Pursuing the Ultimate Music Experiences

Audio Federation High-Fidelity Audio Blog

Audio Note and Audio Federation at CAS 2018

The sliver faceplates of the Audio Note components against the black of the equipment racks was an awesome thing to see – as well as hear 🙂

[forgive me. new camera. new to lightroom]

The AN components were the two box DAC: The Fifth Element and Fifth Force, the two box M9 Phono preamplifier and the CDT-Five transport.

*happy ears*


Audio Federation – CAS 2018

We are going to pepper you with photos from the show for awhile here. Oh, and photos from our digs here as well.

Uh, hope you all like pepper!

[the show report is progressing apace – expect it to still be a week out or so]

Acapella Campanile 2 loudspeakers

Audio Note, HRS and Acapella

This is the path we had to use get to the light switches – between the right speaker and the LaMusika poster 🙂

CAS 2018 Day 1 – The Boardrooms

First day was busy. A quick flyby of the boardrooms at the show…. Neli said that more people visited us the first day here at the Dagogo California Audio Show 2018 than the entire time at Axpona.

Margules Group


Triangle Art, Angel City Audio


Pass Labs, Zu Audio


Destination Audio, TriangleArt

AAudio Imports, Stage III, Ypsilon, Wilson Benesch, HB Cable Design

The Audio Note Fifth Element DAC and CDT-Five transport

See and hear both at CAS 2018 – the California Audio Show – Oakland July 27-29th. That’s next week, BTW. 🙂



I was listening to this, the Decca Legends King’s College Choir (Willcocks) but the older non-super digital version. Always sounded pretty good, alwys kind of inspiring – but for the first time I could tell they were singing in English. I always assumed it was Latin or Italian or whatever. What a shock. I have heard this CD for literally 20+ years. I attribute this additional clarity to the arrival of the Audio Note Fifth Element / Fifth Force and the ability of the Acapella Campanile 2 speakers to ‘get out of the way’ of the music.

Acapella Campanile 2 loudspeakers, Audio Note, and CAS 2018

We have a new arrival, a pair of Acapella Campanile 2 loudspeakers. We will be showing these at our local hifi show in a few weeks – CAS 2018, on July 27 – 29, in Oakland. Constantine Soo (Dagogo) and Neli will be doing a Facebook Live this Sunday at 2:00pm featuring these speakers. These are the first Campanile 2 to make it to our shores, and look and sound like small versions of the much larger Acapella ‘Apollon’ speakers.

The speakers look a little imposing without the speaker’s grill covers on…


But with grille covers on, they fit right in with a mid-century modern Eichler living room decor. They are eminently driveable by the Audio Note UK 20 watt 300B SET Kegon amplifiers. 🙂

It has been awhile since we had this kind of ‘big sound’ in our main listening room. We like it.

For all of us who are not Facebook Live experts … the California Audio Show has posted some helpful hints to see our video realtime and also afterwards:

Facebook Live

Audio Note in the main listening room

We had this system in the main room for about three weeks, optimizing the setup, until …. the Acapella Campanile 2 speakers arrived! The Acapella speakers are now breaking in… photos forthcoming… but first, we have to salute these under $10K speakers – AN/E Spe He in Olive wood – they whupped the heck out of the place. Our main room has corners! And these extremely efficient speakers easily engaged the room to provide kick ass bass, along with explosive transients.

I really love these speakers – even though they cause me to long for the Acapella ION tweeter sometimes, I have found horn speakers are the only other type of speaker that comes close to the realism and the excitement of the Ultimate Music Experience – at least it is that way for me these days. I have become much more of a cut-to-the-chase kind of guy. I want the excitement to come to me, not for me to try and have to listen really hard and deeply to get the enjoyment I want – the enjoyment I need – to make it through the next day of insanity.

These Audio Note speakers will re-appear in our smaller listening room shortly.

Audio Note Kegon 300B amplifiers, CDT-Five transport, Fifth Element and Fifth Force DAC / power supply, M9 Phono preamplifier, and TT2 deluxe turntable on a HRS MXR equipment rack.


We are enjoying the appearance of the Olive wood, and the high-efficiency of the blue hemp drivers.

Summer in Palo Alto, California. 🙂

Don’t forget CAS 2018 is coming right up on July 27-29, 2018 in Oakland California. See us in Boardroom 5!


Show Report and Best of Show – Axpona 2018

I have not been doing a lot of ‘Best of Show’ reports lately. The ones I read out there in the wild internet chose rooms apparently at random [or as a function of how many advertising dollars were spent this year] and I do not want to be a participant in such a worthless and misleading tradition like this [and in public, on the internet, too! Have they no shame? ;-)].

But people like them and so I will contribute this version of what I think a Best Of Show might be like on Opposite Earth, where I used to live and where things were supposed to make sense and people were supposed to be honorable some of the time.

For a Best of Show to be useful, IMO, it has to start with a point of view of what… is… excellent music reproduction.

Here is mine:

Best Sound: Is it Musical? Have realistic audiophile properties? Have impressive audiophile properties? Impressive dynamics? Impressive resolution?  Impressive bass? Attractiveness? Friendly manufacturer? Does it have a high price? Is the brand familiar?

This is more or less the order in which I personally judge the sound of these systems… and what I go for when I help setup our system at a show.

… but I would argue that the vast majority of other show reports out there use more or less the exact opposite order when they assign ‘best of show’ awards to exhibit rooms. 

I have described audiophile properties before, so let’s focus on Musicality as it relates to evaluating a system sound at a show.

I think it fundamentally has to do with, in priority order: 1) is the sound communicating something [hopefully a lot!] about the music [and the less it ‘sounds like hifi’ the better], 2) is the sound enjoyable [will people be able to listen to the thing for extended periods of time], and 3) will it still sound enjoyable after the ‘newness’ of the sound has worn off – i.e. does the sound have something akin to ‘depth of character’. Like art, some things look or sound good at first, but after awhile… living with the thing over a long period might either drive one nuts or bore one to death.

Because the system in our room is designed to have the Best Sound according to the above judging criteria, and because we pick manufacturers and gear [and often price-no-object gear] to accomplish this Best Sound according to the above, we are naturally going to often, if not always, have the Best Sound, according to the above criteria.

If people have different criteria for what constitutes Best Sound, then they are possibly going to disagree with our room having the Best Sound and the list of other Best Sounds I list below. But at least you know where we are coming from and how we came up with this list.

I missed the room with Martin Logan / Continuum room on our floor, I think, and a group of 8 rooms on the 2nd floor. My apologies, I just didn’t see them. I feel like kind of an idiot that I didn’t check the program guide to see if I missed anything. Maybe I belong on this Earth after all.


YG Acoustics loudspeakers and AudioNet amps

The GTT Audio Room

As much as it surprises me [and it does. For me, Bill Parish and GTT Audio has gone from caring some of the most interesting gear in the world to gear that primarily excels in high-performance  i.e. Impressive Audiophile Effects]. The Kubala Sosna cables help tame the sound of the YG Acoustics and AudioNet – but this is a sound much like, say, Magico rooms often go for when they setup rooms themselves. But in this case better than I have ever heard Magico – in recent memory anyway. It did so many things right, that the lack of musicality was not fatal for this listener who puts Musicality at the top of the list of his desirable attributes. So, yeah, it was good. Solid imaging, realistic soundstage with good depth, pretty evenhanded dynamics [on YG Acoustics speakers at that! I think this 4-box speaker setup is a big win]. Harmonics were bland, decay was blah, the finest subtleties were AWOL, but this is kind of what most solid-state offers these days, so many people, owners of solid-state, and never having heard these things anyway, will not miss these things. There were a lot of solid-state systems at this show, and many systems with this kind of sound, and of them all, this was by far the one I would take home.


The Von Schweikert and VAC room

What is it with reviewers who play music that no one ever heard before? Yeah, it’s cool that they found this piece and know all about it and all. And it may even help them, alone in all the world, to understand the sound of a system. But, half the time it is bleeps and boops, and the other half sparse, beautifully played but hardly-system stressing music. And please, please! let me not catch this show reviewer disease. Maybe you and your friends have not heard something I play at a show on other people’s systems to evaluate that system, but millions of other people have, so at least there is some chance that what I play will be useful to someone else not just me.

So this show I did not get to hear something like a simple rock and roll or pop song nor a complex classical piece. The last show, CAS 2017, I heard this system and it fell apart on rock and roll, becoming very aggressive and uneven [but was still one of the best systems there]. This show the system was better integrated into the room, less head-in-a-vice, and I would expect it did a bit better on jest about everything compared to CAS. But don’t know.

This system had scale and didn’t flinch when asked to fill the hall with sound. So that was awesome. And I personally loved the deep blue color 🙂 VAC has a tendency to roll off the dynamics and high frequencies, but not by much and it probably helps a bit to tame the system performance in unpredictable ‘show conditions’. This sound was slightly warmer than the GTT Audio solid-state system but not by much – and they both kind of excelled the same way: ability to handle macro-dynamics, good imaging and soundstaging [especially depth when seated between the speakers], fairly good, I guess I could say, satisfying, resolution…

Thinking about it, many of the rooms at Axpona had that old-style ‘dealer sound’. I haven’t heard this sound much at shows in… ten years? The sound which, when I hear it, makes me wonder who would ever buy this stuff and feel sorry for the few people who do buy it who were convinced that this is ‘good sound’. You know: harsh, uneven, grates on the nerves, but loud enough with enough bass and resolution to be better than Best Buy.

Well, GTT Audio and this room [and the smaller rooms listed below] were not that [at least at this show :-)], not a drop, and I hope they made an impact on your average everyday Chicagoan audiophile.

I liked several rooms at Axpona, a couple of the Raidho speaker rooms, the Alta Audio speaker room, and have some short notes about the following :

Prana Fidelity [clear, open and dynamic, extreme price performance], and just a fun place to be 🙂

EXOGAL (Ryan Speakers) [I find these speakers almost always musical, entertaining and approachable],

Deadalus Audio (the larger room) [harmonic, good separation, even-handed top to bottom]. This, for my taste, described above, was much better than they, these speakers, usually sound – which makes me think they were paired with better gear in this room (Lampizator DAC et. al.) – that makes me think that the speakers are good enough that they sound better as the quality of the system they are part of gets better – which makes me think they should use better gear like this at all their shows :-),


Triangle Art master reference turntable

Triangle Art Master Reference [the table sounded quite interesting], but I can’t hear enough of it around the EgglestonWorks speakers, and the unfamiliar amps and cables, to get a complete sense of what it is doing – but people f’n love this table. Yeah, it is blingy, but there are a lot of blingy tables, in fact the vast majority of turntables are blingy once you get above $5K or so. People just really like this one – it strikes some chord that I personally don’t see but I see it’s affect on other people and it is impressive. I can say that I think it does sound better than the average $40K turntable out there, so there is that :-).

The Voice That Is (TiDAL speakers) [These speakers have a polite sound, what we called a Sophisticated sound]. We used to LOVE this kind of sound, Neli even more than me. We both have kind of moved on to a more dynamic sound with perhaps more separation, so it is hard for me to rave about this kind of sound anymore. But along with all of the other systems in this section, Prana Fidelity, Ryan speakers, Daedalus in a quality system setup like this at Axpona, or better, and Tidal offer a relative safe and guaranteed way to get real music into an audiophiles life at various, often quite affordable, price points.

This is important: Earth to fellow dealers and manufacturers: People want to buy gear with sound that doesn’t suck. Sound that someone besides the person who paid for it can love. Sound that will not result in buyer’s regret the next morning. Because of all the choices audiophile consumers have these days – choices which seem to grow in number no matter how much common business sense says they should not – it is really REALLY hard for the consumer to find something that DOESN’T SUCK.

Well, these don’t suck.

And that is my show report. See you all at CAS 2018!