WASHINGTON DC (PTA) — Capital Audiofest, along with most audio shows, have a sense of urgency about them. It springs from various places in the heart. For the exhibitors (most of them, the good ones), they want to sell you something. For show attendees (most of them, the bad ones) it’s the urgency to hear as much as possible without being sold anything. For my crew at Part-Time Audiophile, it’s to learn as much as possible, in as many rooms as possible, in just two and a half days.
First, an aside. The first rule of communication is to know your audience. I most of all the writers at Part-Time Audiophile will probably fail at following that rule, or at least choose to ignore the rule and instead just write for myself. In person I follow the rule, but it’s hard to know these days exactly who your audience is on sight alone.
Why do I bring this up? Okay, it stems from the news that we have brought on a fantastic mind, person, and writer — and she’s a she. Her name is Nan Pincus and she’s more qualified to do this audiophile writing (among many other things) than I am. I look up to her. I want her to succeed and proceed without obstacles. Especially the obstacles I don’t have to deal with.
Back to the show. We enter the Robyatt Audio room and I introduce the new Part-Time Audiophile writers I have brought along to shadow me for a few rooms. Robin Wyatt of Robyatt Audio is more than an eager and accommodating host. He ushers us to the front of the room, and lets us examine the system’s components up close. For Nan, she’s interested in the Electrostatic Solutions Quad ‘57s. Robin at this point is a deer in the headlights.
Here is a young woman in her twenties asking about the fine mechanical details of an electrostatic panel from behind it, where the most educational viewpoint is had. It takes Robin a few minutes to awake to whom he is conversing with, and before you know it, the conversation is flowing. Aspects of the Quad design are flying about the room between Nan and Robin, meanwhile Dave and myself relegate ourselves to the components and the Wax Rax Console.
What I came to see and hear were the Butler Monads ($19,000 pr USD) which are monoblocks made by B.K. Butler in Denver Colorado. They feature a single 300B tube, which is neither used for input or output — but instead used to impart the tubes sonic characteristics to the solid-state amplification inside the amp. The amplifier outputs 100-watts per channel into 8-ohms and double that into 4-ohms.
We take a seat and settle in for a listen. Cued up is “Baltimore Oriole” a jazz track from Bob Dorough’s jazz album titled Devil May Care. If the name Bob Dorough sounds familiar, it might be from where he is more widely known. He is the prime architect of the animated series Schoolhouse Rock! which was a staple of the Saturday morning cartoons of my childhood.
The music of Bob Dorough is peculiar and quirky. It becomes a welcome and worthwhile change from the usual humdrum of the audio show circuit. I can’t tell you how tired I am of Dire Straits, Diana Krall, and Nils Lofgren. I can only imagine what it is like to have to play it for three days straight on one system. At least I get to hear it played back on forty or more systems. Only that notion delivers a touch of relief. I’m sure someone reading this is 24hrs on either side of listening to one of those artists. This rant is more evidence to point I was making earlier about stepping away from the audience and just writing for myself.
As for the sound of the amplifiers? The Butler Monads provided much of the authority and attack I found in the Quads. Ultimately the Monads were left sounding neither tube-like or solid-state-like with the Quads. The Quads are telling loudspeakers and they didn’t show many flaws other than the ones Quads are known for having on their own. Quads are not perfect speakers, but still atop the short list of speakers I am hoping to retire with.
It is wonderful to see a new generation interested in high performance audio. Both the playback systems and the music.