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

Capital Audiofest 2023 Show Report / Chronicles Part 3
The 7th Floor Part A
Show Report By Rick Becker

 

Capital Audiofest 2023 Show Report / Chronicles Part 3 The 7th Floor Part A Show Report By Rick Becker

 

Room 701 PraiseWorthy Audio
Percy Chase remember that name drifted into Capital Audiofest just like "A Sheep Out On The Foam" with a couple of prototype speakers that defy his background. I probably saw him in the room, but never suspected he was the Ultra-DIY person behind these two speakers that looked ready for Prime Time. I'm not sure I even heard them play. I have no video notes and no spec sheet for the room. I snapped a couple of shots and picked up a slick brochure, pressing on without even looking at it.

 

 

As I read it over in my office I'm thinking "Good grief! Who is this company?" There is no website, address, or phone number. But these were not speakers built out of the back of a van. Each is a two-way design, though all the drivers are different. One has a soft dome tweeter, the other an "accordion-type" diaphragm driver (read: AMT?). The cabinets are a "cabinet within a cabinet" design with multiple materials that take advantage of constrained layer damping. A cellular egg-crate inner core and non-parallel walls quell the internal waves.

 

 

The front baffle is sculpted from mineral wool and is designed to take care of reflections and diffraction off the baffle. A metal cage extends the lines of the cabinet and acoustically transparent fabric is stretched over it. The cabinet can be either automotive paint finish on HDF or real wood veneer on 0.25" plywood. The stand is an integral part of the design and comes with it.

Getting deeper, DSP technology comes before the four channels of power amplification and the MiniDSP also provides Dirac live room correction. It's not clear if this crossover and power is somehow built-in or resides in a box outside of the speakers. (I would guess the latter.)

 

 

Room704 Black Ice Audio
Having just seen and heard Black Ice gear on the floor above, I was prepared for an overdose here. But it was a whole new game with the Zu Audio Soul 6 speakers ($6200 as shown in natural finish). The music was very transparent and dynamic with much higher resolution than I recalled from reviewing the Zu Audio Union, a much less expensive model, years ago. It reached out and grabbed me, begging me to dance (a little difficult with two cameras around my neck and a briefcase in my hand, as I role-played Dylan's Mr. Jones.) That presence and projection out into the room was very much like what happens with the Synergistic Research Vibratron (review within Enjoy the Music.com's December 2023 Review Magazine) But the Zu Audio has its signature, whereas the Vibratron will retain the signature of the speakers you already have.

 

 

On the top shelf was the Black Ice F85A, starting at $5199, and $5680 as shown with Psvane KT88 tubes from China and Iso Acoustic footer upgrades. Below the turntable was the F159 phono stage, starting at $1875, $3189 as shown with Overdrive Package and Iso Acoustics footers again. Right beneath the F159 was the Fusion 9 Mk III phono stage starting at $899 for comparison. To the left of the phono stages was an F360 preamp, starting at $2500 and doubling that price with options.

 

 

On the bottom shelf was a Glass FX10 integrated amp with headphone input starting at $625, $850 as shown with 7189 tubes.

 

 

Next to the FX10 was the new DAC / Transport I saw upstairs, starting at $3250, $4k as shown with the walnut case upgrade. The transport is in the center and the electronics for each separate channel run down the two sides. It has been a few years now since I've heard a Zu speaker and the Soul 6 sounded great with the Black Ice gear. It's a very effective way to get into tube gear in an entry-level price range. It was also fun to meet Sean Casey of Zu after many, many years, it seems. Hopefully, our paths will cross again.

 

 

 

Room 705 Black Ice Audio
Well, here I am getting into Black Ice overload. But since it was also a chance to hear the stand-mounted Zu Audio DWX loudspeakers (starting at $1398, $4k as heard with the Superfly package) I ventured in and took some photos. The floorstanders next to them were the Zu Audio Definition 6, starting at $25k, pretty serious speakers, I suspect. That looks like the phono stage mentioned above in a wood chassis on top of the rack, and the Aires headphone DAC / Amp in the wood chassis below it.

 

 

The Black Ice F165M monoblocks seen on either side of the rack start at $7800, but the Pinnacle Edition with KT170 tubes from Russia seen here was almost $18k. Black Ice Pinnacle Editions are built in Maryland. Jamie Demarco, a partner in Black Ice, was a busy man in these two rooms and his work seems to be paying off.

 

 

 

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