Capital Audiofest 2019 Awards & Show Report

Reviewers View, The Capital Audiofest 2019

Acora Acoustics:
Playing a track from Bruce Springsteen’s “Western Stars” album in the Acora Acoustics room gave us a deep, three-dimensional sound. The palpable grittiness and growl of Bruce’s voice was encapsulating as the solid granite Acora SRC1 loudspeakers pressurized the room. The bass was effortlessly natural with a deep soundstage. Bruce’s voice was articulate without sacrificing any of the warmth. Associated equipment were the Esoteric and Audio Research electronics.

Backert Labs, Soundstage Audio:
Andy Tebbe of Backert Labs waxes so enthusiastically when describing products in his exhibit room, I couldn’t wait to take a listen. Well, listen we did to David Bowie’s LP track, “Lazarus” and the sound was realistic and full of information in a non-fatiguing way. Truly, one of the very best sounding rooms at The Capital Audiofest 2020. Andy also talks in the AVshowrooms’ video about his room’s improvement thanks to Rick Shultz’s High Fidelity Cables’ loom and power strip. Andy also describes in the video his very own Backert Labs’ preamplifier with Teflon capacitors in the power supply and more. The speakers were from Rosso Fiorentino, the turntable was Acoustic Signature and the power amplifier, also from High Fidelity Cables, was the M1. Platforms and stands from Soundstage Audio.

Black Ice Audio by Jolida:
One of the biggest surprises at Capital Audiofest 2019 was the Black Ice headphone amplifier incorporating Jim Fosgate’s technology. You could adjust everything from the surround sound to the EQ; the bass and sub-bass. Peter B. listened to a track from Kraftwerk, and by his expression alone, I could tell he was extremely impressed. He said that he was getting concert level sound that he had never experienced before with a pair of headphones.

ESD Acoustics with United Home Audio:
David Dai of ESD Acoustics and Greg Beron of United Home Audio give a detailed walk-through touching on each component in the room. The ESD “Crane” carbon fiber, horn loudspeakers were driven by Aesthetix electronics and the front end was the United Home Audio Ultima 4 tape deck with the outboard power supply. We played a beautiful recording by Ed Pong featuring violin and piano and the sound was natural, effortless, detailed and, most importantly, emotionally involving. As good as it gets. The cables were Synergistic Research and Greg explains in the AVShowrooms’ video why he favors SR.

GT Audioworks/Sound Insight:
GT Audioworks continues to get some of the best sound, year after year. This year at Capital Audiofest 2019, we opted to spin the Dead Can Dance lp Spiritchaser; specifically, the track “Song of the Stars” on the Basis Audio turntable with the Basis Audio tonearm. The lateral imaging was off the charts, the sound was detailed with impact, dynamics and low-end slam. Of course, the Pass lab monoblocks driving the speakers had a lot to do with the overall presentation. Included in the room was the Mosart Cabinet, Esoteric and the Innuous server. All wiring was by Triode Wire Labs.

GTT Audio:
The Audionet Humboldt Integrated amplifier made its world premiere in Bill Parish’s GTT Audio room at the Capital Audiofest 2019. We played the track “Song of the Stars” from the LP, “Spiritchaser” with the YG Acoustics’ Carmel 2 loudspeakers delivering, in my experience of this much played track, an unprecedented amount of information with lots of spatiality, spot-on phase delivery and an enormous soundstage. Of course, every component in the room makes for an exceptional sounding room. The turntable was the Kronos Sparta with the new power supply, the DAC was the Mola Mola Tambaqui and all cables were Kubala-Sosna.

Odyssey Audio:
Klaus Bunge, proprietor, continues to impress with his affordable audio. However, this year at Capital Audiofest 2019, he has raised the bar to equal and exceed the sound of rooms with equipment costing 10 to 20 times more. We played “Song of the Stars” on the VPI turntable and the system delivered a layered bass, huge soundstage and brilliant image density. Cabling by Magnan Cables.

Robyatt Audio:
What’s old is new again. The restored Quad 57 loudspeakers driven by Butler amplifiers gave us music without any artifacts. Anne Bisson/Vincent Belanger’s “Fly Away” from the album “Conversations” never sounded this good to me and its an album I play over and over. Anne’s voice was in the middle of the room and the entire sound wrapped itself around me as if an embrace. Perfect transient response and outstanding dynamic range, Robyatt Audio was my takeaway room at the show.

Spatial Audio, Linear Tube Audio and Lampizator.
Clayton Shaw of Spatial Audio debuts the M3 Sapphire loudspeaker and talks in detail about his new product in the AVShowrooms’ video. Also, Fred Ainsley, describes the new Lampizator Amber 3 DAC that includes technology from its pricier siblings. Mark Schneider, founder of Linear Tube Audio, impresses us with the Integrated Z10 amplifier that includes a David Berning-designed preamplifier. This entire system is just under $10,000 and punches way beyond that price point and I mean way beyond. This is one of the best systems I’ve heard at a show this year. We played a track from Musica Nuda and the bass was perfectly natural and perfectly integrated with the rest of the frequency response. Lightning-fast transient response delivered a natural and emotionally engaging sound. Audience Audio supplied the power conditioner and cabling was by Anticable. Innuos was the server.

The Audio Company, VAC/VonSchweikert:
The Capital Audiofest might be just another show without the spectacle The Audio Company brings to the festival. This year, Kevin Hayes of Valve Amplification Company (VAC) debuts his Statement 452 Musicbloc amplifiers continuing on with his vertical format design. Kevin explains in detail, in the AVShowrooms’ video, his design and design philosophy. It was apparent to this listener that the overall sound in the room was elevated by a giant leap the first time I stepped into the room because of the amplification.

Another bonus in the video is Leif Swanson and Damon Von Schweikert of Von Schweikert Audio describing every aspect of the design of the Ultra 11 loudspeakers. The racks and platforms are by Critical Mass, the turntable was the Kronos Pro with the SCPS, the electronics, including a newly redeveloped transport, Esoteric and the cables were Masterbuilt. We played a live track from Michel Jonasz on Sunday and the soundstage filled the room. As always, The Audio Company delivered a holographic, realistic, detailed presentation as if we were at the concert.

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