Capital Audiofest 2022: A Fantastic Show
CAF 2022 was fantastic! There were many great sounding rooms, and everyone was in good spirits. Soon after the show kicked off, many rooms became so packed, I couldn’t enter. SRO! As always, my eyes and ears bulge to take it all in. CAF organizer and promoter Gary Gill (above) has much to be proud of. But rather than have me espouse my opinions on the most important hi-fi show on the East Coast post-pandemic, I asked a few industry friends to chime I, beginning with Gary Gill:
“Roundup? Is it ever over? Maybe it was the perfect storm with a dismal day outside and people working from home, but it seemed as though Friday was the busiest Friday that I can remember. The crowds started rolling in at 8:30 AM”—the show opened at 10:00—”as we were setting up the computers and didn’t stop all weekend. This year CAF was like a well-oiled 3-ring circus, having:
Famous audio personalities
New product releases
Full roster of guest speakers in the Washington Room
Beer tasting in the lobby
A magician in the bar
Great nightly music in the bar
Vendor appreciation Happy Hour on Thursday
“As any good show organizer can tell you, we can always improve and I am no different. But I can say that it appeared as though we had younger crowd on average, more families and definitely more women, so I’m happy that we are becoming more diverse. We had 92 rooms and over 50 booths, although two vendors were not able to make it due to personal issues, so I hope they are able to return next year on November 1012, 2023.”
Mark Block, Co-Head, New York Audiophile Society: “My takeaway: More people plus more rooms equals good energy without excessive crowding. And there were a lot of great sounding rooms! Yes, there were ‘ear stinkers,’ as usual, but the overall quality was remarkable. I even experienced a bit of ‘good-sound overload,’ sometimes not giving enough credit to systems that were merely very good. Plotting sound quality on a bell curve, the big bulge in the curve shifted towards the higher-end this year. Having attended dozens of audio shows over three decades, this is the first one where I came home, played my system, and thought: ‘It could be much better.’
“Although some of the best sounding rooms were way beyond my means, several great systems were reasonably priced. Astronomically expensive equipment is always fun to hear, but it’s nice to know that speakers under $15k-sometimes well under, and even full systems at that price-can be competitive with the cost-no-object stuff. One caveat: Budget turntables and cartridges are great, but they cannot compete with the best.
“Speaking of analog, LP playback provided some of the nicest sound in Rockville. As luck would have it, there was a big selection of vinyl for sale, new and used, at prices that did not seem to reflect the inflation of 2022. For the digital guys (I can swing both ways), streamers sounded better than ever-once the hotel’s wi-fi issues were overcome. Unfortunately, on the first day of the show not all the digital rooms had that figured out.”
Vinh Vu, Gingko Audio (My oldest audiophile buddy, from whom I bought a Musical Fidelity tube buffer in 1993): “Believe it or not, the pandemic gave us time to devote to research and development of new products. We introduced the Vibration Control Solutions (VCS) Toolkit this year to provide audiophiles a holistic and systematic approach to controlling vibration in audio systems of all price ranges.
“Younger audiophiles are into high-end headphones in a big way. They have multiple setups for the home, office, and even for the commute. High-end headphones have seen new technical advances and products driving high market demands.”
Maryland’s Chris Armbruster, Cashformusic.com, Vinyl Retailer: “Every year I think I need to change my approach for CAF. I think I need to do more reissues. This year, like last year, confirmed to me that if I can work hard finding quality used records of all styles, people will be happy. The explosion of reissue vendors is certainly sucking some dollars out of the room, but it also brings new vinyl buyers and introduces them to my world of vintage records. I’m grateful because each year there are more customers digging my stuff.
“If I’ve seen any trend, it’s that you gotta try and have everything. Not long ago it was a waste of time to bring pop rock and soul records. Ten years ago records by Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel and Elton John couldn’t command $1. Now everything sells. This year I brought a lot of original British pressings by Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, King Crimson. The people ponying up $100 a record were in their 20s and 30s.
“And in the past, there might be one or two serious buyers that were women, now there are dozens. Same with buyers under 30. There was a kid today, under 20, whose goal is to collect every Broadway show and soundtrack. God bless ’em.
“In the ten or so years of doing Capital Audio Fest Gary Gill has really created an amazing event. In the beginning it seemed I sold mostly to vendors, manufacturers, and hardcore collectors. Records were either $100 or one buck. Now, like the record business everywhere, more people are jumping in. It doesn’t take much to entice them with the variety that used vinyl vendors, like me, offer. People enjoy the hunt.
“Note to self: FIND MORE QUALITY RECORDS. They will sell.”
And that, audiophile ladies and gentlemen, is a wrap. I sincerely hope you enjoyed our coverage half as much as I enjoyed writing it.
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