Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report

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Jonathon Janusz

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Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #20 on: 3 Sep 2015, 01:07 am »
United Home Audio

Playing tape as I walked in.  I had to stop from picture taking to listen because the system caught my ear and sat me down.  Very relaxed, easy sound.  Soundstage is at front row, "they are here" instead of "you are there".  This room got my attention with its control of soundstage height and the sense of space in the music.  The main tough spot is the room ringing hard right in the middle of the lower midrange; breaks the illusion which otherwise is pretty smooth.  Speakers are disappearing well.  When they switched from the tape to a CD, the soundstage went to back row presentation and the image floats a little more than the more pinpoint but forward tape rig.  Actualy, IMHO, the digital is smoother and makes an even easier to listen to system than the tape.









Jonathon Janusz

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Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #21 on: 3 Sep 2015, 01:24 am »
 :D  Good Sound  :D

Odyssey Audio

I got an extended session alone with the Kismet Liquids.  Going through the demo track list, the attack on the sticks and the drums is very solid, the skin of the drums is a little light, and the hand drum is maybe coming in heavy.  The liquids play with more authority and lower than the Kismet monitors, even pushing this big room hard to keep it all down.  Actually probably could have used even more bass trapping just to get the details out of the bass? Next year, I think Alex and Klaus need to kidnap the GIK crew for the weekend. ;)  I can hear the detail in there trying to get out though - the potential is there.  Compared to the similar setup I've heard a few times at RMAF, although these speakers can fill this room with sound, I like the smaller room better for this set of gear (all components including the room treatments).  Klaus, if you're listening, save some coin and get a smaller room at this show next year - and get even better sound!

Tone and body on the electric guitar is great as usual; I think this is the kind of thing that Klaus voices his speakers specifically to shine with.  Listening to the violin and vocal section, the vocals are a little deeper than spot on, again the bass doing its thing.  A first for the show surprise is a distortion effect that had been masked up to this room that is playing behind the violin.  I hadn't heard this at home, and backed up to make sure I wasn't either hearing garbage in the recording or imagining things.  I brought the whole track to 'Glycerine' by Bush with me on my demo disc to compare to last time I heard the Monitors.  Really just a sublime experience.  I could have been happy with the trip out here just jamming out to this.

The Liquids really step up the game when it comes to high level details and dynamics.  Not just that they are "better" than the Monitors in some of this; there is just an ease in the midrange to which the Monitors are a clear second. Tthe mid driver is just trying to cover a lot of ground in the Monitors, and being freed up from the low bass just lets the Liquids become a more powerful speaker, that keeps the great midrange of the Monitors, then builds on it with better detail retrieval.  If I had one nit to pick with the Monitors, it was that I heard just a little bit of disconnect at times between the two drivers.  The Liquids are an even more balanced, even more capable, wider range speaker.   The Monitors are an unbelievable value for the dollar, and the pedigree from one to the other shows, and just as I had hoped the Liquids are that and more.  Nothing needs to be said for the value for the dollar; to paraphrase Klaus - the price is the price, it is about setting the bar as high as it can go and hearing just how much can really be within reach.

To wrap, this is tough to judge, as it really is "great sound" in just a "good" physical room.  The reason I think to make a note here is that in difference to some of the other good rooms, this room just screamed potential to me, and that put it on the very ragged edge short of "set the standard for the show by a long margin amazing".















Jonathon Janusz

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Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #22 on: 3 Sep 2015, 01:29 am »
Command Performance AV, Aurender, Audia Flight, Clearaudio, Berkeley Audio Design, Neat Acoustics, Stillpoints, Wireworld

Playing some classic rock when I came in.  Cool to hear something a little up tempo.  Plenty of top end, probably [clearly - changed seats and it got even boomier] too much bottom due to the room, the middle seems light.  Very clean sounding vinyl rig though - usually I can't get past the artifacts that seem to sneak into the background on an analog rig.  Acoustic guitar is very smooth and has a good clear tone until it gets buried by the bass behavior.  Nice wide soundstage but not very deep.  I'm starting to wonder if it is a venue caused trend.

They switched it up for me to run the little 'NEAT' mini-monitors.  I kind of feel bad. . . I would actually like them to pull the little speakers to the front in this room.  Honest in what they do, not trying too hard to be anything more.  Smooth, even sound, bringing out texture and details that were getting drowned out by the main larger speakers.  I could see the side-by-side configuration coming in handy in a lot of non-dedicated 'audiophile' homes and still deliver nice sound.  Even pushed back where they are, surprising wall of sound from the little guys.  $1K for an honest easy to run bookshelf; nice.  Thanks for the demo!

I stopped back in on Sunday because I was told on Friday night that they moved the speakers around and 'got it fixed'.  I only had time to listen to one selection from the hosts' source, but the system was in fact a lot better - more even, the top end smoothed out to balance better with the rest.  Good on them for keeping at it to dial things in for their guests.  The sound from the room - as we discussed briefly after listening - was now up to a similar benchmark set by the other larger display rooms, and the visitors could now hear more of the things that make this particular system unique.











Jonathon Janusz

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Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #23 on: 3 Sep 2015, 01:37 am »
VPI

Just pictures on this room, as I am really the last person on Earth that should be asked to judge turntables. :icon_lol:  I do have to give a shout out to the VPI crew though.  These guys are machines!  Party hard every night, have an entire team taking care of tables in rooms throughout the show to make sure everything is in top shape every day, and also running their own demo room with a really cool setup that lets you try out every table they have on display.  If any of you are on AC, you guys were great and I hope to hang out next show!















Jonathon Janusz

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Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #24 on: 3 Sep 2015, 01:46 am »
 :thumb:  GREAT SOUND   :thumb:

Salk Signature Sound, Gingko Audio, LampizatOr, Wells Audio, DanaCable

Gorgeous casework as always; I'm glad to see the choice of some really wild grain patterns for the show speakers - really shows off the 'art' part of state-of-the-art.  Best bass at the show, period, winning over the OB servos by way of absolutely seamless integration.  Granted, I'm used to the sound of the servo subs, but there is just something about the speed of servo bass.  The speakers are pulled out into the room about a third of the way - nice, deep, soundstage.  I am really enjoying the sound from these with the mated electronics - I can tell why they wanted to put this pairing together again for another show.  I really want to hear these with something I know to make a more critical assessment.  Maybe a round two on Sunday with some time to dig through the available music in queue.  Keep in mind this is without my own demo music, but early on out of the gate on Friday, this room sets the bar.  Finally, a Salk setup that I like!

[Update:  The white ones.  I happended to cross paths with Mary and she gave me a brief interview with some information for the astute AudioCircle members.  These are protoypes that were played to a closed-room session at Axponia.  This session decided they weren't quite ready for prime time.  It has been making the show circuit incognito with Dennis working with Jim to refine it.  Mary explained, the target on this model is that Jim wants to get a quality three way that can appeal to a younger customer - specifically as a rock music speaker - and at a more competitive price point that puts it more in reach than some of the higher priced models.]

















Stercom

Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #25 on: 3 Sep 2015, 01:52 am »
Wow! Great report. Thank you!

Jonathon Janusz

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Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #26 on: 3 Sep 2015, 01:54 am »
Daedalus Audio, ModWright, WyWires

Poseidon.  Fitting name with the sound these are making.  Big and powerful for sure.  Dan and Lou knock it out of the park on body and tone - smooth as always.  Absolutely crushed the electric guitar.  They are fighting the room a little; the system is delivering on the heart of the music - the meat of it - but maybe the speakers are a touch overpowering the room leaving some detail on the table.  The soundstage is also a little narrower and shallower than I'm used to Daedalus rooms, but again a trade off for a rock solid center image.  I'm guessing the corner placement is what is driving some of these observations.  These speakers are a better fit for this room in the bass than the previous big Daedalus/Modwright systems in Denver with the BOW.  The bass is playing lower cleanly before the room has to give up. 

Have to comment on the cabinetry.  First, the deco inspired inlay is flawless.  Second, the figure in the wood on this pair is really on a completely higher level, with a depth in the color that only maybe Jim Salk can get out of veneer.  If you know Daedalus speakers, saying this pair is on the next level should really say something to what Lou has built.  Last, Lou did let me know that there is a reasonable supply of this wood available for a few lucky customers to have speakers built - get in while you can, folks!

I'll give this one a take two on Sunday to see if it smooths out a bit with some run-in; if history serves, this system needs some time to cook before it is really ready to give all it has got. [edit: Unfortunately, I got pressed for time and couldn't make it back for a second go around.]













Jonathon Janusz

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Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #27 on: 3 Sep 2015, 01:56 am »
Wow! Great report. Thank you!

Thanks!  A few more yet to go!  :green:

Jonathon Janusz

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Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #28 on: 3 Sep 2015, 01:58 am »
Classic Audio Loudspeakers, Atma-Sphere, Triplanar, Purist Audio Design

I haven't been a big fan of big horn systems I've heard in the past, but given some space in a big room like these are, these are nice to listen to.  Great blending of the drivers on these.  I like them run wide like this, but for absolute solid imaging, they are probably a little too far apart.  Again, wide but not deep soundstage.  They would have been tops when playing my demo drum track if it weren't for the room echo blurring the attack of the sticks.  Good texture on the drum, but missing something in the body.  Again, the detail retrieval is carrying this room, as the violin is good but recessed.  One nice surprise is that this system smoothed out the leading edge of the vocals in my demo track without losing the little nuances of the breath and duskiness in her voice.  On the other side of surprises, although low level details were easily heard, these just didn't do the dynamics I would have expected and kind of blurred out when the music went full on metal.  Interesting.









Jonathon Janusz

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Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #29 on: 3 Sep 2015, 02:00 am »
Luminous Audio, Fern & Roby, Bettinger Audio Design

Analog only setup, so no demo CD.  Beautiful, understated woodwork to the speakers - that is a solid wood and very deep wavegude!  They are playing Anne Bisson.  Good speaker for the room size, body and presentation is a good front row seat in a small lounge.  A little hard on the top, and a little loose on the bottom, probably based on the room.  Imaging is a little broad for a single singer on a close mic.  Hopefully later in the show they pull the speakers out into the room a bit more to give them some breathing space.  The piano tone is good, but just doesn't have the space to put it 'in' the room.  I hope the extra space would give the soundstage the depth it needs, and with that to lock in the center image hard.  Imaging improves a lot from the front row nearfield in the room and the bass bloom is tamed a bit (above was written from second row back), but the soundstage flattens out even more and shrinks down to inside the speakers.  Better, but there is room to shine, for sure.









Jonathon Janusz

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Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #30 on: 3 Sep 2015, 02:03 am »
 :thumb:  GREAT SOUND   :thumb:

The Voice That Is, TIDAL, Bricasti, Ayre, dCS

Immaculate piano finish in the speakers - very handsome and luxurious look, dignified and classy.  Bass has a little overhang but the speakers are meshing pretty darn well with the room, listening to the room hosts' music.  Mid-back row presentation.  Soundstage has some depth but is a little on the narrow side.  Good to see some room treatments - they are helping clean things up so details are coming through until the bottom of the bass just can't get out of the way.  Where the Daedalus Posideon room sounds rich and smooth, this room's signature is a very 'clean' sound - I mean that in a good way, enjoyably before 'sterile' would set in if taken too far.  I feel like I'm looking 'at' the music instead of 'into' the music, if that makes any sense.  This is a well refined 'hi-fi' setup with extension and range fitting the size of speakers.











Jonathon Janusz

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Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #31 on: 3 Sep 2015, 02:06 am »
So, with some time to decompress back to my daily grind ( :lol: ), a few thoughts in wrapping this up.

To start, some thanks are in order.  First, I would like to address AC member, woodsyi, directly - thank you for inviting a complete stranger along for dinner on Friday.  The company was even better than the good steaks, and I had the opportunity to connect with some great people.  You were a most gracious host to all involved.  I admire your truly sharp eye for the finer things, a talent that I have yet to even think to start to refining, and the welcoming tone by which you share it.  I'd say I owe you a drink sometime, but I laugh knowing I probably wouldn't know where to begin!

I would also like to thank the friends - old and just met - who shared their time with me, talking about this pursuit we all enjoy, along with trying to solve the world's problems a pint at a time. ;)  I know (more like had clearly underscored) that I am a young(er?) person in the scope of audiophiles, and it was refreshing to listen and (hopefully!) learn from good and successful people wiser than myself.  I hope that my perspectives in contribution were insightful or at the very least entertaining. :)  I hope to see you all again at these events in the future, and I'm glad to be slowly feeling less the outsider looking in, and more along for the ride!  As I know many of you are humble enough to be less inclined to be called on by name, I will leave it at handshakes, hugs, and a salute (;)), to each of you.



Now, as to this show specifically in regards to audio, I came away with some things.  An interesting difference comparing this show to Texas, and to Denver.  I think this show hits a great balance between the informal atmosphere of Texas and the whirlwind in Denver.  Attendance flowed in similar fashion to other shows, but the pace was just enough to keep things hopping, while casual enough to have time to both listen more intently at each room and have a few minutes time with the rooms' hosts to ask questions and discuss a few things if desired.  The show, as a whole, was very much worth the trip and very well executed by our volunteer hosts.  There were a few logistical pain points for the first year at a change in venue, but overall a pretty smooth landing for the Capital Audiofest crew.

Regarding this mix of vendors and this venue, as I mentioned in passing above, it was a challenge to definitively judge the listening rooms against each other.  Comparing to Denver, it was a lot more clear between rooms that "had it" and those that did not.  At this show, there was an eerily consistent level of "good" across nearly all of the rooms I visited, the differences being in how much each system was able to demonstrate where it could truly excel.  I wish the best of luck to the magazine writers and professional press left with the task of giving out awards and rankings - they have their work cut out for them.

Room treatments are starting to get more widespread, and this is a good thing, as the vendors figure out how to get the most bang for their buck in being able to make in these venues an environment where they can really show what they've got.  I can also, having heard a few rooms that directly and specifically went the other direction, see where a vendor can stand out with a system that could be placed in an average home's "listening room" - a basic shared everyday living space - and still get great sound.  The trick here, I think, is being honest with what you have to work with and putting together a system to display that really fits the room, instead of just building out your "big rig" and blindly trying to proclaim that it is universally great no matter what the conditions.  Take note, other vendors planning their rooms for Denver - a lot of people here got it right on both ends of the spectrum both in spite of and in consideration of the limitations of "a room at a show".  It really is as simple as being honest and doing what it takes.

I have one nit to pick in regards to source material and components for vendors, and I know this might be just for me because I'm not at all the average audiophile demographic.  Just as only having a vinyl rig is off putting to folks who listen to digital sources, having just a digital source is equally restrictive in sampling your rooms.  I know that I couldn't say as much for rooms that were "analog only" as I could for rooms that I could sample with my music, and I also know from reading here on AC that there are audiophiles that feel left out in rooms that have made the technology jump and gone "digital only" with local storage streaming devices (purpose built boxes, computers, etc.). 

I can't offer what the best answer to this dilemma is, but I know from this show that it is a problem that can be solved.  There were two rooms in particular at this show that really got it right.  They were able to, quickly on the fly and with complete confidence, take any source - vinyl, CD, digital files of almost any format stored on a USB drive, or whatever source material the room host personally brought along - and get it playing music at the highest level their system could provide. 

To do this requires some learning, probably some cooperation with other manufacturers to find products that synergistically mesh with the rest of your gear, and practice enough outside of the confines of the first day of the show when you're scrambling to get the room sounding right at 04:00 before opening to be effortlessly good at it.  I am confident though in saying that this little extra effort I believe can pay off big, specifically when addressing serious potential customers.  For me personally, walking into a vinyl only room with nothing on a record that I would know well is just as disappointing as scrolling through a locked down streamer full of music, but with nothing uploaded to it that I would know well.  Different technology, same end result problem.  This adaptability, in what is a direct marketing venue if we're all being honest, I think will become even more key as this and online sales all but completely eclipse the prior distribution models.



In my personal pursuit of audio nirvana, I learned some things about my specific tastes, priorities, and preferences in how a system does what it does for me, which I think more than many things is a great advantage to the format of the audio show for a customer/consumer. 

Sorry, but I'm still not a fan of small format ribbon tweeters although I have started to warm up to big OB ones. 

I'm still wary of tubes but have just about resolved that I am going to have to sneak at least one somewhere in the "last system I will ever own", so to speak. 

Because the base line of quality in the rooms was as it was, it was a good demonstration to those who are/were on the fence regarding power conditioning and cabling - it was one of the key things that put the few systems to have it right a step above a crowded field of quality rooms. 

Lastly, for me, was horns.  Yep, horns.  I am one of the people who early on had my face melted off by mid-market Klipsch products in the 90's, which had guided my generally negative opinion of horns since.  A few trips around the country to shows hadn't really changed that.  At this show, two very different rooms proved me wrong, and both (interestingly enough both also after show hours) left me impressed.  I'm now educated to skeptical but with an open mind.  Thanks, Capital Audiofest, for that.



If this is the wrap of my report, I have to come clean with my two personal disappointments, both completely my own fault.  One was not getting a thorough demo of the smaller Daedalus room; I tried to do the show in blocks of space, and just got crushed for time.  I tried to catch it after hours on Saturday and early Sunday, but just couldn't make it happen, and I really wanted to hear the Athenas.  Second, this will be twice now that I have not got to meet AC member, arthurs.  I have admired his journey through this hobby for years online, and a lot of his thoughts on his tastes and preferences in regards to audio seem to follow my own, and I just really wanted to finally shake hands when I heard he was making it to the show.  To Lou, I'm sorry I couldn't get this done, and I will be looking for the next opportunity to do so.  To arthurs, I hope to be able to catch you for a minute at one of these things one of these years; thanks for sharing your own journey and your insights in this hobby, I hold your opinions in strong regard.  My best to both of you!



Thanks to anyone who has read this far, and enjoyed the show report.  I found out unfortunately I can't make Denver again this year due to a prior commitment, but I hope to see folks and do this again soon!
« Last Edit: 7 Sep 2015, 03:39 pm by Jonathon Janusz »

Tomy2Tone

Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #32 on: 3 Sep 2015, 02:13 am »
Dude, nice work!

If you can give out 1st,2nd,3rd place ribbons that would be fun. Obviously just your humble opinion of course... :D

SlushPuppy

Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #33 on: 3 Sep 2015, 02:26 am »
Great show report Jonathon!

Scottdazzle

Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #34 on: 3 Sep 2015, 02:35 am »
Jonathon, thank you for the fine review and photos of the ModWright, Daedalus, Viva Hifi, WyWires, And VPI system.  I totally agree that the ModWright tube amp and updated Daedalus speakers are extraordinary accomplishments.  The new WYWires Diamond cables deserve some of the credit, too, but it's hard for cables to get noticed in the context of a system presentation in an audio show.

I think I know who you are from the photos.  I wish we had had a chance to meet and chat personally.

Phil A

Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #35 on: 3 Sep 2015, 03:07 am »
Thanks for sharing all the reviews and great photos

GT Audio Works

Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #36 on: 3 Sep 2015, 12:41 pm »
Jonathon,
Thanks for stopping by.
I appreciate the obvious effort you put into the evaluation of the rooms you visited.

Greg

Triode Pete

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Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #37 on: 4 Sep 2015, 05:19 pm »
:thumb:  GREAT SOUND   :thumb:

Border Patrol, Triode Wire Labs, The Living Voice

Very smooth sound coming from this room.  The only room with a blacker background is the LIO room, but this is very close (thanks, P.I. Audio Uberbuss!).  One of the most emotionally engaging rooms for me, the flow of the music just draws you in.  Soundstage isn't overly broad or deep, but image placement is good with a very wide sweet spot. Feels like I'm looking down on and into the music.  Just the right heft to large orchestral drums with very litte overhang.  I am repeating myself, but this show has a lot of very well thought out, appropriately scaled rooms.  I am a big fan of what Pete's cables do in this system in particular compared to the others at the show - sweetness in the treble with a touch of warmth, detail without going too over the top just for the sake of sounding 'fast'.  Ease and tone are two words to describe this room.

On my demo cd, this is the most spot-on I've heard the drum track; this is a very 'live' sound for sure.  Guitar excellent at the heart of it, and the system is picking out inner details other systems missed - harmonics are coming through amazingly off the dark background.  Violins and vocals very good, the vocals are smoothing out just enough to not lose the details and bring this hot-mixed track in line.  Low and high level details again shine, even in the heavy metal, the backing distortion effect in the low level intro is perfectly clear.  Not the end all in soundstage size or depth, and not the last word in dynamics, but what you get - and that is a lot - shows a relentless refinement to get it 'right'.















Jonathan,
Thank you so much for your insightful & honest impressions on the various TWL rooms you visited.

By any chance, did you stop by Dave Slagle's Room (I believe it was Room 419)? I had some special power cables as well as my new phono interconnects in there. (Dave S said the background was "dead quiet" comapred to the other cables he had in there...)

Cheers,
Pete

Woodsea

Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #38 on: 6 Sep 2015, 08:52 pm »
Thanks for all the great writings and photos, Jonathon.  I missed the event the last time we lived in Rockville do to vacations.  Maybe next year I can thank you in person.  As well as see and experience the wonderful hifi, and meet more AC members.

Jonathon Janusz

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Re: Capital Audiofest 2015 Show Report
« Reply #39 on: 7 Sep 2015, 03:49 pm »
Jonathan,
Thank you so much for your insightful & honest impressions on the various TWL rooms you visited.

By any chance, did you stop by Dave Slagle's Room (I believe it was Room 419)? I had some special power cables as well as my new phono interconnects in there. (Dave S said the background was "dead quiet" comapred to the other cables he had in there...)

Cheers,
Pete

Negative, brother.  I double checked my worksheets and that room didn't get reported.  It was one of three on the fourth floor that I missed.  I would like to think that it was because the room was packed enough on Saturday that I couldn't get in to do a demo. :D  Covering all of where you were at for this show was a challenge, for sure.  I have to give you credit for being able to give so many vendors quality face time promoting your products at a show.  You pack yourself a busy day, for sure!