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2014 Capital Audio Fest Report

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Each year at CAF I look forward to visiting the Deja Vu Audio room, to see and hear their incredible vintage (or modified vintage) gear. This year the room featured a Western Electric 713 system ($54,000), Deja Vu Audio Vintage Collection WE 300b amps with WE transformers (4 Watts/channel; $30,000), a Deja Vu Audio Vintage Collection preamp (line and phone) by Aldo ($17,00), a Deja Vu Audio Vintage Collection tube DAC by Aldo ($13,000), and a Thorens TD-124 ‘table with an Orotofon RS tonearm and SPU Synergy moving coil cartridge ($7,000). The system was dynamic, yet smooth and very well balanced. A real treat for the ears. 1




Ryan Mintz of Core Audo Technologies was showing his electronics with the Hawthorne Audio Rainer speakers. Ryan is probably best known for his power supplies, but in fact each electronic element was his design. Specifically, the source was the Core Audio Kryptos music server, feeding the Kratos MKII fully digital amplifiers. Class D amps are often referred to as “digital amps,’ but this is a misnomer. In contrast, the Kratos is truly fully digital. It takes a PCM digital signal from the Kryptos server (or from any digital source), converts it to PWM, amplifies the PWM, then converts the PWM to analog. In such a system, there is no conventional D-to-A conversion, thus one does not need a DAC. All equipment uses Ryan’s linear power supplies.

The Rainer speakers are described by Hawthorne Audio as being “A reference standard high definition, open baffle speaker system featuring the only patented broad band Air Motion Transformer style driver made in the US with a cultured marble horn and dipole radiation pattern.”

The system had great clarity and presence and a wide soundstage, with no obvious electronic- or speaker-induced artifacts. Stay tuned to dagogo for more on Core technologies, and perhaps the Rainer’s as well.


Hawthorne Audio Rainer speakers



Core Audio Kryptos music server, feeding the Kratos MKII fully digital amplifiers


Command Performance AV showed attendees that bigger is not always better, or at least, that little can be good. They did this by building a system around the diminutive Neat IOTA Mini Monitors, which retail for the equally diminutive price of $1,095. (To be fair, one has to pony up a few hundred more for the stands.) Bucking the trend of “put most of the money into the speakers,” the source was the Command Performance Command PC Primer with triple Power Supply ($9,500), and power was via the Audio Flight Three integrated amplifier with DAC and phono modules ($4,095). Not surprisingly, the sound was limited in terms of extension, dynamics, and transparency, but that was not the point. Rather, the point was (and is) that the little guys are fun to listen to. Partnered with more realistically priced electronics (for example, the TEAC gear that was on static display in the same room), one could have an enjoyable audio system that doesn’t break the bank.


Neat IOTA Mini Monitors


One Response to 2014 Capital Audio Fest Report

  1. Doug White says:

    Thanks for acknowledging my efforts at CAF2014. I enjoy meeting the music lovers in the DC area and thank them for visiting my room each year and multiple times during the show. Just a quick correction and comment if I may. The StillPoints Ultra SS Isolators are $249 each and
    StillPoints Ultra 5 Isolators are $699 each. I apologize for transposing those prices to you. The TIDAL Agoria SE speakers shown were just received in May – having less than 300 hours of playing time on them due to travel to the Munich show, vacation, and the electronics being out for review. Also, all of the Purist Audio Design cables were brand new built for the show. As every audiophile knows, given several months to break in, the sound of these products will certainly be better. Not making any excuses as I have received your, and many other, positive comments on the performance which I appreciate very much. However, if you thought it sounded good with 6 hours of setup time and being fresh out of the box, you can probably imagine how well they will sing later. 🙂 check out the show video at: Thanks again! Best regards, Doug

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