Capital Audiofest 2022 has now come to an end. This is our second year attending and it was double the size of last year. With a total of 90 rooms packed with all types of Hifi Gear, there was a lot to check out and listen to. Gary Gill and his team who put on the CAF knocked it out of the park, the organization and setup of CAF is among the best shows out there. We talked to Gary before the show about the history of CAF, it started with just 12 rooms in a historic building and has grown to be one of the biggest shows in North America. We spent all three days walking the show and listening to as many systems as we could while also giving them the time they deserve. I don’t like to get too much into the sound of the systems as there are so many variables that the vendors can not control, they can’t exactly start nailing treatments to the walls so I take what I hear with that into consideration. On top of that, you have to remember that these companies do not have as much time to set up a system as we do at home or in a showroom so you have to work within those constraints. All that said with creativity and experience they are able to get pretty damn good sound quality out of their systems in spite of any limitations of the space.
Our Top 5 Rooms
I would love to write an in-depth report on every room but with 90 rooms and just me to write, this might be done in time for CAF 2023. So instead I will talk about what I thought were the Top Five Rooms at Capital Audiofest.
5 – Acora Acoustics, Hegel
Acora Acoustics brought two new speakers to CAF this year, both of which are made from quartz this time. Acora’s speakers have previously been made from granite, giving them an incredibly dense and inert cabinet. The new options are similar in design as well as the drivers. Powering the pair of QRCs I listened to was a Hegel Pre and Power Amp. The sound was rich, and warm, with good coverage of the mid-range. The top end was well represented. Bass tones were clear and reached low for a small driver.
4 – VAC, Von Schweikert
The VAC and Von Schweikert room sounded great last year and this year was no different. The sound envelopes you, with crystal clear detail, lush midrange, and bass to spare. At the time of listening, the source was the Esoteric Grandioso CD transport through the Grandioso DAC. With the Preamp and Power amps being VAC Statement lines.
3 – Linear Tube Audio, Credo
If you are looking for a sleeper system it is this one right here. This unassuming setup consists of Credo EV 1202 Ref, a pair of LTA ZOTL40 Reference+ Power amps, MicroZOTL Preamp, and a Meitner Integrated DAC. When I walked into the room I was looking for a subwoofer, I couldn’t believe the power and presence coming from the relatively small Credo speakers. The detail was spectacular, high frequencies were airy and light, with a superb midrange and reaching low into the bass tones. The sound came across as fairly balanced with a touch of warmth.
2 – Treehaus Audiolab
I absolutely loved everything about this room. Rich has created something very special with his designs. The Speakers are open baffle field coils with a Fostex Super Tweeter. All this is mounted in a slap of wood (of your choosing) making each pair different from the next. Rich also makes beautiful sounding and looking power and preamps. The system has an amazing synergy and a wonderful warmth with help from 300B tubes in the power amp. The sound is deep and wide, creating a massive stage. This system is clear and detailed but nowhere near fatiguing. The creativity and quality of workmanship are a big part of what draws me to Rich’s room. Rich has taken the status quo of the industry and absolutely smashed it. I want a pair of these speakers more than you know, I could listen and look at these all day long. They would be an awesome statement piece in a great room and bring a sense of coziness to any home.
1 – Highend By Oz, Thrax, Lansche, United Home Audio
Oz puts on a great show everywhere he goes, bringing top-of-the-line equipment and speakers and putting them in the best room he can. His room at Capital Audiofest 2022 was no different. Thrax made up the power and preamp part of the system with the use of their massive Spartacus 300, using 300B tubes to make 50 watts of pure class A. The source I listened to was the state-of-the-art reel-to-reel from United Home Audio, the Super Deck Carbon Fiber Edition. The speakers are also at the upper echelon, the Lansche 7.2 with their revolutionary plasma tweeter. This tweeter does not have a diaphragm, motor, or anything. It superheats air to plasma and uses a compressor to move the air creating the sound you hear. It is able to reach well behind what we can hear, 150kHz. This all led to the most complete, full range, and natural sound at the show. It was an incredible experience to listen to. It like the rest of these systems deserves much more time to give a more detailed and accurate report.
1 – Jeff Rowland, Aurender, Raidho
This was my first time really listening to anything from Jeff Rowland, so I was interested to see how his integrated amp the Daemon sounded coming through the Raidhos. I love Raidho Speakers, they have incredible detail and neutrality. The room had a very clean sound, and great bass and the Raidhos remained neutral with the Daemon so if you are looking for a neutral amp to complement your speakers, Jeffs’s designs may be something you want to check out.
2 – AGD, JansZen
Alberto from AGD creates really awesome amplifiers. They are Gallium Nitride Class D amps, but they are inside a tube body that looks similar to a KT88. I listened to them a couple of times now before in various systems and I am always impressed with how detailed and clean the Class D power is. I think we are well passed the days of Class D not belonging in Hifi and AGD confirms that for me. This time around they were powering JansZen’s new speakers with the first Synthetic Aperature line Array Speaker with conventional woofers. They sounded awesome and while the tweeter and mid-range are an electrostatic design they do not have that pinpoint sweet spot, I sat in different spots of the room and listened and while there is a best spot to be, I didn’t feel like I was missing out by sitting to one side or the other.
The rest of the show
I want to say there was not a bad room at the show, each offering something different, from high-end to entry-level offerings. Another one of my favorites was the Geshelli Audio room, they made these awesome Headphone amps and DACs and you can custom order your wood case and faceplate. They sound and look great, I am going to try to get some in for review and may purchase an amp and DAC for myself. I also spent some time in the headphone area of the show listening to a couple of different servers from Aurender, as well as playing with some STAX headphones and their Portable energizer. VPI also put on a great room as they tend to do using these beautiful Tannoy Speakers, Audio Research amps, and their Avenger Direct. Another wonderful room was set up by House of Stereo, Joe brought a set of Arion Audio Apollos and powered them with Phasemation power amps as well as their phono stage. Joe also had a VPI Avenger Direct in his room. There were a lot of new products on display as well as prototypes, such as a new Phono Stage from SOTA that we got to listen to and will likely be getting in for review when it is available.
The record sale was also massive this year, and I picked up a record myself. It is by Broke Royals, put out by Byrdhouse Records, a vendor at the show. There were about 10 different dealers, selling records, CDs, tapes, as well as reels. The selection was huge, with music from any genre you can think of as well as from several different countries. I am excited to listen to the music I picked up this year at the show, including a couple of CDs from the live performance on Saturday night.
We had a wonderful time in Maryland and look forward to the next show. We got to see some of our old friends and make new ones. I want to thank everyone who participated in making this show such a success and I want to thank Gary for putting on a world-class event. Also, shout out to Byrdhouse Records for bringing Stripmall Ballads to the show to play live music for us, they killed it.
Without further adieu, below are the rest of the photos from our wonderful trip to Capital Audiofest
For more info about Capital Audiofest and Pacific Audiofest click the link below