Monday, December 16, 2019

2019 Capital Audiofest!
Analog, Digital Gear
Highlight Rockville, Md. Show!

The $100,000+ VPI Vanquish TT At CAF

by Paul Elliott
(Special To EAN)
Part 3 In A Series

  The Capital Audiofest has become a big show, and I am not able to come close to covering all the rooms. I am reporting on my favorite rooms that provided a musical and realistic audio presentation. Continuing Day 2 of CAF, I hit the big rooms on the third floor before finishing the afternoon with the smaller listing rooms. I covered the VPI rooms in Part 1 because they had a press event announcing VPI’s new TT the “Vanquish.”
   It was announced that what we were seeing was a final prototype and production would begin in the new year. I went to VPI website and still no mention of the Vanquish. Matt told the press that pricing will be in the $100k to $150K range. I gave the system in the Adams room high marks with the KEF Muons and Krell amps. I went back by just to listen again as a reality check, and, yes, still sounded superb.

Classic Audio T 1.5 Reference, Hartsfield  Folded Horn Woofer

  Down the hall a bit to the Roosevelt Room I found Classic Audio Loudspeakers. Founder John Wolff has been at every CAF since the second year. As the company name states, John puts forth a very classic style system, and every year John shows a system that is consistently at the highest level of musicality and realism.
  John was alternating between the T 1.5 Reference and his big Hartsfield corner front folded horn woofer. Both the speakers feature field-coil magnets on all drivers. These are actually electromagnets powered by an external power supply. John feels that the field coils provide a speaker with much less distortion. These speakers do have a very clean and open sound. Amplification by AtmaSphere Novcron 60 w/ch monoblocks, and MP-3 Preamp. All cabling by Purist Audio Design. This is a fun room John is not shy on how he what music he plays.

Devore Fidelity Loudspeakers in Command AV Room

  The big Plaza Ballroom where CAF use to have the Headphone Market place has now been divided up into large listening rooms. In the past two years these have proven to be difficult rooms for a music system. The big Caver Amazing's could not come close. These rooms are huge with 20 foot ceilings.
  Somehow Jeff Fox of Command Performance AV and John Devore of Devore Fidelity were able to set up one of the best sounding rooms at the show. Amplification was from the Luxman MQ-300, 300B SET 8w/ch. And with only 8W per channel the Devore Orangutan Reference had no trouble driving a 24,000 cubic foot room. Just unbelievable.

Daedalus Apollo 11's Plus BOW subs

  Lou Hinkley of Daedalus Audio set up shop in the Randolph Room as he has for the last three years. Lou's speaker are handcrafted in USA, furniture grade, all hardwood, and built for a lifetime. I reported on his room on the fifth floor in Part 1. In the Randolph room Lou brought out the big guns. The Apollo 11's with the BOW subs.

The Daedalus gear rack

  Amplification, this time, was with the excellent Linear Tube Audio (LTA) electronics consisting of a LTA microZOTL preamp, a pair of Ultralinear Power Amps for the Apollo's, and a pair of LTA ZOTL40's for the subs. Front end was the VPI Prime Signature — with Soundsmith Hyperion ll ES cartridge. Using the brand new Lampizator Vinyl Phono 1 phono stage. Digital duties handled by Lampizator Golden Gate 2 DAC and Super Komputor music server. WyWire premium wire sets puts it all together. This system sounded far better than the $100k plus it would take to own it.

LTA Ultra Linear: plenty of horsepower, finesse!

  Linear Tube Audio electronics were in many rooms powering a wide range of loudspeakers. Nicholas Tolson from LTA also set up shop in the hallway with an extensive array of headphones and headphone amps. LTA has three headphone amps. The top of the line MicroZotl MZ3 combines a headphone amp, a preamp and an integrated amp (for 97 dB or grater sensitivity) on a small package. Highest-quality components in an anti-resonate case, made in America for a realistic price. Actually that really describes all of LTA components.

Listening to LTA MicroZotal 3 HP amp

  With the MZ3, Nick was showing the MZ2 which is the basic headphone amp with preamp, basic case for around $1200. Also on the table is the new Z10e which delivers one of the best electrostatic headphone experiences available. In addition, the Z10e is a full function regular dynamic and planar headphone amplifier and a 12-watt per channel integrated speaker amplifier. All LTA amps use David Berning designs with no output transformers.
 The Martin Logan/Benchmark has been the fun room for the last couple of years setting up a 5.1 multi-channel system. This year with three ML Classic ESL 9's and a pair of Dynamo 1600x subs up front and a pair of EM-ESL X electrostatic hybrids for the rear-channel. 

Who better to do multichannel: MartinLogan and Benchmark

  Instead of using a high-end preamp/processor to decode the myriad PCM and and DSS multichannel music, much of it provided by John Gatski of Everything Audio Network (and DC Hi-Fi Group), the Martin-Logan/Benchmark room used a modified players with 5.1 PCM output that fed three separate Benchmark DAC3-B D/As. Each DAC channel signals were connected to one channel each of three Benchmark LA4 line output channels, which in turn fed three Benchmark AHB2 power amps. (Benchmark also showed its HPA4 headphone amp, which also features the LA4 line stage and two inputs).
  MartinLogan's Dennis Chern, John Gatski and Benchmark's Rory Rall shared the music playing duties, which included a wide variety of multi-channel tracks that really showcased the essence of multichannel. A number of original quad 1970s Classical albums and numerous Jazz and Pop lossless, Hi-Res music titles were demonstrated.

Acapella Campanile 2
  These audio show are always full of surprises. You cannot help entering some rooms with pre-conceived notions based on what one has heard at other audio shows. I was going to bypass the Audio Federation room in the Plaza l with the Acapella horns. I have not enjoyed their presentations in the past, but I poked in and was immediately sucked in by the look and the sound. As I approached closer the music became more intimate.
  The front row was the place for me. The horns work in this monstrous room because they do not depend on the room. The Acapella Campanile 2's are made in Germany with a 40-year manufacturing history.They are quite stunning at almost eight feet tall and 450 pounds each. The Audio Note UK DAC Five Sig doing the bits and bytes from a Acapella Audio One Music server driving the speakers with the Acapella LaMusika Integrated Amplifier. A stratospheric system in sound and cost!
  That is all for now. More to come soon. (Thanks to Paul Elliott for all his fine photo work.)

  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. EAN 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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