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Capital Audiofest 2017: Linear Tube Audio – Small Watts, Big Sound

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Local Washington DC company Linear Tube Audio (LTA) had a big presence at the show this year.  It seemed like every time I turned around, something of theirs was staring me down. Most notable was their dedicated room, in which a bevy of LTA amplification, together with the nifty Wolf Audio server and Mytek Manhattan 2 DAC, drove the super efficient Tekton Design Double Impact speakers to great heights.

Also on hand just outside of CanJam was LTA’s Will Schneider holding court over an array of MZ2 (that’s short for MicroZOTL2) headphone amp/preamp units set up and ready to drive a nice collection of ‘phones.  I got to speak with Schneider for a few minutes, but most of my time was spent back in the LTA room, which was presided over by LTA head Mark Schneider and Wolf Audio’s Joe Parvey.

This room impressed me on many levels, warranting several repeat visits.  It’s also one of the rooms that I felt got better and better sound-wise as the show went on.  By Sunday, things were really getting hot ‘n heavy.  A few personal highlights were the accessible user interface on the Wolf Audio Alpha 2 server (I heard a lot of positive scuttlebutt about the Wolf stuff at the show), as well as the kick-ass sound from the Tekton Double Impact Speakers.  I’ve heard Tekton speakers before, and while always good, this was the first time a pair really blew me away.  They’re big, and they sounded that way, even when pushed with the diminutive LTA amp.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you more about the lovely tubed LTA ZOTL10 (Mk. 2) push-pull amplifier and MZ2 doing preamp duty.  I own an MZ2 and have already spilled a lot of ink on its attributes; it’s a staple component in my reference system. It was the ZOTL10 amp, another design licensed by David Berning, that got my heart pounding, as it played exceptionally nice with the big Tekton speakers.  Alive, yet refined, the system pressurized the room with astonishing facility.  Nils Loftgren sounded “there,” with excellent voice and acoustic guitar reproduction.  Looking at those big ol’ speakers, I kept having to remind myself that they were being driven by a wee 10 Watts, but what wonderful Watts they were!

Stay tuned, as I have the ZOTL10 (Mk. 2) amplifier and Wolf Audio’s “budget” server, the Cub, scheduled for review.

Here’s a rundown of he gear that was playing (all prices in USD):

  • LTA ZOTL10 (Mk. 2) amp $3,200
  • LTA MZ2 preamp w/ remote and power supply $2,050
  • Wolf Audio Alpha 2 Server $4,000
  • Mytek Manhattan 2 DAC $5,995
  • Tekton Design Double Impact Speakers $3,000
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  1. Capital Audiofest 2017: Linear Tube Audio – Small Watts, Big Sound – Carlos Smith

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