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Capital Audiofest 2018 Wrap Up

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  • Capital Audiofest 2018 Wrap Up

    Final Capital Audiofest Show 2018 Thoughts

    Any show where I don’t have to deal with crowded airports, long security lines and cramped airplanes sound good to me. Airlines can’t make flying a miserable experience if they tried. On the other hand, Capital Audiofest (CAF) is a short three hour Amtrak ride from New York Penn Station to Union Station/DC followed by a short trip on the DC Metro to the Twinbrook stop. Directly across the street from the Twinbrook station lies the The Hilton Hotel home to the Capital Audiofest 2018 high-end audio show.

    CAF is very unlike other US high-end audio shows. This show is much more laid back allowing for far more interaction between exhibitors and attendees. This year’s CAF numbered 67 rooms jammed to the gills with high-end audio equipment and a marketplace with tables packed with records, CDs, accessories, record racks and turntables. Attendance seemed slightly up this year but that’s clearly one area where organizers are aware they need to step up their game. Interestingly there were more couples, parent with kids, etc. enjoying CAF 2018 than I’ve seen at other audio shows. East Coast audiophiles should definitely put

    Best Show Sounds

    The Voice That Is: Tidal electronics/speaker/TW-Acustic turntable/Skogrand cabling

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    Doug White’s ‘The Voice That Is’ room always has great show sound and this year was no exception to the rule. This year Bob Clarke of Profundo Audio and distributor of several high-end audio lines including Transfiguration cartridges and Heed electronics assisted Doug in setting the room up. The Tidal Audio system starring the new Vimberg speaker line was really full range combining excellent resolution and transparency. With an extra helping or two of being easy of the ears to listen to. That diamond tweeter is something special.

    VPI 40th Anniversary turntable/Krell electronics/Wilson Audio speakers/Nordost cabling

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    Harry and Mat Weisfeld couldn’t get the KEF Muons (the pair they had used were sold and KEF only makes a couple of pairs a year) so they had to “settle” for using Wilson Audio Alexx speakers. VPI celebrated 40th years in the high-end audio business with the first public demonstration of their newest direct -drive turntable. The system really began to sing on Saturday with the installation of a second Krell 300 Duo XD amplifier into the system (and a few other tweaks). The soundstage opened open and instruments and performers within that space became much more focused and solid. Most of all the new table’s transparency, quietness and timing ability really came to the fore.

    Command Performance AV: Doshi Audio electronics/Devore Fidelity Super Nine speakers/J. Sikora turntable/Transparent Audio cabling

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    John Devore and Nick Doshi are two other designers who usually obtain good to great sound at audio shows. Devore and Doshi were paired up for the first time at CAF was thanks to Command Performance AV. This was also just the second time Doshi showed his newest, two gain stage tube amplifier. In addition, the nassive J. Sikora turntable from Poland made its first appearance at a US Audio show. The system’s sound was very clean and transparent and easily showed the vast differences between either the 15-ips tapes or LPs that were played. Also the new J. Sikora table, for example, with its great soundstage and solid character acquitted itself well against tape.

    20/20 Evolution Systems: Gryphon Audio electronics and Pantheon speakers/Sonorus Reel-to-Reel tape machine

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    Virginia dealer 20/20 Evolution Systems changed gears this year and showed for the first time a complete Gryphon system. The planned Air Force 1 table, unfortunately, didn’t show up so Gryphon distributor Philip O’Hanlon was “forced” to settle for spooling up tape (well there was a DAC but it say limited—actually make that no—action when I was in the room). This was best showing by far of a Gryphon system. Very little of that dry and grey character prevalent at other high-end audio shows. Supplanting that dryness was a very liquid, warm and rich sound. Harmonic density on the tapes was lip smackingly good. It was tough to choose a winner from the trio of tapes brought down (Mabuchi Trio/Yarlung; Nat Adderley: Work Song/The Tape Project; Muddy Waters: Folk Singer/Acoustic Systems); Folk Singer and the playing of Waters and Guy on the B-reel side was, however, the hands down choice of those in the room.

    GT Audioworks GTA3r ribbon planar speakers/PASS electronics/Semper Sonus turntable/Triode Wire Labs cabling
    A big step up from last year’s sound. Improvements all around including but not limited to just the speakers, front-end source and electronics. The system had a huge but not overblown soundstage in this large room. What really defined the sound of this system was its midrange, transparency and detail (without straying into that hyperdetailed region). There’s no question that this system is capable of even better sound with, for instance, a bit better cartridge. Maybe even a touch better integration in the low end in a better room.

    Daedulus Audio Apollo speakers/Wells Audio electronics/Lampizator Atlantic DAC/Wywires cabling
    Who says one can’t combine a tube preamplifier and a solid-state amplifier and get the both of both worlds? In fact, I would have liked very much to hear the Wells Audio Innamorata Signature amplifier and their new Commander Level II preamplifier in the second Daedulus room featuring the Zeus speakers. The Wells Audio amplifiers really gripped the Daedulus speakers and the system was detailed yet faithful to the music. Come to think of it this might have been some of the best sound achieved with Lampizator DAC (Atlantic R2R ladder DAC supporting up to DSD256) based front-end audio systrem.

    Show highlight

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    Hands down the all day Saturday record fair. A superb addition to CAF and a great idea to introduce record collectors to the high-end audio industry! There were many good records for reasonable prices. There were many for absurd prices. But of one thing there was no doubt. There were a ton of records to sort through and one could have spent an hour or two or three thumbing through all the record bins. (I walked away with six albums including some Steeplechase jazz, Harmonia Mundi budget line and one Decca), Who has the patience to go through all these crates any more?

    Musical Find
    Jonathan Derda of Music Direct played one track from Mobile Fidelity’s reissue One From the Heart and I was sold. In fact, I liked it so much that I went downstairs to the marketplace and bought a copy before returning home to New York. Nor was I disappointed.

    Honorable Mention:
    Bill Evans: Sunday at the Village Vanguard, Electric Recording Company (already sold out)

    Budget gear
    $1200 Hana ML moving coil cartridge.
    $2800 ProAC Tablette Anniversary speakers. These mini-mites speakers apparently are discontinued but worth a search on the used market. Bass way beyond their diminutive size. Nor do they seem to have that edge endemic to the original models some 25 years ago.

    New Product Debuts
    VPI 40th Anniversary direct-drive turntable
    Destination Audio Nika horn speakers

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    Soundsmith Hyperion Mk. II cartridge

    Product would like most take home (and it fits in my bag): Soundsmith Hyperion Mk. 2 cartridge

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    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor,

    -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
    -Goldmund Telos 440 and 1000 Nextgen mono amps
    -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
    -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
    -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
    -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
    -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, vdh Colibri Master Signature, Mutech Hayabusa,
    -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
    -Assorted cables including Skogrand, Kubala-Sosna, Audience FrontRow; Audience FrontRow, Genesis Advanced Technologies , Goldmund and Ensemble Power Cords
    -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.3+ platforms.

  • #2
    Thanks for the update Myles.