Capitol Audio Fest

Did anyone else attend Cap Audiofest this year? I've seen no threads about it, I was only able to attend Friday afternoon but heard some good systems. Favorites for me,  Shindo/Auditorium 23, Zu Audio, Tidal, Classic Audio/Atmasphere, and Deja Vu Audio. I thought the Zu system with Omens and First Watt Sit monos was the best value priced system. Best system overall the stunning Deja Vu vintage system with their field coil speakers just astonishing sound.  I wish I had gotten more time to spend looked like there were lots more rooms this year.
This is a show that has gotten better and better over the past 3 years I've attended and is well worth the trip.  The overall sound quality of the systems/rooms has improved every year. The big VAC / Von Schweikert room was truly amazing if you heard it when it was sounding it's best (depending on source material, etc.). TIDAL (TVTI),  Deja Vu, Classic Audio, Robyatt, C-J (EVO) rooms all sounded very good. EMIA's always creative and interesting. Only the GT Audio Works system's subwoofer volume drove me out of the room. CanMania's always a hoot and there was enough music to hunt through for me. There's something here for everyone. Looking forward to next year.

Boy, I must have bad ears because many of the rooms some of you praise were horrible to me. Just goes to show how we hear differently. I disliked the Volti, Zu, Quad, Harbeth, and Tekton rooms. I came back to the Vandersteen 5 room twice. Liked every room with Tidal speakers. And really was smitten by the Joseph Audio small floor standers. I'm not sure how folks can listen to Tektons. Grating sound. And the Rethms were boring (to me).
A humbling experience putting that data into my head and then reading how others have different takes.
A small show I always wanted to attend but not sure it was worth the drive to do it again. Of course the advantage is plenty of seats and the ability to spend more time absorbing. The crowd was so small on Saturday.
You guys know so much more about these drivers than me its a bit humbling to hear you discuss them with such authority. I guess I need to spend more time hanging around Vu's on the weekends! Glad to hear you both liked the CAF speakers better at Deja Vu I was so impressed with them at CAF I can only imagine how good they were at the shop.
That's interesting about your reactions to the YL/Goodman system.  I can't say I heard those issues with it but perhaps if I had listened longer they might have bothered me too.  My only quibble with it was the bass wasn't quite as rich and weighty as most of Vu's designs. 

Vu said that one of the challenges with the CAF setup was the wall voltage varied quite a bit which meant he had to keep adjusting the field coil power supply voltage. 


I really liked the system with the Goodman woofers and the YL 5500 compression drivers too.  It might have been a little bit more dynamic sounding and vivid than the G.I.P. system, but, as with almost everything audio, there are some tradeoffs.  To me, the YL/Goodman system was not quite as smooth and coherent, particularly with respect to the treble response, and I heard a bit more coloration, particularly in the form of tonal unevenness with solo piano.  But, both are great, and I have not heard anything that sounds bad with YL drivers.  The YL horn tweeters are also very good.  The big plus with the non-fieldcoil system is not having to deal with a power supply and warm up issues.  From a commercial point of view, the plus with G.I.P. drivers is that they are currently being manufactured while the YL stuff is vintage and quite difficult to find which makes production of such systems extremely limited.

LarryI, that is funny because I went to Vu's this past Friday and heard the same speaker and had the same reactions...exactly.  The speaker in question is the 3-way field coil system with GIP drivers.  I had somewhat mixed feelings about it at CAF although it clearly had lots of potential.  I was inclined to blame the hotel room as being too small for a large speaker like this, however Vu said the room at his store is nearly identical in dimensions to the hotel room at CAF.  In any event, at the store on Friday, after the system was warmed up the speaker had excellent coherency (something lacking at CAF) and excellent detail and dynamics.  I thought that perhaps the bass was not quite as full and weighty as what I heard at the show but that could have been due to the music selection.  Our listening on Friday started with the system totally cold---everything had to be turned on first---and the sound was a little disjointed for the first few minutes but it got better and better as we listened longer.  Without any doubt, this is a very good sounding system and the GIP drivers are capable of excellent sound quality.

I didn't listen long enough to the GIP speaker to be able to draw comparisons with other speakers, and I bet Vu would disagree with me on this, but as good as the GIP speaker was I think I actually preferred the sound of one of the YL speakers Vu had in the same room on my last visit.  That speaker used a big YL wood horn with YL 5500G driver, Goodmans 15" woofer in open baffle, and some tweeter (it may have been a Jensen RP-302).  The YL speaker had the advantage since it was fully warmed up when I listened to it, but I still recall how totally realistic Ella and Louis sounded that day.  

I went to Deja Vu this weekend and heard the big horn system that they brought to the show in a bigger and better-suited room.  In this setup it sounded substantially better than it did at the show.  I noticed that it does not sound quite as good when the system is turned on than when it has warmed up a bit; apparently, the field coil drivers and/or the tungar power supply need to warm up a bit before the system sounds it's best (bass is boomy and ill-defined until the system warms up). 

I was particularly struck by how good the 597 tweeter sounds--the system was very airy and open sounding without even a hit of harshness; this was the smoothest top end I've heard and it was so well integrated it was like there was no tweeter present, but, the sound was not lacking in high frequencies.  The 555 midrange had the smoothness I would expect from this driver, but, the G.I.P. replicas also delivered the kind of detail that made it sound more like a Western Electric 713B driver than other 555's I've heard (a VERY good thing).  

The bass on the system is not quite what I would find ideal, but, this is always the case until the system is specifically tuned to a particular room, system and personal taste.  
not to be overlooked is the Miyajima 'Snakewood' cartridge - fed through their KSW SUT outboard -- it's the most musical combo I've housed in 50 years of analog playback. See my thread under Snakewood Madake. I can live happily with it for my (foreshortened)
remaining years.
One of our locals was up there and had positive feelings about the Tektons but preferred the Rethms(he has paid for and is patiently waiting for the modified stacked quads that almost everyone seemed to adore, I look forward to listening to them when they are set up in Dallas)
@charles1dad  I hope you do decide to attend last year was my first and first ever audio show and I loved it, this year was fun also as you've read! Perhaps next year some of us could meet up and put some names with some faces. Also @gsm18439  I concur with Charles love your room so chic and modern looking and your minimalist system fits it perfectly. That cd player is very badass looking!
Charles: CAF has grown every year and is very well organized and Metro accessible. The number of dealers and rooms continues to grow - in a good way. As I understand it, the venue will be the same next year. 

Zu was showing its new Druid VI along with its Omens. I did not pay attention to the electronics. 
That sure seems to be the case based on feedback covering both shows.
I attended the AXPONA in Chicago last year and it was pretty decent. The Capitol city show does appear to be on an ascending track.
Those of us in the DC area are truly fortunate to have an event like CAF in our own backyard.  It has gotten bigger and better each year to the point where it is now considered by many to be the premier show on the East Coast.  Reading the stories about the NY show last weekend brought that point home even more clearly.  Kudos to the CAF organizers.  May they live long and well.
Bested on the comments here I just may visit this show next year. Detroit to D.C. is a relatively short flight.
The Zu’s had no problem filling the room but there was no tonal balance at all that I heard and detail was absent. Probably the large circular shaped room had something to do with it. This was with a couple electronic and rap recordings that were going when I was there. I was not familiar with the recordings so can’t say how they should sound they just sounded like the system could not handle the room.

This was third time I’ve heard Zu at CAF. First time in a moderate size ballroom not smaller hotel room. Past two were much better just a tad off for me in terms of weight and dynamics. They seem more interested in emphasizing the speakers efficiency at these shows than what they might be capable of. First time i heard them the Zu guy pretty much admitted the 6 watt amp they were using in a smaller hotel room was not enough to get them to sing fully.

In comparison. 10 watt Linear tube audio amp had no problem with Tekton Double Impact in a smaller hotel room. Sound was fully developed and quite detailed. Very impressive!

Your explanation of the Zu presentation fits what I’ve heard perfectly. Driven by SS amplifiers at high volume playing rock music, just not good. Wish I could hear Gary’s system (Zu DEF IV MK II and Ancient Audio components) at reasonable volume levels 😊.


Yes, I think the Classic Audio speakers are bright and mid-bass is thinner than my ideal.  OTL amps, like the Atmasphere amps, and field coil speakers, have as their primary area of superiority, incredibly lively sound--very fast and dynamic and immediate sound.  But, pushed too far, this sound can be edgy and brittle; it is a matter of taste.  By contrast, the stacked Quads in the Emia room and the field coil system in the Deja Vu room were also quite dynamic and immediate sounding (though not as extremely so), but the initial attack of musical instruments sounded more natural to me on those systems so that the sound was smoother and more natural while not being muddy and slow sounding.  It is a matter of tradeoffs and priorities. 

The Zu speakers also have a very dynamic and immediate sound.  As most shows, they are matched to high powered amps to emphasize this strength by being played at high volume levels (it is startling to hear, but also tiring).  They really can be made to sound much more refined and relaxed, but, I suppose, at shows, the idea is to grab attention. 

Larry, so I’m not the only one who has found the Classic Audio speaker rooms to sound bright in chracter (and a bit thin as well). This is based on several encounters. I feel like the odd one as they get pretty much high praise from most listeners.
Interesting I was really disappointed in the c-j room and surprised considering the level of gear in there but I just found it dull and lifeless sounding. And on the Zu room yes the room was gigantic but I thought they really did a nice job filling the room soundwise. One thing I will mention when I was there they were playing the much smaller Omens not the Def IV. So not sure what speakers others heard specifically. Sean is a super nice guy I will say and plays great music. And @salectric those Auditorium23 speakers were the only thing at the show I took a picture of I totally agree they look great.

When I heard the Burwells, they were being played at low volume and sounded not at all piercing.  But, it might well be the case that they would behave poorly at higher volume levels.  That actually is an issue with horn systems, particularly when they are not really large in size.  As volume goes up, horns tend to become "shouty."  I did not get a second crack at hearing them so I may have missed the bad behavior. 

I heard the GIANT Von Schweikert speaker/VAC room a couple of times.  One audition was horrible sounding--very bright and brittle sounding, but, on another occasion, it was pretty decent (though hardly my choice for a system well north of half a million dollars).  The better sounding demonstration was at a much lower volume than the one I could not stand, so it might simply be a matter of inappropriate volume.  I get the feeling that the people running demonstrations think that volume levels have to be extremely high to impress the public; I am more impressed with systems that deliver great sound at low volume.

As for the Classic Audio/Atmasphere room, it was bright sounding and also brittle sounding for my taste.  In other years, it has sounded better, but, the brightness has always been a part of the sound. 

Another room that I liked that I forgot to mention was the Conrad Johnson room with the "cheaper" model of Tidal speakers. 

Hi Gary,
Okay I understand.  You certainly have a spacious room and very attractive I might add 😊.

I did not spend much time in the Zu room. Just stopped in to say hello to Sean Casey. The new Druid VI look gorgeous, but cannot attest to their sound. (Sean was playing the Omens.) I prefer to listen to equipment that I cannot hear at home. Which is why of all the rooms that I visited, I was most impressed by the A23-Shindo room. It seems close to what I have at home. But, as I noted above, the room was very small. I have heard great systems in small rooms that "die" when they have to fill my rather large space. 

Gary (gsm18439),
Very mixed impressions of the Zu room. This speaker puzzles me as I’ve heard them on 4 different occasions and each has been disappointing. You, 213 Cobra and Germanboxers own and love your DEF IV. I respect all of you guy’s ears but have not heard good sound from them so far.

Was their sound at this show representative of what you experience at home?
I have heard DejaVu's vintage systems in the past, and they always sound good. (They were also some of the largest speakers at the show - certainly in terms of footprint.) These seem to be Vu's true passion. A visit to DejaVu audio is always a treat, but sometimes an obstacle course of vintage components.

I also like the Robyatt with the single Quad 57s. 

The Voltis were being driven by Border Patrol electronics, all of which use 300b tubes.

I also agree about the Classic Audio room - very bright, especially compared to previous years, and hard to tolerate. Not sure why. They were being driven by Atmosphere amplifiers.

My only issue with the Auditorium-23 Hommage 755 speakers was that they were in a very small room. (As were the Rhethms.) I left wondering how they would sound in a large space similar to my home. But the sound was rich and full,and  the speakers were elegant; it was a combination that I could easily live with. 
@larryi  I hear you on room conditions which I should have factored in a bit more. And a custom Deja Vu horn-speaker would  be of interest to me if the boss approved. Sorry I missed Charney and DC DYI would have loved to hear more horns. I agree with @mapman  I thought Classic Audio was better last year though I didn't find it bright, I heard Louis Armstrong "St James Infirmary" a song I totally love. The sound was a bit stuck to the speakers but otherwise captivating. And Charles I wish I had caught Tekton there is so much hype would have loved to check it out and report back. Next year for sure!
When it comes to speaker appearances, the Auditorium 23 gets a gold star for sure.  The cabinet was made of solid walnut with superb joinery and the vertical walnut strips on the front looked really nice.
I hit Classic audio room Saturday afternoon. They were playing a R2R of Tull Thick As a Brick I believe. The sound was very bright for some reason. Was hard to listen. Something was off I’m guessing in that I’ve heard their rooms at CAF several times including same room last year and this was first time I was not impressed.

Burwell speakers were gorgeous but I was more impressed by that than the sound.

Zu room also seemed to have a problem on Saturday afternoon. The large room was empty (also very cold) and sound was a disaster IMHO. Zu has never totally floated my boat in past years even in much smaller rooms. This one was larger and I think they were still running off similar flea powered but pricey amps. Sounded like a poorly done PA system this time around. Too bad because I like the Zu look but the sound has yet to grab me. The large circular shaped room was surely a factor.   I'd stay out of there unless I had a chance to prep well in advance!

I liked the sound of the Harbeths, something I could live with, and the looks, but not so much the price. Lots of competition there.
LarryI, your comment about the Burwell and Sons "Mother of Burl" speakers really surprised me.  Maybe they changed something over the course of the show, but on Friday afternoon when I stopped by their room the sound was just plain awful, I mean ear bleeding painful.  I left the room within 5 minutes out of fear of damaging my ears.  To me that was a prime example of how horn speakers can turn off many listeners.  Maybe they got better over the course of the show but my experience Friday did not encourage a repeat visit.

There were a number of other rooms that did not appeal to me for one reason or another including Classic Audio, Daedalus, Volti, Tidal, and VAC/Von Schweikert, but nothing bothered me like the Burwell and Sons room. 

On a more positive note, some other speakers I did enjoy include TAD Evolution One, German Physiks and Harbeth 30.2.  As I look over the exhibitor list, there were many rooms that I seem to have missed so I don't mean to imply anything good or bad by omitting others mentioned in this thread.


The Channel D room was a touch bright, but, I took into account the nature of that kind of reverberant space.  I think you would have really  liked the Charney and Rethm speakers.  Neither were bright and they were also, like the Auditorium, not cursed with a prominent peak in the upper midrange.  Did you get to hear the Volti speakers?  This is, for a horn-type system, a reasonably compact system that delivered good sound.

I also should have mentioned the Burwell and Sons horn system.  I thought they sounded quite good too.  They were warm sounding and delivered the saturated harmonics that I like from old school systems (tube electronics, pleated paper surround woofers, compression drivers, etc.).  They were also surprisingly compact and nice looking; I thought they were monsters from the pictures I have seen.  But, at its price point, Deja Vu can build a custom system that is precisely what you want (and hopefully can afford).

I should also give favorable mention to the DC area DIY group and their room.  This time, they only displayed one setup instead of rotating several systems so they were not as ambitious as in prior years.  But, the system was quite nice sounding.  It was essentially a cube without a top and a back (open baffle design).  An 18" woofer fired downward and the front baffle held a coaxial midrange/tweeter.  The box was made rigid by using round dowels across the open top and open back (great idea for reducing interference with the back wave of both the woofer and coaxial drivers).  The speaker looked to be quite easy to build and the parts were quite inexpensive.  This makes it a classic DIY product--clever design substituting for expensive parts and construction.

Hi Larry,
Very nice show report.  I too was curious about Tekton Double Impacts given the considerable hype.  I'm glad you were able to hear them (-and mapman as well). We agree, definitely good sounding speakers and they're easily driven by lower powered amplifiers.  Jond I wish you could have beard them as I always appreciate your impressions. 
Sal and Larry great to hear from you guys you both have more experienced ears than mine. And I  think my ears perhaps prefer a warmer slightly rolled off sound as I loved the A23 speakers but found the Channel D room a tad bright. And thanks for the info on that table Sal I really liked that room a lot and wish I had stayed longer. I missed the Charney and Rethm speakers unfortunately. And as much as I would love a pair of Vu's WE horn speakers the A23 seemed something along those lines soundwise that I could potentially one day afford. I also loved how they looked but sent my gf a pic she was less enamored. Ah well.
Yes I liked the sound in Channel D room with the Vandersteen 5s very much as well.
Well given her background that explains the refined ear/listening ability. It surprises me that she wouldn’t be attracted to jazz given the great pianists who’ve played this music and how utterly beautiful jazz sounds via this magnificent instrument. But again,preference end taste are truly  personal and individual.
There were a lot of nice sounding rooms at the latest Capital Audiofest.  As in past shows in this location, the smaller hotel rooms tended to sound better than the larger conference rooms.  I am in agreement with a number of postings above.  I too, thought the Deja  Vu vintage room and the MyEmia room were outstanding, the best rooms at the show to me.  

There is so much hype in this forum about Tekton speakers I wanted to hear them.  I came away impressed with how good they sound relative to the price quoted on them.  The only commercial shortcoming would be the size of the system.

Volti had their best room at this show.  I was not that impressed with their setups in the past, probably because the room and accompanying electronics did not show them at their best, but, this year, with a physically smaller system, their room sounded quite nice (warm and harmonically dense, without sounding mushy).

The Shindo/Auditorium room was pretty good sounding.  I am familiar with WE 755 single driver systems which tend to be very clear, dynamic and exciting sounding, but, they also tend to be peaky, thin in bass/midbass, and extremely colored.  The Auditorium speakers did a decent job of taming these negative tendencies with only a modest loss in dynamics and immediacy of the Western Electric originals.  But, they only rated, to me, number three in the single driver category at this show.  I  was really surprised by how good the Charney single driver system sounded (Voxactiv driver) and it delivered the goods dressed in a reasonably nice looking and compact cabinet.  I heard decent bass and sound that did not become strained at fairly high volume and I did not hear as prominent an upper midrange/treble peak as I've heard with most single driver systems (surprisingly, I thought it was a bit too soft in the upper range).  The other system that impressed me was the Rethm Bhaava; it was not as well rounded as the Charney, but, it was about a third of the price.  

The German Physics omnidirectional speakers sounded pretty good, they managed to deliver the expansive soundstage you expect from such speakers while having a bit more solid and grounded center image than I've heard with other similar designs.  The bass sounded well integrated and balanced.

I am not a fan of most modern dynamic speakers featuring space age cabinets and exotic material drivers.  Most sound harmonically bleached, brittle, and, while they can deliver high volume levels and sound "fast,"
they tend to be lifeless sounding at modest volume levels.  That was not the case with the YG  Carmel 2's I heard at this show.  While not being quite as warm as I like my speakers, they sounded very good otherwise.

One of the bigger rooms, running a  Channel D music server also sounded very good.  If I recall correctly, the speakers were Vandersteens.

The Deja-Vu room with "non-vintage" and more modestly priced gear sounded very good for the money.  The system is modern, but old school (hence non-vintage), with tube electronics.  The new Harbeth 30.2s were in the system.  It is hard to tell under show conditions, but, compared to what I've heard of the 30.1s, these sounded better: a touch less obvious that the speakers are boxes, and the slightly annoying sibilant peak in the upper midrange was not evident (I like the 30.1s; I like the 30.2s a little bit more).
Charles, unfortunately the answer is No.  My wife is far more talented musically than I (piano and voice) but she has zero interest in jazz and less than zero interest in gear. She mostly listens to Broadway musical CDs in the car.  This was the first time she has ever attended a Hifi show so these were all new experiences for her.  
Hi Sal, 
 Thanks for your report. Your wife seems to have very good and refined ears. I understand why she'd be unimpressed with the typical hifi sounding rooms that usually get more press coverage. Does she enjoy listening to music often and did she play a role in developing your audio system?
Jond, the turntable in the Shindo/Auditorium 23 room was a PTP modified Lenco.  Like you I was impressed with the Auditorium 23 speaker which uses a Line Magnetic replica of the Western Electric 755 running full range.  The midrange was very natural and musical.  My wife said this was her favorite speaker out of the whole show.  I wouldn't go that far since it was too rolled off in the extremes for my tastes but it was still a very musical sound overall.  It was also nice to see Dave Cope again even though it was strange for him to be in a room without any Audio Note gear.

i posted some comments on this year's CAF on AA, but my favorite rooms (in order of preference) were:

1.  Dave Slagle's EMIA room with stacked Quad 57's driven by biamped PP 300B amps built into the speaker base.  Amazingly lifelike fullrange sound.  These were not your father's Quads.

2.  The DejaVu vintage room with 3-way field coil speakers using GIP replica versions of Western Electric drivers.  A great example of Vu's open baffle designs using vintage drivers and horns, although the room was way too small to do the speakers justice.

3.  The Robyatt room with single Quad 57's.

i didn't spend a whole lot of time in rooms with more conventional systems.  For those who like thumpy bass and sizzling highs there were those rooms too.  I took my wife to a number of those just so she could hear what "other" systems sound like, but she too had no interest in staying very long in those rooms.
Thank you. These components are Shindo's lower priced offerings and it is impressive that they were capable of sounding so well for you. Seems like a very high value proposition. 
hey charles the Shindo room was the first one I hit, the system was the Aureges Preamp and Montille amp, the source was a turntable names escaping me. I loved the Auditorium23 speakers Hommage something, first of all they are super cool looking a bit reminiscent of Advents or Tannoys. Really warm rich sound midrange was fantastic highs were warm and extended at the same time. Bass was solid for a single 8 inch full range driver overall very impressive.
Hi gsm18439 and jond,
Both of you seem to have very similar taste to mine based on reading your posts over the years. How would you guys describe the sound of the Shindo? Which preamp and power amplifier were they using? I’ve always heard good things about the Auditorium speakers. This seems like a system that I’d enjoy listening to. I believe that both of you would have liked the Tekton Double Impacts, they are very good speakers. Heard them with my Coincident 300b SET amplifier,  exceptionally good match. 
I also thought the Border Patrol/Volti room was good and love it last year. I didn't like the setup as much this year and didn't get a great seat but excellent tonality and aliveness.Couldn't really get much soundstaging off to the side.
@mapman   Great that you were able to listen to Tekton Design.

@gsm18439   Can you share more about the Volti/Border Patrol room? Thanks.
The premium  Tekton Double Impacts sounded very good running off 10 watt Linear Tube Audio amp. I spent a good amount of time listening there. Very weighty and dynamic wiith good detail and imaging. One of the more enjoyable listens of the day for me and a product that many might afford.

I liked the Zu, Shindo/Auditorium 23, and Border Patrol/Volti rooms. Also the ability to hear a refurbished pair of Quad 57s. The show was well organized with lots to see and hear. Definitely worth the trip.
I missed it again this year.  I was babysitting my grandson......bad planning on my part.  
mapman cool speaking of Harbeth's loved the new 30.2's in the second Deja Vu room listened to an entire side of Dark Side of the Moon great sounding speakers. I missed German Physiks and Tekton.
Not sure how I missed it, but would have gone.

Talked to a few people in NYC this weekend, and they told me the CAF went off really well.  3X the rooms, and far better sounding than the NYC show, unfortunately
Was there on Saturday. German Physiks was best room of show for me. Lots of good sounding rooms. Got to at least briefly sample most. Came home with a good deal on a Chord Mojo portable DAC.   Also heard  ATC Harbeth and Tekton for the  first time.