extreme with separate attenuators for left and right channels, eliminating the balance control. And below that is his hot-rodded vintage Audio Aero Capitole Classic CD player (Signature Edition). At the very bottom was the CAT JL5 Black Path Extreme Limited Edition stereo amp ($28k).

Immediately next to the rack on the floor were a pair of JL7 SE monoblocks ($60k) that put out 220 Watts each into 4 or 8 Ohms @ 1% THD. In that first Watt, where most of the music happens, it measures a mere 0.005% THD basically, negligible.

 

 

The outermost monoblocks were the SL1 Statement Extreme ($225k per pair) sporting 16 KT120 tubes, each, which were offered at $135k as the demo pair.

For those who might be intimidated by the high prices of the limited and special editions at the show, the standard models were offered at 30% off list price: (JL5 Mk2, list $20k, JL7 Mk2, list $50k, and SL1 Renaissance Extreme, list $45k). Unfortunately, by the time this segment of the Chronicles is posted, the discount was history. But these are heirloom amplifiers that should last long enough for inflation to far surpass the discount in just a few years.

The speakers were the Magico S5 MkII being driven by the JL7 SE monoblocks when I was in the room. A little Bruce Springsteen, a little Rolling Stones, triode power. What more could you ask for?

 

 

In the hall, I ran into Ken Stevens for one of our rare encounters. He lives not far from me, yet I never seem to get over to his shop.  We chatted about a mutual friend until Matt from VPI interrupted to give both Ken and his longtime employee, Lee Smith, a gold plastic statue for some obscure reason. Lee was in the show horse world in Rochester for many years until making a mid-life switch to work for Ken in high-end audio. Lee wears many hats at CAT, including the actual building of amplifiers.

 

 

 

Monroe Room  20/20 Evolution Systems
I was looking forward to visiting the 20/20 Evolution Systems room to hear the Kharma speakers once again since my reference speakers are from the previous Kharma Ceramique series. The current Elegance series is noticeably more refined but with lower impedance and slightly less sensitivity, perhaps not quite as adept at serving double duty with lower power tube amps. Nonetheless, I found the Elegance dB9-S ($47k) to sound very special again this year at Capital Audiofest 2022.

 

 

What was most surprising was to learn they were driven by Conrad Johnson amplification. The more expensive Kharma Exquisite Midi 3.0 shown here last year was also driven by Conrad Johnson gear, but the amps were less expensive and less powerful. So while the speaker this year was less expensive, the amps were more expensive and the trade-off was better sound as best I can recollect.

This year the c-j ART 88 preamp (Limited Edition, $28,500) and c-j TEA1 Series 3 phono stage combined with the ART-108A Class A monoblocks (Limited Edition, $52k). These monoblocks put out 160 Watts into the 4 Ohm Kharma speakers. Also on the rack was a LampizatOr Pacific DAC another reason this room sounded so good? It was used with a Taiko music server ($32k) when I was there. There was also a Cambridge CD player in the rack in case someone had a request to play a favorite song. Very thoughtful.

 

 

The Kuzma Stabi R was equipped with the new SAFIR 9 tonearm ($25k, arm only) equipped with a Kuzma CAR-50 cartridge ($7,500). Unfortunately, I did not get to hear this. Cables were by Siltech, save for a few prototype cables from Truitt Physics and a Torus Power RM20 series power conditioner ($3,299) dealt with the house current.

The room here had a very familiar sound. Though it was a whole lot more expensive than my reference rig, we both had tubes in all the right places.

 

 

 

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