Named for the God of Wind, PranaFidelity's new 94 lb, Vayu/fs, two-way, quasi-linearray loudspeaker ($6950/pair), which has a claimed frequency response of 29Hz22kHz, an 8 ohm impedance, and 89.5dB sensitivity, was reproducing the exceedingly warm sound of Atma-Sphere's M-60 Mk.III.2, fully differentially balanced class-A, triode OTL monoblocks ($7200/pair) and MP-3 Mk.III.2 preamp ($5600$9000, depending upon options).
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.
You couldn't miss the signage for PrimaLuna and Nola; it was as big as the excellent signage for T.H.E. Show itself. You also couldn't miss the sound: lovely, warm, and extremely inviting. Although the system was playing a bit too loud for the room, the system handled bass extremely well, and made timbres on a (yes) Diana Krall recording pretty natural. Doing the honors were the Nola Ko loudspeaker ($9800/pair) and three components from PrimaLuna: Premium CD player ($3995), DiaLogue 3 linestage preamplifier ($2695), and DiaLogue 7 monoblock amplifiers ($5495/pair).
"It's the best amp we've ever done," said an enthusiastic Kevin Deal about the PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium HP integrated amplifier ($3999) and power amplifier ($3899). "The bass and control will work with ribbons and electrostats." Indeed, I found the sound really nice, with very natural timbres that rival or surpass those of the high-priced spread.
The earth's ecology may be upside down, but Kevin Deal of Upscale Audio displayed PrimaLuna's new DiaLogue Premium integrated amplifier ($3299) that way for a positive reason. "It has a laundry list of the best parts," he declared, handing me a sheet that touts oxygen-free continuous-crystal copper, silver-plated, Teflon-dielectric point-to-point wiring; Takman audiophile grade resistors, and SRC tinfoil capacitors in critical signal paths; and an Alps potentiometer. The DiaLogue Premium is claimed to have such a good auto-biasing mechanism that you can mix and match 6L6GC/KT66, EL-34/KT77, 6550/KT88, and KT120 power tubes in any combination or permutation you so choose, and a bad tube indicator in case your sonic Devil's Brew won't cut it on the particular day that you hope to impress your mother-in-law. "Call it 40Wpc," said Kevin, "but it's not underpowered; it's huge power." There's only one way to find out what that means.
Fresh from Primare, the Swedish company whose name, correctly pronounced “prime air,” derives from the fact that audio moves air, were two new prototypes with unfinished faceplates: the PRE60 preamp/DAC ($10,000 target price) and A60 stereo power amplifier ($10,000 target price). Both are expected to ship by summer.
Primare may be known for "affordable products," but the wonderful inner warmth and superb, large images the new Primare PRE60 fully differential network preamplifier/streaming DAC ($10,000) and Primare A60, 300Wpc, fully balanced, class-D stereo amplifier ($10,000) produced on a 24/96 HDTracks download of the third movement of Mahler's Symphony 2 convinced the company to issue its first products at this price point. Of the brief time I had for auditioning, I loved every second of what I heard.