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

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


Capital Audiofest 2023 Show Report / Chronicles Part 7 The 3rd Floor Part A


  This stretch of smaller rooms was the most kick-ass hallway of the whole show. While the big conference rooms had some heavy hitters, too, and the entire show was on a very high level overall, as I write about this hallway in the fifth week after the show, I am amazed as I review my video recordings. If I had to point a novice or a veteran audiophile to any area of the show with only an hour or two to spend, I would have sent them down this hallway. They were almost all veteran presenters, too, with most of them having cheat sheets prepared to help me write about them.

Thank you.



Room 302  Audio Note UK
Starting with a classic Audio Note UK room set a valid benchmark for high-end audio. Their rooms sound consistently good with their familiar British sound, and they look pretty much the same regardless of whether they've presented entry-level products or top-of-the-line series. Positioning Audio Note speakers in the corner is their customary layout and you really don't want to put them anywhere else. This is where they sound their best with reinforcement of the bass from this corner placement. These particular speakers were the new — like a month old — AN-E/SPx Ltd Field Coil loudspeakers ($65k) that must have been their top-of-the-line model with a magnificent high gloss burl veneer.

Below the turntable was the M5 phono preamplifier ($15,840) and further below was the CD4.1x Integrated CD Player ($14,331).



The turntable was the TT Three with PSU1 ($9410). I've pointed out the three-motor design in the past, but this time I realized the belt makes contact and departs from the plinth in a straight line that roughly parallels the tonearm by the right front part of the platter. While the three-motor design minimizes any wobble and vibration of the platter, having the contact points of the belt positioned by the stylus contact point might well minimize slight lateral vibration even more. Compare that with say the Linn LP12, among many others that have the motor positioned ~90 degrees from the line of the tonearm.

The tonearm here was the Arm Three/II ($2465) and it was fitted with their IQ 3 moving magnet phono cartridge ($1,311) which seems a rather low choice for such a high-level system, especially when many others were running with cartridges in the $5k to $20k range.

Audio Note UK also makes their own speaker cables and interconnects and they were in use here.



I hesitated about including this photo of the Conquest Silver Signature monoblocks ($30,170/pr), as the auto-focus betrayed me, but I thought I should point out the custom wood amp stand that provides ample protection for the amp as well as sufficient airflow. The SET amps feature parallel 300B tubes putting out 18 Wpc at either 4 or 8 Ohms, in Class A with zero negative feedback. The faceplate is also available in black acrylic if you wish to dress it up a bit.

The fast sax of Cannonball Adderly from The Cannonball Adderley Quintet Plus was tonally spot on with excellent resolution (despite that MM cartridge?) and eminently listenable as Audio Note gear always is. Kudos for the décor as plants always seem to help the sound and make the room seem more like home. Vu Hoang of Déjà vu Audio in Vienna, VA, is the man behind this presentation and he is getting close to three decades of being in business.




Room 303  Refined Audio
Refined Audio is a boutique dealer out of Forest Park, IL, that sells First Watt, Pass Labs, and Cube Audio. That's it. As such, the rig was a minimal, but wonderfully sounding presentation featuring the Cube Audio Nenuphar Mini speakers ($12,500) which feature a single full-range driver and were tipped back minimally to accommodate the bottom port. Their renowned drivers are fairly efficient with an 8 Ohm impedance, and since there is no crossover between the driver and the amp, they are very transparent. For someone who doesn't blast their music, this can be an excellent choice. There are several other models in this speaker line from Poland and they sell their drivers separately for the DIY crowd, too.



On the bottom was a First Watt F7 amplifier of Nelson Pass fame ($3k), a cult favorite. A Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 ($6,220) was on the next shelf up and on the top shelf, without a chassis, was an SDtrans384 Transport ($422) that takes SD cards. Dueland 16 gauge loudspeaker cable cost $84 (yes, that's right), and digital cable and interconnects were not specified but likely inexpensive. The rig totaled out at $22,226, they said. This is not the first time I've heard these speakers, and it's not the first time I've been this impressed.



Here's a peek at the SDtrans384 Transport. It should be pretty easy to come up with a chassis for this without breaking the budget.




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