The 2012 Capital Audiofest, held July
13-15, at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Rockville, Maryland,
provided a cacophony of listening pleasure. This event also
presented an opportunity for me to sample a wide variety of
new products, purchase CDs and vinyl. Surprisingly, this
show also included a swap-meet for those interested in
selling or buying used gear and (especially) vinyl. Having
attended the Capital Audio fest the past two years, I was
excited not only to peruse the new equipment offerings, but
also the awesome selection of reasonably priced vintage tube
gear and LPs at the swap -meet. The price of admission also
included excellent live music events. I attended the show on
July 14th and 15th and enjoyed listening to the wide variety
of products and tweaks that actually made a significant
impact on the listening experience.
I also managed to pick up quite a few
used LPs at bargain prices, and couldn’t wait to get home
and spin them on my turntable.
Pick a color, any color. The new VPI
Traveler turntable was very impressive especially when
considering its $1,299 price point. I was amazed that the
little VPI was much closer to the new $8k VPI Classic 4 than
the price differential would dictate.
While its big brother, the new VPI
Classic 4, definitely sounded better in the same system at
many times its price through a pair of Fifth Row
loudspeakers (above), the Fifth Row speakers demonstrated
extraordinary musicality through both turntables.
The Audio Note UK room demo'd their
exotic electronics driving a pair of Audio Note ANE SPE HE
speakers, which sounded much bigger than their size. The
system had an extremely organic character which immersed me
into the music. When I closed my eyes, the instruments
jumped out at me, and sounded more like live music than a
recording. Need I say more?
United Home Audio, as in prior shows,
presented a very natural/realistic sounding system, which
was likely attributable in large part to the front end I
heard consisting of the United Home Audio UHA-Q Series
Phase9PB Open Reel Tape Deck ($14,500). I don’t remember my
old reel to reels sounding nearly this good. But, it made me
think about reentering the tape extravaganza. I am sure it
didn’t hurt that the deck was being driven by the MBL 6010
Preamp ($26,500), and MBL 9007 Amps ($21,400 each) into MBL
116F Speakers. All and all I kept on thinking how smooth the
system sounded with a three-dimensionality close to live
music. The system shown above also included the Clearaudio
Innovation Turntable ($11,000).
The absolutely gorgeous Audio Power
Laboratories 50 TNT amplifiers ($47,500 per pair, 50 wpc RMS,
above), with a tube complement of 2 X572B, 2 X 5881 and 2 X
12 BH7, sounded as good as they looked driving the TIDAL
Piano Diacera speakers ($37,690 - $41,890 depending on
finish), using WideaLab Aurender S10 Music server and dCS
Pucinni digital front end, Bricati M1 DAC, and a Purity
Audio Silver Statement preamp.
The more I listened to the big TIDAL
Contriva Diacera SE speakers ($58,190 - $64,190), the more I
liked them. The Contrivas were driven by the TIDAL Impulse
amplifier, with the front end including the WideaLab
Aurender S10 Music Server, dCS Debussy DAC, dCS Pucinni CD/SACD
player, and Pucinni U-clock.
Highwater Sound presented an array of
fine sounding equipment, as usual, including the Horning
HybirdEufroditeZigma Ultimate speakers ($24,000), driven by
Tron electronics (TronTelestar 211 SE - $40,000, Seven Line
GT - $18,000, and Seven Phono GT - $18,000. The front end
was new TW-Acustic Raven GT - $10,000), with two TW –
Acustic 10.5 arms $5,500 each. The Highwater Sound room was
packed each time I wandered by, but when I finally got an
opportunity to sit down, I found out why and was glad that I
made the effort to return.
I was quite impressed by the Cathedral
Speaker Company’s Model 3113, which was driven by a Scott
vintage integrated amplifier with great results. I had heard
the Cathedral’s being driven by low powered Audio Note
amplifiers at 2011 Audiofest and was quite taken by their
engaging performance at that time. I wish I had room in my
listening room for these big bad boys (W 24 x H 64 x D 25).
At an introductory price of $6995, it would be hard to find
anything that can beat the Cathedrals from top to bottom.
With a sensitivity of around 100 dB 1W/1M, and nominal
impedance of 8 ohms, the Cathedrals are designed to be
driven by wide range of amplification; tube amps from 2-200
wpc or solid state amps from 20-600 wpc.
I had the distinct privilege of
listening to Janel and Anthony perform in the lobby of the
Crown Plaza Hotel. Cellist Janel Leppin and guitarist
Anthony Pirog presented an intimate and engaging
performance. I would have loved to stay for the entire set,
but needed to cut short the listening experience to provide
coverage to all the audio rooms.
Sophia Electric know by many
audiophiles for its quality current production tubes, showed
several speakers, including its 97 dB, 8 ohm, Princess horns
($18,000 – standard version - which sounded ohhh so musical
to these ears), along with its beautifully built current
flagship 91-05300B SET amplifier ($8,000 - $10,000 above)
Also on display was the Sophia Electric
126S dual-mono stereo integrated amplifier (base model
126S-03 - $5,000).
Paola Audio presented a beautiful
lineup of reasonably priced products available in either
cherry or mahogany finishes. Above is Paola’s Petit Audio
System ($2,990) consisting of the Petit Stereo Amplifier (6
wpc push-pull, with tube complement of 4 X 6AQ5, 2 X 2C51)
and Petit Desk Acoustic Monitors.
Paola’s Klassika Audio System($6,490),
was quite musical and includes the Klassika Stereo Amplifier
(30 wpc push-pull with 4 X 6550, 2 X 6SL7, 2 X 6SN7 tube
complement) and Klassika Loudspeakers. This was the first
room I entered, and I had to pull myself away so I could
sample the other equipment offerings.
Robert Lighton Audio presented its own
Robert Lighton branded RL10 speakers ($20,000) in a
beautiful solid wood finish (available in teak or mahogany –
95 dB, 6 Ohms, featuring 10 inch woofers, with alnico
magnets with hand made paper cones, and 1 inch fabric dome
tweeters with alnico magnets, both made in Japan exclusively
for RL Audio). The speakers were driven by all Audio Note
electronics. Having come from the dedicated Audio Note room,
I was interested to compare the RL Audio Note combo. I
detected a bit more bass and fuller sound with a bit more
top end, but ultimately favored the organic sounding Audio
Note UK system.
Mapleshade presented an interesting
array of its platforms, spikes, cables, and modified vintage
Scott electronics, along with its excellent sounding CDs.
The setup sounded quite remarkable, especially given the
small speakers. But, being an owner of Mapleshade stands,
cones and modified electronics, I can attest to the
significant improvements in my system after the stands and
cones joined my system, and I will never let go of my
modified Scott 222c amplifier.
The Déjà vu Audio room was a refreshing
departure from some of the tipped up sounding systems I
experienced at the Audiofest. The vintage speakers ($44,000
- featuring Western Electric compression drivers/midrange
horns, Western Electric/Jensen 15 inch woofers in folded
horn cabinets,and other vintage parts and crossovers,
etc.)in gorgeous custom made cabinetshad a warm balanced
sound that I could have listened to for hours. These custom
vintage speakers were driven by the Déjà vu Audio Vintage
Collection 349A stereo amplifier ($27,000) and 127C stereo
preamplifier ($30,000), both including Western Electric
output transformers and tubes. They were above my budget,
but I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to enjoy the relaxed
Woo Audio presented a vast array of
both dynamic and electrostatic headphone amplifiers (above
and below), ranging in price from $495 to $4,990. The Woo
room was full both times I visited and tried to sit down and
have a listen. If that is any indication of the (Woo) sound,
I would think that it is at least worth giving an audition.
Hopefully, I will next year.
See you at the next Capital Audio