Pursuing the Ultimate Music Experiences

Audio Federation High-Fidelity Audio Blog

Audio Federation at Capital Audiofest 2019

Continuing our COVID-19 high-fidelity vaccine to help keep the virus (or at least island fever) at bay…

Recorded in glorious 24×96.

This video may be blocked in Germany and the U.K. because of this song

Copyrighted content: Carpenters – Top Of The World (1973 Remix)

Sorry! But the rest of us get to hear it, along with:

Stairway To Heaven
Tiny Tim, Brave Combo
For a ‘cover’ this is pretty good…!

Zu Audio at Capital Audiofest 2019

Continuing our COVID-19 audio fixings…

Zu Audio arrived a day late due to snow and travel issues. But they rocked out when they got here and I really liked the low-end of these new speakers and how they filled the room with sound.

November 3rd, 2019. In glorious 24×96. Had to snip the Fleetwood Mack song out of the middle because of the copyright police.

Tidal Audio at Capital Audiofest 2019

COVID-19-inspired audio show withdrawal symptoms anyone? Who knows when the next one will be…

But now that I finally found the audio recordings, I will start posting the 24×96 videos from Capital Audiofest held last Nov.2 and 3rd outside Washington D.C.

A kind of virtual hifi show flashback kind of thing….

The first room I went to was Doug White’s Tidal Audio room.

[BTW I hope everyone got to see The Global Citizen “Together at Home” virtual concert last weekend. It was awesome. Videos are everywhere]


Comparing ceramic-driver speakers

We recently received a question about how the sound of several speakers compared to each other: those from Tidal Audio, Kharma and Marten and Estelon.

This particular person found the Vitus amps to be warmer sounding with the Kharma speakers compared the Marten Coltrane speakers.

I find these kind of questions to be difficult to answer because they are so open-ended. But let’s give it a go.

The Vitus amps themselves are rather neutral amps, not very musical but not cold and harsh either. I find the Coltrane speakers to be similar – which makes them perhaps the most transparent of the bunch with respect to letting the sound of the upstream equipment through – but ‘cool’ sounding when driven with a ‘cool’ amp.

But, getting to the comparison of the speakers themselves – there are so many(!) factors to look at and some are important to some people and some are not. This is why having a good dealer who can match your important preferences against the range of gear is so important.

Kharma has the warmest sound and perhaps one might say the most colored. They extend the bloom of the notes and the decay in some way, that can create this air of anticipation or maybe an air of ‘that was really cool’ to each note. And it does this no matter what music is being played on them [hense the ‘ever so slightly colored’ adjective].

Tidal is perhaps the second warmest.

I find the Estelon and Marten to be neutral sounding.

Somewhat related to ‘warmness’ is the way these speakers ‘clip’ the notes. It is a ceramic-driver thing and some may prefer it. It causes this feeling that the speakers have a high-resolution. That there are more tiny notes because they do not flow from one to the other in a continuous manner.

This feeling of ‘high-res’ seems most pronounced with Estelon and pretty pronounced with Kharma as well, [really depends on WHICH actual model of speaker, tho], Tidal next and Marten last.

Tidal is this regard tends to sound polite. Kharma tends to sound aggressive. Marten seems to be more aggressive lately with their newer models. And I do not know Estelon well enough to say what they tend towards sounding like. For example Tidal on Bricasti electronics [which I find to lie between Krell and D’Agostino in sound] is still fairly musical. Tidal on Audio Power Labs [long time ago at the Flamingo!], although nicely dynamic and could rock out, still was slightly polite [which at the time I preferred]

Tidal lets through the harmonics more than the others [a difficult thing for ceramic-driver speakers] and more akin to the Acapella speakers that we have here in this regard. Kharma is also pretty good w/r to harmonics. The other two speakers you might have to look to get more harmonics from cabling and upstream components to compensate.

The Estelon seems to disappear really well, which makes sense given their shape. Kharma disappears well, too, though you have to pull them quite a bit out into the room. The other two are OK at this as well.

Let’s see. Drivability? I would say, using tube amps, from easiest to hardest: Marten, Tidal, then Kharma [do not know about Estelon].

Dynamics? Hard to get good dynamics from Ceramic-driver speakers. Kharma is ok at this, Marten not so much, not sure about the others. I think I like Avalon speakers for the best and most dynamic ceramic-driver speakers.

Consistency in sound across the speakers the brand offers? Acapella does pretty well at this. Audio Note does really well [kind of because all the models are the same speaker. ha ha. (actually they just have the same basic design, very different guts)]. Kharma and Marten, you need to know what you are looking for and whether the particular speaker does it for you. I do not know the Tidal or Estelon catalogs well enough to say. For a well-known example: some of the Wilson speakers are WAY harder to drive than other Wilson speakers. Better know which one you want.

Appearance? 🙂 Neli and I do like the look of the Estelon. And the fit-and-finish of the Kharma and Tidal speakers is really awesome. And we like the natural wood of the Martens. So…. Neli doesn’t like the robot look of the big Wilson but I think they are cool, so we do not ALWAYS agree [ha ha ha after 34 days of quarantine sometimes it doesn’t seem like we agree on anything… :-)]


Many people are now home with their stereo and music 24×7 and many of us in the older demographic may be in this situation for many months – at least until effective masks are available or, better, a vaccine.

So, yep, lots of music. And perchance a desire to upgrade. The Acapella factory is open (largely family operated) in well-run Germany, and Audio Note U.K. is open to a limited degree (a large factory with lots of space).

If you absolutely positively can’t wait, we do have a bit of stock on-hand. We have no more desire to go without scratching the audiophile itch during this time any more than you all – so we understand these ‘audiophile emergencies’.

We’ve done local (Bay Area) curbside delivery with lots of social distance and hand washing – it works – it’s as safe as we can possibly make it.

Stay safe. Stay well.


A visit to The Lotus Group this last Christmas

Neli and I drove up to visit (remember those days?) Joe Cohen of the Lotus Group a few days before Christmas. Finally getting around to posting some of the photos we took.

Joe builds Pranawire cables and the Granada loudspeakers and builds and imports a host of modest and not-so-modestly-priced audiophile tweaks and accessories.


Joe is one of the nicest and unassuming people in high-end audio (and elsewhere) and has an ear for that special magic we can get from a highly tuned hifi system.

Joe and Neli talking about some turntable doohickey or something… This is a snapshot of the video I recorded, a video which did not come out so well [but I may end up posting it sometime on YouTube anyway – it just looks like I had been drinking a lot of coffee?]

The Granada speakers featuring Feastrex field coil drivers

The Granada speakers featuring Feastrex field coil drivers

The Granada speakers featuring Feastrex field coil drivers

The Granada speakers featuring Feastrex field coil drivers

The Granada speakers featuring Feastrex field coil drivers (rear view)

Some yummy Pranawire cables [please ask Joe about what the accessories are – this is a highly tuned system]


Hope you all enjoyed this view of someone else’s system for a change 🙂