AXPONA 2011

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 19, 2011 0 comments
My review sample of the Audioengine A5 was dressed in a clean, handsome satin black, but the speaker is also available in what the company calls “caramel,” a carbonized solid bamboo, which adds elegance to the look and $100 to the price. In bamboo, the A5 costs $449.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 19, 2011 0 comments
In his WS Distributing room, Tom Myers had set up a system made of a Vincent CD-S7 CD player (available now for $2199.95 in black or silver), Thorens TD 2030 turntable with blue acrylic plinth ($3699) and Benz Ace cartridge ($700) , Vincent amplification, and Thiel SCS4 loudspeakers on Pangea speaker stands. With its top-to-bottom coherence, the system was easy to enjoy. Moving from the Vincent CD player to the Thorens turntable added measures of body and scale, which I found even more involving.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 19, 2011 3 comments
There was nothing dirty, mean, or mighty unclean about the Audio Power Labs TNT 833 monoblock power amplifier, a pure class-A, push-pull design rated to deliver 200W into 8 ohms. Each amp weighs 160 lbs and uses 833C output tubes, 6550 driver tubes, and 12BH7 pre-driver tubes. The price will be somewhere between $150,000–$170,000/pair.

The system, including an Audio Research LS27 preamplifier, Musical Fidelity M6CD CD player, Vandersteen 3A loudspeakers, and aided by an array of RealTraps room treatments, produced big, robust voices, and had a good sense of musical flow.

Audio Power Labs’ Clyde Holobaugh confessed that the TNT 833 has been “a labor of love,” requiring over two years in design and development. His goal was to build a class-A, push-pull design that would be powerful, while also eliminating distortion.

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 19, 2011 2 comments
And I couldn’t resist snapping a shot of one guest in the Audioengine room, who was listening to the company’s A5 ($349) while reading my review of the speaker.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 19, 2011 1 comments
But who cares about speakers and turntables? Say hello to Miss Jessi Monroe!

When I visited his room, WS Distributing’s Tom Myers had mentioned that Jessi was supposed to be performing a few of her songs, but she “ran out to buy some records and never came back.” My kinda girl.

Just as I was about to leave the room, Jessi walked in…and I sat back down.

Jessi’s been traveling between Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Nashville, working on her recording career. She played a few riffs for us and the sound was somewhat tentative and perhaps touched by sadness, but long-legged and lovely, with blue-green eyes, long eyelashes, and exceptionally red lips.

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 19, 2011 4 comments
Responses to my first “Entry Level” column have been wonderful—far more detailed, thoughtful, and encouraging than I could have imagined or hoped. Many of the letters I’ve received tell stories about first experiences with hi-fi, and, within those, many readers fondly recall building their own loudspeakers.

To many of today’s teens and young adults, the thought of building a loudspeaker would be completely foreign and unrealistic, if not plain irrational and silly: Why build a loudspeaker? But, decades ago, doing things yourself, with tools and instructions, was not only the easiest way of accomplishing a goal, but often also the best, cheapest, and most enjoyable and satisfying way—a way of life we’ve sadly forgotten.

Companies like Madisound and the Meniscus Audio Group try to preserve that tradition, offering all the parts and knowledge required to those who are interested in doing things themselves. Here we see an array of Madisound speakers, all built from kits. I spoke with Mark Sayer, speaker guy of Meniscus Audio Group, who has been building his own speakers since he was a child. For him, the experience is more about the process than the product, a way of slowing things down.

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 19, 2011 0 comments
John Atkinson mentioned some of the trouble faced by MBL’s Jeremy Bryan in getting the best possible sound from his demo room. Bryan went to heroic lengths to tame his unruly room. One of the most obviously sonically challenged rooms I visited at Axpona was that held by Krell, who were showing their new Phantom preamp, scheduled to be available later this summer ($17,500), along with their Primo/Duo modular speaker system ($65,000/pair; designed specifically to be mated with Krell electronics), and the big Evolution 402e power amplifier ($18,500).

We listened to Sting doing a version of Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary.” (Man, I once knew a girl named Mary; she could make the wind cry....) Although Krell’s Bill McKiegan had strategically placed a few RealTraps panels around the room, some sonic problems were still readily audible. The bass was boomy, largely due to the acoustic of the small, L-shaped room, but guitars and voices were attractive, and the soundstage was wide and deep. Afterward, we listened to a bluegrass track and I was impressed by the system’s speed and clarity.

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 18, 2011 2 comments
Take a look at this beauty, the Hartsfield from Classic Audio Loudspeakers, a tribute to the original Hartsfield, introduced in 1954 by the James B. Lansing Sound Company. In John Wolff’s version, a 15” low-frequency driver couples to a long exponential horn; above 500Hz, a 2” midrange unit couples to a horn-lens assembly, designed to provide wide dispersion and uniform high-frequency sound distribution.

Something about this speaker gets people feeling all romantic. When I walked into the room, I sat down behind a couple whose hands were joined and whose arms swung in the space between their separate chairs, happily and slowly, in time to the music. After they departed, their places were taken by a second couple. This time, however, the woman simply moved her seat as close as possible to her companion’s, creating a virtual love seat, so that the two could hold each other while the music played.

What the hell? Was this a hi-fi show or some sort of love fest?

I couldn’t blame them, though. The system was playing some extremely gorgeous, palm-in-eye-socket piece of violin music, and it sounded sweet, inviting, and nearly rapturous, with delicate, extended highs and easy, voluptuous mids.

Designer John Wolff said something about field-coils and 106dB...

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 18, 2011 0 comments
A trio of Musical Fidelity V-Series products: V-CAN headphone amplifier ($199), V-DAC D/A converter ($299), and the asynchronous V-Link 24/96 USB to S/PDIF converter ($169), all tied together by budget-priced AudioQuest cables. These products may be affordable, but they offer true high-end sound quality.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 18, 2011 1 comments
A selection of RealTraps room treatments sit quietly in a quiet room. Discounted prices on RealTraps treatments were available to interested attendees, and many exhibitors used the popular panels to help tame their unwieldy rooms.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 18, 2011 0 comments
In the Immedia room, a sweet, relaxed sound was coming from a system made of Spiral Groove Allegra 2.0 loudspeakers, a Spiral Groove E60A power amplifier on a Finite Elemente Pagode platform, Audio Research CD8 CD player, Qualia & Co. Indigo Blue Reference preamp, and Spiral Groove cables.

At the time I walked into the room, Immedia’s Allen Perkins was in the nearby Analog Ballroom, tending to a disassembled sample of his Spiral Groove turntable, discussing its technology and design, while Michael Fremer used a fully assembled SG ‘table to give a turntable setup seminar.

So, though I didn’t get to hear vinyl, I nevertheless enjoyed the music. The system filled the rather large room with a lovely, easy sound, with solid stereo images and strong, compelling center fill. I don’t recall what we were listening to, but my notes quote the song’s lyrics—“I will rock you gently...”—which seems appropriate for this room and system.

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 18, 2011 0 comments
Aww. Nipper sits patiently atop one of John Wolff’s gorgeous Hartsfield loudspeakers.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 18, 2011 0 comments
Here’s a closer look at the BMC AMP M1 monoblock ($15,580/pair), rated to deliver 200W into 8 ohms and equipped with a massive 2-kilowatt toroidal transformer. That front-panel display looks like it could’ve come from the dashboard of my dad’s Cadillac. Vroom!
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 18, 2011 0 comments
One of my favorite experiences of the show was getting to meet and speak with members of the Atlanta Audio Video Club (from left: Ken Green, Steve Gooding, President John Morrison, Dennis Juranek, Jennifer Dickinson, and a prospective member and longtime Stereophile reader whose name I regretfully cannot recall).

All those who attended Axpona were fortunate to have the Atlanta AV Club on hand, volunteering their time and providing many kind smiles. Members were stationed at desks throughout the exhibit areas, directing attendees to showrooms, answering questions, promoting raffles, and simply adding cheer to the event.

It was immediately obvious that members of the Atlanta AV club were eager to share their enthusiasm for hi-fi and music. Surrounded by this sort of passion and dedication to music and sound, we can be sure that the hobby is in very good hands.

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 18, 2011 1 comments
Evolution Home Theater is an Atlanta-based dealer carrying products from B&W, Pioneer, Marantz, Pro-Ject, Arcam, Sony, Musical Fidelity, Definitive Technology, and Sonus Faber, among others.

While in the Evolution Home Theater room, I enjoyed speaking with Andy Ritz, whose Ritz Interiors offers a wide selection of solutions for room treatments, specializing in whole-room custom treatments but also happy to provide single panels for smaller jobs, each project available with customizable fabrics and designs for “a true theater look and feel.”

I also enjoyed chatting with B&W’s Eric Joy, who told me that the company’s new P5 headphones (seen here) have been a great success. Indeed, I’ve even started seeing people in NYC sporting the good-looking headphones. At just $299, the P5 might offer the discerning music lover a fine alternative to Monster’s Beats by Dr. Dre headphones.

I sat down and listened to a system made of the P5, along with a suite of Musical Fidelity V-Series components—V-CAN headphone amp, V-DAC, and V-Link asynchronous 24/96 USB to S/PDIF converter—tied to one another and to an Apple iBook G4 by AudioQuest cables. There was nothing muddy about Muddy Waters singing “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had.” (So true.) The sound was perhaps a little laidback, smooth, and seductive, with a good sense of air around Muddy’s voice, a weighty, well-defined bass, and great tone to the guitar.

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