Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Audio Show Report:
Capital Audiofest 2019!
CAF Gets Better And Better Part One

David Berning Designed LTA Z10 Int. Amp

by Paul Elliott
(Special To EAN)
Part 1 In A Series

  When John Gatski, publisher of Everything Audiio Network (and founder of The DC Hi-Fi Group) asked me to cover the CAF for EAN, I had no idea that saying ”certainly” would entail. Man this show has gotten big. 
  For 2019, the  Rockville, MD Hilton Hotel was home to more than 80 audio rooms. I have been involved with CAF, in way or another, every year since the meager beginnings in 2010 when the show was a dozen rooms in an old mansion in Rockville.

CAF Is The Top East Coast Audio Show!
  Every year since then the show has grown and developed. There has been four changes in venues and with the present location at the Rockville Hilton for the past four years the show has become a very professional premier audio show for the East Coast. In talking with Gary Gill, show owner/director, he told me plans for next year are in the works and the probable addition of another floor is highly likely.
  CAF also featured a lecture series, live music in the restaurant/bar both Friday and Saturday nights, and a concert Saturday night. More on this in later reports. There were so many rooms that that spending quality time in each was not possible.  This report will be broken up in to multiple submissions over the next few days.

The $100k+ VPI Vanquish
The VPI Mystique
  I had decided to use the top down approach, but that was changed at the last minute when I got wind of a VPI event on the third floor in the Adams/Jefferson room extravaganza. So that is where I start.
  VPI VP Matt Weisfeld let us know that they were closing out VPI's year long 40th anniversary celebration with a new signature turntable, the Vanquish. Its striking presence dominated the room — even along side the KEF Muon Mark ll in the Adams room or with the Genesis towers (and a pair of SuperSubs) in the Jefferson Room.
  The Vanquish is a direct drive magnetically coupled behemoth that can have up to three 14inch tone arms. It comes with its own stand that has space for the power supply/speed controller,  supplied phono stage, and a third shelf for other electronics.  It is a complete system, and pricing is not official yet, but  likely in the $100k to $150k range. If Mat and Harry can keep this price range, this will the the bargain in the uber-priced TT market.
  So in the Adams room we had the new VPI Vanquish TT, the new KEF Muon MK ll with the new Uni-Q ‘point source’ driver array, and fitted with IsoAcoustic feet, powered by the new Krell power amps. The sound was over the top as you might expect. I have never heard any system powered by Krell sound this musical. This is a major design change from previous amps.
  In the Jefferson Room, there was another VPI Vanquish TT with Merrill Element 118 amp, Christine preamp which had a very tight control over a pair of Genesis Quartet towers with bass support from a pair of SuperSubs.

Salk Speakers/McGary Tube Amp = Audio Bliss

McGary Audio And Salk Speakers
  Next I made it to the 5th floor to explore.  First off was a favorite of mine the Salk/McGary Audio Room. Jim Salk brought his beautiful speakers to almost every CAF. He was at the first CAF in 2010. I met Jim and heard his speakers for the first time. I was taken aback, first, by the exquisite craftsmanship of his woodworking. I am a bit of a woodworker myself and I know how difficult it is to finish a product to the level that Jim does. Then there is the sound. Salk has always presented a wide, deep and musical image.

McGary Audio's higher power SA2 amplifier

  For the past two years Jim has been exhibiting with Mike McGary's amps. Mike has been hand building these amps here, just outside of DC in Virginia. These are classic push-pull amps with some innovative takes on biasing and powering the output tubes.  Whatever Mike does, the result is most musical  — with detail and speed to keep young ears happy.

Border Patrol P20EXD/DAC + Daedalus Muse

  One of my favorite rooms was the Daedalus/BorderPatrol Room. Lou Hinkley's speakers always impressed me. Lou is a master craftsman, and he is a musician. He knows what live music sounds like and builds his speakers to make recordings sound like live. In Room 516, we had Lou's smallest speaker the Muse paired with a BorderPatrol P20 EXD. 20W/ch, dual-mono push-pull 300B amp with inter-stage transformer coupling and twin external power supplies featuring tube rectification and choke input filtering. Source was an Innuos Music Server, Border Patrol DAC directly in to the power amp. I felt this was one of the best sound at the show, very special.

Border Patrol's DAC1 Brings Digital To Life
  Another good sounding room was Room 526. Spatial M3 Sapphire loudspeakers matched well with Linear Tube Audio Z10 Integrated amp with source from an Innous Music Sever and a Lampizator Amber 3 DAC. Dipoles have a seductive quality when set up right, and this was a prime example of how do do it right.
  I have watched Bill Hutchins bring out new products starting with a superbly reviewed Vero One Phono Stage for a number of years. He now has a complete system, Phono, Line One preamp and now the Veros Power amp. All were providing the amplification duties to the Sonner Legato Unums in Room 534.  Every time I have heard Sonner speakers I am surprised how well they fill a room with an tremendous stereo image. There are never walls in the sound stage. It just goes on forever.

Killer combo with Lampizator DAC, LTA  Z10 And Sapphire M3's

  Much much more to come in CAF 2019 Part II including more Linear Tube Audio, Parasound, and DC area, local dealers showcasing their premium gear.

  Paul Elliott is a long time audiophile, based in baltimore. he is a freelance writer and member of the DC Hi-Fi Group. EAN is an audio review web site/blog. Founder John Gatski has been evaluating consumer, audiophile, home cinema and professional audio gear since 1988. In 1995, he created Pro Audio Review, and he has written for SoundOnSound, Audio, Laserviews, Enjoy The Music, The Audiophile Voice, High Performance Review, Radio World and TV Technology. Everything Audio Network is based in Kensington, Md. Articles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio Network. Any unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited. John Gatski can be reached via email:

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