Capital AudioFest 2021

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Ken Micallef  |  Nov 09, 2021  |  4 comments

Capital Audiofest 2021 was a fantastic show. Everyone I spoke to—vendors, visitors, the helpful Hilton staff—was jazzed to be there. Everyone was in good spirits. While I didn’t see as many attendees in total as at the 2019 CAF show pre-Covid, every room I visited was full, and in many midday cases, standing-room-only.

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 09, 2021  |  11 comments

Next door to the VPI room showing Harry Weisfeld’s rock ‘em, sock ‘em JBL Everest horns, another system with a VPI source was complemented by a colossal pair of Arion Audio line-array towers and subwoofer columns. The speakers were brought to Rockville by Charlotte, North Carolina’s Arion Audio and Arion's designer/owner Mike Kalellis.

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 09, 2021  |  3 comments

Tenacious Sound had several systems at the show, including those in Room 325 and the Montrose ballroom. Sunday morning, I stumbled into the smaller room, where good sounds were being made by an Audio Hungary X200 integrated tube amplifier ($6499) powering Canton Reference 7K loudspeakers ($6995/pair). A Microsoft Surface Pro laptop streamed Qobuz to a Weiss DAC. Cables were from Audience.

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 08, 2021  |  1 comments

When a show room plays great music, the job of listening is easy. That’s true for civilians and press alike.

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 08, 2021  |  3 comments

Show attendees can be gruff, show exhibitors grouchy. Add a pandemic and things can get touchy. But if there’s one man you want to see at an audio show, it’s the ever-chilled Jeff Joseph, who gets my nomination for the calmest, best natured manufacturer in high-end audio.

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 08, 2021  |  3 comments

I couldn’t decide what was more impressive, the larger-than-life personality of Bending Wave USA distributor Eliot Goldman or the massive products shown in his WADAX/Goebel room. Either way, I was grateful for the room’s bright light, which gave everything a fresh-scrubbed sheen and made it much easier than most rooms to photograph.

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 08, 2021  |  2 comments

I've used the LKV Research PWR+ Amplifier as part of my reference rig for some time, so it was great to meet LKV’s Bill Hutchins in the flesh at CAF. Connecting with the designer behind a component is always a treat and helps humanize the process of technology-mediated listening.

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 08, 2021  |  1 comments

When I walked into the large Twinbrook room, which was hosted by dealer United Home Audio and distributor Hi End by Oz, its Bulgarian-made Thrax Audio system, complete with reel-to-reel tape deck, was playing Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” Once I calmed down and got a grip, I found Oz Curran’s Hi End by Oz room to be quite a delight.

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 07, 2021  |  13 comments

To quote his bio created for CAF, “Master furniture maker John Semrad hand-builds each horn loudspeaker with a solid basswood core, poplar cross-ply, and American walnut face veneer. The process takes more 240 hours, and each completed horn weighs 240 pounds. With a Jean Michel Le Cleac'h profile for the horn flare and [full-range] resolution from Oleg Rullit’s Super Aero 8" field coil drivers, these units are offered at $36,000 per pair, including field coil supply.” Those drivers are said to be made of Korean Hanji paper.

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 07, 2021  |  5 comments

I walked into the large Jefferson room, where VPI President Mat Weisfeld was doing something to a turntable while speaking, microphone in hand. He placed Ed Graham’s Hot Stix on the VPI 40th Anniversary HW-40 turntable ($20,000). Insane dynamics ensued, as did a stadium sized soundstage.

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 07, 2021  |  0 comments

Campbell, California’s Jeff Wells released his Wells Audio Cipher Level II Tube DAC early last year, but the product debut was sidelined by the pandemic. Jeff chose the Capital Audiofest to premiere the Cipher ($13,000) alongside his Wells Audio Innamorata Level II stereo amplifiers ($15,000 each; two were in the system), Wells Audio Commander Level III Preamplifier ($18,000), Wells Audio Looking Glass II power conditioner ($2500), and Wells Audio Headtrip Headphone Amplifier ($7500).

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 06, 2021  |  4 comments

I walked into the unassuming Fern & Roby Audio/Modwright Instruments room and spied, sitting in a chair with camera in hand, Twittering Machines’ editor/CEO, Michael Lavorgna. Michael and I go back to the days of Quartz glass, Coke in bottles, and, from whence we both came. Michael smiled and directed me toward the Fern & Roby beer coasters, beige cork jobs each with an illustrated tube (and noted tube type).

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 06, 2021  |  8 comments

Treehaus Audiolab's Richard Pinto likes field coil speakers, tube-rectified power supplies, and 300B power tubes. All are present in products enjoying their debut at Capital Audiofest 2021.

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 06, 2021  |  8 comments

When I walked into the Volti Audio/Border Patrol Audio/Triode Wire Labs’ room, Volti’s head honcho Greg Roberts said, “Ken, remove that mask.” I did as the man asked, as all present were vaccinated, and accepted a happy hour drink from Triode Wire Labs’ Pete Grzybowski. I saw Border Patrol’s Gary Dewes smile, and knew I was with friends.

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 06, 2021  |  7 comments

GT Audioworks presented their Reference 3 Planar Ribbon Speakers ($49,000/pair), which debuted in January 2021.