Capital Audio Fest 2019c

 

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Hard not to notice these loudspeakers horns. Saw their big brother at the Munich show two years ago in a room way too small. Still left an impression. Still, I know veru little about them besides the fact they’re made in China and they make all the electronics to drive them as well. Well, this is my first time seeing this model, and these do look rather awesome. These dear readers are ESD Acoustic Crane horn loudspeakers ($52k). At 102 dB efficent with an 8 Ohm tap, these loudspeakers weigh in at a hefty 660 lbs per enclosure! Moreover this three-way carbon fiber-based horn boasts field coil technology drivers using Beryllium diaphrams throughout and employs an active crossover section.  Driven by all Aesthetix gear that included their Atlas Eclipse mono amps, Metis preamp and Romulus Transport/DAC, I was taken aback by the naturalness despite the fact I felt the distance was a tad too far from the speakers (must have been the active crossovers that helped?). Either way, these ESD Crane’s got my attention rather quickly as I know United Home Audio’s Greg Beron a long time and he just doesn’t side up with companies that do not grab his ear. And he had lots of good things to say about ESD. Beron whipped out some Herbie Hancock and we sat and listened for a good amount of time. The sound was immersive and like most very well made horns, expansive. These ESD Acoustic loudspeakers are something to keep an eye on. The ESD approach to field coil, carbon fiber and Beryllium usually tells you something about the cost of admission. Yet, Crane for all its substance retails at only $52k! I find that quite remarkable in and of itself. 

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Amazingly, these little ESD Panda monitors weigh 200 lbs per side! At first, I found that hard to fathom until I tried lifting ESD’s custom-built field coil midrange driver that were on an adjacent table. All I could say was wow!

 

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Long time audio guru Steve Rabitz has been telling me about his newest creation GT Audioworks ($35k including subs), for which he sells from his Long Island, NY emporium Sound Insights. This tall quasi-ribbon based planars driven by some high-powered Pass Labs electronics including their model XS 150 monos ($65k) had me singing their praises to anyone that would listen. First off, for my ears, these panels sound as loud and dynamic as any box design, yet emit the lowest distortions and the among the clearest signal I have heard from such a design. Credit their no transformer and no crossover technology as one major reason but more has to be uncovered about the speaker itself and the magnet structures which support the ribbons. The room was huge and the sound pressure level filled it with the greatest of ease without a hint of stress or strain. You got me on this on Steve. Now I really owe you a visit. Bravo! 


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Damon Von Schweikert of Von Schweikert Audio (left), Kevin Hayes of Valve Audio Company (center), and Leif Swanson were on hand to answer questions to the excited showgoers at this years Capital Audio Fest. 

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This dimly lit suite had the feel of a live concert more than an audio rig. The legendary pairing of VSA and VAC proved to be among the most auspicious at the show. A big part of the performance had to do with this humongous suite and the experience employed in exacting the best from it. Those new vertically strapped VAC Statement 452 iQ monos ($150k pair and there were two pair!), sounded like the best Hayes has designed thus far for VAC (and he’s been executing nothing short of excellence for over three decades). 

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Coupled to he handsomely sculpured Ultra 11 loudspeakers ($300k), not to mention the “other” exotic co-stars – Esoteric, Kronos and Master Built cables, conspired to create one of the most lifelike soundstages I’ve encountered at any show. This made it easy for anybody questioning the validity of such outrageous systems such as this to hear it for themselves. It’s quite rewarding to appreciate (especially under show conditions), a high-priced system such as this one that actually that outperformed its very loftly asking price. 

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David Cope of Old Forge Audio with Audio Federation’s consummate music lovers Neli and Mike Davis.

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Mike and Neli Davis came out to this year’s CAF with just a hint of what they have on tap in their Palo Alto, CA showroom. Here they featured the German-borne Acapella Audio Arts Campanile 2 loudspeakers ($66,500), featuring their recently developed hyperspherical horn. This proprietary shape is said to provide outstanding sonic integration and ease of placement in a variety of listening rooms. At over 7′ in height and tipping the scales at 450 lbs per side, with a 95 dB efficiency rating the thing that makes these babies really sing is the ION plasma tweeter that is, in my honest opinion, imcomparable. Acapella’s hybrid LaMusika integrated ($110k), employing an E182CC initial gain stage with a MOSFET output stage drove the Campanile 2’s to musical heights most could only dream of obtaining. Music server was the Acapella Audio One ($6875), feeding the legendary Audio Note UK DAC Five Signature ($98k).

Yeah, I get it. The asking price of such components (minus the Campanile 2) is way, way out there. But the performance is at such a high level that it literally left me breathless (and I bet Greg and Tim felt similarly). The one thing that I do know, and that is, the cost for us to be so engaged by the magnitude of beauty shown here, the incredible harmonics and resolution, was just a three hour ride south on Interstate 95. Once again i’ve been swooned by Mike and Neli via their Audio Note UK gear and that damn plasma tweeter.   


 
clement perry
 
 






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