AXPONA 2011

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 15, 2011 Published: Apr 16, 2011 1 comments
Check out the sexy Oracle Paris ($3150), available in four high-gloss finishes. This one is in red, and ladies love red.

It uses a carbon fiber Paris tonearm ($950), which begins as a Pro-Ject 9cc, but gets dressed up with Oracle’s Micro Vibration Stabiliser System, developed for the more expensive Delphi Mk.VI, and which uses a silicone damping bath and precision plunger fitted to the tonearm tube. The Paris phono cartridge ($1150), a high-output moving-magnet design, is machined from a magnesium-aluminum alloy. Fully assembled and pre-calibrated for a nearly plug-and-play installation, the Paris package costs $5000. The ‘table uses a semi-floating suspension system with Sorbothane decoupling, has a two-piece acrylic/aluminum platter system, includes adjustable Delrin feet and a Delrin record clamp, and uses the same motor and drive electronics found in the Delphi Mk.VI.

“We have a hard time compromising,” confessed Oracle’s Jacques Riendeau. “With the Paris, we pushed the limits of performance while hitting a lower price point.”

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 16, 2011 4 comments
The YG Acoustics Anat III Signature ($119,000/pair) employs a new circuit in its main module which enables the speaker to play louder while minimizing midrange distortion. Though the Anat maintains its rated sensitivity of 89dB, its impedance is more even, which should make the speaker easier to drive. Completing the system were a Veloce preamp, Krell 402 amplifier, dCS Scarlatti system, and Kubala Sosna Elation cables.

Alright. As some graceful piano came slowly tinkling into the room, I was immediately struck by the system’s combination of scale and delicacy. And when the first voice came in, it was one of those holy shit moments. And when the second voice came in, it was another one of those holy shit moments. And when the two voices came together, all I could do was sit there and grin like a dummy, in awe of the texture and tone and exquisite delineation of images. And then the percussion—fast and clean and authoritative. It added up to a compelling complete performance, just as sonically impressive as it was emotionally involving.

I heard myself thinking wild thoughts: It’s incredible that reproduced music can sound this good…. Sitting there listening to Herbie Hancock’s The Imagine Project, I was having the same sort of reaction as when walking the halls of a museum or strolling down 34th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, looking up at the Empire State Building: I’m just sort of amazed that humans can create such beauty.

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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 16, 2011 0 comments
"I made this for myself," explained the genial Ron Sutherland, as he showed me the interior of his new monophonic phono preamplifier ($9800/pair). The power supply on the right, which uses both choke and RC smoothing, feeds DC to the active circuitry on the left via a ribbon cable running in a channel machined in the front panel. Plug-in daughterboards are used to change loading and gain and three chassis grounding options allow for the lowest noisefloor: floating, grounded directly, and grounded via a 50 ohm resistor. Ron has used 1/8"-thick circuit boards to lower dielectric effects. There are two outputs to allow a mono cartridge to to be fed to both left and right inputs of the phono preamplifier.
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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 16, 2011 2 comments
An enthusiastic crowd turned up on the first morning of the Show to catch Michael Fremer's workshop on how to optimally set-up a turntable. With the help of close-up video, Michael used a Spiral Groove turntable and arm, and Lyra cartridge to show how to optimize headshell offset, overhang, antiskating, VTA, azimuth, and other analog mysteries. The session is being repeated Saturday at 11:30am in the Goldmine seminar room.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 15, 2011 Published: Apr 16, 2011 1 comments
The Oracle Paris turntable acted as the analog source in a system which also included Oracle Audio electronics (SI 1000 integrated amplifier, DAC 1000 preamplifier-D/A converter, Paris phono preamplifier), 4-way Induction Dynamics ID1.15 loudspeakers ($17,750/pair; sexy red finish adds $2500/pair), and Kimber Select cables (all-copper KS6063 speaker cable: $4400/8ft pair; copper-silver hybrid KS6065 speaker cable: $8000/8ft pair; copper-silver hybrid KS1026 interconnects: $1320/1m; Paladium power cords: around $1200).

Early on Friday morning, when I walked into the room, I heard more surface noise than I would like, but the music was nevertheless compelling, with images that just seemed to grow and grow and grow from a dark background. I heard a classical guitar rendition of “Stairway to Heaven” that managed to both rock and sway. While looking down to take notes, I could almost imagine live musicians in the room with me.

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 16, 2011 57 comments
The Daniel Hertz M1 ($100,000/pair), designed by Mark Levinson (the man), uses a high-frequency horn, a 12” mid-woofer, and an 18” woofer. The stainless steel frame surrounding the horn is said to optimize waveform termination and imaging quality, while those frames surrounding the woofers are used to increase the rigidity of the drivers. The speaker is divided internally into two sections: One section for the horn and 12” driver, damped using sheep’s wool for its high mass and absorptive properties, and one section with two tuned ports for the 18” driver.

As seen here, the M1 is designed to be powered by four Telikos M5 Mono Reference amplifiers ($8000 each): Each channel uses one M5 switched to frequencies above 80Hz and one M5 switched to frequencies below 80Hz. Also in the system was a Telikos M6 preamp ($10,000). The source was a $400 laptop running WAV files from iTunes.

Interesting story: Daniel Hertz (the company) takes its name from the two sides of Mark Levinson’s family. Daniel Levinson was Mark’s father, while Heinrich Hertz (1857-1894), a German physicist and the first to demonstrate the existence of electromagnetic waves, was Mark’s great uncle on his mother’s side.

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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 16, 2011 4 comments
"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.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 15, 2011 4 comments
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.

“No.”

“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!

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Apr 15, 2011 0 comments
Thursday was the trade-only day at Axpona, held at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Many of the exhibitor rooms are situated around a lovely, inviting pool. I arrived in Atlanta at around 2pm, thrilled to see sunshine and feel warm, southern air on my skin. The staff at the Sheraton immediately struck me as being just as warm, eager to help and genuinely happy just to smile and say hello.

Thursday’s show activity was limited to system setup, however—many exhibitors had been up till the very early hours of morning, unpacking boxes and crates which had arrived only a few hours earlier. It must be tremendously tough to unpack gear and set up a system after a long day of travel. Some exhibitors told me they’d stayed up until 4am, preparing and tweaking to achieve the best possible sound.

Judging from what I heard today, on the first full day of the show, they did an outstanding job.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Apr 10, 2011 2 comments
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 15–17 in the beautiful, centrally located Sheraton Downtown Atlanta, promises at least 70 exhibit rooms alive with gear from at least 250 individual manufacturers . . .

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