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Old 07-25-13, 10:35 PM   #1
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2013 Capital AudioFest Official Show Report by Joe Alexander


Hello everyone from Silver Spring, Maryland!

After a fun car ride through some really beautiful neighborhoods and at least two college campuses, I have arrived! I am really looking forward to getting started tomorrow morning and seeing Sonnie and some of the HTS sponsors in the next couple days.

I will be trying to get impressions up while we are here (as much as I can anyway ) so stay tuned!


When we arrived, we were greeted by these fine folks:



Gary Gill, who heads up getting the show up and running and rolling along smoothly each year, is front and center in the picture just above. Thanks for bringing everyone together again this year Gary!


Click here for the 2013 Capital Audiofest Official Discussion Thread.


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Old 07-30-13, 12:33 PM   #2
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Re: 2013 Capital AudioFest Official Show Report by Joe Alexander


There was a great turn-out for this event - it seemed over half the rooms we went into we needed to wait a bit to actually get into a position to listen. A fantastic job by the group led by Gary of coordinating the event - kudos!

At the end of the day Saturday, a drawing was held with quite a few shirts (some especially nice HTS polos and button down shirts!) as well as some cables and a couple of very interesting books. Yours truly came home with some very nice speaker cables from Luminous Audio - Sonnie got shut out.

Here is our emcee at work:



Here is one of the lucky winners of an HTS shirt:



A few thoughts on the show:

1. There was a wide range of equipment at this show in reference to price range - as a matter of fact, there were quite a few speakers that would fit into my modest budget.

2. You do not need to spend loads of money to get a really good two channel system. Some of the best systems I heard this past weekend were very affordable.

3. One of the many things I enjoy about the priviledge of doing these shows is that I get to meet some really great people - as well as catch up with people I have met at previous shows. Also, hanging out with Sonnie and meeting other HTSers (we met Todd on Saturday night) is always a treat.

4. I had a very eye-opening discussion with one of the vendors that really changed my perception of the term "accuracy" and how it is applied to what we listen to.

On with the reports!


Click here for the 2013 Capital Audiofest Official Discussion Thread.


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Old 07-30-13, 02:00 PM   #3
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Re: 2013 Capital AudioFest Official Show Report by Joe Alexander


First up - one of the rooms by The Voice That Is using amps from Audio Power Labs.

The system configuration included:

Component MSRP
TIDAL Audio Contriva Diacera SE Speakers $58,190 / pair (Black)
Audio Power Labs 50TNT Amps $47,500 / pair
Purist Audio Design cables $14,720
Bricasti Design M1 DAC $8,495
SMc VRE-1C Preamp $16,950
Aurender S10 Reference Music Server $6,990
Stillpoints - Ultra SS, Ultra FIVE, ESS Rack varies


A few photos:


The front wall:



Some closer views of the speakers:




Some closer views of the equipment:



Background / Specifications

The Voice That Is is a Pennsylvania-based dealer specializing in high-end audio. The TIDAL Audio Contriva Diacera SE speakers have a RMD-cabinet that are crafted in tounge and groove and made from 2"-3" MDF. There are two 9" Thiel & Partner woofers with white ceramic diaphragms, one 7" Thiel & Partner midrange with a white ceramic diaphragm, and one 1.2" Thiel & Partner tweeter with a black diamond diaphragm. They have a nominal impedance of 4-6 ohms and weigh in at 506 pounds packaged.

To see my initial thoughts on the Audio Power Labs 50TNT, check out the AXPONA review here. A couple of changes have been made since I last heard them - some capacitors were changed as they were experiencing small signal noise when paired with very high sensitivity speakers (originally found when paired with a set of Avantgarde Trios) and the top plate was changed to hang from rubber stops instead of being completely enclosed.


Impressions

The Contrivas are a beautiful speaker - the finish was stunning and the design of the cabinet gave it a very elegant appearance. The finish has some flexibility as many choices of veneers are available. I liked the contouring on the sides of the cabinets as well as the sloped front baffle.

They imaged beautifully with a very deep soundstage - the speakers completely disappeared and it felt like the artist was standing just behind the center point of the speakers. They are very detailed - breaths were readily audible and you could hear each strike of the snare and pluck of the bass. Vocals were very clean with fantastic dynamic range. The soundfield did break down as I shifted off-axis - once you moved from the PLP (primary listening position), you could really localize the speakers. The midrange was really impressive - for those that have followed me along on the show reports, you know how much I enjoy a midrange where you get a audible snap from a snare drum. The Contriva Diaceras definitely provided that experience in spades and were oh so clean. The low end really did not stand out for me - good or bad. Great overall speaker - it has the qualities I personally covet - detail and great midrange.

I really like the 50TNT amps - they are aesthetically very appealing and provide a very warm sound - with loads of power. Someday, I really hope to see / hear their big brother - the 833TNT!

Plants and front corner traps were used in the room.


Please use the Capital AudioFest 2013 Discussion / Comments thread for questions and comments.


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Old 07-30-13, 03:59 PM   #4
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Re: 2013 Capital AudioFest Official Show Report by Joe Alexander


Friday morning I stopped into the Legacy Audio room.

There were two separate setups that were pretty much what was set up at AXPONA and LSAF. Here are those configurations:

Setup Components MSRP
Setup 1 Legacy Aeris in Sapele Pommele finish $17,750
 CODA CSX Amplifier $6,000
 CODA CP Pre-Amplifier $3,500
 Ayon CD 2S $6,350
 Speaker Cables SP7 Grand Reference $1,499 / pair
 Interconnects MA6 Grand Reference $899 / pair
Setup 2 Legacy Whisper XD in Ribbon Mahogany finish $21,500
 Legacy Signature SE in Rosewood finish $6,450
 CODA CSX Amplifier $6,000
 CODA CP Pre-Amplifier $3,500
 OPPO BDP-105 $1,199
 Speaker Cables SP7 Grand Reference $1,499 / pair
 Interconnects MA6 Grand Reference $899 / pair

For thoughts on the Legacy setup from AXPONA 2013, click here. For thoughts on the Legacy setup from LSAF 2013, click here.

First off, a few pictures:


The Aeris setup:



The Whisper / Signature setup:




Background / Specifications:

Legacy Audio is located in Springfield, Illinois and offers several different speakers. The Whispers have a stated FR of 22 Hz - 30 kHz (+-2db) with a sensitivity of 95db (4 ohm nominal) and weigh in at 210 lbs each. The Signatures have a stated FR of 22 Hz - 30 kHz (+-2db) with a sensitivity of 92db (4 ohm nominal) and weigh in at 110 lbs each.

The Aeris speakers have a stated FR of 16 Hz - 30 kHz (+-2db) with a sensitivity of 95.4db (4 ohm nominal) and weigh in at 200 lbs each.

There are several choices available for finishes.

Thoughts / Impressions:

The Aeris' were playing when we entered the room, and I still just love the finish and cabinet design of these speakers - the contouring just sets them off really well. At LSAF, they did not seem to image well - here, that was completely gone as they imaged perfectly. Horns were not fatiguing (or "screechy") at all and instruments separated very well. Piano also sounded incredible - every plunk of the keys was easily heard. Vocals showed great dynamic range. Overall, they had great detail - I really felt I was not "missing" anything.

The Aeris' had good low end thump - I could actually feel it from where I was sitting which was about 10-12 feet away. The best for last - I was floored by the midrange - the snare drum just SNAPPED! It was amazing - so much so that I just stopped taking notes and listened with my eyes closed - heady stuff. Another great all-around speaker - I actually like this one more than the Contrivas (which I liked very much) as I felt it had a bit better low end and was similar in the mid and highs.

No room treatment was used in this room.


Please use the Capital AudioFest 2013 Discussion / Comments thread for questions and comments.


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Old 08-02-13, 10:30 PM   #5
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Re: 2013 Capital AudioFest Official Show Report by Joe Alexander


Next up - the Classic Audio Loudspeakers / Atma-Sphere / Tri-Planar / Purist Audio Design / Stahl-Tek room. I visited this room before Sonnie arrived on Friday, and then we went back after the show shut down on Saturday night where Todd joined us later.

The setup in this room was similar to the setup at Axpona 2013:

Equipment Components Description
Classic Audio Loudspeakers Hartsfield with Field Coil Drivers $36,500
 T-1.4 with Field Coil Front Woofer and Midrange Drivers $36,500
 T-5.1 $11,900
Atma-Sphere MP-1MK3.2 Preamp with Phono $12,100
  MA-1.5 Novacron Power Amps $12,000 / pair
Tri-Planar Tonearms Ultimate 12 $9,800
  MKVII UII $6,200
Stahl-Tek Ariaa DAC w/remote $12,900
Audio-Note Ankoru II 211 Mono Block Power Amp $46,000
Purist Audio Design Genesis Interconnects and Speaker Cables, Vesta & Musaeus Power Cords, Purist Ultimate USB cable and Aquila Digital AC Power cable $7,500

For thoughts on this setup from AXPONA 2013, click here.

First off, a few pictures:


The front wall:




A closer view of the speakers:



A closer view of the gear:




Background / Specifications:

The T-1.4 Reference speaker uses a field coil to power its components. It employs a 15" low-bass woofer, a 15" mid-bass woofer and a 4" diameter beryllium diaphragm that is loaded into the 2" throat field coil compression driver to provide articulate vocals and music. Last, the super-tweeter is added to give a feel of air and openness without any fatigue. They have a nominal impedence of 16 ohms with a shipping weight of 450 lbs each.

The T-5.1 uses Alnico and Cobalt magnets, Carbon filter cones and Beryllium diaphragms with 8 and 16 ohm assemblies. They have a shipping weight of 275 lbs.

For more information on the Hartsfields and other equipment, check out the Axpona report here.

There are several choices available for finishes.

Thoughts / Impressions:

Again, for thoughts on my Axpona experience, click here.

First off, I just love the attention to detail John shows in the finish of each of these speakers - just beautiful!

The T-1.4 Reference speakers were playing when I came into the room. I was able to get right to the PLP, and noticed right off that they imaged perfectly on the male vocal track that was playing. After listening to that track for a bit, I was impressed with the T-1.4s ability to handle the range of the track. The low end on this setup was tight, clean, and impactful - definitely the best of the day. Midrange was good as well - not quite the snap I crave, but just short of it where telling the difference was difficult.

Horns were very engaging without making it to that "screechy" area, and the strike of the keys of the piano and organ were clear as a bell. The piano was just so smooth and soothing I closed my eyes and just drifted for a bit - great feeling. I also noticed good separation of instruments.

When I went back with Sonnie, I did not take any notes - I just sat back and enjoyed the sound. I was quite pleased to note that Sonnie and Todd appreciated the setup just as much as I had.

These were the best-sounding speakers of day one for me - it was the only one where I just sat and listened without "critically" listening and taking notes. Excellent setup gents!

No room treatment was used in this room.


Please use the Capital AudioFest 2013 Discussion / Comments thread for questions and comments.


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Old 08-10-13, 07:14 PM   #6
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Re: 2013 Capital AudioFest Official Show Report by Joe Alexander


Sorry for the delay! On to the Surreal Sound Audio / Luminous Audio / Merrill Audio room.

The system setup included:

Equipment Components MSRP
Surreal Sound Audio Fifth Row speakers $27,500
Luminous Audio Arion Phone Preamp $4,500
Merrill Audio Veritas Monoblock Power Amps (2) $12,000
VPI VPI Direct Drive Turntable $30,000
Miracle Audio Divinitive Stereo Preamp

First off, a few pictures:


The front wall:




A closer view of the speakers:




A closer view of the gear:



Background / Specifications:

Surreal Sound Audio is based in Richmond, Virginia and offers two different speakers - the "Fifth Row" and the "Encore" (MSRP $8,800). The "Fifth Row" speakers have a stated FR of 25 Hz - 20 kHz with a sensitivity of 95 db (8 ohm impedence) and weigh 125 lbs a piece. Each speaker uses six 10" woofers in a dipole configuration and a separate cabinet (transmission line design) that houses a full range driver which handles everything above 100 Hz. The finish can be custom done.

Luminous Audio's Arion Phono Preamp is newly created and demoed for the first time at this event. It uses a two stage design with an IC based JFET input stage followed by a discrete cascoded / JFET second stage using a JFET based servo. The first stage provides the phono interface as well as the gain and drive for the equalization network that follows it. The output of the first stage feeds into the second stage which provides additional gain needed for lower frequencies.

The Veritas Monoblocks are Class D amplifiers that are based around the Hypex NCORE NC1200 circuitry. They can deliver 400W at 8 ohms and 700W at 4 ohms with a THD of 0.004% at 200W and a gain of 26db. They weigh in at 33 lbs each.

Thoughts / Impressions:

I really liked the cabinet design of these speakers - they are very contoured and have a very classy look. I personally do not care for the lighter finish on the pair on display at CAF, but I did see pictures of the gloss black finish and it really makes them a showpiece that would satisfy any level of WAF.

The Muddy Waters track that was playing when I came in imaged really well and handled the vocal dynamics of the track easily. As I slid to the other side of the room to snap a couple photos, I did notice that I could lock in on the right speaker more readily. As I continued to the side, I was also able to notice a slight degradation in the soundfield.

Back in the PLP, the first thing that really stood out was the low end - the dig really deep and were really tight and clean - definitely those 12 woofers at work! There was a nickel sitting on top of the speaker on its end - and it never moved which really showed just how inert the cabinets were. The thinnest part of the cabinets is 1.5" thick with most of the cabinet being 3" thick - excellent design.

Cymbols pinged with the strike and had that nice following splash, the trumpet sounded good without making your shoulders want to cringe, and the piano sounded good, but I just did not get a real sense of clarity which could be attributed to the source - it was vinyl - but I was able to hear the crackle / pop I normally associate with vinyl. I was able to differentiate each instrument in the recording so the clarity is good, just not enough to push me to love the speaker.

Overall, I thought this was a good setup, but it just did not "grab" me as some of the other setups did.

No room treatment was used in this room.


Please use the Capital AudioFest 2013 Discussion / Comments thread for questions and comments.


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Old 08-10-13, 08:26 PM   #7
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Re: 2013 Capital AudioFest Official Show Report by Joe Alexander


Late Friday morning took me into the High Water Sound room.

The system setup was very similar to the setup at AXPONA 2013 - you can check out my impressions here. The system at CAF included:

Equipment Component MSRP
Turntable TW-Acustic Raven GT with 2 TW 10.5 tonearms $9,500 - $20,500 with tonearms
Amplifier Thoress Systems SE Mono Amp (2) $14,000
Preamp Thoress Systems Preamplifier $9,000
Phono Stage Tron-Electric Seven GT Phono (stereo) $18,000
Phono Stage Tron-Electric Seven GT Phono (mono) $18,000
Speakers Horning Eufrodite $24,000
CD Player Pure Sound A-8000 $1,800
Power Conditioner Silver Circle Audio TCHAIK 6 $9,500
Equipment Rack Silent Running Audio Scuttle Rack and Ohio XL Bases none given
Cartridges Miyajima Labs Shilabe (stereo) and Zero (monaural) $3,000 / $2,000
Cables Teo Audio Cables interconnects and speakers cables none given
Power Cables Tel Wire power cables none given

First off, a few pictures:


The front wall:



A closer view of the speakers:




A closer view of the gear:



Background / Specifications:

High Water Sound is located in New York, New York and offers products from many different manufacturers. The Eufrodite loudspeaker on display at CAF uses an open Isopunkt modified cone tweeter, a Lowther DX55 midrange, and four 8" woofers. It has a stated FR of 28 Hz - 20,000 Hz with a sensitivity of 97 db and weighs in at 143 lbs each.

Thoughts / Impressions:

For thoughts / impressions on the High Water Sound setup at AXPONA, click here.

The finish is pretty nice on these speakers - not quite a work of art, but still very attractive. They are deeper than your standard rectangle speaker due to the rear firing woofers which gives them a more unique appearance.

They image really well - vocals are locked in the center from the PLP with just a slight degradation off axis. Once I moved from the PLP, I was able to localize the speaker. Instruments separated nicely - the maracas at one point actually sounded like they were outside the left speaker! The piano and maracas both showed great clarity - the rattle of the maracas was especially clear as was the crackle / pop of the vinyl. I also really liked the presentation of the triangle - the strike was very plainly heard.

The snare drum showed a good midrange - it was clean, but lacked that snap that I prefer. Low end was impactful - those rear firing woofers shined in this room. The Eufrodites did really well with male vocal dynamics - no signs of strain at all.

Plants were used as room treatment in this room.


Please use the Capital AudioFest 2013 Discussion / Comments thread for questions and comments.


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Old 08-10-13, 10:48 PM   #8
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Re: 2013 Capital AudioFest Official Show Report by Joe Alexander


Later in the day on Friday, I visited the United Home Audio / MBL North America / Clearaudio room.

I had heard the MBLs before at AXPONA 2013 - check out that report here.

The CAF system setup included:

Equipment Component MSRP
Speakers MBL 116Fs $32,000
Amplifier MBL 9007 mono amp (2) $21,400 each
Amplifier Jolida Luxor mono amp with outboard power supply (2) $15,000 each
Preamp MBL 6010 $26,500
Preamp Jolida Luxor preamp $4,000
Source UHA Phase11 Reel to Reel Tape Deck $17,000
Source Jolida Fusion Transport DAC $2,299
Cables Tara Labs Zero interconnects $15,000 / pair
Cables Omega speaker cables $13,000 / pair

First off, a few pictures:


The front wall:



A closer view of the gear:



Sadly, I was unable to get a good close-up of the speakers due to the lighting of the room.

Background / Specifications:

United Home Audio is based in the DC / Baltimore area and offers a vast array of products. The MBL 116F speakers on display at CAF use two 8.5" aluminum bass cones, two 5.5" midrange cones and a radialstrahler tweeter. They have a stated sensitivity of 83 db and a nominal impedence of 4 ohms.

Thoughts / Impressions:

For thoughts / impressions on the MBL speakers from the AXPONA 2013 show, click here.

The MBL speakers continue to make me gaze in wonder - they really have a very different look than any other speaker I have seen. The whole setup was quite a site to behold - it really has a new age look to it that sets it apart from most other systems I have seen.

The 116Fs image perfectly from the PLP - the vocalist seemed to be standing dead center just behind the speaker line. However, once you moved from the PLP, the soundfield degraded noticeably. Vocal dynamics were not an issue for the 116Fs at all - they handled each nuance with aplomb. Instrument separation was fantastic - I was able to clearly pick out each instrument in a rather busy big band track. As a matter of fact, if you closed your eyes, you really could picture the whole band sitting right there in front of you.

What really stood out for me about the 116Fs was the clarity - horns, piano, vocals, you name it, they delivered crystal clear sound where each little nuance could be heard. The midrange and low end did not stand out from the pack for me at all - but the clarity really helped to overshadow that feeling. All together, a very nice system - but if I was spending this kind of money for a 2 channel system, I would personally go a different route.

Plants and one panel were used as room treatment in this room.


Please use the Capital AudioFest 2013 Discussion / Comments thread for questions and comments.


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Old 08-11-13, 03:03 PM   #9
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Re: 2013 Capital AudioFest Official Show Report by Joe Alexander


Friday afternoon, I found myself in the second Voice That Is room.

The system setup in this room included:

Equipment Component MSRP
Speakers TIDAL Audio Sunrays $154,990
Amplifier TIDAL Audio Impulse $32,290
Preamp TIDAL Audio Preos $27.990
Source Aurender W20 Reference Music Server $16,800
DAC Bricasti Design M1 DAC $8,495
Cables Purist Audio Design 25th Anniversary cables none given
Accessories Stillpoints Ultras $700 each

First off, a few pictures:


The front wall:



A closer view of the speakers:



A closer view of the Stillpoints:



Background / Specifications:

The Voice That Is is a Pennsylvania-based dealer specializing in high-end audio. The TIDAL Audio Sunrays are constructed with three separate modules for high-midrange and bass. The cabinet walls are up to an astouding 5" thick with optimized internal aerodynamic conditions. As for the drivers, the Sunrays use four 9" mid-woofers with black ceramic-diaphragms, two 7" mid-woofers with black ceramic-diaphragm, and one 1.2" tweeter with a black diamond diaphragm. All these drivers are made exclusive for TIDAL.

I spent a fair bit of time talking to Bruce Jacobs from Stillpoints about the Stillpoints isolation pieces. There are currently 3 different models - one that can support up to 50 lbs priced at $125 each, and two other models priced at $250 and $700 each. They have a true isolation design with standard physics applied to remove all transferrence of vibrations and are built to last - there are no substances used that will break down over time. Bruce joked at one point that they were willable.


Thoughts / Impressions:

The Sunrays are an imposing speaker with a beautiful finish - definitely one of the more statuesque speakers of the weekend. They image beautifully - it is one of the very few setups that did not break down off axis which was very heady stuff.

The ever-popular "Keith Don't Go" track was playing when I sat down and it sounded amazing - you could hear every pluck of the guitar. The Sunrays ability to handle the vocal dynamics of the track really showed through as well. During the track, they were switching inputs on the DAC which kept making them clip which was really distracting and made it hard to focus on the clarity. Low end was very good as well as it was very clean and had good impact - probably the best low end I heard on day one.

All in all, this was an imposing setup that made for a great show; however, at 150K for the speakers alone I cannot say that this setup was between 5 to 10 times better than some of the other setups. I would likely save a bit of coin and go a different route. That said, I would love to hear what the Stillpoints would do for my home system.

Traps were placed in all corners, plants were used, and there were diffusers in place at the first reflection points for room treatment in this room.


Please use the Capital AudioFest 2013 Discussion / Comments thread for questions and comments.


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Old 08-11-13, 04:13 PM   #10
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Re: 2013 Capital AudioFest Official Show Report by Joe Alexander


Saturday afternoon right before the show closed down for the day, Sonnie and I visited the Salk Sound / Van Alstine Audio room.

I have had a chance to hear Salk offerings many times - at Axpona as well as several GTGs and my own home (I currently have Songtower QWTs). You can search for Salk across the forum and will likely come across my impressions.

The system setup in this room included:

Equipment Component MSRP
Source Salk StreamPlayer $1,299
Speakers Salk Soundscape 8s $7,999 (may change depending on finish)
Speakers Salk Supercharged Songtowers $3,499 (may change depending on finish)
Amp AVA Fet Valve 600R $3,499
Interconnects Various
Speaker cables Salk custom NFS

First off, a few pictures:


The front wall:



A closer view of the speakers:



Background / Specifications:

Salk Sound is located in the Detroit, Michigan area and makes several different speakers. The Soundscape 8s use the RAAL tweeter, an Accuton midrange, two custom 8" long-throw woofers, and two 12" passive radiators. The stated FR is 25 Hz - 60,000 Hz with a sensitivity of 87 db. Next, the Supercharged Songtowers use a RAAL tweeter and two Seas Excel W15 mid-woofers. The stated FR is 34 Hz - 20,000 Hz with a sensitivity of 88 db.

Van Alstine Audio is located in Minnesota and makes many different electronics including amplifiers and DACs. The Fet Valve 600R amplifier which was used to power the Soundscape 8 at CAF delivers 300W per channel and is a hybrid amp.

Thoughts / Impressions:

Again, for thoughts and impressions from Axpona, click here.

For those unfamiliar with Salk speakers, upon first seeing them you are immeadiately struck by the exquisite finish - Salk speakers are simply and purely a work of art and these were no different.

The Soundscape 8s were playing when we came into the room. No one was in the PLP so I plopped down there right away and noted that they image vocally dead center with nice depth. I was also impressed with their handling of the vocal dynamics of the female track that was playing and from the male vocal track that played a bit later - there is just a natural, effortless feel to the sound from the RAAL tweeter.

The next couple of tracks showed the Soundscapes handling of piano and guitar tracks - the piano was just smooth as butter and the guitar just PLUCKED. The clarity of the speakers is astounding - every instrument is clearly heard with amazing detail. The low end and midrange punch is also a treat - mids especially have that snap that I adore. If I could get any speakers I wanted, the Soundscapes would definitely be very high on my list.

Traps were placed in the front corners and were the only room treatment in this room.


Please use the Capital AudioFest 2013 Discussion / Comments thread for questions and comments.


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