AUDIOPHILES FLOCK ANNUALLY TO CARVERFEST FROM THE US AND CANADA
Each fall, a unique audiophile festival known as CARVERFEST is hosted in a two-week gathering of enthusiastic audiophiles at the Watershed Resort in the Smoky Mountains, occupying dozens log cabins spread over a forested hill near Bryson City, North Carolina. Each luxurious log cabin has spectacular views of the woods and the surrounding Smoky Mountains, well appointed with beautiful and comfortable interiors with fine furniture, modern appliances, and a large hot tub on spacious decks. All have rustic stone fireplaces, both inside the log cabins and outside for cooking or just enjoying the evening in front of a warm crackling fire. This well known Smoky Mountain National Park recreation area offers some of the most spectacular scenery to be found in the eastern United States, with such activities as river rafting, kayaking, hiking, rides on an antique steam locomotive, interesting hamlets, and tours of the famous Biltmore Estate in nearby Asheville. It's a place where lots of fun, much relaxation and camaraderie are had by all.
Carverfest owes its creation to Tom Reitz, a long-time active member of the Carver Internet forum. Tom became friends with many members, but sadly, few had ever met each other. He was interested in finding a place where the members could get together informally with their wives or girlfriends in an environment conducive to discussing their interests in audio, displaying their equipment, and, most of all, listening to their favorite music. Tom decided the Watershed Resort, where he and his wife had stayed before their marriage, would be the perfect setting for the audiophile festival he had envisioned. Perfect is an understatement!
In 2005, Tom broached his idea to his audiophile friends on the Carver forum - they responded with enormous enthusiasm! In the very beginning, Carver forum members Dave Sauter, his son James, and James's son Alex got together with Tom to make Carverfest a reality. Ten more enthusiastic Carver forum friends got on board and Carverfest was born!
Since then, Carverfest attendance has grown each year. Fellow Carver forum audiophiles arrive from all over the country and Canada, together with their high-fidelity systems, then set them up in their respective cabins. The exclusively two channel systems include vintage Carver equipment, restored Phase Linear amplifiers and speakers, even the latest Sunfire amplifiers and several Carver Amazing loudspeakers along with many other Carver units of all type and flavor. A member of the Canadian contingent arrived with a beautiful and immaculate vacuum tube Silver Seven amplifier. We arrive by truck with our audio equipment in tow, we arrived by car with our amps and speakers in the back seat, and some of us come with only a large suitcase and a small system inside. A few of us come by air with several large boxes full of audio gear. But come we do!
For the first two years, Bob Carver had no idea of the existence of this festival honoring his audio designs. As soon as he learned of its existence, Bob announced he coming for the next festival, so we all anxiously waited in anticipation of his arrival. Suddenly, on a dark, starless night, the stillness of the forest was broken by a desperate cry for help - Bob had run off the dirt road! We all ran out, and to our great surprise found a sheepish and nervous Bob with his car teetering over a ravine. Seven of us lifted his car up and put it back on the road. After that adventure, we all had a good laugh, and Bob Carver became an official and honored member of Carverfest!
Carverfest is open to all! Whole families come from all over for a wonderful two-week vacation to be among those with a mutual passion for all things audio. We engage in animated discussions of the various examples of two-channel audio; some of us may also be engrossed in building projects while others may seek advise on improving their systems.
Carverfest has no formalities; each cabin group decides the order of the day, with listening to each other’s stereos having top priority. Each system is set up to listen to, talk about, and most of all, to enjoy our favorite music. We might even sleep late, but soon we would hear a knock on the door, often by a single person and as the minutes ticked by, more and more folks would show up with another knock on the door. All are invited in to share listening to the system in each cabin, where we discuss the choices of equipment and other audio related subjects, then take our leave and go on to savor another great audio system. Music emanates from every cabin in the forest; in the evening, music rings out from the green forest in the mountains as the audiophiles within have wonderful "get-togethers" with friends from previous Carverfests as well as brand new arrivals. Two full weeks of audio bliss! Many of us just come with huge smiles on our faces!
The largest log cabin has a giant lunchroom with long benches, suitable to work on building audio designs executed by some of the more technically gifted members, along with all the parts and instructions. Some of us from previous Carverfests had built small speakers, tube power amps, and a beautiful preamplifier. We brought them to the festival, then enjoyed the reward of listening to lovely music emanating from our own creations.
Phase Linear, Carver, and Sunfire equipment designed and manufactured by Bob Carver, predominated. Included were Bob Carver’s original Amazing loudspeakers, a pair of Bob's Andromeda speakers of long ago, his Phase Linear, Carver, Sunfire solid-state amplifiers, and pre-amplifiers. Also included were Bob’s new powerful tube amplifiers whose unique design allows tubes to last, without declining, for 50 (!) years.
Several systems included equipment from other manufacturers, including speakers by Ohm, Apogee, Klipsch, and Martin Logan as well as several tube amplifiers by well-known manufacturers, each reflecting various tastes in stereo equipment. A pair of magnificent home built electrostatic speakers impressed all of us with their technical sophistication and glorious sound. The builder, an extremely talented designer also treated us to a demonstration of the imaginative and unique construction process in the building of his speakers.
One of the highlights of this year was Bob's newest design, a tall line source speaker and dual driver subwoofer, driven by a pair of Carver Raven amplifiers belonging to Eddie Mackiewicz. We all came to listen to these tall, majestic line source speakers and found ourselves immersed, even transfixed by the music enveloping and surrounding us with a realism we had never experienced with point source speakers.
Longtime Carver forum member Russ, an electronic engineer by profession, set up an electronic service station, where he offered to repair anyone’s equipment without charge. Similarly, another forum member set up a ribbon repair station on the lunch tables behind his cabin. Some of the more technical members were in the lunchroom, working on their equipment. In past Carverfests, we built tube power amplifiers, speakers, even a pre-amp by hand from basic parts, allowing members to discover the rewarding experience of listening to beautiful music from equipment that we built ourselves at Carverfest! All present were welcome to watch, listen, and learn. Listening to the equipment and the sharing of stories and knowledge stimulated every participant as we walked from cabin to cabin.
"Cookie" (Ray) made amazing dinners and breakfasts for all; each day we came together to have incredible meals served piping hot in his large cabin. Each day, we all gathered together to enjoy the gastronomical delights "Cookie" prepared for breakfast and dinners. We could not get enough of his specialty, delicious barbecued ribs. Around the midpoint of the festivities, those with a flair for cooking, mostly wives and girl friends, created a sumptuous multi-course dinner-to- be-remembered, served on a large deck from which all enjoyed the view of the Smoky Mountains. Afterward, everyone joined in various activities, including “Name That Tune” and dancing. Bob's wife, Peggy Piacenza, a professional modern dancer, joined the fun, entertaining all with her exceptional talent.
During the festivities, some took advantage of the many recreational opportunities, which included rides on antique steam and diesel railroads, boating, hiking, river rafting, and visiting the local villages. Peggy enjoyed river rafting and hiking, and, with Bob and others from Carverfest, took a side trip to tour the fabulous Biltmore Estate and Winery in nearby Asheville.
Clearly, Bob hugely enjoyed the festival, humbled by the devotion to his creations. He mentioned that Carverfest reminded him of attending the Consumer Electronics Shows, where he would go from suite to suite in hotels to listen and evaluate various audio systems but he enthused that the far more intimate Carverfest was "so much more fun as not to be compared". A more relaxing and enjoyable setting among friends sharing a passion is hard to imagine. The woodsy environment, the enthusiasm, spirit, and open friendliness of all who came, the beautiful music emanating from each cabin created an atmosphere for a bonding experience that has moved the flock of audiophiles to return each fall to Carverfest in the Smoky Mountains.
After two solid weeks of being treated to audio bliss and enthusiastic conviviality, all were reluctant to leave - those of us who stayed to the end joined behind the large Carverfest banner to be photographed, their smiling faces reflecting their joyful togetherness. Having absorbed into their memories what was heard and learned from fellow audiophiles, we all look forward to chats on the Carverfest Facebook site, planning for Carverfest, 2017
Written by David Ladely.