McGary Audio

Essential Sound

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Capital Audiofest!
Electronics, Live Music
Embody Best Show In The East!

Tekton At the 2019 CAF

by Paul Elliott
(Special To EAN)
Part 4 In A Series

  Capital Audiofest has grown to become the largest show on the East Coast. Over eighty rooms, very large marketplace and free lectures all three days, and three live music events Friday and Saturday nights. More on the live music later.  There were some of the smaller listening rooms on the third floor of note:
  Volti Audio, BorderPatrol, and Triode Wire Labs have been exhibiting together for a number of years and each year, they always get very high praise. This year, they managed two rooms. In Room 316, with Volti’s top of the line Vittora, we saw a fully three-way, horn-loaded system including an ELF (Extended Low Frequency) cabinet. I do not think the ELF is needed in these bass-heavy hotel rooms, but Greg let me know the low-frequency push is fully adjustable. The music was so involving. One just wanted to sit and toe tap the day away.  Volti's tag line is “Just Have Fun” and that is just what his speakers make you want to do.

Volti Vittora, Border Patrol And Triode Labs

  The rest of the equation for this pure musical experience is the BorderPatrol electronics. This represents over 30 years of exploration into what makes a electronic circuit get out of the way of the music. Gary Dews will not make changes for change sake; he just keeps producing musical amps, preamps and DAC's. If there was ever a question whether one should go with either digital or analog front end the the answer is is found in this system.  And speaking of this system, a big part is the cabling.

Border Patrol's Revealing DAC2

  The synergy one gets with a complete cabling from one company for the whole system is quite obvious. Pete Grzybowski of Triode Wire Labs takes great pride in hand constructing every one of the cables he sells. They are made some of the best wire stock every made. These are most likely the best-sounding cables at any price, but sell for a very reasonable price. These cables are the best value out there. The same can be said about the system in Room 309. Just about the only differences was the Volti Audio Rival speaker. This speaker is about one-third the cost of the Vittora but can rock out pure music like its big brother.
  Greg was also showing in static display the new Special Edition version with curved sides, said to improve internal resonances. What was shown was an unfinished version but it can be ordered with an veneer of choice.

 JA Perspective 2 Graphene

  Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio never disappoints and surprises me with a unique sound that just makes me happy. He showcased the Perspective 2 Graphene, a diminutive floor standard that pumps bass far more than its specs say. Just 36-inches tall and 8.5 inches wide, this baby can pressurize a room like 10-foot tall monster. This was easily a system I could live with; Bel Canto electronics and Audience cables tied it all together.

  One of the true magicians of our industry is Peter Ledermann of Soundsmith. I say this because his products are transformative. The music played at Peter's rooms always force me to sit down, close my eyes and listen. I hear the music. Then I open my eyes and I am overwhelmed by the minimalism of the room's equipment.  Just a pair of small stand-mounted monitors, a turntable, preamp, and amp.  That is it. But the sound is of some massive kit of stuff.

Detailed sounding Monarch stand speakers

  This time we were hearing the Monarch Bookshelf, just 14 inches high on 3-foot stands, the Strain-Gauge cartridge, the Signature Series, dedicated Preamp, and the HE-150 MOSFET Power Amplifier with 200 watts/ch. Peter had two TT set up, and he would alternate between the Strain-Gauge and the Hyperion cartridges. Both sound wonderful, but the Strain-Gauge is very different sounding cartridge and is one that I am beginning to like very much. Soundsmiths' room is one I always seek out and make sure I have time to enjoy the music.

Tekton and McGary SA2 a great combo!

  I have never heard Tekton speakers as good as they did in their room. The MOAB, which is their flagship speaker with fifteen high frequency drives in an MTM array, two 12 inch woofers, claiming 98dB 2.83V@1m sensitivity, and a 20Hz-30kHz frequency response. But of course I have never heard the Tekton being pushed by the incredible McGary SA-2 tube amp. This is the first time I have enjoyed listening to these behemoth speakers. They were coherent, precise, and smooth. I give the nod to the McGary amp for carrying the musical load here.

Greg Tekesh hybrid planar speakers

  One of the most highly acclaimed rooms at the show was the GT Audio Works room, just off the Atrium. I have to agree. Greg Tekesh hybrid planars have always presented a slamming sound. But not only excitement, but a highly musical experience. With specially designed, open-baffle servo controlled subs that easily keep up with the planars' quickness. The open-baffle sub-woofers operate from 15 Hz-65 Hz and include a user adjustable electronic crossover built into the provided amplifier. The open baffle subs are designed to blend seamlessly with the dipole planars.
  They are configurable for 2 to 6 12-inch sub-modules per channel. Allowing consistent results in rooms — from small to large. So we have a system that has a frequency range of 15 Hz to 30 kHz. Pass provided the power and control.  This electronics were housed in a beautiful, custom-made cabinet made by

Exquisite hand-made Mozart Audio Furniture

  Bruce Schuettinger of Mozart Audio Furniture, who was showing a three-bay cabinet. The finish was Spalted Maple veneer. All interior shelves are isolated and and decoupled from the frame, including the top which is literally floating. The feet are Stillpoints for maximum isolation from room vibrations. This is one amazing looking cabinet.

A stack of VAC

  The VAC/Von Schweikert VS Endeavor SEroom always impresses for the sheer magnitude of the presentation.  It is a rare sight to see this much equipment for one system. For most of the weekend, they were playing the big VS Ultra 11 statement speaker. I have heard this set up numerous times, and it is a big sound. Very Hi-Fi. If you are into this kind of system then this is one of the best.
  On Sunday, it was a very different story. They were playing the much smaller, VS Endeavor SE. I was blown away. All the same electronics, and we have that same room filling sound but much more musical. Totally involving instead of bowling you over.

Von Schweikert VS Endeavor SE

  No sledge hammer here. I have always liked the VAC sound, I am a tube guy after all, but this was the best I have heard in a big system. For the first time, VAC was showing off the new Statement 452iQ Musicbloc — 450 watts mono or two x 250 watts in  dual mono. Eight Gold Lion KT88's pumping away.
  On the final day, CAF goers were treated to a seminar put on by Mytek Digital on “Everything About Streaming Audio.” Michal Jurewicz, founder and principal designer of Mytek Digital and Chibon Littlefield, also from Mytek, gave us a great overview for digital streaming and was very generous with their time in answering the audiences questions. John Gatski of Everything Audio Network was the moderator.

High-res streaming with Michal Jurewicz of Mytek Digital

  At most audio shows I have been to its usually a very small number that are actually musical to my ears. With CAF this year there were over half that sounded good to me and there were about twenty that were exceptional, and I what I tried to do was to highlight some of those.  I hope that is a trend that will continue at the Florida Expo and Axpona next year.
  What most readers seem to want is a declaration of a “Best in Show.” I have reflected on this for quite awhile and decided not to follow suite with the other writers on this genre. What one hears what is presented at these show is full for so many traps. This hobby is really a journey of one of two things. Either we are just showing off or in some weird competition with our audio buddies on who can have the “Best” stereo or we are on a very personal trek to solve some inner drive to get the most emotion from our love of music and relieve some magical moment in our past when we play a particular track.

   Either we are just showing off or in some weird competition with our audio buddies on who can have the “Best” stereo or we are on a very personal trek to solve some inner drive to get the most emotion from our love of music and relieve some magical moment in our past when we play a particular track.

  There is nothing really wrong with either of these two avenues if it keeps the manufacturers pushing to improve their products in producing equipment that can get out of the way of the music. Some do a pretty good job at that now and I am finding that the digital side is very good now and seems to be approaching musicality at a very high level now a days. Its always going to sound different from analog but I am finding digital can be very satisfying.  Its really about the music and what the music does to us.
  What CAF continues to bestow on us and that we enjoy, are a few live music presentations. If you are on the journey of musicality then your reality check must be live musical performances. It was obvious that all these presentations were from musicians that love what they are doing. It came through to my heart and soul.  So I give my “Best in Show” to all three groups:

   If you are on the journey of musicality then your reality check must be live musical performances. It was obvious that all these presentations were from musicians that love what they are doing. It came through to my heart and soul.  So I give my “Best in Show” to all three groups.
•Jay Summerour And Friends treated us to some juicy Piedmont Blues. These guys are well know in the DC area playing for many Smithsonian events. Their latest recording is “The Best of A Little Bit of Blues” I've ordered the CD! in the hotel bar Friday night.
•Embassy Jazz Messengers. This group has played CAF for a couple of years now and they put forth a great straight ahead jazz set the everyone within earshot seem to enjoy in the hotel bar Saturday Night.
•The Spellcasters that played music from the Anacostia Delta in the Washington Theater later in the evening. This group transported me. Music I have never heard before. Bluesy, Jazzy, free wheeling music that just about evoked  every genre of music except Gregorian Chant (maybe). I felt very lucky to have been one of the eighty or so in the audience.

Embassy Jazz Messengers

  Capital Audiofest has grown to be a major show now and we are very lucky to have Gary Gill and his crew of volunteer, especially the DC Hi-Fi Group. to put on this show each year. This is a major effort and work has are ready started for next year.  Can't wait to see what's in store for November 2020. See you there!

  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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