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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



Room 316  BorderPatrol & Triode Wire Labs
The Saturday of the show was Veterans Day, and while I heartily salute our veterans, I also salute BorderPatrol and Triode Wire Labs for posting recognition of this day on their door. Many in this industry have roots in the military or in companies that support the military.

I also recall that I lamented the repetitive nature of this room partnered with Volti Speakers in past shows. On the one hand, I hope I didn’t cause a divorce among corporate friends, while on the other, the room here offered fresh insight.



Much of that fresh insight was due to the presentation of the Living Voice R80 speakers in a lustrous high-gloss Ebony veneer with external crossovers finished to match. The sound quality took a significant step upward, as did the price, with the speakers topping out at $54,250. Prices start at $42,750 with inboard crossovers and less expensive veneers. BorderPatrol now imports Living Voice speakers and their other models fall into the $6k to $20k range, so don't be intimidated by the flagship R80 seen here. The room also went upstream with an Innuos Statement Music Server, Next-Gen power supply, and 4TB SSD for $26,200. It was interesting to learn that the Next-Gen PSU utilizes Panzerholz plywood to control vibrations in the unit.



This was not the first time I've heard a Living Voice speaker from the UK, but it is one of a very few and this was the first time this particular model has been shown at a North American audio show. The experiences have always been highly favorable, but this low-volume manufacturer has not sought much exposure on this side of the pond.

Like the speaker above, the R80 is a tube lover's delight with 93dB/W/m sensitivity, a 6 Ohm impedance, and a frequency range from 25Hz to 20kHz. Make that a wealthy tube lover. And as shown, the speaker is suitable for the finest homes, whether traditional or contemporary. It just exudes quality when looking at it, and the sound does not disappoint or undermine that impression.



The BorderPatrol amp would have been a better match for the speaker only if it had a gloss finish on the wood. The S20EXD power amp puts out 16 Wpc from parallel 300B tubes (Western Electric, in this particular instance). It is supplied by twin external power supplies, seen on the lower shelf in the photo above. Zero negative feedback is used and the amp is encased in a copper and wood chassis. Both the amp and power supplies have been given extensive cryogenic treatment. Price begins at $21,500 and depends on 300B tube options.

In the center of the top shelf above was the BorderPatrol DAC SE-I (USB) which is a non-oversampling resistor ladder (R-2R) DAC with no digital filtering. It houses a hybrid tube/solid-state power supply housed in a copper case and plays files only up to 24-bit/96kHz. For someone dedicated to Red Book CDs or Tidal Master files, this could be an unheralded gem. It runs from $1650 with USB or S/PDIF in silver or black, up to $2150 with both USB and S/PDIF, plus some variation in between.

Triode Wire Labs cables included The Obsession NCF power cord with Furutech FI-50 NCF connectors used on the power conditioner ($1499), the High Power Digital American II power cord used on the Border Patrol power supplies ($749 ea.), the Digital American II digital power cord used on the DAC, the Bi-Wired American Speaker Cables with TWL Jumpers with Cardas banana plugs (starting at $1100). Jumpers at $299/set. The Spirit II RCA interconnects were $399 and the digital Passion USB cable was $329. There was a glimpse of the speaker wire and the jumpers in the photo of the speaker above. These seem like very reasonable prices for the sound quality I heard here.




Room  319  Now Listen Here
Like most other rooms along this hallway, Now Listen Here, with stores in Harrisburg, PA, and Falls Church, VA, put together a very fine-sounding rig with Vandersteen Quatro CT speakers ($19,200) with the carbon tweeter trickled down from higher models, powered by their M5-HPA monoblocks ($19,990). 



I listened to LPs here which were spun on the flagship Rega Naia turntable ($13k) which now seems to be making its way into distribution. While looking similar to their Planar 8 and Planar 10 models it incorporates a host of upgrades including graphene-infused carbon fiber on the plinth, a titanium tonearm with a tungsten balance weight and shaft, plus much more. The cartridge was a Rega Aphelion2 Reference cartridge ($4k) with a boron cantilever and a fineline stylus. A new Naia cartridge has been announced but was not present here.

A Backert Labs Rhumba Xphono phono stage ($7,800) was used along with the new Backert Labs Rhythm 1.4 tube preamp ($12,900).



The feet of the Naia look rather unusual and I would presume they are threaded into the plinth for leveling. You can also see the turntable uses multiple belt drives which is becoming something of a trend these days. And obviously, the power supply is hidden down below the Isoacoustics shelf somewhere.



A Backert Labs Rhumba Xphono phono stage ($7,800) was used along with the new Backert Labs Rhythm 1.4 tube preamp ($12,900). The new 1.4 series preamps have been slow to come to market, but given what I heard here, and what I've heard with a good friend's 1.2 series, these should be a very hot ticket. I love the LED on the volume control that lets you see where it's set while listening in the dark.

Digital playback came through a Meitner MA3 DAC ($10,500) and an Innuos ZENith server ($6,299), but I didn't hear music from this source.

A Transparent PowerWave X power conditioner was likely the box to the right of the Solidsteel rack. Transparent Premium power cords were listed at $650 — could that be right? The Transparent Ultra interconnects were $3200 (XLR) and $1800 (RCA).

I noticed that Now Here This listed all the major brands they carry on their front wall banner — a smart move to boost their image and let people know what else they carry besides what was displayed here.

A complex piece of rock music was neatly sorted out by this rig, and a slower, more surreal electric guitar piece threw a huge soundstage as well as portraying the crisp attack and delicate, nuanced decay of notes. I just about melted during that piece, but picked myself up and moved on after having a nice chat with Andy Tebbe of Backert Labs.




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