AXPONA 2013

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Mar 13, 2013 1 comments
What else might you expect to hear on Classic Audio Hartsfield field-coil driver loudspeakers ($59,950/pair) than Classic Records' 45 rpm pressing of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington? Despite bass problems stemming from the 10' black hole above the room, the music sounded quite wonderful...until we got to the first track on Patricia Barber's new CD, Smash. There, her voice sounded great but the bass was impossible. Doing their best were Atma-Sphere's MP-1Mk.3.2 preamp with phono ($12,100) and MA-1.5 Novacron power amplifier ($12,000/pair), mated with the Tri-Planar Ultimate 12 turntable with what I think was a Technics SP10 Mk.II arm and either a van den Hul III Gold or Koetsu Jade cartridge.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Mar 13, 2013 0 comments
Look out Audiogon. Your latest competition in the online marketplace department, AudioMart, launched this week. The company's Mark Mawhinney, who owns a retail store and is also responsible for the Spin-Clean Record Washer, says AudioMart lists both used and new equipment. "It's quicker, faster, more socially integrated, and much more mobile friendly," he proclaims. "Images are posted for free, and we're offering free dealer storefronts through September 1."
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John Atkinson Posted: Mar 13, 2013 0 comments
"Updating of a legend..." read the one-sheet in Barrington retailer Essential Audio's room. It was referring to the Transmission Audio M1i speaker, a much-evolved descendant of the Red Rose Music R3 loudspeaker designed by Bo Bengtsson that Michael Fremer favorably reviewed for Stereophile back in May 2001. The M1i combines a dipole quad-ribbon tweeter with an aperiodically damped 5" woofer and costs $4500/pair.
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John Atkinson Posted: Mar 13, 2013 0 comments
As in other shows, the Chicago AXPONA devoted a ballroom to the software vendors who feed our passion for music. Even before the show officially opened on Friday, a healthy crowd was browsing Music Direct's, Elusive Disc's, and Acoustic Sounds' racks'o'vinyl while Josh Bizar, Director of Sales and Marketing for Music Direct and Mobile Fidelity, acknowledges the camera.
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John Atkinson Posted: Mar 13, 2013 1 comments
Channel D's Rob Robinson was using the same combination of Joseph Audio Pulsar speakers, Hegel amplification, and a Lynx Hilo D/A processor that he used at earlier shows to show off the LP rips made with his Pure Vinyl program for the Mac, now in its v3.1 incarnation. In honor of the late Alvin Lee, Rob played me a rip from a Kevin Gray-mastered 10 Years After LP, made with an Artemis turntable/arm, Zu DL103 cartridge, and the latest version of the Channel D SETA L solid-state phono preamplifier. I have been getting increasingly impatient with the occasional ticks and pops with my LP rips, as eliminating them is too much like work. But there was no such noise on Rob's rips, a tribute to his LP player.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Mar 13, 2013 1 comments
My drop-dead favorite sound of the show—I hesitate to call it "Best of Show," since I heard nothing on the ground and 9th floors, and only half the rooms on the 8th—filled the large corner room on the 7th floor co-sponsored by Balanced Audio Technology (BAT) and Music Direct. There, on the physical level, I encountered, as sources, an Esoteric K-05 SACD/CD player & Reference DAC ($8299) and Avid Acutus Reference SP turntable ($25,000) with Avid Pulsare II phono stage ($7000). Both fed a top-of-the-line BAT REX II preamplifier ($25,000) and BAT REX II monoblock amplifiers ($40,000/pair), which sang through Focal Scala Utopia loudspeakers ($30,000/pair). The component list, handwritten in my notepad by BAT's Geoff Poor, also includes Shunyata Triton and Typhon power ($10,000), but I don't see them listed on their website.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Mar 13, 2013 0 comments
For every reason under the sun, the big system from HiFi Imports of Colorado Springs should have sounded spectacular. Alas, given the 10' air space above the ceilings of most of the big conference rooms on the Doubletree's mezzanine, the law of the day was, the bigger they are, the farther they fall.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Mar 13, 2013 0 comments
Although Soundsmith brought to Chicago the very same system it exhibited at RMAF in Denver last October, there was nothing has-been about the sound. In fact, sonics that I often find enticingly romantic, as on the slightly warm side, this time sounded far more neutral, yet infused with the glow that makes Peter Ledermann's cartridges and electronics so special.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Mar 13, 2013 0 comments
Brian Ackerman of Aaudio Imports, whose eye and ear for the esoteric has brought any number of superb brands to our sonic shores, is now importing Hartvig turntables from Denmark (base model $13,500). Available in multiple finishes and woods—Brian made it sound as though you could get almost anything your heart desires—the table has a special bearing, housed inside the platter, which is precision machined by the designer. The passive display left me actively longing to hear the baby in action. Newport Beach in June, perhaps, or the California Audio Show in Burlingame in August?
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John Atkinson Posted: Mar 13, 2013 1 comments
Yes, that's a dub LP from Bob Marley and the Wailers you can see in the Music Hall room at AXPONA. It was being played on the forthcoming Ikura turntable (price still to be decided, probably around $1000), with the new Creek EVO-50A integrated amplifier ($1195) and a pair of Music Hall's budget-priced Marimba speakers ($350/pair). The Marimba was designed by Roy Hall hisself, and is made in China; it will be reviewed by Stephen Mejias in our June issue). At $250/pair, the stands cost almost as much as the speakers!
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John Atkinson Posted: Mar 13, 2013 4 comments
The mighty Focal Grand Utopia EM loudspeakers ($190,000/pair), which use field-coil energized woofers, took pride of place in one of the two big rooms on the Doubletree's ground floor sponsored by Chicagoland dealer Quintessence. Driven by two-chassis Pass Labs Xs300 monoblocks with Kubala-Sosna cabling throughout the system, both the 1950s Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges collaboration "Back to Back" and the Reference Recordings Rutter Requiem were reproduced with a stunning combination of vocal purity and instrumental majesty. Source was a file fed by USB to a Playback Designs player/DAC.
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John Atkinson Posted: Mar 13, 2013 1 comments
With Benchmark's high-value DAC1 D/A headphone amplifier getting a little long in the tooth—our original review was in July 2003—it was good to hear the new DAC2 HGC ($1995) at Axpona. The DAC2 uses an asynchronous USB2.0 interface, will decode DSD files, has five digital inputs, two single-ended analog inputs, balanced and singled-ended analog outputs, two headphone outputs, and features a hybrid analog/32-bit digital volume control that preserves resolution. Analog signals are never digitized; digital signals never pass through an analog potentiometer; yet both analog and digital volume are controlled with a single knob.
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John Atkinson Posted: Mar 13, 2013 5 comments
This modest system in the April Music room actually sounded like music. Solus 2-way speakers (sorry, didn't note the price) were being driven by the new Stello S100 50Wpc power amplifier ($1200) and Stello HP100 D/A preamplifier/headphone amplifier, all wired with Verastarr cables. The Stello components are nicely finished and use enclosures manufactured in California, though final assembly is in Korea. Only disappointment was that the HP100 uses the Burr-Brown PCM2705 USB audio chip, which is limited to 16-bit data with a sample rate up to 48kHz and operates in the less-than-optimal adaptive mode.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Mar 13, 2013 0 comments
Ever since encountering the wonderful sound of Nightingale electronics, manufactured by Simetel of Rome (as in Italy), at the first AXPONA show in Jacksonville, I've looked forward to another visit with their Lancaster, PA-based USA representative, Valentina Ross. Her set-up of Nightingale Concentus open-baffle CTR-02 loudspeakers ($9750/pair), Onda 90 monoblock amplifiers ($12,450/pair), PTS-03 preamplifier ($9750), CR-1600 line conditioner ($3960), and unnamed source and cabling—her assistants, who handed me literature, spoke little English—was one of the most attractive at the show, and the sound remarkably open and spacious.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Mar 13, 2013 1 comments
Given the number of loudspeakers in the relatively small room, I was amazed that two corner traps, combined with intelligent speaker placement that began at 8am, could result in such well-controlled bass. But on the Channel Classics native DSD/hybrid SACD of the Budapest Festival Orchestra performing Mahler's Symphony 2, the opening movement exhibited ideal control on the low end as well as natural warmth. I kept waiting for the booming, but it never came. What a great end to my first long day at AXPONA Chicago, 2013.

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