Acora Acoustics, Audio Research, Transrotor, Aurender, Esoteric, Cardas, Anne Bisson, and Dave McNair | CAF 2021

This was my second visit ever to Capital Audio Fest, my first being in 2019 in the “Before Times.” The 2021 show, if not quite as large as the previous one, was very well attended, with no shortage of great-sounding rooms — the Acora Acoustics, Overture Ultimate Home Electronics room being one of my favorites.

The Story by Dave McNair

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of the black granite speakers that are designed and built by Valerio Cora, head honcho of Acora Acoustics. After reviewing the SRC-2 last year (linked here), I decided to purchase the review pair to use for mastering music, which is my “day job”.

Not only did the Acora room at CAF sound superb with a pair of SRC-2s powered by a full complement of Audio Research electronics, but there were special presentations all weekend. Canadian chanteuse Anne Bisson performed several mini-sets of tunes. Hearing her beautiful voice singing unamplified to backing tracks was a real treat.

The Eisenhower room at CAF is a bit cavernous with a reflective ceiling design element so the Acora team had to put up acoustical damping to tame a nasty set of reflections. This worked to showcase what the system was capable of and didn’t seem to detract from Anne’s wonderful performances.

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Capital Audio Fest 2021 Show Coverage powered by ModWright Instruments Inc.

Despite less than ideal room acoustics, I felt that the imaging was as good or even better than ever. If you’ve ever heard the SRC-2s (or SRC-1 and SRB models) you know they throw a holographic soundstage – at least in every room I’ve heard them in.

Some of the credit for the exceptional imaging and engaging sense of extreme detail-with-musicality has to be given to the top-of-line Audio Research electronics fed by a very high-end vinyl setup. Bonus points for the fact that nearly every time I went into this room, demos were with vinyl.

The After Hours

Friday and Saturday evening, I gave a presentation where I tried to demystify the mastering process. I brought along a laptop with several recent projects so I could play for the crowd level matched before and after examples of what mastering can accomplish — then talk about what I did and why. I enjoyed taking questions from attendees, and hope everyone had as much fun as I did.

The Sound

No two rooms sound the same, but at CAF I heard everything that made me fall in love with the SRC-2 in my own room — and a bit more. The ARC/Acora combo is a match made in audiophile heaven. That is if your idea of heaven is the ability to hear every last shred of information on a recording with a vivid, reach-out-and touch-it presentation that is neither dry nor “HiFi” sounding.

As I said, the CAF room was dialed in to practically eliminate the natural (and in this case annoying) reflections and general ambiance in favor of a make-the-room-disappear, mastering studio style presentation. For lesser speakers, this could have been disastrous. The Acora SRC-2’s just laughed and seemed to say “If y’all wanna paint me, I have no problem taking my clothes off and posing.”

I didn’t quite hear the extreme low end go as low as I’m used to hearing at home and in the studio, but I was informed that placement for overall best sound in the Eisenhower room precluded feeling 25hz in the way the system is capable of. What I did hear was something special in the way the Audio Research electronics presented dynamic contrasts and a slight halo around individual instruments. Lots of detail and harmonic texture, without being strident or overly romantic sounding.

The System

Acora Acoustic SRC-2 Loudspeakers – $37,000 pr

Transrotor Massimo Turntable – $16,800

Transrotor SME Tonearm – $4,300

  • with Dynavector DRT XV-1t Cartridge – $9,450

Charisma Audio Musiko Tonearm – $2,500

  • with Charisma Audio Signature One Tonearm – $3,800

Audio Research REF 10 Phono Preamplifier – $33,000

Audio Research REF 10 Linestage Preamplifier – $33,000

Audio Research 750SE Monoblock Power Amplifiers – $75,000 pr

Aurender N30SA Network Player – $24,000

Esoteric Grandioso K1X Disc/DAC – $37,000

Cardas cabling and power cords throughout.

Capital Audio Fest ModWright
Capital Audio Fest 2021 Show Coverage powered by ModWright Instruments Inc.

For more Capital Audio Fest 2021 coverage—CLICK HERE!

Capital Audio Fest ModWright
Capital Audio Fest 2021 Show Coverage powered by ModWright Instruments Inc.

For more Capital Audio Fest 2021 coverage—CLICK HERE!