The Inaugural Pacific Audio Fest - Seattle 2022
The Tale Of The Tape
In all, some 190 distinct brands were represented. The private club on the 14th floor, Maxi's, had played host to three live bands, over two nights. Friday saw the seventeen-piece Kings of Swing big band play to the attendees, while Saturday night featured both the wide-ranging jazz stylings of the duo of Christopher Woitach with Spencer Hoveskeland for an earlier show, and then a little later, the second band, the Halie Loren Quartet, also featuring Christopher Woitach, took over. And there were 1400 attendees over the three days of this first annual audio expo. Not too shabby for an opening show, wouldn't you agree?
The First Floor
So, let's take this in an orderly manner, and start with the major exhibits, all of which resided in the newer tower section of the hotel, starting with the largest halls, all on the Main Floor.
First up, on the Northwest Ballroom Hallway was Ballroom 1, which was the domain of Acora Acoustics, featuring their flagship Acora Acoustics SRC-2 ($37,000/pr.) two-and-a-half way, floor-standing loudspeakers with their signature granite enclosures. The system's sources included the Pro-Ject Signature 12 Turntable ($12,999), using a Sumiko Palo Santos Cartridge ($4,499), and digital was provided using an Aurender N30SA ($24,000) Network Player streaming to the astonishing flagship LampizatOr Horizon DAC ($49,000).
Electronics were from the Valve Amplification Company and included the VAC Statement Phono Stage ($80,000), the VAC Statement Line Stage ($80,000), with a pair of the outstanding VAC Statement 452i iQ Musicbloc monoblocks ($150,000/pr.). All equipment rested on the Acora Acoustics SRR-V ($TBD) and SRR-H ($TBD).
This space was, well enormous, at 40' x 50' x 14', and in fact, only two rooms in this massive venue were larger. Given its size, the speakers were very widely placed, which, while addressing some concerns of presenting in such a cavernous space, just as equally contributed to others. And if I'm honest, I'd have to suggest that this room was simply too large for the Acora Acoustics SRC-2 Loudspeakers to properly or successfully energize. That unavoidable shortcoming notwithstanding, I will say that this was by far the best showing I've ever experienced from any Acora system demonstration.
Listening to the Mobile Fidelity reissue of Dire Straits second studio LP, Communique, the presentation offered very good spatial information in terms of image size, shape, and placement, with a good sense of midrange immediacy. Guitar tone was very authentic, yet slightly lean in body, which could well have been the influence of this enormous space, with cymbal trails nicely rendered in airy decay.
Moving to Jeff Beck's Truth release, the system portrayed guitars with a somewhat diffuse image, but conveyed a nice sense of body and good tone color. The bottom end was really quite lean, but again, this was most likely an affect of this exceptionally large room.
Moving on down that corridor, the next room, Ballroom 2 was unoccupied, but Ballroom 3, the last room on that hallway, featured an interesting construct for a demonstration from Acoustic Fields soundproofing solutions. The room was the second biggest space available at the show, slightly larger than the Acora exhibit space, some 42' x 50' x 14'. In this space, Dennis Foley, Acoustic Fields chief acoustic engineer, had assembled a room within a room, creating something on the order of a thirty-foot squared space, with walls about six or six-and-a-half feet tall, with no roof or ceiling of its own. See the image for a better feel of this space.
This second set of walls was fabricated from numerous panels of their differing foam and carbon absorption panels, modular bass absorber panels, and modular diffuser/absorber panels.
At the front of this room-within-a-room, Dennis had set up a rather modest system, comprised of a Marantz SACD player ($700), a Benchmark III DAC ($2,000), the very well-regarded Plinius RA-300 stereo amplifier ($28,000), driving a pair of Klipsch RF-7 III speakers ($4,400/pr.). Cables were the Silversmith Audio Fidelium Speaker Cables ($1,500), with the prototypical Silversmith Interconnects ($TBD), and he was using three Synergistic Research power cords ($1,900/ea.), with conditioning provided by a Shunyata Hydra ($2,000).
As I learned from Dennis, the Acoustic Fields soundproofing treatment approach is offered in varying grades, like 60%, 70%, 80%, and 90%, with this demo area treatment earning an 80% rating. I can say that there were clear sonic advantages derived from this approach, especially given the rather modest gear, save for the rather pricey and nicely pedigreed Plinius amplifier.
Listening to the Dire Straits Brothers in Arms CD revealed very good staging, with vocals that were both very natural and properly sized. There was also a level of clarity, of transparency, that I would NOT have expected to have been achieved with such modest gear, especially with a speaker of this type and price point.
But there was also a haunting and unnerving sense of emptiness, or barrenness, that eerie sensation you get when you are in an anechoic chamber or a highly damped and treated studio environment. Dennis said that this was a $100,000 treatment, using a $15,000 system. I clearly see the appeal of this level of treatment for a studio or some other recording space, but I'm not sure that it is what I would want to do with my own music room. I suspect that it would be interesting to experiment with, but I also suspect that I may prefer a $100,000 system in a room with $15,000 worth of more typical treatment. Just me?