Capital Audio Fest 2019 – The Bill Wells Report 2
Often shows such as CAF provide an opportunity for launching new products to the industry and consumer market. In this case, Bill Parrish of GTT Audio is no stranger to this including the first showing and introduction of new products from Audionet (electronics) and Kronos (turntable). In this case – the new Audionet Humboldt Integrated Amplifier ($55,000) was fully on display and in action including the company’s PAM G2 phonostage ($10,000) and EPX optional power supply ($10,000). In conversation with Bill, I was told that this unit pumps out a very healthy 320 watts into 8 ohms, 460 into 4 ohms. Additionally bandwidth goes out to 700k and channel separation is greater than 140 dB and signal to noise ratio greater than 120 db. Those are some very impressive specs and from the sound in this room, I have no reason to doubt these claims.
The other supporting equipment in the GTT Audio exhibit included the visually very sophisticated and sonically impressive Kronos Sparta turntable ($24,000) including the newly released SSCPS optional power supply ($9,500). Mounted on this wonderful table was the Kronos Helena 10.5” tonearm w/armboard ($8,500) and Air Tight Opus 1 cartridge ($15,000). Definitely an expensive package and judging from the sound – it was clear to me that this was an absolutely superb analog playback system. In terms of cabling for the system – once again Parrish had a full complement of Kubala-Sosna cables including interconnects ($5,800-&11,000), power cords ($1,650-$3,000), speaker cables ($1,200-$$2,000) from both the Sensation and Realization product lines as well as the company’s Xpander 7/10 outlet ($5,400-$6,500). On the digital side – there was the new in 2019 Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC ($13,400) and apparently under review by our editor Clement Perry, along with the Auralic AZreies G2 Streamer ($,350) and Roon Nucleus ($2,500). All of this equipment fed the very impressive YG Acoustics Carmel 2 loudspeakers ($24,200).
In terms of the overall sonic performance- and thanks to the ever upbeat Dick Diamond (YG Acoustic guy) – this system rocked. Exquisite sound, super clear, fast, tight with solid bloom. As usual – Dick had some of the finer analog recordings available including large scale classical, symphonic and/or big band variety. All the way from classic mono recordings playing the classic, swaying tune titled “Mood Indigo” to big sounding sax to female vocals to blasting trumpets and trombones – the system always retained its composure and simply presented the music in a convincingly authentic and realistic manner.
Another standout system in my opinion was the exhibit provided by Command Performance AV from Falls Church, VA. On display for your musical enjoyment was the very attractive 4-piece speaker system DeVore Fidelity Organgutan Series ($85,000). The configuration is a 3-way design with separate sub bass modules for each channel. The beautiful wood finish and sound produced by these speakers was superb, highly musical and very impressive.
The room was a very large venue yet the sound was very balanced, clear, and superbly dynamic with wonderful texture and timbral accuracy. Additionally the sound was full with deep, controlled rich harmonic and powerful bass. Transients were naturally fast with no overhang. Listening to Brian Bromberg on acoustic bass was outstanding as was listening to classic Bill Wither’s singing Ain’t No Sunshine. Both recordings provided a holographic, open soundstage with very articulate rendering of voice and instruments. None of this would have been possible without the wonderful front end of this system. This included the Luxman 300B tube stereo amplifier ($21,000), along with the J. Sikora Standard Turntable ($19,000), KV 12 tonearm ($6,000) or Kuzma Arm ($6,500) with Koetsu Onyx Platinum cartridge.
Continuing my exploration through the many different exhibits – I noticed one in particular that caught my attention so off I went. This time – rather one of the largely more stylistic rooms with big systems (and big money), I came across the much more intimate Robyatt Audio exhibit featuring a pair of modified Quad 57 electrostatic loudspeakers ($6,000). Not knowing quite what to expect, I settled into a comfortable center row, middle seat and was quickly treated to some classic elegant mono recordings.
The superb analog playback system consisted of VPI HW 40 turntable prototype with VPI Fat Boy gimbal tonearm and Schroeder SQ Reference tonearm ($9,995) with Miyajima Labs mono and stereo phono cartridges ($3,350, $7,500 respectively) as well as Tzar Audio DST phono cartridge ($10,000) and finally the Sutherland Phono Loco mono phono stage. Electronics included the Mytec Manhattan II Pre/DAC/phono/headphone amp ($6,000) Butler Monad mono bloc amplifiers provided the power ($19,000). Finley power cables and interconnects (price n/a), linked everything together. Definitely felt like throwback days of vintage high end with the sound being noticeably relaxed and very much uncolored. My initial listening involved a female vocalist and then a switch to Dean Martin singing the classic tune “I’m Confessing That I Love You” which was a superb stereo recording. The overall sound was warm, harmonic and with a sweet subtle guitar and piano background. Definitely not the ultimate in hyped up resolution but a very naturally tonality that was simply sweet and pretty. Other recordings, both digital and analog, further revealed the system’s ability to provide realistic levels of resolution, dynamics and yet retained a superbly natural musical presentation. Very pleasant and rewarding listening experience overall.
OK, so much for the trip down nostalgia lane with beautifully sweet music and on to other exhibits. My next visit was to a completely different type of setting where I found in the Audio Federation exhibit, the rather large and in-charge Acapella model Campanile 2 loudspeakers ($66,500). These were placed in what I would say was a big, big room and with no apparent acoustical treatment. As a result, there seemed to be a bit of echo but nothing overly distracting.
The rest of the system included Acapella LaMusika hybrid integrated amplifier ($110,000) – yes, you read that right….$110k!!! Additional electronics and cabling included the Acapella Audio One music server ($6,875), Audio Note UK DAC Five Signature ($98,355!!) and cabling from both Acapella and Audio Note UK (no pricing available). Isolation for the electronics was provided by the HRS SXR equipment stand with M3x Isolation Bases ($15,470).
Even at low to moderate levels, this system produced a noticeably large, wide open soundstage with absolutely outstanding depth. Additionally, the sound was also utterly effortless, clear with significant inner resolution that produced exquisite layering. Beyond that the sound was full, dynamic and all that you would expect from a large horn-based speaker.
Stereo Times Masthead
Frank Alles, Mike Girardi, Key Kim, Russell Lichter, Terry London, Moreno Mitchell, Paul Szabady, Bill Wells, Mike Wright, Stephen Yan, and Rob Dockery
David Abramson, Tim Barrall, Dave Allison, Ron Cook, Lewis Dardick, Dan Secula, Don Shaulis, Greg Simmons, Eric Teh, Greg Voth, Richard Willie, Ed Van Winkle, and Rob Dockery
Carlos Sanchez, John Jonczyk, John Sprung and Russell Lichter
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