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[Midwest Audiofest]

Feeling Hornie ???

[Italian version]

Show Report by Scott Faller - TNT USA
Published: May, 2003

[Sound Bug]

Part I - Trivial Bits

About a year and a half ago, I was lurking around Audio Asylum and clicked on the Events link looking for something happening somewhere near my hometown of St. Louis. I happened across a posting called Midwest Audiofest posted by Mike Baker. I followed the URL he had posted to his website. To my amazement, this was going to be a high end show (seemingly) dedicated to tube amps, horns and high efficiency speakers. Who'd a thunk, an audio convention for the common man rather than all the glitz, glamour and hype of the other shows. Needless to say, this was right up may alley. Unfortunately the dates Mike had set didn't work for me so I filed the event away in the back of my mind hoping Mike would do it again the next year.

Sure enough, back last October I saw Mike Bakers first posting saying that Midwest Audiofest (MAF) was going to be held in April 2003 in Lima, Ohio. The next day I let my lovely wife and my boss (at my real job) know that I would be MIA for a few days and that I was going to be Ohio bound. I waited patiently, constantly checking the MAF website to see what manufacturers were going to show up this year. As it turns out there were about 20 vendors that rented space at the Lima Convention Center or suites in the Wingate Hotel. This count is up from last years show which had about ten participants. Twenety vendors is a pretty nice showing, considering this was only Mikes second year hosting the event. Not to mention, the tube-o-phile and high-e, hornie audience targeted by this show.

Lima, Ohio is about 450 miles from my hometown of St Louis, Missouri. I thought about flying in and renting a car but I thought the drive might be fun. It should only take about six or seven hours to drive it, so I packed up my land yacht (a Lincoln Town Car), pointed the bow at the sunrise and set sail for Lima.

[this is real]

Wouldn't you know it, trying to get out of St Louis, the first thing I hit was a continuous traffic jam the instant I hit my marvelous Missouri highway system. It took me over an hour just to make it to the Mississippi River (35 miles away). Well, I got past all of that and entered the wonderful Land Of Lincoln (Illinois). When I drive through East St Louis, it always reminds me of Beirut in the early 80's. One major difference, the billboards. As I snuck though the "East Side", images of strip clubs filled the skies. Gentlemans clubs with names like PT's, Diamond Cabaret, Larry Flints Hustler Club and my personal all time favorite club name, SeeMoe's tried to lure me in. It's kinda strange, here I am passing though the heart of the Bible Belt and I'm surrounded by "Gentleman's Clubs". Think I'm kidding about being in the Bible Belt, take a look at this pic. This is a marquee for a cross manufacturing company not too far out of town.

Anyway, after I made it through the militarized zone basically unscathed, I settled in for a loooong haul across the Heartland of America. Little did I know the trip was going to be 400 plus miles of nothing but cornfields and grain silos. This is when I started thanking the Audio Gods for creating high powered, 12 volt systems and CD's (I never thought I'd say that in public). Well, about seven or so hours later and more than a few stops to inject myself with caffeine to maintain my artificial state of conscienceness, I rolled into Lima.

The event is held at a very nice location in the old portion of downtown. Lima is undergoing the typical downtown restoration. There is the hotel, convention center, a concert hall and several nice places to eat. Not to mention, a very nice open air square where Mike hosts open air concerts every weekend during the summer.

Thursday evening I got myself unpacked and started to wander through the hotel to see who was setting up. Dr Bruce Edgar was there unpacking his monster horn systems (plural) along with a crew of guys helping out. A few other weary travelers and vendors were milling around and then I ran across upon Mike Baker. As it ended up, Mike and I ran down the street to the Bistro to grab a quick bite. After a nice dinner and good conversation, I headed back to the hotel room to catch some sleep so I'd be fresh for the next day. Friday at 9:00 AM is when everything got rolling. When I went down to the lobby, the Hotel was teaming with life. People were starting to visit demo rooms and the vendors were making last minute preparations for the onslaught of people.

To make it easy, I've listed the participants alphabetically. Because of my innate ability to type endlessly (Help! I'm typing and I can't stop!), I'm going to break this show report up into two parts. So here comes Part One. Look for the link to Part Two at the bottom of this article.

Allison Acoustics

[the allison room]

That's right, Allison Acoustics. David Faulkner (the new CEO) has brought back Roy Allison's classic speaker line. Roy is still actively involved with the design of the speakers on a consulting basis. Here we see the companies flagship offering, the Allison One ($5400 pair). It's an interesting design that utilizes a three way sealed cabinet design (acoustic suspension). It's triangular in shape and is designed to be placed against a wall. The two baffles that face the room, each have a three way speaker installed in them. The basic concept is to evenly, acoustically load the room with sound. What happens as a result is the "sweat spot" is virtually non-existent. Nearly anywhere you stand in the room, the sound is even. Very few buildups. It's and interesting concept not to mention it sounded pretty darned nice too.

David was also demonstrating several other models that Allison offers. The PB 8.2 is a stand mounted two way acoustic suspension design and is offered at the $1270 price point. The PB 88.3 is a floor standing, three way design. Again it is an acoustic suspension speaker designed to be placed against the back wall.

Bolder Cable and Teres Audio

[these sounded great too]

Whoa! When I walked into Wayne Waananen of Bolder Cable and Chris Brady of Teres Audio's room, I was immediately awestruck by their system. Granted the VMPS speakers ($2900) aren't what I would consider hi efficiency at 90db (or so) but they were the back bone of the room and they sounded pretty stunning. Also included for your listening pleasure was the VMPS Larger Sub (that's actually the name). This is an interesting two woofer design with a passive radiator ($1000 less the amp). Next we have Wayne's custom built Radii DPP 105, 78 watt EL34 PP amps ($1700) all aglow. The amps were being fed by Chris's Loesh (variation) 26 based, tube pre-amp. Feeding the pre-amp was one of Wayne's modded ART DI/O DAC's ($450) and a Sony 777ES SACD player.

[this amp sounded great]

Then there was the piece that drew more attention than most at the show, Chris's Teres 255 series turntable. His creation is as much art as it is functional, and believe me, it's damned functional. The turntable is built with Cocobolo wood. It comes with a standard acrylic platter that has lead weights around the perimeter ($2900 assembled, less arm). Chris offers an upgraded Cocobolo wood platter that measures almost 4 inches thick. It too has lead weights around the perimeter ($3600 less arm).

[i NEED one of these]


Chris demonstrated the sonic differences between the two platters with some vinyl I brought to the show. Three notes into side one of Count Basie Chairman of the Board (Classic Records), you could tell a distinct difference. It's not a small one either. This ranks at about an 8 (at least) on the old Tweak-O-Meter Scale. Chris used a Schroeder Model One arm with a Benz Ruby cartridge on his Teres 255. In a word, Awesome.

Chicago Horn Club

[these sounded great]

These guys are great! Nothing to sell at all, they just came to hang out and show off some of their goodies (and boy do they have some neat stuff). Kurt Chang brought a pair of his open baffle (dipole) speakers that utilize a Tannoy 3836 speaker with a simple crossover to a dis-emboweled Radio Shack super tweeter. Curt also brought his home brew sub that mates damned well with the open baffle design. There were some great tunes coming our of this unlikely looking set of speakers. All of this was being driven by a Jeff Korneff 45 SET and a 76 based triode preamp. Good stuff Margo!

Just outside of Kurt's Tannoy's are Alan's Altec A-7's. Unfortunately, I didn't have the nerve to stay in the room when they switched to these little gems. I envisioned flesh being peeled cleanly from the bone with little more than a watt of power. Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but somehow I doubt it.

Just to the left of the A-7's was The Terminator. This was the Shock and Awe factor for the entire show, Don Bunce's Labhorn Sub. It utilized a pair of Lab 12 drivers. Can you imagine coming home with this thing (or better yet building it) and having to deal with your wife? "B....Bu....But Honey, I just want to put it in the corner of the family room. I'll even dust it so you don't have to."

[oh my god!!!]

I have no idea what the guys were playing, but Don (or somebody) switched this beast on during a heavy bass track. See, these guys were in the meeting room right off the lobby of the Wingate Hotel. Klaus from Odyssey Audio was walking by and almost started convulsing from the low frequency waves coming out of the room. I was in the room across the lobby listening to one of the Venus Hi-Fi systems at a pretty high volume level (about 100 db or so WITH the door closed) when the bass from the Lab Horn kicked in. It completely overtook the Venus system and then proceeded to rattle the windows and shake the crap out of ceilings in the Venus room. Klaus swears that he saw the door to the Chicago Horn Club room visibly moving back and forth. All this from DIY sub and a cheap assed, 100 watt plate amp. You gotta love it !!!!

Classic Audio Reproductions

[i want these in the worst way]

This room was another wow moment. I was reallyhoping John Wolff was going to bring his TAD based Hartsfield's to the show, and he did. These are a classic JBL corner horn design that dates back to the late 1950's. These speakers are not only drop dead gorgeous, they sound even better. They flooded the room with fabulous music that was lighting fast and extremely dynamic. These were some of the best dynamics I've heard in a long time. If you have the $17,500 it takes to buy these, I guarantee you won't be disappointed.


The Hartfields were being driven by a pair of DeHavilland 845 SET monoblocks and just for good measure, John brought along a pair of Atmosphere M-50's. The pre was the Cello Audio Suite which was being fed from a SOTA Sapphire and an Accuphase SACD DP100 and the Accuphase DC101. I really wish I could have spent more time in his room. Who knows, maybe I can talk him into shipping me the Hartsfields for a review.........Like THAT's really going to happen !!!

Edgarhorn and Cyrus Brenneman Audio

[is there a doctor in the house?]

This is a guy that needs absolutely no introduction to horn fans. Dr. Bruce Edgar, otherwise referred to as the Godfather of Horns, was there with his ever-present smile and the awesome Titan Horns (amongst a truck load of other gear). In the same room as the Titans were a pair of Bruce's refrigerator sized Seismic Subs. These puppies provide rock solid bass down to 35 Hz. Saturday morning we opened up the room with Stevie Ray Vaughn's rendition of the Jimi Hendrix classic, Little Wing. I stood at the back of the room, closed my eyes and listened. The sound emanating from Bruce's pride and joy's was pure bliss. Clean, crisp and bass to die for.


All of the Edgar Horns were being driven by Cyrus Brenneman Audio tube amps. Cyrus offers a full line of great sounding gear. Here you see the Bel Air, EL 34 PP, 50 wpc monoblock ($6500). He also offers a 15 wpc version, EL 34 named the Stereo Thirty ($1500) and then for you flea powered SET fans, Cyrus designs and builds an EL 34 SET with a cathode follower. All of his designs use Electra-Print output transformers. Then finally, Cyrus offers a tubed line stage ($1200).

[these are some fine sounding amps]

Bruce Edgar and Cyrus Brenneman Audio also had the room next to the Titans. In this room Bruce had his Slimline Horns ($1700) along with more of Cyrus' tube amps. Bruce also had a small pair of coaxial transmission lines on display.

[these were pretty cool too]

Eminence Speaker Corporation

Eminence showed up to the show with a slightly different approach. Rather than displaying their well known Professional Sound Speaker line that is often used by horn and full range enthusiasts, they decided to bring a "Mystery System". They installed the system behind a set of curtains and had people guessing what it was.

Madisound and their Fostex Drivers

[look at all the drivers!]

This was probably one of the most surprising rooms for me while I was at the show. Granted, when you come to a show like this, you naturally expect to hear some good sounding systems. When I walked into the Madisound Room I was more than a little impressed. Lawrence Hitch of Madisound had brought a trailer full of Fostex drivers to display at the show. I didn't realize how deep the line actually goes. They had everything from the well known Sigma series drivers to the expensive T series tweeters.

[these both sounded wonderful]

Along with all of the drivers he brought, he drug along a pair of horns. The first was the smaller of the two pair shown here on the right, the Paul Horning horns. These are a DIY enclosure that utilizes the Fostex 165 driver ($61 ea) and a pair of T90A super tweeters ($142 ea). The tweeters were crossed at around 12k with a simple, outboard crossover so they could demonstrate the sound of the full range driver. These were remarkably good sounding for an inexpensive full range driver.

Next are the larger Little Big Horns. These use the Fostex 208E Sigma drivers ($175) and the T925A super tweeter. Again, the crossover was done somewhere near 12k. I was really impressed by the sound of these. The Little Big Horns had stompin' bass down to somewhere near 50Hz (if not even lower in room). The overall sound was pretty neutral and even. Very impressive, so much so, that I'm going to build a set for myself sometime really soon. The bass coming out of the Paul Horning Horns was pretty darned nice too. The Madisound website has loads of project plans available on their website.

[this event was an absolute gas!!!]

Part One - Closing Thoughts

This brings us to the end of Part One of the event coverage for Midwest Audiofest in Lima, Ohio. The Part Two link is below.

Just a few closing thoughts on Part One of this show coverage. This is an event geared more towards the tube lover and occasional DIY'er than anybody. There were a few manufacturers that attended that had solid state gear which sounded really fine but this weekend, tubes and high efficiency speakers ruled.

It was great fun looking (and listening) at the diversity of the rooms. On one end of the spectrum we had Michael Barnes there with his entire crew from Thailand demonstrating the ultra affordable nOrh products. On the opposite end of the spectrum we had Dr. Bruce Edgar with his Titans and Seismic subs run by flea powered amps. And everywhere you looked you had friendly, fellow enthusiasts. There wasn't all of the hype and nonsense that goes on at the BIG shows. Here we had about 400 or so Fest-goers. The show wasn't overwhelmed with vendors or people. Every room you went into, you could always find somebody willing to give up their seat in the "sweat spot" so you could listen for a bit. When your feet got tired on Saturday, you could always go to the Convention Center and expand your brain a little with some great seminars. Both Friday and Saturday evenings, Mike Baker booked some great local talent to play in the lobby of the Wingate. If you hadn't had enough listening or playing with systems, you could always find a group of guys roaming the halls and going room to room for after hours listening and tweaking sessions.

Somehow, more Audiofests like this one need to happen. In the Midwest (at least), it's like this vast audio wasteland. Nobody does anything to promote our hobby (or affliction, pick the word that fits best). Events like this are great fun, entertaining and best of all, educational. For the people that have never experienced horns and high-e speakers, I think they came away from the event with a different perspective on how tubes and horns sound. Hopefully they now "get it". For me, I (mostly) got it before but my experience with some of the finer (more expensive) designs like the Hartsfields and the Titan's have brought me a whole new level of understanding. Best yet, I made loads of new friends and for that fact alone, the trip was well worth it.

Go to Part Two


© Copyright 2003 Scott Faller - http://www.tnt-audio.com

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