Audio Industry News

Axpona 2022 - Over 7500 Audiophiles in Three Days. This was one of the Biggest Yet!!!

Axpona 2022 was the biggest yet. 140 rooms, 500 manufacturers, and over 7500 attendees are over the three days. Yes, big, and crowded, and great fun.

Axpona 2022 was a very strong showing that all is right in the world of home audio again. After two years of anxiety and shut-ins due to the pandemic business as usual is back. I still feel more credit needs to go to Gary Gill for taking a big risk and starting it all off with a successful Capital Audiofest last November, and Florida Expo fast on CAF’s heals in February. Certainly, Axpona is now this country’s biggest show, and its problems are now far in the distant past. This Axpona was certainly a great show. About a week before the show I thought about how to even begin to cover this monstrous show. I was going to work smart and preselect the rooms to cover and get preliminary info down. The energy Friday morning was exploding early and all caution tossed out and I just dove in.

One of the great things about getting to show as big as Axpona 2022 is that you get to see/hear audio gear from a vast array of companies you have never experienced before.

Fidelis-Heretic-Lab12

I have heard of Fidelis Distribution before but they brought some speakers and electronics that I have not seen before.

The first thing you always notice is the speakers.  And you cannot miss these almost cubic (30 in X 25 in X 17 in ) speakers squatting on the floor, tilted back a bit, and toed into the sweet spot.  When I took my turn at the sweet spot after taking a few pics I was immediately immersed in a warm and beautiful sound.

 These speakers are based on an Altec 612 Utility cabinet with a very nostalgic look. The Heretic A612 has impressive specs and to my ears lived up to them in spades. An in-room response of 28Hz to 22kHz and 97db sensitivity would be a perfect pairing with a 300b SET. Pricing starts at $6500 and climbs based on finish and crossover upgrade. These probably will have to go into a dedicated sound room. I think the WAF will be quite low unless the spouse is the rare audiophile. 

Fidelis powered The Heretics with electronics from Athens, Greece. Lab 12 has a very complete product line and all were here at Axpona. From the mains, they have a power distributor/conditioner (Gordain) that has separate outputs for high current demand amplifiers and special high filtered outputs for source components.

The system  controlled by the Pre1 a class A tube preamplifier with the venerable 6022 tubes, five RCA line inputs, and two pairs of outputs, one balanced and one single-ended. There is a remote control for the input selection and the volume. This is one of the best bargains in audio at $2200. Sounded like $4k to me.

Lab 12 is claiming 50watts class A per channel from the KT150 P-P Suara power amplifier. A real retro looker with vintage-type VU meters on the front. This amp certainly had a tight grip on the A612’s . You have a choice of Triode or Ultra-linear modes and there is manual bias adjustment. Do not stress over the bias adjustment. They have a very simple procedure explained in the user’s manual. What I have found with most tube power amps that I have owned with adjustable bias is that the factory recommended bias is usually set to provide more drive and slam.

I have found that dialing the bias back a bit (20-30%) provides a very smooth midrange with lots of bloom without any noticeable loss to drive of slam. This also extends the life of the power tubes. All tubes have a wide range of biases and still be very linear. Once tubes are settled in you need to check bias every three to six months depending on use and when you replace tubes. With adjustable bias, you do not need to purchase matched sets of tubes.

The Lab 12 Melto 2 remote control phono preamp has a full set of features not found at the price point. There are inputs for three different cartridges (all single-ended) and a complete range of adjustability for each. MM/MC, Gain, impedance, and capacitance. From the remote, you can select one of three inputs/cartridges, RIAA, Decca, or Columbia equalization, and adjust the volume. Also from the remote, you can access the setup menu and make all the fine adjustments, but there is no readout LCD on the remote. That is on the Melto2 front panel. There are balanced and single-ended outputs.

For the digital side Lab 12 has the DAC1 Reference. This is a non-oversampling DAC which is why I took notice. I am a big believer in NOS DACs. I do feel they sound so much better than DACs that reach for the limits of sampling resolution that I feel just do not sound as musical as NOS. Of course, the numbers people are going to push back at the 24bit 192k limit. This is a very musical DAC with four inputs (USB, two SPDIF coax, and Optical) and both balanced and single-ended outputs.

High Water Sound

Its been a few years since I experienced the uniqueness of all things, Jeffrey Catalano, of High Water Sound. Not only will there be a collection of the most interesting LPs (Yes Jeffery is strictly analog), but also Jeffery is known to bring a system that is very special and not seen/heard elsewhere. It is quickly obvious that this is a well-curated and symbiotic system. The room sounds like the moment you just had an epiphany. That sigh, aha moment of realization that this is like a cool spring morning overlooking a mountain lake. Over the top you say, you betcha. I call them like I see them.

High Water Sound is the US distro for TW-Acustic. The first star of the show is the world premiere of the LS Three motor Copper Platter turntable. You cannot miss the nearly 50-pound solid copper platter. The three-motor design takes complete command of the mass of this platter. This turntable gives one of the most solid images I have ever heard.

The TW-Acustic RPS-100 phono and RLS-100 line stage pass the signal to the SE300B monoblocks. These monoblocks are using The new Western Electric 300B and the rare NOS U52 rectifier. These are 5u4 equivalents that cost over $500 ea. All the TW products are made by Thomas Woschnick in Herne Germany.

The second star of the show is the world premiere of the Cessaro Horn Acoustics Opus One Speakers. These seem to be the entry ($45k) into a very impressive line of speakers. The speakers just disappeared and all that was left was a wide sound stage that provided life, heft, and music. Cessaro Speakers are made in Frankfurt Germany.

I just wanted to stay and listen to Jeffery’s selections all day, but I just had to move on.

Salk Sound-McGary Audio

I always check out the Salk Sound rooms when at the audio shows. I first met Jim at the first Capital Audiofest in 2010 and have been following the evolution since then. Jim has been a big supporter of CAF since the beginning. For the past few years, Salk Sounds have been partnering the demo rooms with Mike McGary and his fine amps. This year both companies were showing new products.

Salk’s BEPURE 2 is a two-way ported floor stander with a 90db efficiency. It has an extremely flat and phase-coherent response from 32Hz to 40kHz. A small and narrow footprint of 8.5 inches X 13 inches and 42 inches tall. A small box with a big sound. Jim does not skimp on the drivers either. Satori beryllium tweeter and ultra-low distortion Purifi 6.5-inch woofers. These drivers would cost you well over $400 each times 6, which is more than half the cost of these beautiful speakers. Salk Sound speakers have always given you a  big bang for the buck. First, the finish is superb, the sound is better than superb. This is a big winner at $6k

The McGary SA1E is an updated version of McGary’s highly reviewed first effort. This is a Class AB ultra-linear Push-Pull self-biasing tube stereo power amp that can also use anything ranging from a 6L6G to KT90 tubes. Power output depends on the output tube used and can be up to 45 watts/channel with the KT90. Very little feedback set at 9db keeps the distortion low while keeping the musicality high.

This is a great parring. The BEPURE and the SA1E. The sound was fantastic. The midrange was nailed, and the extremes were there in spades.

The source was the Salk Streamer. The StreamPlayer Gen III Se is a modular design that allows for maximum expandability. Standard builds include a 256GB SSD to hold the OS and Roon. A second 2TB (optional higher capacity HDD or SSD drives available) is dedicated to music storage. Add-on cards such as the SOtM tX-USB Audiophile PCI to USB cards can be installed as well.

A Holo Spring 3 KTE DAC did the digital to audio conversion. This is an R2R converter with absolutely no harshness or glassiness.

The Salk-McGary is a symbiotic relationship that just works. I once asked Jim Salk how did he choose the McGary amp. He told me it took about 30 secs of listening to the McGary amp with one of his speakers to know this was it.

JS Audio - WAMM One

The absolute coolest thing I have ever experienced at any Audio Show ever was to walk into the JS Audio room and step back in time to 1982 and hear the WAMM serial number 0ne. First of all JS Audio is a local dealer in Bethesda, Md, just an hour down 95 from me in Baltimore, Md. JS Audio is one of the premier dealers in the country. They have been in the same location since 1998 when Joe Stromick opens the shop in downtown Bethesda after starting the business in his Moms basement. Joe built a community of local Audiophiles that have supported JS Audio all these years. Joe passed away in early 2018 and JS Audio continues to provide the utmost quality and care to its customers under the guidance of brothers Dave and Steve Kennedy. 

Steve Kennedy

Joe Stromick 1998

Dave Kennedy

The room was like a living museum dedicated to the history of Dave Wilson and Wilson Audio. Not only could you sit and listen to the first production WAMM system but on display was a treasure trove of documents and pictures of the early years at Wilson Audio.

The room was like a living museum dedicated to the history of Dave Wilson and Wilson Audio. Not only could you sit and listen to the first production WAMM system but on display was a treasure trove of documents and pictures of the early years at Wilson Audio.

Vinnie Rossi-QLN

Vinnie Rossie never stops reaching for the top. Most designers seem to take two steps back for every step forward. Not Vinnie. Forever going forward pushing the edges and succeeding. The new Brama collection looks, feels, and sounds like there is no place to go but here; with one of the most finished pieces of audio kit I have had my eyes, hands, and ears on. I know that is a big statement, but there it is, and it is what I feel. The Brama is a unique design in combining the silky smooth, full sound of the 300B triode and MOSFET solid-state 350 watt/ch into 4 ohms to power any speaker out there.

The room was full of life with a musicality that most can only wish for. The Brama Integrated is the center of a fairly simple setup of state-of-the-art components. Yes well over $100k but I think you need to spend much more to outdo this system.

Innous Statement Music server getting clean data through the Innous Phoenix Net switch. Digital to audio conversion by the Swiss-made Merason DAC1. Power conditioning by Gigawatt PC-4 EVO+ and complete cable loom of the Diamond Series by Swiss Cables.

Putting a demo room together to get a great sound is an art. When I visit a disappointing sounding room I now feel it was just a poor combination of equipment and poor setup techniques. When Mark Sosa (Well Pleased Audio) worked with Vinnie to set up this room and chose the QLN Signature 5 Loudspeaker to complete the set up the magic happened. The Signature 5 is so new there are no specs published. This is a hefty stand-mount monitor with the authoritative sound of a floorstander. Being a monitor the imaging was superb, and the system just disappeared and what was left was the music.

This is one of the best-sounding rooms at Axpona.

Aries Cerat et al

If I was trying to be funny, I know that is a reach, I would give the trophy for the vendor that squeezed the most amount of equipment in a small listening room to Worldwide Wholesales, USA. Once you spend more than 30 seconds listening you know this system is no laughing matter. This is some serious….stuff. What Robert Do brought to Axpona 2022 was a complete system from Aries Cerat of Cyprus.

What knocks you over when you first come into the room are the monstrous stand mount speakers.  This is the world premiere of the Aries Cerat Aurora speakers. This large cube houses four 12-inch woofers mounted on the sides. A large horn-loaded midrange facing forward and a large dipole ribbon tweeter mounted on one of the upper sides. The woofers are powered by a 250-watt Class D amp. There is the digital Bluetooth-controlled crossover

What knocks you over when you first come into the room are the monstrous stand mount speakers.  This is the world premiere of the Aries Cerat Aurora speakers. This large cube houses four 12-inch woofers mounted on the sides. A large horn-loaded midrange facing forward and a large dipole ribbon tweeter mounted on one of the upper sides. The woofers are powered by a 250-watt Class D amp. There is the digital Bluetooth-controlled crossover

The sound was amazing. The setup was along the long wall and the seats were less than six feet from the speakers. I felt I was enveloped in the music. Clarity, fullness, and speed were what I wrote down in my notes. I can only imagin what this would have sounded like in a proper room.

So there you have it. Six rooms out of 140 or so. I did not get to all the rooms. I  made a quick run-through on Friday and took notes of the rooms to come back to on Saturday and Sunday. Of those, I picked the above six to write about. These were the standouts for me. There were certainly many rooms that sounded great but I am just one old fart to cover goliath.

 

Florida Audio Expo 2022 is a big success!!!

With the first show audio show of 2022, the Florida Audio Expo, following the breakthrough Capital Audiofest at the end of 2021, it looks like we are back in business. The show was quite lively with over 55 rooms spread over eleven floors. The attendance was pretty steady throughout Friday and Saturday and as usual a little lighter on Sunday. We had great weather, and for this Baltimorian feeling, a sunny 85 degrees is always a treat in February.

I spent Friday going through the whole show making notes so I could narrow down the rooms to concentrate on. I found four with knock-out sound and one with a new product of note.

The majority of the rooms relied on digital sources paired with electronics that presented, for me, the typical glassy/grainy sound it seems that the industry seems to have settled on. But there were a few that stood out with a very natural sound that seem to say “…this is music as it should be!” Of course, this is very subjective. I want a sound that takes me to  symphony hall or a small jazz club on the upper west side. I judge what I hear with my ears and my heart, not my eyes or my brain.

Room 604 Mytek

A most Interesting New Product

The Mytek room displayed all their products on three tables full of gear and headphones for visitors to listen to products. There was one table that had Mytek’s newest product set up with a pair of small bookshelf speakers.

EMPIRE Series is the newest, top Mytek line of electronics announced at the end of 2020.

The Empire Streamer DAC, powered by Roon OS is the cost no object design, not only because of spectacular innovation but also because of craftmanship, where the highest quality parts and best technology were handpicked for the DAC, its Clock, the Power Supplies, and Analog Circuitry.

Empire Streamer DAC is meant to transcend what was considered the best in DACs and Streamers.

The Empire Monoblocks features the same approach, cost no object design with brand new

ultrafast GanFET transistor technology. The resulting sound brings a silky, tube-like top, beautiful midrange, tight transistor-like bass in incredibly realistic 3D space”.

Like all of Myteks products, the Empire is an example of high craftsmanship. Mytek has taken this craftsmanship to the highest level. The look and feel of the Empire are at the top of anything I have seen in this genre. 

Mytek Audio’s Michal Jurewicz was on hand and let me know that the Empire is hand-built in Myteks Brooklyn shop. 

Two "Best" Large Meeting Rooms

There were six large (meeting ) rooms on the 2nd floor. Two were standouts. Both great sounding with very different presentations of the music. Kind of the Ying and Yang of the sound. They were not polar opposites of each other but just put forth very different but satisfying sound. More like a different spice was used in the dish.

Bayshore Room

The Bayshore room with the Von Schweikert/VAC display reminded me of ginger. Ginger’s peppery bite, its sharpness that warms you up gives you a feel of how this system sounded. Yes, very detailed high resolution but absolutely no grain or glassines.  

Damon let me know that this was the world premiere of the Ultra 7. The big VS/VAC demonstrations the past few years have been with the Ultra 11 with its seven and a half feet of high tech. The 11 gave a big HiFi sound but not in a bad way just way over the top for me. It is always a treat to be able to see and hear the max a company can do.

The new Ultra 7 gave all the high definition and impact of the 11 but in a more intimate way. The impact of this system with its very high clarity and detail was the Yang. I do believe that Ginger is the spice of this system.

The massive VAC electronics I am sure gives the solid foundation for the VS Ultra 7’s to stand out.

There were four VAC Statement 452 iQ’s monoblocks driving the Ultra 7. These monoblocks are capable of producing 450 watts each. The Ultra 7 are relatively highly efficient, but it was evident that these amps had a tight grip on these speakers. The crystal clear sound was the result of the high-tech electronics in the combination with the VS Ultra 7’s. The analog source was the Kronos Pro turntable fitted with the Airtight Opus 1 cartridge. VAC Statement Phono and VAC Statement Preamp completed the electronic setup.

Westshore Room

The other large room of note just happened to be using VAC electronics coupled with the Acora Acoustics SCR-2 speaker. VAC Statment tube electronics but the sound of a very different character with the Acora SCR-2 speaker. In keeping with my spice description, I am sensing warm and sweet cardamon.

The SCR-2 weighs in at 244 pounds each. Acora Acoustics loudspeakers are constructed using handcrafted, specially treated, natural black granite enclosures over an inch thick. The music can be pounding away with the long-throw woofers pumping like crazy and the enclosure is dead still and quiet. It is a relatively small floor stander just 43 inches tall. The outrigger base is 18” by 14”, with two seven-inch paper woofers and a one-inch Beryllium dome tweeter.

The Westshore room is huge, with very high ceiling yet the small floor stander had no problems driving the room with warm sweet music.

Dr Vinyl suppled one of the analog sources. The J Sikora Standard Max with an optional power supply with the controversial TruGlider tonearm with the DS Audio Grand Master System converting the vinyl siggles to great musicality. The sound was glorious. Dr Vinyl is known for his masterful parings in putting the right components together and his TT and cartridge setups. This was not the first time I have heard the Grand Master, but this was the best sound I have heard from this cartridge. Dr Vinyl knows how to set up a cartridge!

The small rooms had a large variety of systems. The majority of the systems had the telltale glassy/grainy sound that is most tiresome to me. This is true at every show I have been to. There are always just a few that stand out with a great musicality that is involving.

Room 518

In room 518 I found was Destination Sound Group run by Fred Ainsley showing the new Lampizator Horizon DAC and the new Gulfstream music server. I have followed Lukasz Fikus for more than 20 years. Lukasz started with an online blog that reviewed DAC chips and discussed various tweaks to kick your DAC up a notch or two. I even bought a couple of his kits. He eventually started to bring out completed DACs. With Lukasz’s passion, he has grown the company to a premier audio electronics company producing some of the best that is possible. He will never rest and is always bringing out new products.

From the sound, it is obvious that these are the king of the digital mountain. There is not a hint of glassiness or grain. Just pure natural sound that few  other companies cannot produce. Again we have a top-of-the-line VAC integrated 450i iQ with 225 watts per channel. The music signal is converted back to the real world by the Tobian 12FH. This is a 2-Way Horn Speaker with 12 inch Bass with 4.0″ inch Ti diaphragm mid-high compression driver. It can handle 1200 watts with a sensitivity: ca. 98db SPL/1W/1m. Impedance is  8 ohms and a frequency range of 20 Hz to 22.000 Hz. Dimensions are 98 x 34 x 42 cm (H x W x D) weighing 54 kg.  Lifetime warranty and handmade in Hergiswil (Lake Lucerne) Switzerland.

The sound is near the top of my list of “Best Ever”.  This was music! Natural and free-flowing. There was depth and detail. The speakers disappear and you have the music. I went to this room only briefly on my Friday sweep of all the rooms. My notes were to go back for a second listen which I did on Saturday and to my surprise I met Lukasz in the room sitting very proud of this sound. I went back again on Sunday just to make sure I was right in what I was hearing.

Room 403

Saving the best for last.

Next is the Volti-BorderPatrol-Triode Wire Labs room. Greg Roberts had both the Rival and the Razz, switching them out

twice a day. Full disclosure, a pair of  Razz’s are in my reference system.  Have had mine for over a year and love them. At the Florida show, I got to hear both speakers in close order. This was a real treat. The Rival is more than twice the price of the Razz. And the differences are not not subtle. The speakers were set up close to the front wall and very widely spread apart, almost to the corners. This gave a presentation I have trouble describing. With the Razz the sound was wide, deep, and very smooth. The Bass was full and punchy. With the Rivals, you have all that but on steroids. The sound completely involves you. You are not listening to a music system. You are listening to glorious music.

One PTA reviewer said the sound is ”immersive”.  This is the best word to describe the sound in this room.  One is transported to another dimension that does away with any restraints and allows the music to just exist in the space around you. Your senses are charged, and you are immersed in the music. I have never heard a sound like this.  If you have the means, go for the Rivals unless you have a very small room. Communicate with Greg and give him your room dimensions and he will help you decide. You will not be disappointed.

Of course, there is more to the system than the speakers. BorderPatrol has been exhibited with Volti many times. Talking about a symbiotic relationship. A  big part of the BorderPatrol sound is Gary Dews’ power supply design. He uses a big and expensive choke input filter that allows the amplifier a firm grip on the signal. Most 300B amps have a soft and mushy top and bottom end. BP amps have incredible slam and crystal clear top end that is a complete joy to experience. Gary used the S20, which is 18 Class A watts per channel from a parallel pair of single-ended 300B output tubes which can drive a wide variety of loudspeakers. Also in the signal mix is the Innous Zenith music server with the Innous reclocker, and the BorderPatrol SE-1 DAC which I feel is one of the most musical DAC out there.

The third part of this system is the wire loom. Pete Grzybowski of TriodeWireLabs has been at the forefront of high-value audiophile cables for a long time. He has a Masters’s Degree in engineering and has worked in the power industry for over three decades. One can say that wire is in his blood. He and his family hand braid every cable by hand to order. Every cable is custom-made as if it is going into his own system.

I can not say this too many times the sound is simply incredible. It’s big when it needs to be big and intimate when the music requires it. There is truly something special going on here. The symbiosis works as it all came out of the same mold. Nothing else sounds like this.

A little extra something to say

As I did in my last review of CAF 2021 I am singling out small manufacturers trying to make a dent in this crazy industry. I have known AJ since I first met him in 2011 when he brought his prototypes to Capital Audiofest to for a reality check on his designs. He brought different designs the following two years I remember his passion in what he was trying to accomplish. He says his passion comes from his love of physics from when he was 13 years old. He attended college in pursuing and EE at the same time building DIY speakers first using analog signal processing then when with DSP when digital audio became widely available. He felt that conventional speaker design lacked the control needed to present the full sound.  Each year I looked for AJ at CAF to just to see what he had come up with. The were always very interesting designs and presented a great sound. He as gone full tilt and into the active speaker and DSP for his crossovers. He also allows the end-user with his guidance, to taylor the crossovers to fit their needs.

At the Florida Expo AJ had two of his latest creation both packed with more technology than a Tesla. Hypex Ncore amp moduals with DSP. He demonstrated for me how easy the software (he was using a common laptop) to make various changes to the slopes of the drivers.  The sound was lively, broad and detailed.  AJ has many designs that will fit any budget.

Capital Audiofest 2021 Followup

The show that stuck it to all the others

Text and photography by Paul Elliott

I am pretty sure if you are a reader of online Audiophile blogs by now you have read what a resounding success Capital Audiofest 2021 was. High praise for Gary Gill’s “stick-to-it-iveness”

There is a quote from John Dent…

“You came into the world to do something; So… do something!”
And with literary license I will it bash up….

 “Gary came into the world to do CAF, and he did it……. great!”

I met Gary at the first show in 2011, on a very hot July weekend at the Rockville mansion, and volunteered at every show since except 2019 when I strayed from the path.

The three months leading up to the show were very tenuous. The amount of hate mail Gary received over the Mask and Vaccine mandate
drove Gary to question “why am I doing this?”, why should I put up with this ____?
The show had very few problems with the mask and Covid mandates.
While I was working the reception desk, we only turned a few participants away for no vaccine info. Everyone seemed to accept that wearing a mask was fine.
The rooms were full, everyone got along very well.

It turned out to be the right thing to do. A lot of vendors and media folks wanted this. Besides Gary, the Vendors that supported the show were the true heroes. They are the ones that gambled big. That this is what the audio public wanted and they signed up with Gary and did the show.
The public has no idea what it takes to put on a show such as CAF. This is a major cost and effort for the vendors to coordinate the brands in the room, pack and ship the product, set up in what some call a “very difficult sound room environment”, then reverse the process on Sunday night all in the name of getting the music into our ears with emotion and meaning.
Gary brought in some live music in the hotel bar Friday and Saturday evening. The Antony Pirog Trio delivered some very intriguing music. Sort of free-form Jazz in the Bill Frisell vain but I think toned down a bit for the bar atmosphere.
Gary is already setting things in place for next year, same venue, November 11-13, 2022, and he is very much involved with the upcoming Pacific Audiofest in Seattle, July 29-31, 2022, with Lou Hinkley of Daedalus fame.

We all feel that Friday’s attendance was one of the best in the history of the show. Saturday’s numbers were also good. Sunday which is usually very light seemed lively too. From a very informed source, CAF’s numbers are pegged at 2400 in attendance for the weekend. I think this surprised everyone! The number of listening rooms was down from a high of 85 in 2019 to this year’s 55. This was expected because of Covid. I bet that they are more than a few vendors out there that wished they had joined in too.

This year I am not doing the usual show report. All the rooms were well covered by the audio media, far better than I could. What I will say is that overall I was surprised at the number of very good sounding rooms there were.

This industry, which I am going to call” Audiophilism” is a very small niche thing. Urban Dictionary (Urban Dictionary: audiophilism) defines it as….

“The philosophy of extracting all of the possible sonic and acoustical capabilities out of high-fidelity stereos, or home theater equipment into that of a more correct representation that mimics the original audio recording. This can be
done through several methods. The main ingredients for this philosophy are “separation and isolation” of audio frequencies, electromagnetic interference …”

In my 76 years, I have never found anyone who does not like music. But there a very few of us that demand a way to extract more emotion out of what we are hearing. I do ask the question why, and with all the discussions I have had with like-minded colleagues, we have never come up with an answer, it is……. “just is”.

For me, this Audiophilism thing is a strange journey that takes two simultaneous paths. One is the equipment thingy as a religion. The other is the music. It is the music that got us audiophiles into this pursuit of getting one with the music. This then gets us into the search of the hardware that will provide the emotion.

 Audiophiles spend much effort and money to dig deeper into the music. This is what our industry is. Most audiophiles love to tell the same story of the first time they heard a great system and it was this epiphany that got them into the pursuit of the absolute sound.

Rarely do that say it was this piece or that piece of music that got them on the journey.  I am not saying it’s a bad thing, otherwise, I would still be listening to my 1960’s AR TT, Technics Receiver, and Advent speakers. I wonder what I would think about that system now. Back then it was thru the haze of botanicals, I thought it was the best and sounded great.

Our pie is not that big.  If you research “Home Audio” you get numbers for the consumers’ electronic industry and that is in the billions because it includes everything from TVs to refrigerators. I could not find numbers for high-end audio.

I know a half dozen or so of one and two-man outfits and fully recognize their struggles. I am amazed at their passion and perseverance. I am going to focus on very small companies. These are DR Audio Works, a startup that is trying to bring a speaker to market. Mosart Fine Art Audio Furniture has been in business for a few years, and Findley Audio has been making highly regarded cables since 2018.

I met Michael Van Voohis (on far right), owner and one of four Findley Audio’s employees in the LKV room at CAF on a late Thursday afternoon before the show opened on Friday. I had heard the room earlier in the day after Bill Hutchins of LKV had got things up and running. The room sounded fine. Bill makes well-regarded and reviewed equipment which and he parred with Joseph Audio speakers.  I chanced by later in the day for a second listen after Finley Audio brought in their cables. There was a complete transformation.

 I could hear much further into the music. The notes were rounder much more coherent and structured with absolute dead silence between. I have never heard cables make that kind of difference. Finley Audio home is in South Park, PA just south of Pittsburg. They make Power, Interconnects, and Speaker cables in two flavors, Cirrus and Stratus. In just about any length you would need.

Cirrus is their premium cable

Each cable is crafted by hand requiring over 10-man hours to complete and includes:


A labor-intensive, three-dimensional conductor orientation, with Litz, wound stranded conductors 7n OFC. Teflon® insulation overall conductors for noise rejection. Dual material internal shielding of RFI and EMI interference. Solid copper plug ends are double-plated first in Silver and then in Rhodium for additional shielding and enhanced conductivity. High-grade silicone jacket material, instead of the more common PVC, provides superior electrical properties and a more flexible, easy to manage cable.

Handmade in the USA, 45-day money-back guarantee.

Michael had the superbly made Cirrus cables at CAF. A very elegant sounding cable.

Finley Audio had its start in a garage (yes you have heard this story before) in 2018. They now have a total of four employees. Truly a small company of like-minded, passionate people who work hard to bring their vision to the rest of us. Their website is full of journal entries from all four members of the team. Reading through this one gets the feeling that you have known these guys for a long time and there is a sense of family between them. I judge people by whether I would like them as neighbors and I am ready to move to South Park.

From what I experienced at CAF I know these cables do their stuff and easily stand tall on their own merit.

I have known Bruce Schuettinger for several years as a member of our local HiFi club. He is an avid audiophile with a fine system, always in flux, searching for the ultimate sound. He is a master woodworker craftsman and conservator. His work is in many museums and the US Capital.

His fine art furniture has won a multitude of awards. Since I am a wood hobbyist and also on the journey of Audiophilism this became the seed of many discussions and a friendship.

He mentioned during a listening session a few years ago that he was thinking of designing and producing audio cabinetry. I let him know my feeling about mass loading, isolation, and dampening, along with constrained layer dampening. Bruce spent many hours in research and designing and came up with the Quietin audio cabinet he displayed at the 2019 Capital Audiofest. Not only is this a true work of art it provides a huge amount of dampening and isolation which makes any equipment setting on or in it, sound better. Music is more cohesive and direct.  Check out my review here:  MosArt_Quieten – MyAudioPhrenia 

The Quietin is quite a piece, the ultimate both in form and function, and knowing that this piece is not for everyone Bruce decided to expand the line.

During the pandemic, Bruce was not idle. He has designed and produced a series of audio racks, and amplifier/turntable platforms, and TT dust covers. These were on display at this year’s Capital Audiofest 2021 in room 306. I reviewed the amplifier stand here: MosArt_Platform – MyAudioPhrenia.

Local (DC and Baltimore) dealer for the Quieten products is High-End Audio Retailer | Dr Vinyl.

One can hear the improvement when moving the amp from a shelf onto the Quieten Platform while the music is playing. It is an ear-opening experience that Dr Vinyl will demonstrate for you.

I have watched the development of Dave Raden’s speakers over a few years with great interest. He is a member of our local HiFi club also and held many meetings at his home giving our members the treat of hearing the evolution of these speakers. What I heard at CAF 2021 was the cumulation of years of tweaking and tuning. It was a revelation. What he presented was a highly defined, clearly focused image of musicality. IMHO, there were very few rooms at the show that sounded better.

This is just the birth of this company, barely has had its bottom slapped and it had the sound of a mature design.

The Model 1 speaker system is a two- or three-way system comprised of the Model 1T and the Model 1B. The 1T is a two-way MTM (midrange/tweeter/midrange) D’Appolito design. The 1B incorporates a single twelve-inch driver.

The 1T is a slot-loaded cabinet and incorporates two six-inch mid-bass drivers and a ribbon tweeter. The crossover is external to isolate it from vibration and eliminate microphonic coupling to the crossover components from the drivers. When operated full range the 1T delivers deep and well-defined bass that will satisfy many users without the need for the 1B.

By adding the 1B to the 1T provides deeper bass and even more impact to the already impressive 1T. With an 80 Hz crossover between the 1B and 1T, the 1T is relieved from delivering the most demanding bass frequency range resulting in higher power output capability in the range above 80 Hz. The 1B has a significant power handling capacity (700 Watts RMS) and delivers more impact and deeper bass than the 1T on its own. Together, they can deliver startling dynamics across the entire audio frequency range. The price of this impressive speaker is $13K and further information is atDRAW Speakers (draudioworks.com)

Dave also sells an interesting interconnect. I use a pair between my preamp and power amp in a 14ft run. This is a pure silver cable that is probably unique in its design. I find the cable transparent to the music without any harshness or grittiness that is usually attributed to silver cables. Information about this cable is also on his website.

So, this is what I have taken away from Capital Audiofest 2021. One, it was a great show that was not supposed to be. Two, The vendors and the public took a leap of faith and supported this crazy industry. And, third, This industry is made of very dedicated, and passionate people on the journey of great sounding music.

Thinking back to the show, I remember an incident that to me is the one aspect of Audio Shows that is above all others.

I was with a few friends in the hotel bar Saturday evening beginning to relax from a very busy day and trying to decide where we were going for dinner. A young lady (20 something) stop by to say hello to one of the group. When asked, “How did you enjoy the show”, she remarked that this was the first time she had experienced high-end audio to this scale and was fascinated that most of the rooms were playing LP’s. She had made it down to the Marketplace and picked up a dozen albums. I asked what did she have to play them on and she remarked, “That is my next purchase, a turntable!” Here is what all vendors want from the show. Introducing young people to the industry. They talk about it all the time. Well here it was, mission accomplished, drop the mike!

I had a great time renewing acquaintances, meeting new vendors (to CAF 2021), hearing some great music.

See you all again at Capital Audiofest 2022.

Paul 

Heads Up: Patricia Barber to release long-awaited standards record in mind-blowing hifi

From Taylor Perry:

Hi there – I wanted you to be one of the first to know: after releasing a multitude of critically acclaimed albums, growing an international cult following, earning a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and more, renowned jazz performer Patricia Barber will return with a brand new album, Clique, out this summer. Confidentially, the collection features an inspired anthology of standards by Lee Hazlewood, Lerner & Loewe, Rodgers & Hammerstein, and even the illustrious Stevie Wonder, all well-known songs that Barber has frequently performed as encore tunes throughout her career. Coming August 6th on the audiophile-approved Impex Records, Clique marks the long-awaited successor to Nightclub, Barber’s first all-standards album that has become one of the most beloved releases in her discography. 
 
Would you be interested in an early listen? We won’t be announcing the project for another few weeks, but I’d love to tell you more in the meantime. 
 
Barber, known for her “tightly compressed lyrics, transparent musical textures, and infinitesimally subtle vocal shadings” (Chicago Tribune), once again teams up with GRAMMY award-winning engineer Jim Anderson for Clique. They recorded and mixed the record in Digital eXtreme Definition (352.8kHz/24bit) at Chicago Recording Company’s Studio 5. Barber has set the standard for sound quality for years, and the new collection is a “silk, velvet, languid, warm” journey through music history, according to NPR’s Susan Stamberg in the album liner notes. 
 
Please let me know if we can discuss further! 
 
Thanks,
Taylor

Interesting article about Vinyl from NewYork Times

By Ben Sisario Published April 28, 2020 Updated April 30, 2020

The Vinyl? It’s Pricey. The Sound? Otherworldly. The Electric Recording Co. in London cuts albums the way they were made in the 1950s and ’60s — literally.

LONDON — Tucked in a trendy co-working complex in West London, just past the food court and the payment processing start-up, is perhaps the most technologically backward-looking record company in the world. The Electric Recording Co., which has been releasing music since 2012, specializes in meticulous recreations of classical and jazz albums from the 1950s and ’60s. Its catalog includes reissues of

landmark recordings by Wilhelm Furtwängler, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk, as well as lesser-known artists favored by collectors, like the violinist Johanna Martzy.

But what really sets Electric Recording apart is its method — a philosophy of production more akin to the making of small-batch gourmet chocolate than most shrink-wrapped vinyl.

Its albums, assembled by hand and released in editions of 300 or fewer — at a cost of $400 to $600 for each LP — are made with restored vintage equipment down to glowing vacuum-tube amplifiers, and mono tape systems that have not been used in more than half a century. The goal is to ensure a faithful restoration of what the label’s founder, Pete Hutchison, sees as a lost golden age of record-making. Even its record jackets, printed one by one on letterpress machines, show a fanatical devotion to age-old craft.

Capital Audiofest 2021 follow up

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