We are back from the Capital Audiofest and are now unpacked and all components back in their correct place. CAF2021 was a major win – Audio Shows are back, we are now past the point of incubation periods for virus outbreaks and it seems to me that as long as protocols for safety are followed (and they were at CAF), we can start getting back to normal. Capital is a show that is near and dear to my heart. Having traipsed around DC in my youth, it feels a bit like going home. And while business definitely gets done during the show, CAF and the Florida show feel more like vacations to us than the other US audio shows. Wolf Audio Systems was all over the building, showing in rooms with Linear Tube Audio, Spatial, MC Audiotech, etc. Wolf was even in the VPI room, driving a system that sounded amazing there at the end of the hall. That’s big, considering that VPI is probably the largest turntable manufacturer in the USA.
Watch AVShowrooms report on our room:
What was most remarkable to me was the general feeling of this years show. Everyone was happy, they were glad to be there, glad to see friends and associates and get back to listening to music. We heard a lot of new music, saw a lot of new products and made new friends. We welcomed TAD Labs back to the United States with their new distribution team, Pro Audio Design. We debuted the new 200 Series electronics by T+A, including the super-exciting DAC 200, based on the DAC architecture of the SD Reference DAC. We quietly showed off the Red Wolf 2 SX, Wolf Audio Systems newest top-end server that will be officially launched next April at AXPONA. Analog Relax is also back on the scene, Page 23 of Stereophile’s December issue has Michael Fremer falling in love with this ultra-special, ultra-high-end cartridge, and we had it with us at the show, and then brought it home! It is an absolute revelation and redefines analog audio – at least as this digital audio guy understands it. Synergistic Research came with us, more on that below.
VPI is all-in on their Direct Drive technology, and that was evident in the Avenger Direct, their next direct drive table after the HW40, and VPI’s newest $30k table. We used it in a dual Fatboy Gimbal Tonearm configuration and good lord does this table look good! More importantly, I cant think of another table that sounded better in any show situation I’ve encountered. Along with the Avenger Direct, we had the Analog Relax EX1000 Cartridge, which is quite simply the best I’ve ever heard, and which we are carrying exclusively at House Of Stereo.
The separation of instruments and vocals is a huge shift over what I am used to, and we’ve got some great cartridges here at House Of Stereo. Michael Fremer warned me that I was about to ruin myself for other cartridges… for the price, I should be – and Analog Relax delivers. So is my father as well as one of our top customers – we are all Analog Relax converts. Catch Fremer’s review on page 23 of December’s Stereophile. We’ll circle back and post the link once the review goes online.
Our show system:
T+A’s M40 HV 1000w Monoblock amps driven by the SDV 3100 HV Reference DAC/Pre, the VPI Avenger Direct (world debut) with the Analog Relax EX1000 and the van den Hul – Grail SE+ phono stage and my Wolf Audio Systems Red Wolf 2 SX – it was a world debut, but I decided last minute to wait a bit on the announcement. TAD Laboratories Compact Reference 1 stand-mount speakers did all the singing, and this show marks a turning point in TAD’s American presence, which we’ll get to in a minute. These speakers are classified as stand-mounts, but I love to tell people that they are 105 lb bookshelves. Whatever they technically are, there is no denying that this is a speaker worthy of all the positive reviews and adoration they have received over the years. In fact, desiger Andrew Jones stopped by the room to check in on his babies.
Connecting everything was a combination of Synergistic Research’s Galileo SX and SRX Cabling, as well as several peripheral devices like their Black Box sympathetic resonance devices. When we first heard the bass bloat in that 35 x 50 room I was terrified, envisioning ridicule and abject sonic failure – it’s a huge room, and no matter how good the equipment is, if it sounds like the ceiling might fall in on you, you’ve got a problem! But once Synergistic’s Dave Weintraub got to work tuning the room, the fears went away and elation prevailed. The room sounded damn good, and I have him and Synergistic to thank for it. There were many in the industry and show-goers alike who pronounced our room shockingly good – none of us expected such a massive room to sound as good as it did, but it did, as our 18 seat sweet-spot attested.
Pro Audio Design:
Dave Malekpour, owner of Pro Audio Design and Augsperger Speakers was a natural choice for TAD Labs to partner with after Pioneer USA was shuttered. TAD Labs makes some of the worlds best speakers – Andrew Jones designed them, and we know of several manufacturers who voice their electronics on these speakers. I have a feeling they are going to have a big impact in the pro world now as well. Dave Malekpour, Dave Anthony (formerly of Focal and Audio Plus Services) as well as Graham Clancy helped us to run the Plaza 3 ballroom and showed off more of the products and lines they represent – one of which was Jocavi. Jocavi is much more well known in the Pro world, providing their take on room treatment and correction (think Vicoustic, just a little more Rock N’ Roll). Malekpour’s Augsperger line of speakers and electronics systems for Pro Audio is another really cool line worth mentioning, as a quick google will show plenty of rock stars and artists sitting in front of their own Augsperger system. It’s obvious to me that these guys know studio audio, have a lot to offer our High-End world and are welcome entrants into our industry.
Show attendance was nowhere near as low as I feared, but it wasn’t as much as I had hoped. Either way, we are getting back to normal and that is good enough for me! We did a few interviews on camera with AVShowrooms and also had a chat with Michael Fremer for his Analog Planet video series. Having just reviewed the Analog Relax, we had a lot to talk about (off camera unfortunately). I’ll update this page as the videos roll in.
(because we did this room in partnership with T+A and really like their products and are their top US Dealer) 😉
T+A North America is now official – their offices and demo room are under construction in Georgia, and I am thoroughly excited to see the new space.
The 200 Series is here in the United States, and as any show-goer at Capital Audiofest will attest, it is beautiful! We’re breaking the system in now, but you’ll be seeing my mug on camera soon talking about it. Pre-orders are now shipping, and we have another order on its way later in November. If you want some of the 200 Series by Christmas, contact me now!
Another company near and dear to my heart is VPI. They called days before the show and asked my opinion on hardware they could use, and I came up with PA 3100 HV and MP 3100 HV for them with the JBL Project Everest speakers. Harry and Mat were over the moon with the sound quality, and I have promised them M 40 HV’s and the SDV or P 3100 HV for next year. Two more converts to T+A! In addition to that, consider this: a turntable manufacturer also had a digital section in their room, and it was driven by my Wolf Audio Systems Alpha 3 SX server with the MP 3100 HV DAC and a Synergistic Research Galileo SX USB Cable. It sounded amazing, and that Harry was comfortable using the Audio Server for such a critical listening space is awesome, and a testament to what we do over with Wolf and T+A.
Other T+A developments at the show included Linear Tube Audio using the Solitaire-P headphones to show off their newest amp, and come to think of it, the P-SE’s were also borrowed by one guy to demo in his space and he came back excited as well. We’ll be adding more show pics and posting more quotes from reviewers, visitors and dealers alike once we get unpacked and get our rooms put back together here in Florida. Thanks Everyone!
Linear Tube Audio and Spatial used their own Alpha 3 SX server in their room and these open baffles sound great!
– Joe Parvey