Back in 2009 I recorded classical pianist George Vatchnadze for a live-vs-recorded dem. As well as being a superb classical pianist and teacherhe teaches piano at Chicago's DePaul UniversityGeorge has a parallel life as an audio retailer. His company, Kyomi Audio, had two 8th-floor rooms at AXPONA, featuring Verity Amadis speakers ($30,000/pair) driven by CAT amplification and hooked up with the huge and expensive helium-filled Stealth cables. Sources were either an Acoustic Signature turntable fitted with a Funk Firm arm and Colibri cartridge, or an Esoteric transport feeding data to a prototype non-oversampling D/A processor from Stealth, this featuring the AD1865 DAC chip.
As I entered the room, Sarah Vaughan was singing "Send in the Clowns," her enormous vocal range effortlessly reproduced by the system. Then came Peter Schreier, backed by Sviatoslav Richter, singing one of Schubert's Winterreisse songs, then Rickie Lee Jones singing "Dat Dere" from her Pop Pop LP.
This was one fine-sounding, naturally balanced system!
Jason Victor Serinus adds: I had three extraordinary experiences listening to music at AXPONA. Each, in its own way, was so all-enveloping and transcendent that I can best describe them as spiritual. But the most revelatory of the three took place in George Vatchnadze’s Kyomi Audio room on the 8th floor.
George, an audio dealer and concert pianist who knew of my love for classical vocal music and John Atkinson's love for voice and piano, merged our loves with his own by playing us an LP of a live performance of tenor Peter Schreier and pianist Sviatoslav Richter performing two songs from Schubert’s chilling song cycle, Winterreise (Winter’s Journey). The sound was sublime, with natural timbres, an open and transparent presentation, and a true you-are-there feeling.
Most important, the system’s ability, at least on LP, to reach into the heart of a live performance and bring it back to life through two loudspeakers was breathtaking. The depth of despair that Schreier communicated, just in the cycle's open song, was unparalleled in my listening experience, and Richter’s ability to support him in the most understated yet poetic manner imaginable left me wondering how I had somehow managed to overlook this performance in all my years as a vocal music aficionado. It was all I could do to listen in a state of rapt wonderment while remembering to keep breathing.
On Sunday, I returned to the room a second time. First, John R. Quick and Brian Wasserman treated me to a performance of Satchmo’s classic "St. James Infirmary" in which the colors of his trumpet shone as on few systems I’ve auditioned.
Listening to Piazzolla’s Oblivion from my CD, Antonio Lysy at the Broad (Yarlung Records), I may have missed the natural shine and edge of Lysy’s cello that I've heard on some other systems, but the smoothness of the presentation and the absolutely gorgeous midrange tonality of his instrument and the accompanying string quartet had me scribbling in my notes, "The kind of sound you don’t want to analyze; you just want to listen."