Capital Audiofest show reports from 2022

Capital Audiofest, November 11th – 13th, 2022

The Twinbrook Hilton – 1750 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852

Friday 10:00AM – 6:00PM
Saturday 10:00AM – 6:00PM
Sunday 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Check out our posts and show reports from CAF 2022 below.

capital audiofest 2022


So, in no particular order, here are some of the best and worst of Capital Audiofest 2022. Of course, it’s all relative and subjective, and I can’t honestly say that anything was really bad…. 

SOTA are a turntable manufacturer based in Wisconsin and came with several of their units, including a Cosmos with a vacuum platter. The sound was good – solid, and authoritative, but a little heavy in the lower mids and upper bass, giving the sound a little too much heft and not enough air and sparkle. But a very good sound potential.

SOTA turntables
SOTA turntables / Gryphon Amps

I was surprised and disappointed in the ‘Now Listen Here’ room featuring speakers from Vandersteen. The Vandersteen Kento Carbon is a fully active speaker system running north of $60K, with a system total nudging $150K. This was a large room and the vendor chose a peculiar setup with the speakers close to the front wall and the chairs about a half mile away near the room entrance. The bass was quite impressive but I thought the rest of the sound was overly smooth and lacked any real presence, dynamics, or impact. 

Vandersteen KENTO Carbon speakers

I’m a big fan of QLN speakers. I’ve owned a pair of QLN Signature Splitfield II for around 25 years and I’ve been impressed whenever I’ve heard QLN over the years….Fantastic sound here from ALMA Music & Audio, the QLNs, as they’re known for, simply disappear and present a large, deep, soundstage with a smooth, detailed and natural sound. I must get around to retrieving my QLNs from my storage unit back in Wisconsin!


I’m also a big fan of Piega speakers and an owner of the Piega C40. I was excited to hear the small standmount Piega Coax 411, and it didn’t disappoint. Powered by a BAT integrated and using a Hifi Rose 150 as streaming source, the little Piegas energized the room with a big, full, dynamic, and completely transparent sound. The bass from the little 411 was outstanding! Now, this was a small room and the listening chair was only perhaps 5′ back from the front plane of the speakers (very much nearfield), but the sound from this system was bloody marvelous. This would be my first choice system were I restricted to a small listening room, and even given the space constraints this system landed squarely in my top 5 rooms at CAF 2022. Well done PIEGA! and Mofi Distribution.

Piega speakers
Piega speakers / BAT integrated / Hifi Rose 150B

I’ve had my eye on a used Berkeley Audio Alpha Reference DAC for a while, so I was keen to hear the sound of this system featuring the Berkeley DAC and a beautiful Oracle CD Transport. 

Oracle Audio CD player Berkelely Reference DAC
Vandersteen KENTO Carbon speakers

Another room with a great sounding system was ‘The Audion’ and JansZen Electrostatic Speakers. Now, ‘The Audion’ have a power amplifier based on the newish Galium Nitride technology, but….somehow they’ve built the drive section into the body of a glass-bottled vacuum tube! OK, I honestly don’t know if this is a novelty or something more practical, unfortunately, it was difficult to ask questions during the short time I had available in this room. I went to the manufacturer’s website and noted some technical descriptions of the tube and its Gallium Nitride driver, and here’s a quote:  “First to use the unique GaNTube™ technology with Gallium Nitride Power-Stage integrated in a Vacuum Tube”. OK, I’m assuming this GaNTube only works in one of their amplifiers and that it can’t work in a standard tube amp, so it begs the question, ‘why bother?’. I mean, it looks cool, but…

Anyway, the star of this room were the JansZen Nine Five electrostatic speakers, which sounded excellent paired with the Audion monoblocks. 

The JansZen throws a wide and deep soundstage and has a beautiful natural tone and timbre. They have the presence and immediacy that good electrostats are known for. They also have a little trouble stepping down from the panels into the lower frequency region where the stats hand-off to a conventional cone driver. Shame, that.