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Impressions:  the Pacific Audio Fest 2023, a Photo-Essay - Part the First

07-14-2023 | By David W. Robinson | Issue 128

Ye Olde Editor with the rare La Flor Dominicana Andalusian Bull Cigar:  a moment of contemplation. Happy Valley, OR, 2018. (Photograph by John Robinson.)

The Pacific Audio Fest 2023. June 23-25 of 2023 in Seattle (SeaTac) WA. The Great Northwest.

In a nutshell:  What a blast!

World's largest fine audio show. No.

World's smallest fine audio show. That neither.

Hundreds of rooms? Definitely not.

But an excellent just-right show during in a pleasant venue with fine weather…just enough rooms and exhibitors to make it possible to see everything that you might want to see…and piles of friends, food and drink, primo cigars, and good times? Absolutely!

Show Honchos Lou Hinkley and Gary Gill, with Marjorie Baumert assisting, once again put on an audio show that reflects the sort of values that they hold to. Community. Superior and diverse audio systems. In a setting that's quite beautiful…nearby SeaTac airport notwithstanding…and lots of opportunities to turn an audio show into an audio vacation. And overall, a spirit that reminds me of the best days of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest over many years. We could use more of that.

Nothing not to like, as far as I'm concerned.

Lila Ritsema and I arrived on the afternoon of Thursday, June 22. It's only about three hours from Portland to SeaTac, and driving beats flying every time. A quick unpacking, and then on to meet friends and do the happy hour with other members of the press and associates of PAF. As always, this was a congenial time.

On to the photo gallery, with room impressions and Audio Oasis! Awards intermingled...

Audio compadré Alan Kafton scoping it out on Thursday afternoon at the mixer…

Gary Gill and Lou Hinkley, PAF partners-in-crime, doing quality assurance on the local mixer brewskies….

One of the very best things at audio shows is when Dave and Carol Clark can meet with Lila and I. It doesn't happen very often anymore, so I treasure those rare times.

Dave Clark, one of the four co-founders and partners of the online version of Positive Feedback…working together as a foursome since 2002, now.

 …and his fellow Managing Editor, founding partner, & wife, Carol Clark:  A moment at PAF 2023.

And there's my wife Lila Ritsema, founding partner, & Business Manager at PF.

Carol Clark and Marjorie Baumert, enjoying the wine and the moment…

At the PAF 2023 mixer…good food and drink!

Carol Clark and Alan Kafton hanging out at the mixer

The Rooms, the Systems, the People…and some PF Audio Oasis! Awards:  Day One of PAF 2023

Friday started out as a pleasant day. The turnout at the registration desk wasn't overwhelming, but neither was it unattended. A goodly number of audiophiles showed up before 10 a.m. to get registered.

Lou Hinkley:  a congenial host!


The audio company/VAC/Von Schweikert/Masterbilt room was certainly a power house, and in a large (and challenging) room. As usual, this combination provided high-horsepower music with excellent detail, real dynamics, and a potent ability to draw you into the music…

…and with sources like the Kronos Pro LE, Aurender, and Esoteric, the signal feed was definitely first rate. This was one of three rooms at PAF 2023 that had real presence and authority as I listened, plus an ease that made things sound and feel so natural that I simply sat there for a while, taking in the music.

No surprise that this room takes one of my PF Audio Oasis! Awards. Again.

If you were there, you would understand.

As I walked past one of the booth areas, I noticed a goodly attendance of people actively engaged with various companies. My attention was particularly drawn by the gorgeous RTR machines at Jeff Jacobs' J-Corder booth.

I have always loved RTR, and Jeff was an avid and engaging host to the quality work that he was doing. We talked for a while, since I wouldn't mind him doing a complete upgrade on my trusty-rusty Pioneer RT-707.

Aww, c'mon! This is just too seductive to a RTR lover like me! J-Corder Technics and Pioneer upgrades on display...

Jeff Jacobs of J-Corder, with more luscious RTR ma-cheens

Audeze was one of a number of companies with booths in the display area.

But then I went to a room that I know is always excellent:  the Audio Group Denmark. A collection of three companies...Aavik, Ansuz, and Borreson, AGD has been coming along like a house of fire over the past year or so. In fact, they were at last year's initial Pacific Audio Fest, and I really taken by what I experienced then. Afterwards, Peter Hansen visited me in Happy Valley for a couple of days and we did a number of upgrades to PF's Outdoor reference streaming system. Step by step we proceeded, each single change moving the whole system forward. By the end, I was delighted to give the Audio Group Denmark one of my 2022 Brutus Awards for the extraordinary results that their designs had wrought.

Caramba, bwana! The magnificent new Borresen M6 reference loudspeaker.

This year they really surpassed themselves, though. Their reference room with its x80-series electronics and the monumental world-premier launch of the Borresen M6 loudspeakers hit me with megatons of audio ba-yoing! 

Frankly, I just sat down, set aside my bag and cameras, and listened for a while. This is always a warning sign of an impending Audio Oasis! Award with me.

The Aavik 580 & 880 electronics, supported wonderfully by the Ansuz D-TC Gold Signature PowerBox, D-TC Gold Signature Ethernet PowerSwitch, and D-TC Gold Signature Mainz8 Power Distributor. Utterly smashing!

In addition to their extraordinary sound and control of the music, the entire AGD line of sources and accessories look great. Their appearance is unlike most anything else that I can remember, with the extremely advanced use of materials and internal components that reduce noise to vanishing levels. The sheer quietness of this system was notable...

But it was those M6 loudspeakers that made me (and everyone else that I saw in this system) sit up and take notice. 

Peter Hansen of the Audio Group Denmark with Tyler Mueller of Next Level HiFi in Illinois, taking in the moment with the M6.

The sheer synergy of the Aavik/Ansuz/Borresen system really set a standard. And I could hardly believe that the M6's 4.5" drivers (x6) and planar ribbon tweeter could move the air the way that they did. I think that most of the people who came to the room doubted that an array of smaller drivers could reach levels...especially in the bass...that would be respectable.

But boy, were they wrong. The official specs for the M6's can be found HERE, and they claim a lower end of 20Hz, with an upper of 50kHz. Given what I was hearing in their room, I find this to be credible. The top-to-bottom and inside-out innovation in the design and construction of the M6 is quite convincing in congress with the rest of the Audio Group Denmark system.

Really something, this.

Can one of my Audio Oasis! Awards be not far behind?

Bloody right!

More to come...stay tuned!

All photographs and image processing by David W. Robinson, unless otherwise noted.