With fresh ears and our bellies full of Grover Neville’s and my new favorite café, Teamania, we tackled CAF Day Three, the final day. I definitely had some rooms I wanted to visit that I hadn’t gotten to yet and a few rooms I wanted to revisit that I had listened to earlier in the show.
Words and Photos by Graig Neville
On CAF Day Three, I walked into THIS room which was playing the big and beautiful Von Schweikert Ultra 55 MkII (with active bass – $75,000), driven by WestminsterLab Rei Class A Monoblocks ($32,900) and Quest Pre-amplifier ($25,100).
The LampizatOr Horizon ($49,000) led the digital way on CAF Day Three, supported by Small Green Computer sonicTransporter i9 Optical (Gen3) $2,999 and a Sonore Signature Rendu SE optical V2.0 ($4,950).
Though it’s a mouthful it sounded punchy, authoritative, and imaged better than the majority of rooms at the show. Cabling was by MasterBuilt Reference.
Margules impresses me every time I walk into their room, and CAF Day Three continued that trend. In the flagship room the new U-280 30th Anniversary Limited Edition amplifier ($12,000) was playing mighty Raidho floorstanders from the TD line. The U-280 has a myriad of features including a passive attenuator, the ability to run in stereo or monoblock, signal biasing, pentode and triode modes, etc. A very impressive and impressive sounding piece of kit.
Besides the U-280, Margules brought their mid-priced Magenta line showing the SA-2 floor standing and Monitor speakers playing on the Magenta Arch-4 integrated. I spoke with owner Julian Margules about the product line and the lovely natural wood finishes and features of his products. Margules focuses on the harmonic structure of their products, using the measurements as a starting point of tuning to get the sound they want to achieve. The results are impressive with a richness that might be more additive than the most neutral gear on the market, but is highly pleasing to the ear.
If Margules harkens to marrying the past with the present, Bayz Audio Group looks to the future,
exhibiting the all-carbon fiber Counterpoint 2 loudspeaker ($159,900) playing on VAC Master and
The sound filled the room from this unique and patented transmission line speaker with robust bass, clear vocals, and airy soundstage from the electrostatic tweeter. The future sounds pretty impressive, especially running on tube gear!
I raved about the Triangle Antal 40th Anniversary loudspeaker and it sounded just how I remembered in the Antal Audio Group room. The rich and slightly warm midrange sounded sultry on the soulines industrial, but beautiful, Kubrick DCX turntable playing a pink copy of Henri Mancini’s The Pink Panther, which I had heard in no less than four rooms during the course of the show.
Next door the flagship Quatuor, from the Magellan line, was holding court on CAF Day Three. The Quatuor was a big speaker in a small room, but the Triangle midrange and tweeter sounded pleasant with a touch of warmth. A more detailed review of this speaker is forthcoming, so I’ll dig deeper into that product in the review. Electronics were by Electrocompaniet.
Speaking of vinyl, atrium had lots of vinyl for folks to peruse. I had zero space for vinyl in my baggage, as I purposely travelled light. But there were two record cleaning booths at the show that I checked out on CAF Day Three. Kirmuss Audio had a very detailed analysis of the record recording process and dove deep into why cleaning was important and what needed to be done to clean the system. Kirmuss has dove deep into the science and their results are impressive.
Newer to the record cleaning scene is iSonic Inc. which started with ultrasonic cleaning solutions for the dental industry. Several of his friends asked him about cleaning vinyl, so several iterations later their ultrasonic record cleaner solution was born. Since my uncle gave me a stack of old LPs that’s almost up to my waist, being able to clean up to 10 records in one go is certainly appealing. Pricing is under $1000 as well so I may check into this when I get back to Chicago (and iSonic is Chicago-based).
With my feet and ears about done for the weekend I snuggled into the Now Listen Here Executive
Lounge to conduct a follow up on the EMM/Joseph/PureFidelity room. Amadeus Meitner was spinning some definitely non-traditional audiophile records, which I appreciated and enjoyed. While I was processing photos I could just relax and appreciate how much some playing time improved this system from when I heard it Thursday night. Much like I was doing relaxing on a comfy plush couch, the Joseph’s and EMM stack was playing effortlessly, not too loud, not too soft, juuuust right.
The soundstage was enveloping with a solid soundstage completely filling in the space between the
speakers. Dynamics were good and placement of images in space was amongst the best in the show. It was one of those systems were you could sit back, relax and just enjoy the music without have to
critique every nuance. A refreshing cap to the CAF Day Three experience.
I’ll start off with The Voice That Is, Doug White’s set up the TIDAL Audio system was fabulous – earning my vote for Best of Show. It did everything well, and a whole lot of things amazingly well. There definitely were a number of great sounding rooms, so this was a hard decision.
I was really impressed with the budget gear from Magnepan and Q Acoustic. I’m glad to see that point of entry for audio systems is being driven down. These aren’t just little bookshelf or desktop speakers either, but smallish floorstanders. I’m encouraged to see where these entry level brands go. Ideally, these become the launching point for folks on tight budgets and as these folks mature, they will go up market with their gear purchases. Supporting the hobby and the industry is important and these products open up new markets.
Speaking of new markets, I heard a story of Leland from Rocky Mountain Audio playing Frozen for a pair of very young girls visiting the show with their dad. As a father of an audiophile I remember playing all sorts of music for my son growing up and home-grown audiophiles are the BEST! So, if you love music and gear, you don’t make your kids, nieces, nephews, or godchildren sit down for a serious listening session. Let them play some of what they love and let them dance (just not too close to the gear).
Capital Audio Fest 2023 was a great time for me. As a first time attendee CAF was more relaxed than
AXPONA, certainly less busy and crowded, and outside amenities were within walking distance of the hotel/conference center. Folks were friendly and enthusiastic. The exhibitors would have liked to see a higher number of people walking through the doors, especially for Sunday, but there were only a handful of rooms that were packed when I tried to get in. Returning later the rooms were opened up and had an opportunity to listen and chat with the exhibitors. CAF was definitely a success for me and I would attend again in the future.