Capital Audio Fest 2021 Day Two Coverage

Day two of the Capital Audio Fest began outside where I ran into Theremin manufacturer Arthur Harrison who'd been invited to give two talks on the spooky sounding instrument. The usual show stuff follows that fascinating encounter. I try to not review hotel room sound unless something sticks out as being unusually fine sounding.

Doug White of The Voice That Is, in cooperation with Audio Skies Michael Vamos were the only exhibitors who chose to host an early morning press conference, so I attended along with a many other journalists on hand to cover the show. For most of us it was our first audio press conference in more than a year and it was a welcome return to semi-normalcy.

The system consisted of TIDAL Contriva Loudspeakers, normally $69,000 with a special limited to 20 pairs worldwide edition on display costing $72,000. Very handsome looking speakers! The electronics consisted of TIDAL's Prisma Preamplifier ($40,000) and TIDAL's new Intra stereo amplifier ($33,000). The source was the new triple box made in Greece and imported by Audio Skies Ideon Audio Absolute Epsilon DAC ($44,000), Ideon Absolute Stream ($$19,900), and the Ideon Absolute Time ($8,900) together called The Absolute Suite System. Obviously the 2nd and 3rd units are a streamer and an outboard clock. Accessories included Siltech Classic Legend and Crown cables, Computer Audio Design Ground Control-1 ($1995); GC-3 ($4500), which I reviewed and bought. It's a passive grounding system that removes noise from your system, not necessarily noise you hear as noise, but when it's gone you'll know it! Power conditioning was Equitech's 2RQ Balanced Power Conditioner ($6,545) and the rack was the Ictra Design Proto-AS Rack. I have to give this company the "self-centered home page award." They are so into their superb close up photography they don't bother to tell you there what their product even is! I swear. You have to dig in to get it.

Mr. Vamos, who also imports the very fine Pear Audio Blue turntables, spoke about the Ideon Audio DAC and said it was "the most analog-like" DAC he'd ever encountered and he said it was also the most dynamic. He said it could decode all formats. I asked about MQA and he said the company chose to not include it. After the description, Mr. White played about a half-hour's worth of music, mostly small group pop and jazz efforts, much of which (though not all) featured processed vocals. It was confounding because none of it demonstrated what Vamos claimed were the DAC's strong suits: dynamics and "analog-like" sound. At the end The Absolute Sound reviewer Andy Quint, who I was sitting with (the two of us agreed about the curious musical choices), got to hear some classical music he'd requested that did produce the promised dynamics and analog-like sonics. After the event I spoke to both White and Vamos and stuck my nose into their business, saying "If you are going to make claims about "dynamics" and "analog-like" performance from the DAC you are demonstrating, why not pick out some music that produces both of those and announce same before playing? I felt that after all of this prep work it was a lost opportunity, save for Quint's file, which may or may not have been an excerpt from Berlioz's "Symphony Fantastique". That was the sonic highlight that showed off the entire system capable of filling the large room with authoritative sound.

The $50 Reliable Corporation Uberlight Flex light reviewed here a while back was all over the show. The manufacturer smartly shipped a bunch to many exhibitors so attendees could see how great a product this is for so little money and now it's also available in black.

The pent up demand for a show plus good organization by Gary Gill and a pleasant venue made Cap Audio Fest 2021 a great way to start up the audio show season. This past weekend I went to Seattle to play records at a listening event produced by Audio-ultra's Ed DeVito (who along with Rex Hungerford visited twice and helped fix my bad electricity so it was the least I could do). One of the Zoom meeting guests was Franc Kuzma who "Zoomed in" from Slovenia. At the end of his presentation I said "See you in Munich, Franc" and he replied that he didn't think there would be a Munich show in 2022 because Covid is again plaguing Europe. That was depressing news and I hope it's not true, but hopefully I'll see some of you at AudioCon in Irvine, CA January 14-16th, 2022 (yes, that's what it's called). In any case, enjoy day two of Cap Audio Fest 2021!

FrankMcA's picture

Would you please do a better job of letting those of us who would like to see you inperson (Even though my partnetr Susie loves your videos and laughs so hard at each and everone of your bits) we would have shown up at Seattle where we live.

Michael Fremer's picture
I tweeted the Seattle appearance on the AnalogPlanet Twitter feed. I suppose i should have posted a note here too. I'll do better going forward.
culturcide's picture

I wish you would ammend your site to open links in a new tab.

John Atkinson's picture
culturcide wrote:
I wish you would amend your site to open links in a new tab.

In the Firefox browser, if you right-click on a link it asks if you want to open the link in a new tab.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

theboogeydown's picture

The lead photo has the new B&W w/ McIntosh gear but I somehow missed it in the video. Did I scrub past accidentally somehow? Was curious about your take on them as I've recently heard that combo and was floored.

Michael Fremer's picture
I didn't have a chance to listen to this combo... I "scrubbed past" the room....
B.Scarpia's picture

As a hobbyist builder who pays particular attention to power supply filtering, I've long held that the 'noise you don't hear' is indeed an issue to be dealt with. Wouldn't it be nice if someone would build a GC-1 type circuit in a more value-driven format for those of us who aren't venture capitalists. $500 to $1,000 would entice me.

Michael Fremer's picture
At the beginning of the first day's coverage. Not sure if it's the same as the GC-1 but seems to be a similar idea...
tvti's picture

Dear Michael,

Thanks for your visit to allow Michael Vamos the opportunity to share the details and background of Ideon Audio and the Absolute Stack along with a complete Tidal Audio system in my room at Capital Audio Fest. This was the first time I held such an event with a room full of reviewers. The coffee and pastries helped start the early morning event before show start and it is my hope you enjoyed the sound, and company of industry professionals as much as I did.

I’m glad that you were present to hear one of Andy Quint's tracks that you felt clearly delivered Mr. Vamos’ claims for the Ideaon’s achievements. That track was Allegretto/Bernard Haitink + Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra - Shostakovich: Symphony No. 15 . Your comment of “That was the sonic highlight that showed off the entire system capable of filling the large room with authoritative sound” is very much valued! We received several similar compliments afterward which we both appreciated.

With that said, I welcome you to visit to listen to the Ideon Absolute Epsilon, Stream and Time at my Studio. The time will be yours to experience the performance in a more comfortable setting. I look forward to a great listening experience of your choice.