Daedalus Audio, Linear Tube Audio, LampizatOr, VPI, Soundsmith, & WyWires – CAF 2019

Daedalus Audio, Linear Tube Audio, LampizatOr, VPI, Soundsmith, & WyWires - CAF 2019

Capital Audiofest 2019 was different than all others that came before it for many reasons. For one, it was a much larger show due to spill over from exhibitors who eschewed RMAF 2019, in lieu for the more affordable CAF 2019.

Another reason would be an addition to my personal entourage of not one, but two new writers who would be shadowing me for a portion of the show, while I simultaneously record my show coverage.

Dave McNair and Nan Pincus will be joining our writing staff for Part-Time Audiophile, and may from time to time, make guest appearances here at Audio-Head. Both of them are more qualified than myself to do this kind of service to the hobby, so I’m ecstatic as to what they can bring to the table.

During our first day of the show, I was asked by Dave and Nan to show them the ropes, educate them to the marketplace, and dazzle them with some of the better exhibitors of the audio show circuit. With that challenge in hand, one of the first exhibitors that came to mind, purely off a gut reaction to the question was Daedalus Audio and Linear Tube Audio.

We make our way to the Randolph room and are greeted by Lou Hinkley of Daedalus, and would you believe it, Dave McNair already knows of Lou and his company. We sit down to listen and I start snapping photos. While Dave and Lou chat it up, and talk about studio recordings and mastering (which is Dave’s profession), Nan and I take a tour of the system.

Firstly, the Daedalus Audio Apollo 11’s ($22,800 pr USD) — these are a single 10-inch variant with MTM loaded high and mid drivers. The cabinets are constructed of tongue-and-groove figured baked maple. With such a driver complement you might not expect them to be easily powered, but looks can be deceiving. The Apollo 11’s are 96db sensitive, run a 6-ohm load, and play well with tubes.

In the system, the Apollo 11’s were paired with Daedalus’s BOW 12” passive subwoofers, each with outboard crossovers. You read that correctly — they are passive — not self-powered, no built-in amplifiers. They run off external amplifiers or amplifier channels of your choosing. 

Also in conjunction with the loudspeakers and subs, the new SS/Brass Spikes from Daedalus, which feature stainless construction with threaded brass leveling collars. The choice of using different metals was more than just for aesthetic reasons, in fact it is purposely for canceling resonances.

Electronics for the system were all Linear Tube Audio (LTA). At the top, LTA’s MicroZOTL preamplifier ($4,450 USD), LTA’s Ultra-Linear Power Amplifier ($6,800 USD), and LTA’s ZOTL40 ($6,800 USD) Reference EL34 amplifier — which was used to power the passive BOW subwoofers.

On the source side of things, it was a pairing of VPI Industries with their Prime Signature turntable with Soundsmith’s Hyperion II ES cart’ and LampizatOr’s new Vinyl Phono 1 ($6,600 USD)  phono-stage. Rounding out the system, LampizatOr’s Golden Gate 2 DAC ($16,500 USD) and Super Komputer ($8,500 USD) music server. Cabling throughout was curated from WyWires Diamond and Platinum series of cables.

How’s it all sound? Natural and woody. I don’t know if that’s a fair assessment, but acoustic guitar and acoustic instruments all together come to life on Daedalus systems. Maybe it’s a bit psychologic, but I swear that’s what I’m hearing.

I was particularly interested in what Dave McNair thought of the system as his recording, mixing, and mastering career has left him with two of the most attuned and refined ears in the industry. That said, it’s easier to say that Dave isn’t easily impressed. With Lou and Dave still going on with each other, I overheard Dave give Lou a few solid compliments about the system and for myself felt a little validated.

by Eric Franklin Shook