2014 Capital Audio Fest: Day Two
At the end of a long day of standing in halls and sneaking into converted bedrooms with little rows of chairs I find myself wonderingare there any other trade shows or hobby fairs that take place in the sleeping-rooms part of hotels? Certainly there are no others where so many are hoping so muchfor a seat in the middle! This was a very intense Saturday at the Capital AudioFest. Today, the middle seats were all filled and the chair rows were mostly occupied. Many rooms were standing room only. Bravo Gary Gill!
Rooms 515 & 517: Robin Wyatt of Robyatt Audio is one of those madly driven, high-intensity, music-lover gearheads who scours the Earth and ransacks the past in search of new audio magic. He is also a person who understands that many of us (myself included) have never heard a bad system playing vintage Quad 57 electrostatic loudspeakers. Robin also knows that only fools think old Quads don't make great bass or won't play loud music.
What the Robyatt Audio rooms clearly demonstrate is that these beautiful old "fire screens" are still evolving and improving. Inspired engineers like Kent McCollum of Electrostatic Solutions in Kansas City, MO are demonstrating that we have not yet reached the limits of slam, detail or transparency from those ol' 57s. Kent offers a full menu of restorations and upgrades including thinner diaphragms and dust covers as well as upgraded HT supplies. Robin Wyatt used fully ES-upgraded original Quad 57s in both his rooms.
In one room he drove elegant all-black Quads with the latest edition of Denis Morecroft's uniquely styled plexiglass-bodied DNM 3D Six preamplifier ($14,500) and 3As power amplifier ($7750). When Robin played a 12", 45 rpm single of Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean," he danced and gestured and waved his arms until we were all very clear and on the same page: this system can rock and dazzle with the best. This combination of gear delivered detail and transparency at a very high leveland it wasn't just the Quads fault. Going back to at least 1978, British engineer Denis Morcroft has devoted his energies towards discovering myriad original ways (star grounding, non-magnetic chassis, split-foil capacitors, etc.) to make a simple transistor amplifier play better than his competitors.
The second Robyatt Audio room featured all-white, very contemporary-looking Quads driven by the Miyajima Labs Wo1 preamp ($18,500) and the same Miyajima Labs OTL 2010 monoblock amps ($18,500/pair) reviewed by Art Dudley in the July issue of Stereophile. On this system Robin played a Stax 45rpm reissue of my beloved Staples Singers "I Will Take You There." This system demonstrated the same high levels of swing and sway as the other but it seemed to unearth a lot more color and tone. The systems employed either a VPI Classic turntable or a Zontek turntable and arms, and scraped the grooves with either the Miyajima Zero Mono (S1995) or the stereo Shilabe ($2995) cartridges. Bravo Mr. Wyatt!
Room 506: In the Gingko Audio room the music and sound matched the persons presenting it: Gracious, gentle, and respectful of my ears and mind. They played Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No.2 and Alison Krauss at the exact right volumes. Gingko Audio is famous for their vibration control products but today they were all about good sounds and calming the "vibrations" of this reviewer. The LampizatOr DAC ($6250), Wells Audio "Inamorata" amplifier ($6500), and Gingko Audio loudspeakers did their jobs with modest authority. The DanaCable speaker cables were notable in that they were eight strands each of woven #4AWG copper. At $6500/pair I could have bought them and sold them as scrap metal and made a profit! In fact, my overall impression in this room was that everything seemed under priced for the quality of sound and materials. I can't remember the last time I've had that feeling.
Maple Room: Lou Hinkley's Daedalus Audio room featured a medley of audio salon chestnuts (Eagles Hotel California, Fritz Reiner Scheherazade, etc.) played to good effect via the Daedalus Audio Ulysses v.2 speakers ($15,000/pair), the ModWright Instruments KWA 150 power amplifier ($8995), and LS 36.5 'DM' tube preamp ($9995).