What is day four, you might be asking yourself? Capital Audio Fest 2023 takes place on a Friday-Sunday schedule open to the public. Well, if you regularly follow our coverage of audio shows, you might know that quite a bit of audiophile entertainment actually takes place outside the boundaries of those parameters. I highly encourage anyone attending the show to hang out and make a few friends after hours, during lunch or by the bar. There are several rooms that offer listening options after regular show hours (usually just after dinner) where things are just a bit more laid back. Day Four of my coverage is actually a collection of listens that happened slightly outside the lines of the usual business days, either before, after or during my non-existent lunch breaks.
I jumped at the opportunity to see what Daniel Wright of ModWright Instruments was up to these days. I first heard of his electronic wizardry when it came to modding my old Oppo BDP-105 player (which I still own and love). Daniel now makes a great many things of his own design, and at Capital Audio Fest 2023 he choose the popular Acora brand to back his loom of electronics that he brought along. Showing off the stand mount SRB model ($18k), it reminded me of how many times I had seen the high end brand with granite cabinets at the show. Maybe I was just tuned into the model (like how you start noticing new cars you are interested on the highway more), but it seemed like I saw Acora Acoustics everywhere at the show. Whether that is a sign of high business acumen on the company’s part or just a solid endorsement from the industry, it does seem like the speakers have something unique that people like. Partnered with Modwright’s KWA 99 Monoblocks “Class A/B with Class-A Emphasis” ($9k), the LS 99 Pre ($6.5k) and the PH9.0XT phono stage ($5,250) the choice in this case seemed very right.
Once again, a tube-centric room seemed to strike an amazing balance between detail and robust tonal signatures. The variations of acoustical, classical and even some pop tracks I heard all managed to come flush with tangible cues and plenty of juicy nuance. There wasn’t a trace of any soft low end or mushy anything around the spectrum. There are several different goals that seem to become apparent traveling from room-to-room, and being able to compare so many good systems back-to-back. Some rooms converge together, while others deviate together… perhaps. Whatever Dan’s goal for the show was sound-wise, it definitely felt like he achieved it from my time spent in the room.
I stumbled into the Haniwa Audio room purely by accident. I wanted a little break from rectangular boxes and super fine veneers and this horn-on-a-stand really caught my attention as I was breezing by in the hallway. The “Integrated REAL 3D AUDIO with Super Woofer System” consists of the HSP03 Speaker, HDSA03 digital control amp and the previously stated super woofer. With a complete Haniwa Phonosystem (turntable included) the set price is $37k. While the breakdown is somewhat unconventional in the sea of pres and tube amps, the sound was undeniably solid and lifelike. The texture from the piano tracks were an absolute delight, smooth and buttery while still maintaining a huge dollop of accuracy. The HDSA03 digital control amp is another example of GaN technology that has been highlighted at the show, and along with the horns (and dual subs) made for another fun but refreshing find.
The Fern And Roby room held the Raven 2s and 3s from the East Coast designer, along with the Montrose Heirloom turntable. But the real new news was the new integrated amplifier called Amp No. 2 ($8.5k). The back panel includes all the fixins including a MM and MC pre amp input and one pair of balanced XLR inputs. The inner guts are a high current 25 watt design of Michael Bettinger. The industrial aesthetics of everything Fern And Roby makes has a really cool wood/metal vintage vibe to it, they even make the equipment rack (Rack #2).
Sonically, the room checked off all the right boxes and was a very warm and inviting atmosphere and sound. While I try to avoid the use of the word “warm” as a sound description, as it tends to confuse a lot of people and isn’t all that helpful in my opinion, due to the warm hues of the gear and warm welcome of founder Christopher Hildebrand – I will allow it this once.
I am always intrigued by the the random conversations I heard as I pass in the hallway, people connecting in this very silo’d reality we now find ourselves in. Finding new stuff, learning new things and meeting new people is some of the best ways to enhance your experience in this hobby. It seems prudent to encourage any new audiophile to join the community at a local show, be it CAF here or whatever small get-together might be located in your neck of the woods. While it would be misguided to ignore that this show and others are indeed a business (and the idea that the market as a whole doesn’t suffer the same hurdles as others like it), it is a pretty fun business with a fairly harmless goal of high fidelity… despite what you may see in some comment section arguments. Even with the sporadic logistical speed bumps and rain on Friday, overall Capital Audio Fest 2023 was a fine representation of a good hifi-lovin’ weekend.
You can check out our room-to-room video coverage from Capital Audio fest 2023 in easily digestible, 1-minute segments in our Facebook Reels feed.