I just wanted to share some impressions from this year's Capital Audio Fest held at the Sheraton in Silver Spring, MD. This is the first time I've ever been to a show like this before and I'm really glad I went. If you have chance to attend an audio show near where you live, I highly suggest you go. Not only will you get to listen to great (and some not-so-great) sounding setups, but you get to spend some time with people who like audio as much as you do. This means you get to talk about music, electronics, headphones, tweaks without the other person developing a glassy-eyed stare while simultaneously coming to the slow realization that maybe you just escaped from the loony bin.
The venue was awesome. There was free parking on the weekends (maybe, at the hotel garage too, but I didn't check) and numerous restaurants within walking distance. Plus the admission fee was waived for students with ID.
I was a bit concerned that there weren't too many of the more recognized names in the high-end represented at the show, but my misgivings were soon laid to rest once I started roaming the hallways and sat down to listen to some of the rooms. I won't pretend that I can afford any of the equipment on display. In fact, I know I can't afford them unless I'm willing to sell some organs and eat spam and baked beans for the rest of my life. With that kind of diet, I'll probably really miss that kidney real soon...
In any case, here are some photos of the rooms I listened in together with my completely biased opinions.
First up is the Legacy Audio room...
I walked in and these speakers were kicking out some serious bass. There was a gentleman sitting in the sweet spot, listening intently. Eventually he asked the rep if he could hook up his iPhone to play some music he was more familiar with. Lesson #1 - bring your own tunes. The presentation was very well balanced and though the system was cranked up to eleven, there wasn't any hint of strain or compression. Impressive for a relatively compact floorstander. Oh you thought I was talking about those hulking Whisper XD towers? Nope, it was the pair of Signature SE's driving the room. Very impressive.
Next I moseyed on over to the ModWright / Daedalus Audio room...
Now I have to admit that I've been interested in Daedalus Audio for a number of years, though I've never heard any of their speakers. What you see here is the Argos v2 driven by all ModWright electronics. The source was a modded Oppo BDP-105 / MacBook Pro. The cabinets are entirely made of hardwood - MDF is persona non grata. There is *real* cabinetmaking going on here and dovetailed joinery abounds. My ears perked up when the first measure of 'Girl from Ipanema' started playing. I know the song well and I couldn't wait to hear it through the Argos. Then my spirits were crushed when the man at the keyboard proclaimed, "Not this again." or something to that effect. Somebody else chimed in, "Yeah, play something weird." Still, it was a nice sounding setup, though a touch on the warm side. One slightly disappointing sonic anomaly I *thought* I detected was some cabinet resonance - especially around male vocals.
Now for something completely different (but not really)...
Can you tell I spent some serious time in the Woo Audio room? Yes, not one, but two photos. As much as I liked the Stax / WES combo and might seriously consider selling my first born to obtain it, I was really floored by how good the WA7 Fireflies was. This little DAC / amp combo sounded exceeding clean, neutral, and dynamic. It is perfect for a desk at home or the office or the home office and the design is sure to at least get a passing compliment. Build quality is outstanding - smooth lines along the casework edges and real (f'in heavy) glass protecting those tubes. Tip of my hat to Woo Audio.
Local shop Deja Vu Audio was just down the hall...
... and spread out over three rooms. This particular room had a pair of ProAc Tablettes mated to a Synthesis Audio A100T integrated amp / DAC. Spinning the digital was the Synthesis Pride sporting a glossy red wood faceplate. A restored Thorens and Deja Vu's in-house phono stage pulled vinyl duty. Once again, I didn't know what disc was playing in the Pride, but it didn't matter. The Tablettes imaged like a champ. From the sweet spot, I could precisely place the vocalist in a three dimensional space. The bass was also impressive - quite a bit of heft and musical without a hint of flabbiness. The proprietor, Vu Hoang, seems to be quite a character himself. Within one conversation he panned Michael Fremer, Stereophile, and Richard Vandersteen. Hell, I'd visit his store just to shoot the breeze.
Finally, there is something I must admit to. I never took a photo of what I thought was the best sounding room in the whole show - Volti Audio + Border Patrol. I guess I just got carried away and never thought to take off the lens cap and snap a picture. Fortunately, Stereophile has a nice picture. You can find it here (scroll down to near the bottom of the article):
On Friday, the Aluras were playing; Sunday it was the Vittoras. Both were excellent. I went into the room not really knowing what to expect. I mean, I've heard that horns add a distracting coloration to the sound (think singing through cupped hands). But if you want concert-level SPL from flea powered amps, well, there's really no other option. Greg Roberts, Volti's owner, delivers though. The Aluras gigantic bass reflex cabinet can output such alarmingly high levels of the subterranean frequencies that you feel it in your gut. And this is good quality bass that integrates seamlessly with the midrange and tweeter horns. The soundstage is huge and with their balanced presentation - nary a hint of horn coloration - it really feels like you're at a live show or in the concert hall. When I asked Greg what was driving the Aluras, he mentioned that the Wells Innamorata in the rack wasn't sounding quite up to snuff, possibly something awry in the circuitry and the 18 W Border Patrol single ended tube amp was providing the amplification. Simply unbelievable and awe-inspiring.
The Vittoras don't play that low on their own - Volti offers a matching subwoofer. Art Dudley, though, was so impressed with them that he bought the pair after he reviewed them for Stereophile (review due in the September issue).
Well, that's it for now. I hope there were other Head-Fi'ers in attendance, and if so, we really need to work on a secret handshake.
Edited by yage - 8/9/13 at 2:20pm