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AK Fest 2008
AK Fest 2008
Because Music Matters

Report By Luther Ward
Page 1

  The all to familiar ding of new email chimes and I'm surprised to find an invitation from Steven R. Rochlin to review Audiokarma's AKFest08. You see, I'm not a reporter or an authority on audio. I'm just an audio enthusiast who's passion for music went from hobby to obsession many years ago. I was somewhat flattered to be asked. Hopefully he won't regret the decision.

I have attend four out of the last five AKFests. I have seen it mature from a small gathering of forum members with a few vendors to real audio trade show, but not just another show. The original vibe of members getting together to share their enthusiasm for audio is a thread that still runs through the halls of the show. And its not just the attendees but the exhibitors too who greet you with open arms and invite you to hear the music you brought.

From member's very custom DIY rigs to systems that many can only dream of owning, they all gave credence to Audiokarma's motto of "All Audio, No Attitude." It was a breath of fresh air to see everyone having fun regardless of who they were, how they were dressed or what level of audio knowledge they had: from student to CEO, we were all audio brothers.

Now on with the show - It seemed the crowds showed up early and kept coming all day long. I would say most came for the audio, but I suspect some came for the door prizes that were handed out every hour for two days. From the typical hats and shirts, they added cables, tubes, drivers, amps and more. As for me, I started hitting the rooms at 9am Saturday and got lost in the music for the next nine hours.

My first stop just off the registration table was to David Michael Audio. David always seems to bring some cool gear and this year was no exception. Shown for the first time in the United States, were the Harbeth 40.1 speakers ($12,999). They were amazing.

The room was running Exemplar Audio XCD-1 CDP ($6500), Belles LA-01 line preamp ($6750), Belles MB 01 mono blocks ($14,000) and Harbeth 40.1 speakers. The Harbeths never cease to amaze me.

I decided to take the methodical approach and hit the rooms in numerical order, so next I was on to Audio Two. Their show system consisted of a Cambridge TT50 turntable, Exposure 2010 integrated amplifier, Exposure 2010 CDP, and Neat Motive 2 speakers. They were using Chord Company Chameleon Silver Plus interconnects and Carnival 2 speaker wire.

Here is a closer picture of the British Neat Motive 2 speakers ($1995).

Next was the first of the Audiokarma Member's rooms - Negotiableterms. David had a pair of his personal Infinity Prelude speakers that he had shipped in. They were brand new and still in their original boxes. David set them up just for this show.

Martin Cooper with Wadia was gratious enough to bring in a 581se SACD ($9950) and a so new, it's not shipping until next week, 170 iTransport ($349) that pulls the digital stream out of the iPod. I can't wait for this one.

He had a little help from McIntosh who supplied their new 250 WPC MA7000 integrated amplifier ($7000). This is the first time this amp had been heard at a show.

I had a great time talking with Kevin Zarow (Marketing VP) with Marantz America who had two rooms at the Fest. The first ran a SC-11S1 preamp ($2999), SA-11S2 SACD ($3999), SM-11S1 mono blocks ($3499) and Snell Reference B7 speakers ($10,000) designed by Joe D’Appolito.

A nice close-up of the Snell upper drivers; dual 4.5" magnesium mid drivers and a 1" silk dome tweeter. There are dual 8" aluminum side-firing bass drivers.

Marantz's continued the expanse of gear in their second room with their TT 15S1 acrylic turntable.

The second system ran their SA11 SACD ($3500), PM11 integrated ($3600) and a pair of Snell LCR7 speakers ($1000 each — not shown in the picture)..

Keeping in tune (no pun intended) with the vast number of members that are into DIY, including myself, Madisound had an wide assortment of drivers on display.

Fritz Heiler of Fritz Speakers was in the room with Madisound and rotating through several speakers.

Around the corner, Sally Goff, McIntosh Marketing Manager, had the McIntosh room full of gear. The system consisted of; MT10 turntable ($8000), C2300 tube preamp ($6000), MS750 music server ($4400), MC2301 mono blocks ($11000 each) and XRT1K speakers ($35000).

Here is a nice shot of just a few of the many drivers in the XRT1K speakers. Specifically twenty-eight 0.75" tweeters sandwiched between two midrange columns, each column incorporating twenty-two 2" inverted-dome midranges. the lower end is handled by two 10-inch woofers and a top-mounted port.

Chuck and Jim were spinning vinyl on the MT10 turntable. They must have nerves of steel to let anyone walk in with some vinyl they just got at the swap meet and spin it on this table.

They also brought out a new (as in built last week) pair of MC2301 mono blocks with 300 watts of sweet KT88 power. They had no problem pushing the XRT1K speakers to levels not recommended for long periods of time... must resist... my wife would kill me if I brought these home.

The Sound Advantage partnered with Ken Haig who had some IDS speakers ($18,900) designed by Roger Russell. Each column houses 25 drivers that make up the 87" tall towers.

Jolida Corporation went beyond the music and added some art to their room. It helped to change the "hotel" feel of the room. This was yet another room spinning vinyl. Gee seems to be a trend here :-) Anyway, they had a Sota turntable, JD100 CDP ($950), JD9 tube phono stage ($450), and their JD801RC integrated pushing a nice pair of MBL 121 speakers.

What looks like quilt work on the face of the JD801 ($1475) is in reality the carpet being reflected in the polished face plate of the amplifier.

Brian with Venus Hi - Fi was true to form and brought in some cool speakers. The FJ OM speakers from Germany were impressive. Along with the Manley Stingray amp ($2250) and CEC TL532 CDP ($2290), Brian had a nice system. The CEC AMP53 class A amplifier ($3800) was not in play while I was there.

I then came across my second Audiokarma Member's room — Kegger. Paul is an electrical guru and craftsman. His custom DIY tube amps was seriously good and looked cool too. He was pushing some Polk 10B speakers that filled the room with warm sounds.

Followed by another Audiokarma Member's room — Squidward. Ed modified the Klipsch Cornwalls with new ALK crossovers and Crites drivers. His Denon turntable was run through custom point to point wired phono stage based on a modified Hagerman design.

Its always a joy to run into Jim Salk of Salk Signature Sound. This year he was acompanied by Audio by Van Alstine. The first of their two rooms held both the custom Veracity HT3 (from $4495) and Song Tower (from $1995) speakers. Jims speaker designs are only surpassed by his wood working ability. These speakers never fail to impress me.

Then it was on to Salks second room that held their yet to be named open baffle speakers. It was nice to see Jim come up with a higher sensitivity speaker to meet the needs of the lower power guys and still retain the Salk dynamic. As is typical with Jim, the wood working was awesome on these. The sapele pommele was beautiful. the pictures don't do his speakers justice.

I had the distinct pleasure of spending time with Ty in the Tyler Acoustics / Art Audio room. In their first room, the Art Audio PX-25 amplifier was both beautiful in looks and function.

The Woodmere II speakers ($12500) again was appealing both sonically and visually.

On to their second room and their Pro Dynamic 15 speakers ($3000). At 98dB efficient, they were an easy load for the 845 tubes.

There is just something about tubes that does it for me. The Art Audio Carissa 845 SET amp ($4495 polished) matched with the horn for some sweet bliss.

Mike was very gracious in the Pure Audio LLC room. It was full of gear to view as well as to listen too. The QUAD ESL 2905 full range electrostats ($11,499) were majestic in size and sound. This was the first time I had seen any of Pure Audio's offerings and was impressed by the collection. The rooms first stand sported a Music Hall MMF 5.1SE ($599), Quad QC24 preamp ($1149.98), Quad 909 amplifier ($1399). The second stand held a Shanling CDT1500 tube CDP ($3295), Quad 99 preamp ($899), SIM Audio CD5.3 ($4326.38) and a Antique Sound Labs TX1 DT passive pre ($750).


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