The Capital Audio Fest seems well on its way toward becoming an annual event. Attendance was good, vendors even better, and the sound? A mixed bag. A few rooms sounded very good, others not so much.
But that may not even really be the point of the show. What you get out of it is enthusiasm—enthusiasm for equipment, for software, for music. This isn’t for audiophile nitpickers, chin scratchers, and the like. It’s about having a swell time. The show, which is based at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Rockville, MD, or the greater Washington, DC area, as the show organizers like to put it, has a very cool vibe. There’s no pressure from anyone to do anything, buy or sell. Rather, it gives you a chance to experience a wide range of equipment, some of it quite esoteric, particularly on the horn side.
Several of the horn systems, in fact, sounded quite fetching. Take HighWater Sound. Jeff Catalano was grooving on his TW Acustic Raven turntable, playing both mono and stereo jazz LPs. The $24,000 a pair Horning Hybrid loudspeakers he was demoing sounded darned good--transparent and dynamic, though with the air conditioning turned off the room came to resemble a small sauna. Give us a break, Jeff! Not all of us welcome a tropical environment, which is literally what his room resembled with plants covering the windows.
The estimable John Wolff from Classic Audio was also demoing several horn loudspeakers, including the $25,000 T-3.4 model. Exceptionally fine sound. Wolff knows his stuff. And not least, he was selling several Nipper replicas. I ponied up for one—a fine aesthetic addition to any audio system.
Chris Sommovigo (Signal Collection) and Tod Garfinkle (MA Recordings) were also doing brisk business selling cables and CDs, respectively. Down the hall was United Home Audio demoing an attractive pair of Vienna Acoustics Beethoven loudspeakers.
I also got a chance to meet Jonathan Halpern, as staunch a proponent of horns as you are likely to meet and the head of Tone Imports. Halpern spoke passionately about the virtues of the Shindo-modified Garrard 301 turntable and about the properties of the RIAA curve. This man, friends, is as hard core as it gets when it comes to audio. He was demoing with loudspeaker designer John DeVore. DeVore Fidelity’s Orangtuan/96 loudspeaker at $12,000 a pair sounded exceptionally concise and pristine and intimate. A winner.
For those inclined simply to browse the Audio Fest also featured several record sellers. I walked away with some excellent classical and jazz LPs. While not the biggest show around, the Capital Audio Fest is a uniquely intimate affair. It appears to be establishing a firm toehold. The Audio Fest, you could even say, is a capital idea.