Surprise, surprise, at least for me. Pipeline, RadioShack's high-end cabling line, is manufactured by no less an entity than AudioQuest. Bill Boyer, Sr. VP (left) and Milton Perez, National Sales Manager (right), gave an idea of the price range when they explained that a 4 foot HDMI cable retails for $49.
New for 2013, and due this summer, is Playback Designs' IMS-3 ($13,000). IMS stands for Integrated Music System, as in a one-piece unit housing DAC, preamp, and amp. The DAC is the same as in the excellent NPS-3 one-piece player, and the amp a class-A/B design that outputs 130W into 8 ohm and 260 into 4. A digitally controlled analog volume control, three analog inputs, and four digital inputs are among the features of a unit that will also support multi-channel playback.
Using a similar line-up as at CES 2013, the public show premiere of the Playback Designs' IPS-3 ($13,000), which contains a remote controlled amplifier/preamplifier/DAC with USB input that can handle up to 384kHz PCM and 6.1MHz DSD, paired with Evolution Acoustics MMMicroOne loudspeakers with integrated stands ($4000/pair), sounded very solid and musical on a big band selection. I would have stayed longer, but rather than interrupt an intense conversation, I added this room to my “next show wish list.”
Choose a door, any door. Confronted with three entirely different systems in the Norvinz room, for some reason I ignored my usual inclinations and moved to the far right. There I encountered veteran electrostatic guru Roger Sanders, formerly of Innersound, who now markets Sanders Sound Systems products online and through Norvinz.
Visual aesthetics were clearly not the main priority in room 431. Pictured is Polk Audio's LSiM 707 loudspeaker ($4000/pair), driven by an unseen Oppo 83 SE used as a transport, the excellent Peachtree DAC/Pre ($4700), and, on the computer end, a Macbook Pro running Amarra 2.4.2 via an Audioquest Carbon USB cable. Audioquest Rocket 88 cabling, PS Audio P10 power conditioner, XLO-10 power cords, and room treatment completed a system that, on George Benson's classic recording of "The Ghetto"a song that doesn't sound remotely like the predominantly Mexican, multi-ethnic and multi-national ghetto in which I livesounded like solid hi-fi.
It was a challenge to squeeze into the Positive Feedback Hospitality Suite, where visitors competed for space with liquor bottles. Not even co-host Carol Clark could reach the liquor table when I said “yes” to her offer to a touch of red wine. But somehow I was able to make it far enough into the room to discover, in the midst of the positive spirits, the Extreme Guitar Duo.
Hearing this duo unamplified, even in a small room, came as a shock . . .
More than Carol Clark's smiles were flowing in the Positive Feedback Online Hospitality Suite on the third floor. You could smell the spirits in the entryway, even before you got close enough to feel the positive spirit. I wish I could have stayed more than 90 seconds. But I doubt you would have gotten many more blogs out of this very light drinker if I had.
It's 6pm on Thursday night. Stereophile editor John Atkinson has proposed that we rendezvous in the lobby of the Hilton, secrete ourselves in a corner over a beverage of choice, and discuss how we three (John, Stephen Mejias, and moi) will cover the show.
Having covered shows with John before, and seen how many people come up to him to chat as he attempts to get from point A to point B, I had my doubts that we could somehow manage to talk undisturbed. Talk? We never even got that far. Conversation upon conversation began as soon as John hit lobby. Here, Bob Levi, President of the Los Angeles Orange County Audiophile Society (left), engages John in conversation as, right behind them, Jonathan Scull, PR man extraordinaire and former Stereophile Contributing Editor (second from left), and Dave Clark of Positive Feedback Online (second from right) do the same. Unseen are the many exhibitors who are staggering into the lobby after spending an entire day trying to get their equipment unpacked and positioned optimally.
You may wonder why this report of AXPONA Chicago lacks the usual exterior shot of the show venue. The answer is simple: It was too cold in Rosemont, where the Doubletree was located near Chicago O'Hare airport, for anyone from the "season-less" Bay Area to want to stand outside. Knowing that I would discover up to 9" of new snow on the ground and face sub-freezing temperatures at night, I went shopping before my trip for a hat tailor-made for Nanook of the North. What do you think Nanook would have thought of the "Made in China" label? Of course, John Atkinson, who's from a colder and wetter clime, will be posting a photo of the Doubletree hotel later in this report.
It’s Thursday afternoon, and all is aflutter in the show office in the Denver Marriott Tech Center. Everyone and their mother is arriving at once, and Show Manager Marjorie Baumert heads to the computer as she and her invaluable staff of volunteers move as fast as they can to meet the needs of multiple hundreds of exhibitors.