Who doesn’t love big speakers in a big room? If one has a big room, big speakers must naturally follow. At least, that was the mentality I sourced from my walks in, around and though the halls of the CAF 2023 main floor. Day three brought some of the bigs out, and I was happy to oblige large rooms and high end systems to my audio journey on Sunday.
First stop on this acoustic walkabout began at the Roosevelt Room backed by Classic Audio Loudspeakers and the T-1.5 and T-3.4 Field Coil Powered system. Cabling for this magnificent beast of a rig was done by Purist Audio Design and their new Neptune series which includes the AC, balanced interconnect and speaker wire on display at the show. The amplifiers were Atma-Sphere and the Technics SP10 MkIII turntable complemented the analog setup alongside a Studer 810 CX-800 tape deck.
Roy Orbison’s Running Scared was on the turntable when I arrived and was a pleasant greeting with some spacious tones from an era pretty far gone (now some 62 years later), at least as modern day music production goes. There was still a lively feel to the song, and it was perhaps the newest (and best) interpretation of the song’s sonics I have ever heard to date. The recording, plus media, plus the speaker tech plus old-but-reliable tube amplification made for a sound that was perfect fit for taking one back to the day, time and place of when the musical was originally tapped from the ether. The system was also able to really deliver with other genre’s as well, including excellent spatial cues and solid imaging across the several seats I sat in, and not just the sweet spot. But the vintage experience that was delivered when I first stepped foot in the room was what stuck with me through the rest of the day, and begged for another visit before the 4:00pm cutoff at shows end.
I have actually known Roy from Music Hall for a few years now. He is as quick with a joke as he is with producing a bottle of decent scotch out of thin air. You have to hang out with him in person to fully appreciate the trick, but he is equally adept at putting together bang for the buck gear. The sound he had going at CAF was fun, quick and subtly fresh-sounding from the AMPED Class D gear and Acoustique Quality speakers. But the real draw for me was this superb specimen of a sub $2k turntable called the Stealth.
The chassis is heavy, more weight than you might expect and multi-layered in design. The tone arm and VTA adjustment appears pretty intricate for the price class. It also houses two cute tricks: 1. the record stops spinning automatically after it hits the center of the record and 2. it comes with a handy-dandy Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge. That’s a pretty good cart to come pre-installed on anything that comes pre-installed if you ask me. Our esteemed Editor-In-Chief Marc Phillips currently has the Music Hall Stealth Turntable in for review and he tells me the sound is absolutely outstanding for the price in his more controlled environment. More impressions to come on the site.
There seemed to be some debate at the CAF 2023 show as to what now qualifies as a Class-D amp when it comes to implementing GaN (or gallium nitride semiconductors). Whether it be a marketing move to take a step away from the polarizing feelings towards the “D” or just simple confusion on the matter, more and more options continue to enter the field with many of those participants swearing that the new-ish tech is indeed the future of all amplified audio. Like the CD debate I mentioned in my CAF Day Two post, the end result will likely come down to implementation rather than a simple broad stroke across a technology avenue. One of the most promising new implementations I heard at the show took the form in the ROBYATT AUDIO room with the Java HiFi Single Shot integrated with a DAC and Phono Stage (~$9k).
Attached to the new Quad 2812X electrostats (~$10k) the room sound turned out to be a little fun twist all by itself. If you consider amazing sounding Class D to be a trick, then here it is in the Java HiFi Single Shot. The Quad 2812X also deserved some credit and further cement the belief that I might be a huge sucker for their type of electro-static-y resolution and detail retrieval. The second twist came with the music selection. A very fine sounding Jazz track produced all the detail and dimension of a well crafted piece of studio work, but due to the obvious clapping at the end of the recording, was indeed a live track. Perhaps they were just a small audience in the studio that day, but the results to my experience were no less exciting. I like this combo with the Quad 2812X, even though $20k budget could likely score you a hit with a more run-of-the-mill, paper cone driver and class AB system, the exotic (or risky?) nature of the two made me think more high-end sports car than a woody station wagon with a V10 engine.
You can check out our room-to-room video coverage from Capital Audiofest 2023 in easily digestible, 1-minute segments in our Facebook Reels feed.
If you want to hear more on Class D and GaN, you can listen to our Occasional Podcast for some of the latest on the technology in the embed below or on iTunes.