While Capital Audiofest is a modest-sized high-end audio show, KEF and VPI's presence more than made up for it by presenting a room full of high-end audio wonders. The spare-no-expense system I heard featured the $48,000 VPI Titan turntable (making its debut at the show) and an astonishing concept speaker, the KEF Muon Mk 2
($225,000/pair). Hearing the Muon MK 2 is a rare event regardless of circumstance as it is limited to 100 pairs and the D.C. show was the first-ever public demo of the speakers in North America.
KEF's Muon Mk 2 at Capital Audiofest 2016.
These 9-driver, 4-way speakers are made of aluminum and are true sculptures that serve the explicit purpose of providing an optimal enclosure. The Muon Mark II is an evolution of KEF's original Muon design that incorporates an improved version of the company's signature Uni-Q driver as well as a revised and updated crossover network. Notably, owners of the original Muon can opt to upgrade to the Mk 2 version for a fixed fee of $10,000; KEF will send a technician anywhere in the world to get that done.
The Muon Mk 2's Uni-Q 2-way concentric driver.
Specs for the Muon are impressive, with 25Hz to 60kHz (+/-3dB) frequency response, extension to 20 Hz (-6dB), 90 dB sensitivity, and 400W power handling for 118 dB of output. Oh, and each one weighs 253 pounds.
For most of the demo, the VPI Titan (equipped with a $12,000 cartridge) served as the source. The audio quality was impeccable, which is something I've come to expect from both KEF and VPI flagship products. Even a Motown Disco record that had seen better days sprang to life and legitimately rocked the house—check out this recording from the show. (Please note, an audio recording is to being there as a picture of a pizza is to a real pizza, so don't read too much into it. Also, you can hear us chatting in the background because the room was packed. Finally, due to copyright restrictions, streaming this video on YouTube is restricted to PCs.)
"Don't Look Any Further" by Dennis Edwards playing on KEF Muon Mk 2 speakers. Recorded with a Zoom H6.
Twin Odyssey Stratos mono amps ($2750/pair) provided power to the Muons, which is amusing when you consider they sell for 1.2% what the speakers cost. The 2-ohm stable, 180-watt (into 8 ohms) amps never strained, maintaining full control and extracting tremendous nuance out of the Muons. It's as definitive proof as I've heard that great amplification is eminently affordable these days.
Besides the Titan, VPI had a lot of other new product at the show. I'll post about that separately, but suffice to say the company came to the show loaded for bear, and the Titan—a magnet-drive air-suspension turntable with a 45-pound platter—was the king of the collection.
At one point in the demo, KEF tweaked audiophile paradigms by hooking up an Astell & Kern portable player to the KEF rig using the headphone jack and an adapter cable. Iggy Pop's "Les Feuilles Mortes" was rich and dynamic and just plain sounded great through the system—it sounded as if the Muons could do no wrong. Dead Can Dance's "Yulunga (Spirit Dance)" is a familiar staple that took on the lucidity of a live performance enhanced by the pinpoint imaging of a well-polished and produced recording. My favorite room at the show, it made the trip to D.C. (from Philly) worthwhile all on its own.
Dead Can Dance on vinyl sounded great, but so did Iggy Pop from a portable digital player.