Capital Audio Fest 2019b
While open and minimum-baffle’d designs seemed everywhere at this year’s CAF, it was the MC Audiotech Forty-10 loudspeaker ($38k), that caught my attention the most. The company website offers this brief description “A brief summary gives a hint at this amazing speaker’s characteristics. The Forty-10 is a two-way design consisting of our in-house designed and built proprietary transducers mounted in a double-curved spaced array™ and the totally separate folded cube™ low frequency enclosure. The system is so efficient that can be driven by as little as 15 watts from the softest pianissimos to the most massive crescendos and is seriously full range, treating the lucky owner to a complete presentation of the recorded information, regardless of genre.” While exceedingly planar-like in appearance the MC Audiotech Forty-10 purports “Spaced Array™” proprietary transducers in its mid/high panel rather than the usual planar-magnetic type. The bass section is a folded cube enclosure with high-efficiency woofers that gives the Forty-10 a whopping 96 dB efficiency quotient. While impressive and quite handsome in appearance, I found the sound a tad too tame for my tastes. However, knowing how bad these smallish hotel rooms can sound, I asked the company prez Mark Conti to invite me out for another round under far more suitable listening conditions.
Had to go into this room just to see what the hell was going on! “Exotic” would be an understatement. Dave Slagle of Experience Music Intact Audio (EMIA), had these modified double stack of Quad EL 57’s on display. Not just that, but they were driven two pair of custom-made 300B push-pull tube amps (one for each speaker), made directly into the cabinet. When I heard the price was upwards of $100k, I just sat and listened. Really good in terms of musical textures and overall harmonics. Wow. It’s the outlandish gear and designers such as these that make these type shows worth traveling to.
Robin Wyatt of ROBYATT Audio, had some really interestingly good stuff happening in his suite. Starting with a pair of Electrostatic Solutions modified Quad 57’s ($6k) and a pair of Butler Audio Monad tube mono amps which I haven’t seen in a very long time. Driven by VPI HW40 sporting dual tonearms starting with a Schroder SQ Reference arm ($9950) and Schroder BA arm ($4850, what Wyatt seemed most excited to demo was his new Metal Mat CU180 Platter Mat ($1395). Digital was by way of Mytek while Finley Audio cables were used throughout. I had more fun just shooting the breeze with Robin since listening was damn near impossible due to the amount of people hanging out and just enjoying the atmosphere of good music. Those Quad 57’s didn’t stop folks from constantly getting up and staring either.
These are the magnificent sounding SoundKaos Wave 42 loudspeakers ($17k, incl stands) in a Maple finish (as shown). Employing an 8” paper widebander w/alnico magnet and a RAAL ribbon tweeter, these 93 dB, 8 ohms babies sing with damn near anything we had to throw at them. David Cope of Old Forge Audio is the new US distributor and I urge you to go hear these magical transducers. No they’re not the headbanging type but through the right music at the right volume, these are among my favorites!
The entry into the SoundKaos family is their mini-monitor called the Vox 3 ($7k). This minimalist three-way (89 dB) newcomer is quite impressively designed in an all-wood cabinet using a top firing ribbon and side-firing woofer assembly. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to hear it as its big brother swooned us for the time we spent with this wonderful sounding setup. A review is in the works so stay tuned!
Destination Sound Group (“DSG”), the North American Distributors of LampizatOr and Final Touch Audio) is proud to announce their newest partnership with Audionec from France and here at CAF, introduced the revolutionary new EVO 2 ($44,900). At 96 dB with an 8 Ohm load, these babies can sing using the smallest tube amps however, I’ve heard them sound better than ever with their top of line system and electronics. However, it was an absolute delight to hear them paired with the Lampizator KT150 SE integrated ($9,200) being fed from the Lampizator Pacific Reference DAC ($24,500) and Lampizator SuperKomputer music server ($7,900). I wasn’t able to get a full grasp on the sound of this room due to all the activity, which is to be expected. However, I am really delighted to finally see AudioNec on these shores and being shown so close to home. Bravo to the DSG Group!
(From left to right) Dick Diamond (YGA Acoustics), Bill Parish (GTT Audio Video), and Joe Kabala were all smiles at this year’s CAF…
And for good reason. The new Audionet Humbolt Integrated ($55k) has arrived for its very first showing and has to be among the largest and most attractive of integrated available. Both Greg and Tim could not get away from this handsomely built behemoth. A direct descendant of the Audionet Stern and Heisenberg separates series, this ultra-linear microprocessor-controlled integrated is rated at over 320 watts per side into 8 Ohms. Yet, the Humbolt was as graceful as a ballerina driving the YG Carmel 2’s on a variety of jazz tracks Parish always has readied for us. It was really nice to hear the new Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC ($13,400) sounding as marvelous playing through an Auralic Aries G2 streamer ($4,300) as it does here in my home going through my Laufer Teknik Memory Player (stay tuned).
As to be expected, the setup featured analogue compliments of the Kronos Sparta turntable ($24k) using a Kronos Helena (10.5″) tonearm with armboard ($8,500). Cartridge was the Air Tight Opus 1 ($15k). All cabling was by way of Kubala-Sosna’s Sensation and Realization series cables. Yes, the sound was among the highlights of the show but that’s not saying much considering this seems to always be the case wherever you find GTT Audio and Video. Yes, even with a pair of pedestrian-priced Carmel 2’s this system filled this space with lifelike sounds that made it that much more fun and engaging. Bravo!
Upon entering the Captial Audio Fest, the surprisingly large suites were located on this level. Of these I was glad to see the elegant loudspeaker Daedalus Audio showing off their new Apollo 11 loudspeaker (starting at $23k) and the BOW passive 12″ subwoofer ($2,300 ea). I’ve admired the fit n finish of Daedalus designs in addition to their sound quality. Here was no exception. Showing with Linear Tube Audio (LTA) for the first time, I was surprised at how neutral and yet inviting this system sounded considering how large this space was. This tells me something about LTA ZOTL electronics which include their microZOTL technology that their preamp and Ultralinear amplifiers boast. The bass is fast which says plenty for a tube design. While fast, the top end is rich, airy and extended in a way that captured my attention immediately.
LampizatOr’s new Vinyle Phono1 ($6800), Golden Gate 2 DAC ($16,500) and Super Komputer Music Server (starting at $8500), helped create a really nice sized stage that had me enjoying the music in a way that was better than expected. Thanks in a large part to WyWires Diamond series interconnects and Platinum series AC cords.
Finally got the opportunity to hear the long awaited Gryphon Ethos CD player ($39k). Of course, this was primarily an all-Gryphon setup meticuously put together by Philip O’Hanlon of On a Higher Note (San Fransico), alsongside DC area Gryphon dealer Jay Truitt. The system featured Gryphon Ethos CD/DAC, Gryphon Audio Mephisto Stereo amplifier, and Pandora preamp, Gryphon Audio Pantheon loudspeakers. Artesania Audio’s gorgeous Exoteryc rack provided excellent support while playback was provided compliments of a Sonorus Tape Deck. This was my first experience hearing of Truitt Physics Cables which were used throughout. I once owned the Mephisto CD player about 10 years ago and besides the fact that it too looked sexy as hell, it was also absolutely phenomenal sounding. While the sound here was fast as I remembered, the bass coming from the Pantheon woofers was also very authoratative. However, the overall feel was also harmonically right and infused with that sense of aliveness that keeps one interests high. O’Hanlon is legendary for his musical tastes and here was the perfect stage to show off his catalog of wonderful tracks. Kudos!
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