The room shared by Audio Physic and Esoteric was one I returned to, as I couldn't quite believe the superb treble quality being produced by the 25th Anniversary edition of Audio Physic's Virgo speaker (to the right of the photo, $12,800/pair). Couldn't believe it? It was because this speaker was using a cone tweeter. But as AP's Reinhard Goerner explained, with the break-up problems of soft-dome tweeters now well-understood, it made engineering sense to use a cone. The Virgo's aluminum-cone midrange unit features a cast basket with minimal surface area to interfere with the diaphragm's backwave and the twin woofers are mounted on the enclosure sides to minimize vibrational excitation. Esoteric was featuring. . .
On Thursday night, I attended a fantastic dinner at a “beer bar” called The Porter, in the colorful Little Five Points section of Atlanta. As my good friend Michael Lavorgna says, any place with the words “beer” and “bar” in its name has got to be at least half great. And The Porter, as it turned out, was all great. If you’re ever in Atlanta, go!
But before you go to The Porter, you should first go to Criminal Records, a wonderful record store. I didn’t go in on Thursday night, but Michael Fremer quietly wandered away from our group and snuck inside for a bit. As we sat around our table, drinking Dog Fish Head and Victory, we made guesses as to when Mikey would finally arrive. We were all wrong: We had had two rounds and had finished almost all of the appetizers by the time Mikey finally joined us. He came in with a stack of beautiful $1 LPs, and displayed them throughout our dinner.
“Have you ever heard this?” he asked me.
“Oh, it’s great. Here, take this. I’ve got a bunch of them.”
And that’s the story of how I got a pristine copy of As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, by Pat Metheny & Lyle Mays. Thanks, Mikey!
I didn’t get to see much of Atlanta while at the show, but what I did see was beautiful. During breakfast one morning, a member of the Atlanta Audio Video Club led me outside to a quiet balcony where we enjoyed this view of the Atlanta skyline.
That UFO-shaped structure near the center of the image is the revolving restaurant, Polaris, atop the Hyatt Regency, on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta. Designed by John C. Portman, Jr., the Hyatt Regency was opened in 1967, and was the first hotel constructed around an atrium.
There was a big, physical, purposeful, yet delicate sound coming from the Aaudio Imports/Cruze First Audio room.
The system was made of Lansche No. 5.1 loudspeakers ($45,000/pair); BMC AMP M1 monoblock power amplifiers ($15,580/pair), BDCD1 belt-drive CD player/transport ($5790), DAC1 PRE D/A converter/preamp ($5790), and MCCI MC phono preamp ($3890); Bergmann Magne turntable and tonearm ($12,000); Stage III Mantikor speaker cables ($16,500/2.5 m), Gryphon interconnects ($6300/1m), and Analord Prime phono cable ($2900); Stage III Vortex ($2400/1.5m), Monotaur ($4000), and Zyklop ($6000/1.5m) power cords; Weizhi PRS-6 Pure power distributor ($3200); and Acapella Fondato Silenzio base ($3100) and LaMusika Puck/3 couplers ($490).
I sort of just zoned out in this room, nodding my head to the music, which transported me easily to some comfortable, smoky jazz club in 1950s New York City.
I have never been a fan of transmission-line speakers. My experience has been that too often resonant problems in the line color the speaker's upper bass. But I didn't hear any such problems with the Acoustic Zen Crescendo speakers ($16,000/pair), seen here with designer Robert Lee. The Crescendo combines two 5" midrange units with magnesium-impregnated paper cones placed either side of a horn-loaded tweeter with two 8" woofers that use ceramic-coated "non-pressed" paper cones, these loaded with a transmission line venting at the speaker's base. Driven by a Triode Corporation 20Wpc TRV-845SE integrated amplifier ($6000), which uses two 845 output tubes running in class-A, and a Triode TRV-CD4SE CD player, the sound in this room was uncolored and extended at both frequency extremes, revealed by a superb recording of a female singer accompanied by a double bass.
I have made a point of visiting rooms at Shows featuring speakers from the Adam, the German manufacturer successfully extending their expertise with professional monitor loudspeakers into the world of consumer audio. In the room at Axpona, strategically treated with RealTraps, Adam were showing off their Tensor Beta towers ($31,000/pair) with Accuphase amplification and CD player via Transparent cable. The speaker's two Hexacone woofers are mounted on the front and back of the lower enclosure and driven by an internal amplifier. The midrange and treble enclosure is decoupled from the woofer cabinet with three sand-filled leather bags and both double-walled enclosures have the space between the walls filled with sand. The glory of this speaker is. . .
While making my way to the Goldmine seminar room at Axpona, to catch Michael Fremer's turntable set-up talk, I came across pianist John Yurick playing some smooth jazz improvisations to a background of a Lamborghini and Aston Martin that happened to be parked in front of the Stereophile booth.
Throughout the show, the Audioengine room was almost always busy; attendees seemed very attracted to the technology, design, and prices of Audioengine’s small, versatile speakers. When I walked in, a pair of A5 powered loudspeakers ($349/pair) were playing, and it was interesting to note their familiar sound, even while in an crowded and unfamiliar environment. My discussion of the A5 appears in our May issue, copies of which were being distributed in the Audioengine room and throughout Axpona.
Audioengine’s Brett Bargenquast was happy he’d decided to exhibit at the show. Traffic was steady, and the company sold several pairs of speakers during the three-day event.
Now in its second year, and almost double the size of its launch, AXPONA (Audio Expo North America) is set to make a major impact on East Coast audiophiles when it opens to the public on April 15. Sponsored by Stereophile, the annual show, which runs April 1517 in the beautiful, centrally located Sheraton Downtown Atlanta, promises at least 70 exhibit rooms alive with gear from at least 250 individual manufacturers . . .
On Saturday night, after a long day of listening, writing, and chatting, I couldn’t force myself to enjoy another dinner or even have a beer. Things come to a dull end where all systems sound the same, I forget what it is I’m supposed to be listening for, I can’t give the exhibitors and attendees the attention they deserve. So, instead of pushing myself further, I decided to head back to my room and post a few blog entries before packing my bags and going to bed. Earlier in the day, I had already begun to regret my decision to leave the show on Sunday morning: There were rooms I hadn’t visited, people I hadn’t met, songs and stories I hadn’t heard, and now I had run out of time. Nevertheless, as I succumbed to sleep, I could hear myself singing...
"A North Carolina firm called Bob's Devices has joined my list of favorite phono step-up suppliers," wrote Art Dudley in June 2010. There in the Analog Ballroom at Axpona was Bob Sattin himself, showing off his range of affordable step-ups, using selected new and vintage transformers from manufacturers like CineMag, Sowter, and Altec.
Although in many ways Atlanta's Sheraton Downtown was ideally suited for an audio showmany large rooms; high ceilingsits rambling layout mean that some rooms were hard to find. I wouldn't have come across the second-floor room being shared by Carnegie Acoustics and Leon Speakers if I hadn't bumped into Danny Richie (pictured with the CST2 speaker) in an adjacent corridor. Carnegie had sensibly treated their space with room treatments; the sound of the CST2, which combines eight 5.25" Vipacor-cone woofers with a 1"-by-3" Mylar-fim planar tweeter, driven by a VAC amplifier and a Mach 2-modded Mac mini feeding a Tranquility DAC, was impressively neutral and fullrange on Patrica Barber's "A Test of Honey" from Cafe Blue.
I wasn't surprised to see that Channel D was featuring Joseph Audio Pulsar two-way stand-mount speakers ($7000/pair) in their room. My experience of the Pulsar at Shows is that it offers more bass than you'd expect from its size, with an uncolored, naturally balanced midrange. But I was surprised that it was Jeff Joseph himself, seen here seated at the computer, who was demonstrating Channel D's Pure Music program. (Channel D's Rob Robinson, who was doing the dems of the Pure Vinyl LP-"ripping" program, can be seen standing second from the left.) The rest of the system in this room included. . .
"It's fitting for the world premier of the Da Vinci 384k DAC to happen on the first day of Axpona," explained Light Harmonic's Larry Ho, "as today is Leonardo da Vinci's birthday." 384k? Yes, the Da Vinci DAC ($11,999 regular price, $8999 Axpona price [NOTE: The actual retail price ended up at $20k-ed.]) will operate at sample rates up to 384kHz. At the show, in a system featuring Wilson Sophia 3 speakers driven by Pass Labs amplification, a 2L recording of Ole Bull's violin concerto, sourced from a Mac 2-modded Mac mini running Pure Music and recorded with a 352.8kHz sample rate, according to the DAC's front panel display, offered up some of the sweetest-sounding, natural violin sound and the most solid stereo imaging I have experienced from a classical recording. The 384k DAC uses the USB2.0 protocol and functions on a Mac without a driver having to be installed.
Electric bassist Dean Peer's concerts with drummer Bret Mann at the Montreal Show two weeks ago had been a highlight for me of that Show. At the Atlanta Show, Dean Peer was scheduled to take part in a jam session Saturday night, but Friday and Saturday afternoon, he gave a 60-minute talk on how he approaches playing the bass, making recordings, and how a musician and composer became involved in the world of audiophiles. He also played some of his compositions, including a favorite of mine from his first album Ucross, which was released exactly 20 years ago. Can't beat that live music!