We have still been playing catch up and getting more information about the rooms who used our product at Capital Audiofest. Check out Distinctive Stereo and Living Acoustic's experience at the show!
We recently returned from Capital Audio Fest, the first audio US show since pre-COVID, and it was great to be back in the swing of things. Gary Gill and his staff did a great job, and we of course appreciated all the attendees, without whom there would’ve been no show.
In this Newsletter, Larry describes what a show is like from our perspective (see A Show From An Exhibitor’s Perspective below), Isaac, our analogue guru, describes Genesis Advanced Technologies’ The Player (see Genesis Advanced Technologies’ The Player below) and we showcase our visitors’ discography gallery (see Visitor’s Discography below).
As the cold weather approaches many of us spend more time inside. It’s a great time to get those stereo upgrades you’ve been thinking about, so we are running some Winter specials (see Winter Specials at the bottom of this newsletter). The list is only partial, so feel free to contact us about any products we carry as well as cartridge setup.
We wish everyone a happy holiday, and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
With best regards,
Larry and Isaac
Genesis Advanced Technologies’ The Player
At CAF Genesis Advanced Technologies debuted The Player: a complete phono system which includes a direct drive turntable with a suspended chassis, the Genesis Platinum phono stage, a power supply, a power conditioner, the supporting rack and all power cables and interconnects. Ultra low distortion, high speed stability and superb micro vibration control make this phono system sound super dynamic, detailed and three-dimensional. Check out this short video snippet of a visitor’s vintage Chicago LP during CAF.
A Show From An Exhibitor’s Perspective
By Laurence Borden of Distinctive Stereo
As an audio enthusiast, and later as a reviewer, audio shows were something I always looked forward to. Going from room to room, hearing many new systems (and new music), talking to the designers, manufacturers, dealers, and other enthusiasts, seeing old friends and making new ones – it was like being a kid in a toy store. The days flew by, and despite having often visited all (or almost all) the rooms, some multiple times, I wished there were more, and it was sad when the show ended and it was time to head home.
I knew it was a lot of work for the exhibitors, but didn’t realize just how much until I started Distinctive Stereo. For those who are interested in what it is like from “the other side,” what follows is brief summary of what went into preparing for the recent Capital Audio Fest, which took place November 5-7, 2021. I will try to list the steps in chronological order, but there was considerable overlap.
Of course, we all hope for positive feedback from visitors, rave reviews from the Press, and sales. Regarding sales: For the second CAF in a row, we sold a pair of Maestros. Selling $40K speakers is not an everyday event, and we were of course delighted (an understatement, if ever there was one). However, we have now set a dangerous precedent as Gary Koh - owner and designer of Genesis - informed Isaac and me that he now expects us to do the same at every show. Talk about pressure!!!
With all the “moving parts” necessary for a successful show, it is hardly surprising that sometimes things go wrong. Some of the things that can go wrong are what a politician once termed “known unknowns,” and include equipment failures (usually due to damage in shipping), poor electrical power in the hotel rooms, weak WiFi, sonic “interference” (especially bass) from neighboring rooms, and the like. To the best of our ability, we prepare for such events. Indeed, this year we experienced one such problem.
While Gary and Isaac were setting up the brand new, state of the art Genesis Record Player, I was setting up the digital side of the system. As is well known, systems often need time to warm up/settle in before sounding their best, and digital is the easiest way to keep the system playing non-stop; after warm up, we would begin the task of optimizing the speakers’ positions and settings). (The digital system was the Aurender N30SA streamer/server-->EMM Labs DA2 DAC. The rest of the system was the Merrill Audio Christine preamplifier-->Merrill Audio Element 118 monoblock amps-->Genesis Maestro loudspeakers). As soon as the connections were made and I hit “play,” I heard sound from the right channel, but not from left. “Nothing serious” I thought to myself, “a connection is loose.” (A connection to the equipment, not in my head as is often suggested!) So after turning off the amps I disconnected and re-connected interconnects and speaker wire, powered up the amps, but still no sound from the left channel. Uh oh. Gary and Isaac were fine-tuning the turntable and cartridge; I tried explaining that what they were doing would be moot if we couldn’t get the second channel working but they were deeply engrossed in what they were doing, and ignored me. (They also ignored me because I can be a pain in the butt, but that is a discussion for another day.) At the time Merrill was wandering around the room, likely pondering when and where he could get parts to finish the new Christine MX preamplifier - which, BTW, is spectacular, as we will describe in our next newsletter. (Said parts, like so many other things in the age of COVID, are either not available, or are sitting on a boat that is unable to dock and/or be unloaded.) I was able to get his attention, and explained the situation. Two heads are better than one - especially when one of the heads is as smart as Merrill’s - and we were quickly able to ascertain that one of the Element 118’s was damaged in shipping. Thankfully, about a week before the show, I suggested to Merrill that we bring a pair of the Element 116’s as a back-up. Disaster avoided! (A number of years ago - at RMAF if memory serves- the power went out in the entire hotel and surrounding area for well over an hour. To the best of my knowledge, none of the exhibitors brought gas-powered backup generators with them - probably a good thing, as the exhaust fumes would likely have killed everyone. For future shows perhaps we should all go hi-tech and bring Tesla Powerwalls!)
Then there are the “unknown unknowns,” by which I mean things that are not only unknown, but that we are unlikely to even imagine. Two such events happened this past show though thankfully, neither had any serious consequences.
Because our exhibitor room was in my name, when I went to the hotel desk Thursday morning to check in, I requested four keycards - one for me, and one for each of my colleagues. After filling out some forms, they gave me only two cards. There were a number of people behind me in the line who were as eager to get to their rooms as I was to mine, so rather than adding to the delay I took the two cards, assuming I could come back later to get more cards. I met my colleagues at the room, and we began the task of setting up the room. On Friday my colleagues asked for a keycard in case they arrived earlier or stayed later than the rest of us, so I went to the front desk to request two more keycards. So far, so good, right? The desk clerk balked when I asked for two extra keycards, and then mentioned that there was a $500 fee for any lost keycard. “Five hundred dollars?” I asked, incredulously. “For a plastic card with a chip that probably costs the Hilton $5?,” to which the clerk replied “didn’t you read the agreement you signed?” Alas, in my haste I had not read the agreement. Suffice it to say I did not get any more cards, and cautioned Gary (the holder of the other card) to please not lose the one I had given him. Thankfully he and I both took care, and at the end of the show I returned both cards without incident.
The second “unknown unknown” surprised me more than the keycard. Isaac and I were showing a perspective customer a product we had on a static display. Out of the blue, a representative from a competing manufacturer came into our room, put his hand on the customer’s shoulder, and physically steered him out of our room. Isaac and I looked at one another in amazement. I stepped outside of the room into the Atrium, looked to my right where I knew that manufacturer had a booth, and sure enough - there he was with the customer. I went back into our room, and continued to take care of our other guests. A bit later I again stepped outside our room, and seeing that the representative was not with a customer, I walked over, introduced myself, and as politely as possible explained that it was not proper for him to take a customer out of my room, while I was talking to him. He defended his behavior by telling me that the customer had previously been to his booth but that he was unable to speak with because he was with another customer, and thus asked him to come back later. I told him that I understood his desire to try and make a sale with said customer, but that it really wasn’t cool for him to come into my room to take a customer away, especially when I was speaking with him about one of my products. He still wasn’t getting it but finally agreed to not do it again “in MY room” (his emphasis). I replied that, with all due respect, he shouldn’t do it in anybody’s room, and then offered him my hand and assured him I was not angry. We shook hands, and that was that. Or so I thought, until the next day when he saw me passing by, and said that he owed me an apology. I thanked him, said that his apology was accepted, and that there were no hard feelings. But then he again began to justify his actions, using the same logic as the day before. I realized that this was not going to be a fruitful discussion so I again shook his hand, wished him a good day, and walked back to our room, SMH [text-speak for “Shaking My Head”].
But there were also many high points of the show, including of course the positive feedback (often glowing) we received from visitors to our room, some of whom came back repeatedly, and some who remained for long periods of time. And of course, a high point of all shows is enjoying music with new and old friends, learning about new music (not necessarily newly recorded, but new to us), and introducing visitors to some of our favorites. This was fun throughout the show, but three occurrences – all of which took place on Sunday, the last day of the show - especially stood out for me. The first involved my buddy Mike, and his buddy Ken, both of whom had attended the Genesis event with special guest Gary Koh, held at my place in September 2019 (https://www.audionirvana.org/forum/title-to-be-added/audio-events/123670-distinctive-stereo-thows-weekend-event-featuring-genesis-advanced-technologies). Mike is an avid (an understatement) collector of incredible first-class recordings of great music. He and Ken stopped by our room on Friday, and arranged to come back on Sunday to listen to Mike’s recordings. As promised they returned on Sunday, and stayed for close to two hours, dazzling everyone in the room with extraordinary music. (The Genesis Record Player, Genesis Maestro loudspeakers, and Merrill Audio electronics certainly didn’t hurt!)
Later in the day on Sunday, Gary and I both immediately recognized another visitor, as he had visited us at CAF 2019 with a fantastic album of Prince playing piano. This year he again knocked our socks off with different music with which we were not familiar (see Visitor’s Discography below).
But the high point of the show for us was something we truly could never have imagined. After the show ended on Sunday, as we were collecting our energy to face the task of dismantling the gear and packing it all up, a security guard looked in as part of his rounds. He apparently liked what he heard, and asked if he could come in. We welcomed him, and showed him to the chair at the sweet spot. We asked what type of music he likes, to which he replied “gospel.” We then played a few tracks of gospel - or as close to it as we could - including Fairfield Four “My God Called Me This Morning.” The look on his face was incredible; he was truly in ecstasy, and couldn’t stop expressing his amazement at what he was hearing. (As an aside, he mentioned that for the three days at the show, almost all he heard while walking around was bass boom.) It is unlikely he will become a customer, or that our paths will ever cross again, and I don’t remember his name - nor will I know if he stumbled upon us by chance, or if (pardon the pun) God was calling him to our room. But none of that matters; what my colleagues and I will never forget is the sheer joy we brought to him. That made all the work worth it, for all of us.
In closing, I want to give a sincere and hearty “thank you” to Gary Gill for organizing CAF, to all the exhibitors who took a chance despite the uncertainties associated with COVID, to all the attendees (without whom there would not be a show), and to my colleagues Isaac, Gary and Merrill.
The past two years have certainly been difficult for public events especially audio shows. Capital Audiofest has always been one of our favorites! However with it being cancelled in 2020 and other shows cancelled for good or postponed, we weren't sure what would be happening for 2021. Having the positive news that the "show will go on" VPI was excited to start talking to our partners about who would be featuring our products. One enthusiastic partner Joe Parvery owner of House of Stereo and Wolf Audio. House Of Stereo who had a fantastic room featured our new Avenger Direct with T+A elektroakustik , Synergistic Research, Wolf Audio Systems, Tad Steak House.
Bringing out the big guns, House of Stereo was one of two rooms who used our brand new VPI Avenger Direct Drive turntable. This was a product which had a soft release in 2019 with the expected proper release at CAF 2020, but we all know what happened there. The goal of the Avenger Direct (30K) was to take the advanced Direct Drive Technology we already offer in our HW-40 (20K) and provide it in our Sandbox-Type turntable design in our Avenger body. This was also inspired by having a more reasonable price point as the only other Direct Drive with this level of tonearm diversity is our Vanquish at the price tag of 80K (it you think that price is nuts, you should have herd the distributor who said the price tag is too cheap!)
More on the Avenger Direct in a future post, but for House of Stereo they ran the table with two of our 12" Gimbal Fatboy arms. One mounted with an Analog Relax and Phasemation Cartridge brands, both sounding fantastic on this system.
Words from House of Stereo Owner, Joe Parvey:
"Capital AudioFest 2021 is a wrap. You'll see our room in photos above, but I can tell you that our room, driven by the TAD Compact Reference stand-mount speakers was easily in the top 3 rooms of the show. M 40 HV amps drove the SDV 3100 HV Reference DAC, and my Wolf Audio Systems Red Wolf 2 SX - it was a world debut, but I decided last minute to wait a bit on the announcement. Connecting everything was a combination of Synergistic Research's Galileo and SRX Cabling, as well as several devices like their Black Box sympathetic resonance devices - when we first heard the bass bloat in that 35x50 room I was terrified, envisioning ridicule and abject sonic failure - it's a huge room, and no matter how good the equipment is, if it sounds like the ceiling might fall in on you, you've got a problem! But once Dave Weintraub got to work tuning the room, the fears went away and elation prevailed. The room sounded damn good, and I have him and Synergistic to thank for it. Show attendance was nowhere near as low as I feared, but it wasn't as much as I had hoped. Either way, we are getting back to normal and that is good enough for me!
Another company near and dear to my heart is VPI. They called days before the show and asked my opinion on hardware they could use, and I came up with PA 3100 HV and MP 3100 HV for them with the JBL Project Everest speakers. Harry and Mat were over the moon with the sound quality, and I have promised them M 40 HV's and the SDV or P 3100 HV for next year. Two more converts to T+A! In addition to that, consider this: a turntable manufacturer also had a digital section in their room, and it was driven by my Wolf Audio Systems Alpha 3 SX server with the MP 3100 HV DAC and a Synergistic Research Galileo SX USB Cable. It sounded amazing, and that Harry was comfortable using the Audio Server for such a critical listening space is awesome, and a testament to what we do over with Wolf and T+A.
Other T+A developments at the show included Linear Tube Audio using the Solitaire-P headphones to show off their newest amp, and come to think of it, the P-SE's were also borrowed by one guy to demo in his space and he came back excited as well.
We'll be adding more show pics and posting more quotes from reviewers, visitors and dealers alike once we get unpacked and get our rooms put back together here in Florida. Thanks Everyone!"
- Joe Parvey
Thanks to the House of Stereo team and all other partners involved in creating such a great room and experience!
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