CAF 2014: The Voice That Is reaches for stars with TIDAL Audio, Bricasti and Aurender

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I’m pretty sure it’s a sign of old age when you start referring to your stories by number. Or maybe it’s just superior indexing? Ah, well. Anyway, audio story #1,287 is about Doug White at The Voice That Is. Doug is an audio dealer, and brings in several upscale product lines to serve his Philadelphia-centered clientele, including TIDAL Audio, Bricasti, and several others. My story starts with me calling Doug, asking some impertinent question or other, and Doug refusing to quote me a price, much less sell me something.

Honestly, I can’t even remember what it was I was asking after. But the fact that he refused to do business with me is what really sticks out. A dealer, refusing to make money? Seriously? Seriously. Doug isn’t a slash-and-burn sales guy. He’s a consultant and takes that role seriously: “If I sell this to you, you’re not going to like it and you’re going to blame me and never call me again,” he explained. “I think I can help you get where you want to be, but we are going to have to spend some time figuring out what that is. When we have a goal, we can work on a solution. That’s the value I bring.” I’m paraphrasing, but this was perhaps the first time I’d ever encountered a commercial sales rep actually doing this kind of thing — sacrificing the quick sale for the chance at earning a customer long-term. I was, and still am, very impressed with Doug and his ethical standards and he remains one of the very few audio dealers I can unequivocally recommend doing business with.

Now that I’ve blown all this smoke up in his general direction, we can talk about what he did to all of us at CAF this year. Because it was amazing.

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CAF 2014: High Water Sound cleans my clock with Hørning, TW-Acustic and Tron-Electric

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Jeff Catalano is something of a legend on the audio show circuit, and may well be the only man I know of even more militantly pro-vinyl than Stereophile’s Michael Fremer. In fact, when the two of them get together, there’s a Great Disturbance in the Force and the universe tilts sideways more than a little bit. It’s an odd thing to witness. A whole lot of words get exchanged, but most of it is pretty much incomprehensible. Jedi stuff, I’m pretty sure.

If you don’t know, Jeff happens to be the proprietor of High Water Sound, a NYC-based dealer/importer for a variety of audio products like Hørning, TW-Acustic and Tron-Electric. This has the expected effect of making his demo rooms something a bit off the beaten path. The fact that he has room setup down to a science makes his demos one of the must-see on the show guide. But it’s his insane record collection that pretty much singles him out. He has more LPs than anyone I know, and they’re damn good.

I don’t think I’ve ever led with High Water Sound. Given what he was serving up, this seems like a  particularly good place to start talking about what I found at Capital Audio Fest this year. Continue reading

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CAF 2014: Did BorderPatrol just smuggle a headphone amplifier into town?

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Capital Audiofest is currently underway, and I just snuck off for a quick update here. Yes, there’s going to be way more coming, but in the meantime, a teaser of a teaser.

Brian Hunter and I snuck into Gary Dews’ BorderPatrol setup yesterday morning, first thing. Gary’s a British ex-pat that’s been making crazy-good tube amplifiers for the last 20+ years. I first met Gary at the first CAF 5 years back, when he was showing his amps with Living Voice loudspeakers — that room nearly caused me to go postal, as I’d just spent something like $20k on gear that his gear clearly bettered and I was bitter. Ah well. Anyway, I’ve had some experience with his gear since, but today, he had something new. Something very new.

A BorderPatrol headphone amplifier. Continue reading

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Wiring up Flagship Headphones with Double Helix Cables

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At some point in the recent past, I got a wild hair up my netherwheres about headphone cables and spent a few weeks wringing my hands about the relative impact that stock cables make on the performance of their attached headphones.

Starting a sentence with “Everyone Knows” is usually an invitation for trouble, but Everyone Knows that manufacturers don’t routinely go out of their way to include high-quality cables with their audio components. I know many kilo-buck audio products that ship with crappy power cords, so why would any particular headphone company seriously invest in a high-grade headphone cable? I mean, sure, some do, but assuming that all would as a matter of course would be as foolish as saying that those bulky black stock power cords were all hand selected to particularly match with that $30k amp. They’re just thrown in there for basic connectivity, to meet code or some regulation, but included with the full expectation that the purchaser will be using their own anyway. Seriously, why would headphone cables be different? Continue reading

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Capital Audiofest 2014 Starts Friday

This Friday marks the Fifth Annual sonic block party known as Capital Audiofest.

I’ve been lucky enough to track this show from its inception; in fact, this may be the show that redirected this site and my orientation to audio’s high-end. The First CAF, back in 2010, was at a mansion out in Rockville — I remember my then 3-year-old twins thinking that this whole thing was quite the adventure. Especially after ice cream on the way home. A move out to Gaithersburg landed CAF in a traditional hotel for years two and three, but it wasn’t till last year, at the current “home” in downtown Silver Spring, that we were really cooking with gas.

The new venue at the Sheraton actually landed us near to “other things”, solving the location issue that most audio shows have serious difficulties with. The Sheraton was 3 short blocks from the DC Metro, and less than a mile from dozens of affordable eats — that’s walking distance. With the typical humidity-induced-strangulation of DC weather, I won’t necessarily be one to recommend strolling about DC in late July. But if you’re the adventurous sort, DC is chock full of touristy things to see and do. Continue reading

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Peachtree Audio deepblue2, now live and crushing it at Indiegogo

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Normally, I wouldn’t jump back in so quickly, but if you’re at all curious about the deepblue2 campaign currently underway over at Indiegogo, your time to jump in and snatch up some early-bird pricing is slipping away. We’re less than half an hour into the campaign, and they’re already zeroing in on their funding target.

The target funding level is $63,000 which shouldn’t be a problem. Initial price for the deepblue2 is $250 for the first 250 backers (150 already claimed), then move to $300 for the next 500, before settling in at $350 for the remainder of the offering. MSRP is expected to be $500. Estimated delivery is November 2014. More details are available over at Peachtree Audio.

Me? I ordered two. Can’t wait.

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Review: Genesis Loudspeakers 5.3, Hear Me Roar

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My biggest fear in writing just about anything is that I’m not going to do the subject justice. These are only words, after all, and far too often what I intend to convey and what I actually do convey don’t exactly line up. It’s not entirely my fault. We all use terms slightly different, and group them into seemingly random phrases almost willy-nilly, and the baggage that I want to load onto that linguistic plane doesn’t always make it off the tarmac. That’s part of the joy of being human. Of using language. Of attempting, however ineptly, of putting that language to some kind of medium where others can take it up and try to interpret it. Scan it for cues and meaning.

So, let me be blunt and clear and to the point and all that stuff. These 5.3 floor standing loudspeaker from Genesis are bloody fantastic. I love them. I just wanted to get that out there. Just so we don’t get confused. Okay? Great. Let’s move on. Continue reading

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Analog Bliss part II: the Ikeda Sound Lab 9 TS Moving Coil cartridge review

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By Dr. Panagiotis Karavitis

As recently as a couple of decades ago, just about everyone involved in the audio biz gave the turntable a farewell salute. Sales dropped rapidly and historic names like Micro Seiki, SAEC and Fidelity Research faded away into oblivion as everyone was worshiping a new, “silver” god. The silver god was to reign for just a few years as the followers of vinyl realized that the new deity’s promises for higher fidelity were false. Soon the cult of vinyl came back and came back so strong that acolytes pretended new turntables, tonearms and cartridges of mechanical and acoustical perfection had never been seen before.

A couple of weeks back I wrote a review regarding the excellent Hanss T 30 turntable. While Hanss is a relatively new name in the analog sound, Ikeda carries a pedigree that’s a quarter of a mile long. Mr. Isamu Ikeda founded Fidelity Research Co. and released the FR-1 cartridge back in 1967. In the following years Ikeda-san launched products like the FR 64 tonearm and the legendary FR-7 air core coil for which he also applied for a patent. Ikeda’s clients during those days included nothing less than the Imperial family of Japan. Continue reading

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Peachtree Audio goes wireless with deepblue2

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Just over a year ago, Peachtree Audio announced their newest loudspeaker system, called “deepblue“. The name was a clever turn on the primary wireless technology in use, Bluetooth, and the fact that the unit actually was able to “do” bass. I heard the prototype — it was pretty convincing.

For reasons that remain baffling, deepblue never reached full production. Until now. Continue reading

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Flagship Closed-Back Headphones from MrSpeakers, Audeze and Fostex

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by John Grandberg

A few months back I surveyed the “affordable” sealed headphone landscape, ending up with a good number of competitors that I felt comfortable recommending. The most expensive of them was well under $400 and several on the list didn’t even top $300. That’s great for those of us on a budget, or for casual headphone fans who need a great sounding alternative to their speaker rig.

This question is. does it get much better than these affordable options? What about the absolute best sealed headphones out there, the really high-end models which pull no price-related punches? Today’s article focuses on the flagship sealed options, which is something we’ve seen a lot more of recently. Still, the list is rather small compared to open designs, and I’ll do my best to explain why many of the options just didn’t make the cut for me. Continue reading

Posted in Headphones | Tagged , , | 12 Comments