2014 Capital Audio Fest: Day Two

Hold an audio show in a hotel? VPI's Mat Weisfeld was snapped taking full advantage of the amenities and listening to music courtesy of VPI's new Nomad record player!

At the end of a long day of standing in halls and sneaking into converted bedrooms with little rows of chairs I find myself wondering—are 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 much—for 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 level—and 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).

jmsent's picture

many years ago, and they were always a work in progress for me. The midrange had a magical quality to it, but they were otherwise so problematic and quirky that I ultimately moved on to a pair of Spendor BC1's just out of sheer frustration. I don't believe that Quads were even designed with stereo in mind, and the ability to get any kind of soundstage was tricky, requiring precise placement and "head in a vice" listening position. And I guess I must be one of those "fools who thinks Quads don't make bass or play loud music" Or perhaps we just have a different definition of what constitutes real bass and what "loud" actually means. They were certainly far more limited in these respects than most any dynamic speaker (including my wimpy Spendors), not the best choice for banging out Led Zeppelin, and the bottom octave is simply not there. What they do, they do very well, as long as you don't attempt to run them beyond their limits, which can damage them. Attempts at improving them consisted of things like adding subs and doubling up the panels for more output, which was a clear indication that people loved what they heard but wanted more. In any event, while they deserve special merit for being as good as they were way back when, I personally think we've moved on, and there are much better contemporary choices available.

hondo's picture

If Mat Weisfeld is supposed to be playing the Nomad, having ones legs in water and touching an AC devise can lead to electrocution. You may want to delete this pic.

hondo's picture

If Mat Weisfeld is supposed to be playing the Nomad, having ones legs in water and touching an AC device can lead to electrocution. You may want to delete this pic

Mat Weisfeld's picture

We weren't "supposed to be playing the Nomad" we WERE playing the Nomad. You cannot see it from the picture but this table was attached to a pair of active speakers. This picture was suppose to capture the idea of having fun with your vinyl. Initially we just wanted to listen to some Charlie Bird while in the pool. In fact we took this Nomad with us for breakfast (RHCP) , lunch (Sinatra at the Sands), and dinner (Peter, Paul, and Marry). Also I'm not, nor would I ever, touch an AC device while in the water. Pictures like this should be embraced to help engage a different audience because that is the only way to grow this industry. A lot of companies are doing great things to add excitement to the audio word and we are trying to do our part as well.

TheBas2K's picture

Hi Matt

Which actives speakers were you using or recommend to use with the Nomad?


Mat Weisfeld's picture

We were using cheap powered computer speakers but it did the trick for some poolside listening. On the budget side we have really liked the...

KEF LS50 ( http://www.stereophile.com/content/kef-ls50-anniversary-model-loudspeaker )

and the...

Vanatoo Audio speakers ( http://www.stereophile.com/content/2014-capital-audio-fest-day-two-evening )

Glotz's picture

It's a great picture period... I think he has enough sense not to electrocute himself. They should delete your hater post instead.

g3dahl's picture

He is at risk of being subjected to 0.2 mV. The horror!

corrective_unconscious's picture

Whether .2 mV or not it's still a princely lawsuit against Sheraton....

Last year I claimed a slip and fall in the mbl room due to the liquid midrange and bought Magicos with my settlement.

Pro-Audio-Tech's picture

Had quads back in the day, loved them but the Mrs. didn't so away they went. Would not mind having them back.
Nice sound in the room, however I can hear a lack of bass always did. Not a deal breaker I guess.

hkt_7's picture

Does anybody know Nagaoka phono stylus and its users??