Capital AudioFest Chronicles 2022
Suite 650 Linkwitz Lab
The open box woofer cabinet with a driver facing each direction has become a trend among speaker builders, if not adopted by companies that specialize in active crossovers like JL, Rel, SVS, and others. There is an aesthetic issue with this woofer design, yet it doesn't seem like it would be that difficult to provide a grille for the front, at least. There is also an aesthetic issue with the quirky upper open-baffle for the main drivers. The American Walnut finish shown here works well in forested living rooms but it can also be custom-built with your choice of finishes at additional cost. This would take it deeper into contemporary territory as well as make it more formal if the wood stain is too rustic for you. (To give you an idea of what I mean, imagine the open baffle painted to match the speaker in the next room.) Another option ($2k) is to have the open baffle made from Panzerholz, an extremely dense German plywood. I happen to have a small sheet of it and I can tell you it is heavy and requires special machining.
The front end in this room included a turntable (not in use) and a Pass Labs XP 32 three-box preamp. A steamer and a DAC were likely out of sight, but they must have been of high quality. The sound quality here was even better than what I recalled from Axpona. The postcard suggests improvements to the midrange driver and the active crossover, but I don't know how recently they were made. I should also mention that the package includes a short length of speaker cable with SpeakOn connectors, but longer lengths are available. Given the package includes the speakers, speaker cables, and amplifier units, this represents an extraordinary value. You won't get to readily swap out amplifiers, but once you hear this speaker, it is unlikely you will want to. Plus, you can always add tubes to your system in the DAC and preamp.
I really wanted to review this speaker, and Dr. Frank Brenner offered the opportunity, but with this show report and commitments for other reviews already on hand, I reluctantly passed it on to another capable reviewer at Enjoy The Music.com. Keep an eye out for it in the near future.
Suite 651 Scott Walker Audio
The candy apple red Estelon speakers from Estonia were easily the most luscious eye candy at the show. There were other speakers with great finishes but the way light plays off the form of this speaker is mouth-watering. Like the KEF Muon, any of the Estelon models belong in the Museum of Modern Art… perhaps their new Extreme Mk II more than others. Only the understandable necessity of showcasing the components and Synergistic products detracted from their beauty. It is, after all, an audio show. You can give these speakers their due prominence in the privacy of your home.
Between the speakers were the Synergistic Black Box, sometimes shown in white, but always shown in their room, as sometimes seen in the rooms of others. Behind it is their premium Galileo PowerCell SX which was sitting on their Tranquility Base Carbon XL. Synergistic PowerCells are also seen in other rooms at almost every show.
Atop the rack on the right was an Acoustic Signature Montana Neo turntable. I noticed tonearm cables leading to the cartridge that were the thickness of angel's hair. Synergistic also had their very good record weight close at hand, and quite likely their UEF-treated record mat on the turntable. The next shelf had the turntable power supply on top of what looked like a phono stage that I didn't recognize. Below that was a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3. Next, a Solution 325 preamp followed by a Solution 311 stereo amp. Many of these components were situated on Synergistic Tranquility bases. The rack itself was the SR Reference Tranquility Rack ($24,995) which is limited to 24 units worldwide. That was the easy rack.
On the left, things got more complicated. On top was the Galileo SX Ground Block and an FEQ Carbon (the short square column) with an ATM (the short little cylinder) on top of it. On the shelf below, it was too dark to see. Below that was a Baetis server. Below that were some SR power supplies (I think), and a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB.
And for the eagle-eyed readers who noticed what looks like an artist's interpretation of the CN Tower in Toronto, that's the SR Acoustic Art Vibratron that is available either chrome or gold plated. More obvious to those who stepped closer were the SRX speaker cables with pure silver geometries and the dozens of ground wires plugged into the Galileo Active Ground Block. Not seen, but surely in every component that would take one, would be their famous Purple fuses.
The music here was quite good, though I have to admit that I've heard the Estelon speakers sound better in situations where the center area between and behind them was not occupied with a lot of equipment. They were also in considerably larger rooms. It also didn't help that both times I visited the room there was nary an empty seat. I sat through one demonstration where the power conditioner, active ground block, and the FEQ Carbon were sequentially turned off and then reactivated. It was convincing for me, but not as convincing as I've experienced with similar products in my own rig where the music and the sound are very familiar. Hopefully, people learned from these demonstrations and were motivated enough to give some of this gear a try.