Capital AudioFest 2014: The Evening Before
Willow Room: I always wanted to meet John Wolff proprietor of Classic Audio in Brighton, Michigan and when I finally did I could hardly tear myself away. He is the archetype small manufacturer that started out as a hobbyist with a hobby "that went astray!" He formed Classic Audio Reproduction in 1988 to recreate the legendary JBL Hartsfield loudspeaker, which was introduced by James B. Lansing in 1954. What I auditioned were the latest versions of his T-3.4 ($44,990/pair, above) which sport two 15" woofers with 20Hz low-frequency capability plus a 4" beryllium diaphragm made by Truextent loaded into a 2"-throat, field-coilenergized compression driver.
The tweeter was by Fostex and it too featured a beryllium dome and a field-coil magnet. The T-3.4s were powered by Atma-Sphere Nova Crons to make some of the most naturally timbred realistically scalled music I have heard in a while. Horns usually draw attention to their crossover points but here the richest midrange bled oh-so-smoothly into the upper bass and lower treble. You can't play with the high-end big boys (or charge $44,990/pair for a loudspeaker) if your treble doesn't wreak beauty and behave with ease under stressthese Fostex horns played like the best silk-domes. The bass from these loudspeakers felt like it could stir dust up from the carpet.
Hickory Room: They were still tweaking the system in the Merrill Audio room, but the bass reproduced by the beautiful Sadurni Acoustic Horn Speakers ($40,000/pair) with their Added Backwave System in the Merrill Audio room felt like it pressurized the entire volume of their large room. Using a beautiful modified Tascam open-reel machine playing master tape copies via Merrill Veritas Pre and monoblock amplifiers, the sound they were generating was natural and easy-flowing with detail that simply existed and drew no untoward attention to itself.
Walnut Room: Here I met Doug White (above), proprietor of The Voice That Is audio salon in Newtown Square, PA. The musical presentation in Mr. White's room was no less than a revelation to my ears. I simply have never experienced this outrageous level of audio transparency. I seldom give much of my music listening energy to imaging and soundstage, but the scale and continuity of the space projected by the Tidal Audio Agoria loudspeakers ($105,000/pair, below) was among the best I have ever experienced. The beautifully crafted Agorias were powered by the equally beautiful electronics. We listened to a variety of superb Chesky recordings via Aurender Reference music server ($16,880), Bricasti Design M1 DAC ($8995), Tidal Audio Impulse amplifier ($32,290) and Purist Audio cables.