Capital AudioFest 2019: Wrap-up

Capital AudioFest this year, as I’ve mentioned, was a show that was heavily skewed towards vinyl, but I think in a certain sense this emphasized the role digital plays in the life of many modern audiophiles.

Nobody at the show seemed to be declaring vinyl as their exclusive listening method. In fact, many were commenting on their home method of listening which comprised some vinyl with digital.

Nor were there many people claiming that vinyl was far superior. In many rooms I heard comments about how nice it was to sit back with vinyl, to fuss over that last five per cent of sound, or focus on one LP at a time. Which, while a contrast for some to the buffet-style listening that digital offers, is no less meaningful. There was even a comment I overhead which was something along the lines of ‘I’m too big a music fan to get into vinyl.’

Other than making me chuckle, this captured the sense that the vinyl listening experience was really a compliment to digital, each providing their own focus, along with their own idiosyncrasies and strengths. This really demonstrated to me that digital sound no longer has to settle for ‘good enough’ status. Were there some incredibly dialled-in vinyl setups that bested many digital setups at the show? Maybe. But even in the gigantic showrooms with aspirationally-priced setups from the likes of VAC and Von Schweikert, or The Voice That Is and Tidal, the difference between digital and vinyl was so close as to be negligible. Even tonal differences in these rooms were minimal to my ears, a testament to both the turntables and cartridges, as well as the DACs.

Other than being spoiled for good choices, I also enjoyed the widespread acceptance of standardized show playback methods. Pretty much everyone uses Qobuz, and I didn’t see the spread of Spotify, TIDAL, hard-files and other mixing and matching that often made evaluating digital playback fraught at other shows. Although streaming issues meant many setups had limited amounts of digital files available, it’s become quite clear: come to a show with records, a USB stick or simply make an easily accessible public Qobuz playlist and you should generally be well-served for any setup.

In ages past I recall agonizing over whether to bring CDs, records, hard drives, or sometimes even more exotic or unusual setups. It’s only a good thing that music is more accessible and easy to request at shows, and as I mentioned in previous coverage, the Qobuz ‘show mixtape’ trend is a delightful way to share and discover music from some of the great ears and personalities in the business. I would definitely head over to Qobuz’s Facebook page, as David Solomon regularly posts some of these playlists, and I’ve already discovered some great new artists.

That’s all for this year’s CAF, which was an interesting experience and really a very cozy show. I would highly recommend giving this show a go if you’re anywhere in the midwest or on the east coast, or simply enjoy a more easygoing, small show experience. The big shows do glitz and glamour well, but CAF brings the party home and is the North American hi-fi community show equivalent to snuggling up with a warm blanket and a mug of hot chocolate.

Capital AudioFest

Topher's picture

Thanks for a great wrap up, Grover.

This is a bit of a Hail Mary, but does anyone happen to know the manufacturer of the rack on the second picture of this piece? I'm in the market for a nice simple piece of furniture, and 90% of the racks I see look like they're about to blast off from Cape Canaveral ; )


Rafe Arnott's picture
By Fern & Roby.
Topher's picture

Thanks, Rafe!

Orangemath's picture

While not identical. Examine Butcher Block Acoustics. Good value.