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Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2023 Show Report -- CAF 2023 premium luxury audio event coverage.

Capital Audiofest 2023 Show Report / Chronicles Part 10
The Atrium Rooms
Show Report By Rick Becker



Continued... Distinctive Stereo, Genesis Loudspeakers, And Merrill Audio
The music then switched over to LPs, played back on the Wand turntable on top of the rack above. I count 12 layers in the plywood plinth of the turntable and its power supply on the shelf below.

The Heed electronics from Budapest, Hungary were something new to me. Their Thesis series is their top line. Directly below the Wand power supply (a questionable position) was the Heed Thesis Phi phono stage ($2,400). To the right on that shelf was the Thesis Delta CD player ($4,200) sitting atop the Thesis Lambda preamplifier ($3,300) (another questionable positioning, though they probably didn't play many CDs during the show).

On the next shelf down was the Thesis Gamma stereo power amplifier ($3,400) on the left. Using something called a "transcap" output capacitor technology, it delivers up to 2x110 Watts and can handle impedance down to 1.6 Ohms. The Thesis Pi ($2,200) next to the amp is a twin power supply for both the Phi phono stage and Lambda preamp. And finally, on the bottom shelf was a Puritan Audio Laboratories power conditioner.

I also took note of the Merrill Anjali rack which is comprised of 0.25" thick shelves of carbon fiber clamped between anodized bars of aluminum with infinitely adjustable heights on the vertical bars which can be ordered with custom height. You can also use as many shelves as you like and choose either 17" or 24" depth. The price is $14,000 with five shelves at a height of 36". The rose-gold anodized finish matches the signature finish of Merrill components.



The Wand turntable ($5k) from Design Build Listen Ltd. in New Zealand has been around for a handful of years now and its carbon fiber arm ($3750) has been particularly well received with drop-in armboards available for many different tables. The oversized platter improves the speed stability, yet the LP itself is raised above the wider platter to facilitate removal and allow an overhang of the LP lip. I noted the carbon fiber discs beneath the motor mount and speed controller. And you can just make out the Plexiglas tonearm lift and retainer. In examining my photo, it seems it was elevated on some aftermarket footers, which doesn't surprise me. I do the same with my unsuspended, wall-mounted turntable with great results.

Having heard jazz on the tape deck, they started with boss tenor by Gene Ammons (Prestige 7180) which sounded just as good as the jazz we heard on tape, if not a little better.

I had an ah-ha! moment and flipped through the selection of LPs in the room, hoping to find something by the Beach Boys. Finding none, I went out into the Atrium and asked for Beach Boys LPs at the Vinyl Asylum concession. The woman there couldn't remember where they were but another customer six feet to my left pulled out four of them. The first three I examined (at $8 each) were crap so scratched up I would never put them on anybody's turntable, much less my own.



The fourth one was acceptable, but not great. It was also $20, which caused a big gulp, as I was used to paying a dime or a quarter each for LPs at garage sales back in the 1990s. (Never mind that my wife will be that much richer when she liquidates my collection.) I paid the price YOLO, as the kids say, and returned to the Frederick room. Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me to take the LP to Charles Kirmuss, just a few yards away, and beg him to restore it.

We cued it up (not knowing that it was an $18k cartridge at the time) and while the result was impressive, given the vintage of the LP, it was no comparison with the Beach Boys cover band we had recently heard on tape. The good news was it was not one of the dozen Beach Boys LPs I already owned and I love those old car songs, especially "409". But I can imagine how Bob Clarke (see below) must have cringed when we played it.



The phono cartridge here was something special as its $18k price tag suggested. I'm not a phono cartridge specialist, but there was no denying the music here sounded superb, lending further credence to the front end of a system being of primary importance. And this was not a mega-buck turntable by high-end standards, which should give you some food for thought.



I had a nice chat with Bob Clarke of Profundo in Texas who imports the Wand turntable and the Heed electronics presented here as well as being involved with the design of the cartridge. He graciously filled me in on the back story:

"The brand name for the phono cartridge is Hyper Sonic. The model is the X-4. This was a team effort between myself, Gary Koh of Genesis Advanced Technologies and Micha Huber of HiFiction, Switzerland, who is the designer and manufacturer of the EMT cartridges, Goldenberg cartridges (which I distribute here in the USA), and Exquisite cartridges, along with his Thales turntables and tonearms. Most of the actual design was a collaboration between Gary and Micha. Gary's Chinese distributor for Genesis is the actual brand owner, as they generously financed the two years of R&D necessary to create this amazing cartridge. I am honored to be the US distributor for the cartridge. As you heard, it is something very special."



The speaker here was from the new, reborn Genesis 7 Series, the Minuet ($8k). It features two of the same Genesis Ring Radiator Ribbon Tweeters (GR3T) from their flagship speaker, one facing forward and the other facing rearward, and has a variable +/- 4.5 dB adjustment. The mid-woofer is a 5.5" ultra-light titanium cone driver. Frequency response is given as 55Hz to 40kHz (+/-3dB), but it is a sealed enclosure so the bass rolls off slowly and remains tight for as low as it goes. The outriggers for the footers were uniquely made of Plyboo also, and were, shall I say "undecided", with a threaded rod that could be either for a spike footer or a vibration absorbing footer. I liked the way the outriggers blended with the cabinet without drawing undo attention.




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