The view from the 16th floor of the Omni Jacksonville may look a bit bleak, but AXPONA was anything but. Initial disappointment at the number of exhibits, which diminished to 28 or so when three parties who had contracted for multiple rooms were forced to cancel due to illness, was replaced by delight as I kept encountering enthusiastic attendees hungry for good sound.
Talks with several exhibitors, including Dick Diamond of YG Acoustics and Rob Robinson of Channel D, revealed their delight at meeting a goodly number of knowledgeable audiophiles who were as educated and committed as they were eager to explore. Hey, Jacksonville may not have a reputation as a capital of cultural sophistication, but I could play Schubert and Mahler as well as Rosa Passos and Charles Lloyd without everyone running for cover.
Not yet released is Ayre’s 175Wpc VX-5 amplifier (price TBD, in the $8000 "neighborhood"), which uses the same circuit as in the AX-5, but with a larger power supply and higher voltage rails. The VX-5 was demmed with Vivid G2Giya speakers and the K-5xeMP preamplifier that John Atkinson reviewed in June 2011.
If there's anything I expect from Dynaudio, it's superb bass. Dynaudio's 30th-anniversary Sapphire ($16,500/pair) certainly produced copious amounts of bass. But the speaker gave me far more than sheer volume. In combination with the Wadia 781i transport/DAC ($15,000), Pass Labs XA100.5A monoblocks ($16,000/pair), Grand Priz Monaco Amplifier Stand, and XLO Signature 3 SE-1 power cords ($1100/8'), S3-2.2 balanced interconnect ($900/m), and S3-4.2 digital cable ($455/m), the system delivered some of the most well-proportioned, beautifully delineated bass I've ever heard. The opening of Mahler's Symphony 2 is rich with the sound of cellos, violas, and basses, and this system nailed each and every line with rare beauty. On the other end of the spectrum, soprano Elly Ameling's voice radiated angelic sweetness. Pictured with the equipment they represent are Dynaudio's Michael Manousselis (l) and Wadia's Martin E. Cooper (r).
First introduced at RMAF 2008, where their ability to fill a HUGE (and I do mean HUGE) conference room in the Hyatt with a full Mahler orchestra blew everyone away, the Kaiser Kawero speakers ($55,000/pair), sound better than ever. And for good reason. Newly revised, and slated for import into the US, the speakers boast the marvelous, some would say incomparable Raal 7020XR double-ribbon tweeter. With 14 sq. cm of area, this tweeter seems to have no boundaries. The cabinet is of so-called bulletproof tankwood, and the special tuning feet contain more than their fair share of ebony.
"Daedalus Audio and ModWright Instruments have teamed up to show how good a sound you can get for close to $15k," Daedalus' Lou Hinkley explained as I entered the room. Indeed, for as much as I could hear over a very loud conversation, the sound of a track from River, Herbie Hancock's Tribute to Joni Mitchell, and another from a Norah Jones album was very, very nice.
Ayre and Vandersteen are two companies whose products have achieved an enviable reputation for excellence. I was, in fact, blown away by my listening experience in the Ayre room at RMAF 2006, and looked forward to an equally enveloping experience this year.
Kerem Kücükaslan (pronounced something like "Kooshookasslan," shown standing in the center of the photo), former President of the Istanbul HiFi Club, is justifiably proud of his Echole Obsession cables. When I first encountered these cables, mated with Kaiser Kawero speakers from Germany at last year's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I was mightily impressed with the huge, three-dimensional soundstage that the system achieved in a huge ballroom. Playing a portion of Ivan Fischer's R2D4 recording of Mahler's Symphony 2, this system spoke musical truth.
Perhaps you've experienced something similar. I recently invited members of the Bay Area Audiophile Society to hear my system. Many of them had visited our house before, but only to attend demos of other equipment that had been brought in specifically for the event. Now I finally had the chance to let BAAS members hear my system whole and complete.
Audio Federation doesn't play around. Its top-of-the-line, no-holds-barred system centers around the Marten Coltrane Supreme loudspeaker ($250,000/pair), Audio Note UK Ongaku amplifier ($85,000), EMM Labs/Meitner Design CDSD SE transport ($8400) and DCC2 SE DAC ($13,500), Brinkmann Balance turntable ($29,900), Lamm LP2 Deluxe phono preamp ($6990), and, for this system, modestly priced Lyra Titan cartridge ($5000). Cabling is no less than Nordost Valhalla, Stealth Indra, Jorma Design No.1 and PRIME, while power cords and distributors include Nordost Valhalla, Elrod Statement II and Signature III, and Acrolink Mexcel 7N-7100.
Aerospace engineer James M. Harrell, Jr. debuted his Jumping Cactus Loudspeakers at RMAF 2007. Only available from jumpingcactusloudspeakers.com, these tri-amped, 120lb loudspeakers are housed in sealed aluminum cabinets that feature a Bubinga wood front panel. The speakers are said to have a high measured sensitivity of 94dB. With a frequency range of 65Hz–20kHz., a subwoofer is recommended. The speakers also come with an active XM44 4-way crossover by Marchand Electronics.