Capital Audio Fest 2021 Day One Coverage—With an Analog Slant

Capital Audio Fest 2021 was well-attended, yes but more importantly the enthusiasm level and excitement was off the charts. CAF usually attracts mainly the newbie and wannabe exhibitors but this year the show was positively mainstream with the show taking up the 3rd floor meeting rooms and 5th floor Twinbrook Hilton hotel rooms as well as the lower level atrium floor where record vendors proliferated and VAC/Von Schweikert occupied the biggest room off to the atrium side.

There were more than a few product debuts and some very useful seminars including two in the analog domain: Channel D's Rob Robinson delivered a really interesting talk about current mode vs voltage amplification phono preamps as well as having an acid battery flashback going over all of the various types of off the grid battery power alternatives. His discussion of "old school" EMI/RFI type interference versus newer cellphone microwave interference was an eye and ear openers. Robinson contended that microwave's super short wave lengths required a different level of filtering and that "old school" through the board mounted components created inductive paths (due to the distance between mounting holes) that SMT (surface mount technology) avoids. He said that when people note superior late night sound it's more due to fewer people talking on their cell phones than that fewer people are "on the grid". He also said that often people have different reactions to the same piece of equipment because their listening environments can be so different with respect to microwave interference. It was an enlightening presentation!

WAM Engineering's J.R. Boisclair presented a seminar called "When Stylus Meets Groove——Advanced Turntable Setup" that dealt with setup theory as opposed to the kind I've done through the years where I actually set up a turntable. Boisclair's was conceptual and through the use of slides and 1000:1 ratio models, very useful in demonstrating what can go wrong (and right) in the groove.

One of the best things about this show was that the music played was mostly free of the S.O.S. you hear at shows. Vinyl, streaming and server based audio ruled. I saw only a few CD players and even fewer CDs.

The show got off to a foul start for me: I found at one of the vinyl sellers a mint copy of Clifford Brown and Max Roach on EmArcy Records and a 2nd pressing (on Solid State Records) of Undercurrents featuring Jim Hall and Bill Evans originally released on United Artists Jazz. The master tape is long gone or not usable because both the Mobile Fidelity and Pure Pleasure reissues are like the cover art: "underwater". I have a nice original mono and an okay stereo but was really looking forward to the Solid State copy. I told the seller to please hold them for me while I go upstairs to do a few things and get some money from the cash machine. I returned a while later and the asshole had sold them out from under me, probably to some guy who saw the transaction and offered the quick cash. Got the show off to a less than stellar start, but it was all up from there. I met so many AnalogPlanet fans who were so kind and complementary.

I make it a habit of not posting sonic reviews of gear shown in hotel rooms because i don't see much value in it. Instead, I visit as many rooms as possible and show what's there. Some large manufacturers were either not attending or had a very small presence. But many of the 'big' companies were there as well. So enjoy the video and there'll be a second one early next week.

eatapc's picture

I was standing a few feet away looking through records when you told the seller that you'd be right back with the money and to hold the record for you. I almost butted in with an offer to loan you the cash, but the seller promised he'd hold the record aside, so I decided it would be presumptuous of me to doubt his word. I stayed out of it. I'm very sorry to hear he screwed you over.

Tasingegade's picture

did you buy the records?

xtcfan80's picture

Michael and earpac...Please identify the dealer so that AP readers may consider avoiding this dealer on-line or in person in the future.

marmaduke's picture

Consider this alternate narrative from someone who may be casually familiar with this seller.

The dealer recognized our fearless leader and figured that if he wanted those records they were likely worth more, maybe much more than he was asking.

Opportunity provided the perfect chain of possible events.

While MF went to fetch his cash, dealer goes to his favorite price site, finds the sold value of the records and decides to say that the records were sold to someone else and take the abuse.

The theory that someone just happened to come by and purchase the exact records MF wanted is a pretty slim chance.

That is unless the buyer was eatpac!

Come clean eatpac!

Michael Fremer's picture
Intermediate Listener's picture

Have been meaning to acquire Undercurrents (a favorite record since college radio days) and appreciate knowing MoFi and Pure Pleasure are not the ways to go.

Too bad tapes are not available for a Tone Poets release.

Paul Boudreau's picture

I listened to my MoFi copy the other day and it sounded kind of muffled.

Paul Boudreau's picture

That is.

Michael Fremer's picture
is correct.
Tom L's picture

What a low-down, dirty varmint.

OldschoolE's picture

Glad you filmed that Michael. JR is one of the nicest guys! I have had conversation with him in the past on the phone. He knows how to explain things! I don't have the money for any of his tools yet, but I do plan on getting at least one. He is also super helpful in that as well. He will explain what tool would be most beneficial for your turntable as not all turntables are compatible with all tools. For instanced, he won't have you purchase a tool to set up VTA if your turntable doesn't support that.
His passion is to get the right tool for the right job and help folks out and he is passionate about it!

ckirmuss's picture

Glad to see Wallytools at the show. JR is very informative.

rl1856's picture

One word "VENMO". Pay virtually while you are standing with him, take the LP with you when you leave. I have paid for many in person sales this way. Theories aside, MF is a famous person in the audio world, and it would not surprise me if his actions are observed by more than a few, especially when it comes to LP purchases. While it is highly likely that the seller tried to maximize his profit, it is also likely that someone else could have stepped in soon after MF walked away- having previously noticed him going through LPs.

swimming1's picture

You call that the "the snatch" LOL

ckirmuss's picture

It was nice to get out of the hamster cage (or bunny cage) and go to a real in-person audio event. Gary always puts on a great show and the place was hopping especially at the bar after the show... Congratulations Gary, our first and only show of the year. Thanks Michael for your coverage to those that could not attend.