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Southwest Audio Fest 2024 Premium Audio Show Report

 

The Inaugural Southwest Audio Fest
A new 'must-see' show joins the annual event lineup.
SWAF 2024 Show Report By Greg Weaver

 

Carpenter Ballroom Valve Amplification Company And Acora Acoustics

 

This monstrous ballroom was the site of a rather large and boisterous get-together Saturday night when they hosted my after-hours LP session. It was attended by nearly one hundred exhibitors, manufacturers, and show attendees. And we had a ball!

 

Ballroom System details:
VPI Titan Direct with one tonearm - $60,000
Hana Umami Red Moving Coil Cartridge - $3,950
VAC Statement Phono Stage - $80,000

Aurender N30SA Server/Streamer - $25,000

LampizatOr Poseidon DAC - 23,000 or ~ $25,000 at time if listing
VAC Statement Line Stage - $80,000

VAC Statement 450 Q Amplifiers - $67,000/each - four used to biamp - $268,000

Acora Acoustics VRC-1 in special limited edition Sunset Fire - price upon request
  base price for VRC - $218,000/pair

Acora SRR-V4 shelf vertical in 1.25 Nero Assoluto Granite - $8,500

Acora SRR-H2 Shelf Double width vertical in 1.25" Nero Assoluto Granite - $8,500
Cardas Clear Digital Coax 75 Ohm, 1.5M - $800
Cardas Clear Beyond Interconnect, 1.5M - $5,050/pair

Clear Speaker, 2.5M - 5,275/pair

Cardas Nautilus Power Strip - $1,200
Clear Beyond AC Power Cords, 2M - $2,965


Second Room System details:
Esoteric N05xdSE Streamer DAC - $11,000

VAC Master Line Stage - $30,000

VAC Essence 80 iQ monoblocks - $9,900/each or $19,800/pair

Acora SRC-2 Loudspeakers - $48,000/pair
Cardas Clear Digital Coax 75 Ohm, 1.5M - $800

Cardas Clear Beyond Interconnect, 1.5M - $5,050/pair

Cardas Clear Speaker cables, 2.5M - $5,275/pair
Cardas Nautilus Power Strip - $1,200
Cardas Clear Beyond AC Power cords, 2M - $2,965

Acora SRR-H2 Shelf Double width vertical in 1.25" Nero Assoluto Granite - $8,500

 

 

What should come as no surprise is just how bloody well this flagship series of sources was able to take advantage of the eloquence, nuance, and masterful control asserted by the VAC electronics. My rather comprehensive review presenting my detailed findings on the world-class performance of the Statement Series of the Valve Amplification Company products, of Sarasota, Florida, is available for all to consider. But feeding the latest addition to Toronto, Canada's Acora Acoustic's loudspeaker lineup, the VRC-1, in the most remarkable looking and extremely limited edition of finishes, what they are calling Sunset Fire, managed to fill this cavernous room with all the complexity, grace, and nuances of everything I played.

For over three and a half hours Saturday night, I played cuts from prog rock masterpieces like The Yes Album and Rush's Moving Pictures, through R&B or pop/rock works like Van Morrison's His Band And The Street Choir and Jennifer Warnes's Famous Blue Raincoat and The Hunter, to shredders as influential as Eddie Van Halen on 1984 or Surfing with the Alien by Joe Satriani! This remarkably synergistic system had absolutely NO ISSUE filling this space, as large as it was and as full as the space became over the duration of the event. And even though we occasionally got quite loud Val Cora showed me his SPL meter that was registering just over 100dB at one point, standing some fifty feet from the speakers the system never once faltered, maintaining an exceptional musicality and sense of effortlessness that was just captivating.

 

 

And it wasn't just about loud, trust me. It soon became clear that I was finally hearing the VRC-1's ability to generate convincing depth and space, render fine detail, and express musical nuance. It would seem that their full capabilities may have been somewhat restricted during my first two exposures to their performance, at last June's Pacific Audiofest, and last November's Capital Audiofest. The performance turned in by these partners here was clearly among the top accomplishments at this event. Well done!

 

 

1425 AudioThesis

 

Derek "Skip" Skipworth, owner of AudioThesis, a distributor and setup service provider from Arlington, Texas, was on hand in this room. Not only was he effectively able to highlight and promote several of his brands, but he was introducing a new and evolving cable lineup, to be known as Turnbull.

 

System details:
Lumin P1 as transport - $10,000
Norma Audio SC-2 preamp with DAC - $13,000

Norma Audio PA-160MR monos - $25,000/pair
Rosso Fiorentino Volterra loudspeakers - $17,500

Silent Angel NX Switch - $4,000

Silent Angel F2 linear power supply - $1,700

Turnbull Audio loom - prices tbd

 

 

"Skip" had reached out to me before the event to inform me that he had a new product line to introduce while remaining somewhat cryptic beyond that. When "The Voice That Is" principal and friend Doug White and I made our way into the room, we found Qobuz's David Solomon in the hot seat playing selections from the 2020 release, Life Goes On, by Carla Bley on piano, Andy Sheppard on Sax, and Steve Swallow on bass. We couldn't have asked for a better recording to highlight this system's strengths, including its incredibly lucid rendering of the piano and upright bass.

I asked for a sample of the "Ode to Joy," from that previously mentioned Solti / CSO / Beethoven's 9th, and was rewarded with a nice rendering of tone and texture, though I felt that overall the system was just a bit thin in establishing corporal instrumental body.

Moving to Roger Waters' 2022 The Knockdown Sessions version of "Comfortably Numb," revealed remarkable space, air, and an overall involving recreation of dimensionality, especially in width, with remarkably good extension at both extremes.

 

 

 

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