CAF 2019 Conclusions
I have just about three or four more rooms I wanted to highlight.
One of the most highly acclaimed rooms at the show was the GT Audio Works room just off the Atrium. I have to agree. Greg Tekesh’s hybrid planars have always presented a slamming sound. Not just excitement, but a highly musical experience. Specially designed open baffle servo controlled subs easily keep up with the planars quickness. The open-baffle sub-woofers operate from 15Hz-65Hz and include a user adjustable electronic crossover built into the provided amplifier. The open baffle subs are designed to blend seamlessly with the dipole planars. They are configurable for 2 -6 12″ sub-modules per channel. This allows for consistent results in rooms from small to large with a system that has a frequency range of 15Hz to 30kHz. Pass Labs provided the power and control.
The electronics were housed in a beautiful custom made cabinet made by Bruce Schuettinger (DC Hi-Fi Group member) of Mozart Audio Furniture. A three bay cabinet with a Spalted Maple veneer finish was shown. All interior shelves are isolated and and decoupled from the frame including the top which is literally floating. The feet are Stillpoints for maximum isolation from room vibrations. This is one amazing looking cabinet.
The VAC/Von Schweikert room always impresses for the sheer magnitude of the presentation. It is a rare sight to see this much equipment for one system. For most of the weekend they were playing the big VS Ultra 11 statement speaker. I have heard this set up numerous times and its a big sound. Extreme Hi-Fi. If you are into this kind of system then this is the best at it. On Sunday, it was a very different story. They were playing the much smaller VS Endeavor SE. I was blown away. All the same electronics and we have that same room filling sound but much more natural and musical. Totally involving instead of bowling you over. No sledge hammer here. I have always liked the VAC sound, I am a tube guy after all, but this was the best I have heard in a big system.
I have never heard Tekton speakers sound as good as they did in room 402. The new MOAB is their flagship speaker with fifteen high frequency drives in an MTM array and two 12 inch woofers. The specifications are 98dB 2.83V@1m sensitivity and a 20Hz-30kHz frequency response. But of course, I have never heard the Tekton being pushed by the incredible McGary SA-2. I really enjoyed listening to these behemoth speakers. They were coherent, precise, and smooth. I give the nod to the McGary amp for carrying the musical load here. Every room that has the McGary SA-2 fills my need for emotional involvement with the music. So the common denominator is the SA-2
Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio never disappoints and surprised me with a unique sound that just makes me happy. He was showing the Perspective 2 Graphene diminutive floor standard that pumps bass far more than its specs say. Just 36 inches tall and 8.5 inches wide this baby can pressurize a room like 10 foot tall monster. This was easily a system I could live with which included Bel Canto electronics and Audience cables tying it all together.
One of the true magicians of our industry is Peter Ledermann of Soundsmith. I say this because his products are transformative. The music in Peter’s rooms always force me to sit down, close my eyes and listen. I hear the music. Then I open my eyes and I am overwhelmed by the minimalism of the room’s equipment. Just a pair of small stand mounted monitors, a turntable, preamp and amp. That is it. But the sound is of some massive kit of stuff. This time we were hearing the Monarch Bookshelf (just 14 inches high on 3 foot stands), the Strain-Gauge cartridge, the Signature Series, dedicated Preamp and the HE-150 MOSFET Power Amplifier (200 watts/ch). Peter had two turntables set up and he would alternate between the Strain-Gauge and the Hyperion cartridges. Both sound wonderful but the Strain-Gauge is very different sounding cartridge and is one that I am beginning to like very much. Soundsmith‘s room is one I always seek out and make sure I have time to enjoy the music.
At most audio shows I have been to its usually a very small number that are actually musical to my ears. With CAF this year, there were more than half that sounded good to me and there were about twenty that were exceptional. I hope that this trend continues at the Florida Audio Expo and Axpona next year.
What most readers seem to want is a declaration of a “Best in Show”. I have reflected on this for quite awhile and decided not to copy other writers in this genre. This hobby is really a journey of one of two things. Either we are in a competition to have the “Best” or we are on a mission to get the most emotion from our love of music. Both of these are viable as long as it keeps the manufacturers continuously improving their products. I am finding that the digital side is very good now with musicality at a very high level. It is always going to sound different from analog but I am finding digital can be very satisfying. It’s really about the music and what the music does to us.
What Gary Gill continues to bestow on us are live music presentations. If you are on the journey of musicality then you must hear the live music. It was obvious that all these presentations were from musicians that love what they are doing. It came through to my heart and soul. I give my “Best in Show” to all three groups.
Jay Summerour & Friends treated us to some juicy Piedmont blues. These guys are well know in the DC area playing for many Smithsonian events. Their latest recording is “The Best of A Little Bit of Blues”. I’ve ordered the CD!
Embassy Jazz Messengers. This group has played CAF for a couple of years now and they put forth a great straight ahead jazz set the everyone within earshot seem to enjoy in the hotel bar Saturday Night.
The Spellcasters played music from the Anacostia Delta in the Washington Theater. This group transported me. Music I have never heard before. Bluesy, Jazzy, free wheeling music that just about evoked every genre of music except Gregorian Chant (maybe). I felt very lucky to have been one of the eighty or so in the audience.
Capital Audiofest has grown to be a major show now and we are very lucky to have Gary Gill and his crew of volunteers to put on this show each year. This is a major effort and work has are ready started for next year. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for November 2020. See you there!