AXPONA 2013

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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 12, 2013 0 comments
Gingko Audio, known for its isolation platforms and turntable covers, has recently begun marketing DanaCable. Gingko's Doug Williamson was happy to show me samples. Manufactured In Colorado Springs, the cables range in price from the Deluxe Line Onyx ($395/1m pair unbalanced interconnects) to the Reference Line Diamond ($1100/1m pair unbalanced interconnects, add $300 for balanced). The company also manufactures speaker cables and digital cables. "They sound better in room 926," Williamson quipped.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Mar 12, 2013 0 comments
A rep from Chinese-based HiFiMan arrived at AXPONA with a host of new products. At the top of their list were the new RE-400 earbuds ($99). Also on display, the HM-901 digital audio player ($999), which handles multiple file formats, HE-300 dynamic driver headphones ($299), and HE-6 planar magnetic headphones ($1299).
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John Atkinson Posted: Mar 12, 2013 2 comments
My first visit at AXPONA was to the large ground-floor room where AIX Records' Mark Waldrep (pictured) was playing back some of his superb-sounding multichannel recordings from Blu-ray, complete with hi-def video.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Mar 12, 2013 0 comments
The night before AXPONA's official opening, people mobbed the reception for press and exhibitors. As audiophiles chattered, drank, and ate away—the food was a major notch above the oft-mediocre, and the bartenders quite busy—Chicago's Deep Blue Organ Trio turned up the heat. With Bobby Broom on guitar, Chris Foreman on organ and Greg Rockingham on drums, the heat was certainly welcome, given the freezing temperatures outside.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Mar 12, 2013 0 comments
With deepest apologies to Scarlet O'Hara, and perhaps even deeper apologies to the Deep South and Bad Pun Police, it's time to toot the horn of Morrow Audio of Northern Kentucky. Mike Morrow (on the left), who began the company in 2006, came to AXPONA with Larry Love (on the right) to proudly announce Morrow Audio's partnership with Legacy. Morrow, who initially started out as a Legacy dealer, has seen his business grow 25%/year. Currently selling direct on the net, he and Love have plans to start a dealer network. When? Well, tomorrow is another day.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Mar 12, 2013 1 comments
Musical Surroundings, the distributor whose headquarters are in my notoriously crime-ridden town of Oakland, had multiple presences at AXPONA. One was on the mezzanine, where Mike Fajen was touting the pairing of the Fosgate Signature headphone amp ($1500) with Musical Surroundings' new MYDAC II ($1200). To these ears, the pairing is felicitous. Heard through revealing Sennheiser HD 800 headphones, the sound was exceptionally nice, warm, and lovely.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Mar 12, 2013 0 comments
Sankar Thiagasmudram, President and co-founder of Audeze, was happy to show the company's LCD-2 ($995) and LCD-3 ($1995) planar-magnetic headphones. I was wowed by these headphones when I encountered them at Audio High last year.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Mar 12, 2013 1 comments
Roger DuNaier of KingSound had plenty of reason to smile. His King III full-range electrostatic loudspeakers ($12,000/pair) were sounding the best I've ever heard them. That means the music they produced sounded exceptionally smooth, warm, relaxed and inviting. How Roger managed this on the Mezzanine of the Doubletree, where rooms had a 10' air space above the ceiling that sucked the life of most active systems on the floor, is no mean feat.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Mar 12, 2013 1 comments
At the opening reception, AXPONA organizer Steve A Davis occasionally played double duty, retrieving drinks for folks as his wife Carmen dispensed drink tickets along with press and exhibitor badges. At one point, he even managed to hush the well-lubricated crowd long enough to pay homage to his late business partner, Andrew Spaulding, to whom he dedicated Chicago's first consumer audio show in 14 years.

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