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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



Room708 Hollis Audio Labs
Danville Signal was here again, represented by Al Clark who I met last time. He was busy explaining some of his design work on the TV screen, so I just gave a nod and went on my way. Orchard Audio and Magna Risers were listed on the door, so maybe these are some of the companies Danville Signal has done work for. And I don't know what the connection is to Hollis Audio Labs.




Room 709 Dr. Vinyl
Dr. Vinyl's room was instructive in several ways. There was good music here as the system presented the DS Audio Grand Master EX cartridge ($22.5k) with its correlating Grand Master equalizer (phono stage) ($45k) at the front of its front end.

DS Audio offered a couple of show specials: the E1 System with their optical cartridge and phono preamp entry-level system ($2750, $2k show special) and the step-up 003 System with a dual-mono generator (trickle-down technology from their flagship Grand Master cartridge) and an upgraded phono stage. The 003 System, regularly $6k was offered at a show special of $5k enough savings to underwrite your trip to CAF in many cases.



The Grand Master EX was mounted on the Integrity Tru Glider Brass tonearm ($8k) on a Pear Audio Odar turntable with its Comet 3 tonearm ($17k), seen at the back. Also notable was the DS Audio Ion 001 Ionizer gently emitting ionized air over the LP. I saw this Ionizer on several turntables at the show. It seems to be gaining in popularity, at least among those who seek the ultimate vinyl playback.



The DS cartridge was mounted in a Nasotec headshell. That was a Nasotec VEM X record weight in use.



On the top shelf next to the turntable was the Pear Audio power supply for the turntable and a CAD GCD1 ground control ($2,200). Below that were a pair of the DS equalizers for their phono cartridges, and on the bottom shelf was a Puritan power conditioner.

Beneath the turntable was the new Backert Labs Rhythm 1.4 preamp ($12,900) with a pair of vacuum tubes protruding through its top and an ADDPowerSorcer conditioner. On the bottom shelf was a McGary Audio SA-1E stereo amp ($16,800). The rack itself has some interesting pieces of wood, but it didn't appear to be particularly massive or sturdy. Both the turntable and the rack seemed to have some sort of footers under their feet.



The Larson 9 speakers ($17k) are a real gem for those who must have their speakers placed up against the front wall for whatever reason. I've heard these before and they are extremely good at this specialized task, presenting a genuine soundscape behind the speaker. Note the multi-angle top baffle with its trapezoidal grill for the midrange driver. I also noted the circular set of slots on the right side near the floor and the row of small slots across the front near the floor.




Room 712 McGary Audio
The McGary Audio room here was a letdown only in that the Reed 1C turntable lacked a tonearm and cartridge. Below the turntable was a McGary PA1 preamp ($12k), a silver-faced unit I didn't recognize, a DS Audio equalizer that didn't seem to be doing anything, a server I didn't recognize, and something else hidden beneath the bottom shelf, probably a power conditioner. The equipment rack had little wood squares at the legs near the floor, a signature of a local audio furniture manufacturer whom I noted in previous CAF reports.



The Reed turntable was very interesting not only for the raised section beneath where the platter goes but also for the spectacular veneer that the photo does not do justice to.



The monoblocks were McGary MA1 ($25k) with a deep blue metallic finish on the steel chassis to match the blue tint on the Sophia Electric KT88-ST tubes that cost between $115 and $165 per tube, depending on the grade and length of warranty (30 days / 1 year). These tubes are known to have an exceptionally long life. Sophia Electric is an American company but it is not clear where the tubes are made. McGary is out of Gainesville, VA. If the amps look small in the photo, that's because they are with a 13" x 13" footprint, and weigh just 28 pounds something to think about as we get older.



The speakers were the Nola Champ 3S ($15k) that filled the room with more authority than I expected from a speaker with such a small footprint. The open baffle for the three small drivers at the top provided a crystal clear soundstage. The enlarged platform base has become something of a trend in speaker design, as has the use of vibration-absorbing footers. Given the fine tube amplification, it is not surprising these fine speakers sounded so good. Nola has their large room down on the 3rd Floor which I will get to eventually.




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