Capital Audiofest, Day Two, Part Two

It's my favorite part of every hi-fi show: the one big room, usually on one of the lower floors, where smaller companies exhibit such things as phono accessories, hi-fi furniture, publications, and, best of all, records. At Capital Audiofest, the Magnolia Ballroom on the Sheraton Hotel's fourth floor was home to all that, including a larger and altogether more impressive selection of used and collectable vinyl than I've seen at any other show in recent memory.

New LPs were available at the booth of specialty label Cuneiform Records, who announced the imminent release of a live recording made in the late 1960s by the great Robert Wyatt and friends: lost in their vaults until now, as they say. And used-vinyl sales were brisk at the booth of Cash for Music Records (above), whose inventory I did my level best to lighten.

One swallow doth not a summer make, but the appearance of a second ultrasonic-bath record-cleaning machine might constitute a trend. Dave Ratliff and his plainly named UltraSonic Records company demonstrated the model V-8 ($1498), in which up to eight LPs at a time can be fastened to a slowly turning spindle for a good, brushless scrubbing, cavitation-style. The V-8 doesn't dry records, but Ratliff supplies a nice looking multi-disc drying rack for that purpose.

Bob Sattin of Bob's Devices drove up from North Carolina to demonstrate and display his new Sky 30 CineMag step-up transformer ($1250), a review sample of which he also put into my hands during the show. Bob's transformers have long impressed me with their musical sound and very high value, so I'm looking forward to trying out this one at home.

Open-baffle loudspeaker enclosures have tended to be dull-looking things; thanks to woodworker Richard Grenier and his company Fernwood Designs, fans of full-range drivers can now branch out a little. Richard also makes very nice equipment racks.

I was impressed with the apparently high value offered by the SVS Ultra Tower loudspeaker ($1998/pair), which offered notably taut bass and sounded clean and non-fatiguing overall, if just a bit mechanical when driven by Mark Levinson electronics.

On the other hand, as readers will see when our September issue reaches them, I'm impressed with virtually every aspect of the Volti Vittora all-horn-loaded loudspeaker ($17,500/pair), which sounded unsurprisingly fine at Capital Audiofest, driven with an 18Wpc Border Patrol S20 single-ended amplifier ($13,750). Volti also demonstrated their recent Alura three-way loudspeaker ($13,900/pair), which uses bass reflex rather than horn-loading for its low-frequency driver.

After a nice little break of ten years or so, I recently began to think I'd like to hear Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon again. Perhaps sensing this, Greg Beron of United Home Audio used selections from that classic album to show off a remarkable system built around MBL 116F loudspeakers ($32,000/pair), sourced with a pair of UHA's famous Phase 11 open-reel decks ($17,000). Everyone in the audience expressed unambiguous delight, myself included. Extra points for lighting.

Bill B's picture

Thanks.  Interesting also how one can hear different things.  I also was impressed by the SVS ultra towers, I meant to go back and hear more.  Regarding the ProAc TablettesProAc Tablette Anniversary loudspeakers "...whose superb color, textural richness, scale, and sheer authority were all far greater than their tiny size suggested", I didn't get that.  They sounded good and I spent considerable time listening there, but "scale and sheer authority" were lacking for me, they sounded like small speakers and I was wishing for the sound of larger ones.