"I really wanted people not to say that the electronics are why the speakers sound good, so I brought a very minimalistic set-up," said Milwaukee-based Jeff Permanian of his very first display at an audio show. Granted, his imposing, Internet-direct JTR Noesis 215RT ($7000/pair), a 3-way loudspeaker with a claimed 95dB sensitivity and impressive frequency response of 18Hz24kHz, may not be a visual work of art. But in the company of an Oppo BDP-95, Adcom integrated, and Cardas cabling, its reproduction of Norah Jones' "Come Away with Me" exhibited sufficient warmth to make me want to hear the Noesis loudspeakers in superior company next time around.
I don't want to wax biblical here, but in Stereophile's world of show reports, the last shall be first, and the first, last. Thus we begin our coverage of the final day with the last system I auditioned at AXPONA 2014. Welcome to Goerner Communications' room on the Westin O'Hare's third floor.
From whatever vantage point you choose, AXPONA (Audio Expo North America) 2014 in Chicago's Westin O'Hare was a major success. Attendance on opening day, Friday, April 25, was quite robust, and the feeling in the hallway and in rooms was extremely positive. Saturday was mobbed, with standees in many rooms during peak hours, and hallways buzzing.
Is this the third consecutive show where the sound of Balanced Audio Technology (BAT) electronics has won me over? BAT doesn't need to either sugar-coat or tone down its tube sound, because its openness, clarity, and musical truth are so spot-on. IMHO, of course. The sound was so good that I didn't even bother to take notes on the music I heard.
I enjoyed my short time with the Vienna Acoustics Imperial Series Liszt loudspeaker system ($15,000/pair). The Liszt incorporates Vienna Acoustics' flat-spider 6" coincident midrange driver and 1.2" vented silk-dome/neo-coated motor, as well as three 7" woofers that cover the 26200Hz range of a speaker that extends up to 25kHz. Mated with a Primare I32 integrated amplifier ($4750), whose pre-installed full media board option allowed a wired LAN connection to a NAS drive, and AudioQuest cabling, the system depicted a file of a recording of Mahler's Symphony 3 with superior midrange, fine bass, and appropriate top-end bite. Percussive slam was tight, if a bit shallow, but that may have been due to the recording itself.
"Whatever you do, don't miss the speaker company around the corner at the end of the third floor," a dealer who had no connection with the room selflessly told me. "The sound is terrific." Thus I scurried along to the exhibit sponsored by Audio Limits of Colorado Springs and Polymer Audio Research of Florida. There I encountered the new, eye-catching Polymer MKS-X loudspeaker system ($60,000/pair), whose 365 lb loudspeakers boast a pure-diamond, acoustic-suspension tweeter and midrange, plus two 6.5" composite-cone, rear-ported woofers connected in parallel.
I have no idea exactly what was in use in the McIntosh room, because both times I paid a visit, the exhibitor was too involved in demonstrating the system's "Room Correction" component to stop to chat. Regardless, the sound was very, very goodjust what you'd expect from a McIntosh system that can control challenging hotel acousticsand the demo far more convincing than my mother's apple pie.
Since my focus was on new product introductions other than analog, which are being covered by Mikey Fremer on AnalogPlanet.com, all I'll say about the new Kronos Sparta turntable ($21,500) with Helena tonearm and AirTight PC-1 cartridge ($34,500 total) is that they sure sounded great in the context of the rest of GTT's system.
There was some booming in the bass, but the really nice highs and openness, as well as the large and engaging soundstage on a 24/96 version of Jennifer Warnes' "Nightingale" convinced me that Daedalus Audio, ModWright Instruments, and WyWires cabling are doing something very right. Reinforcement came from a very nice and smooth, albeit less than brilliantly illumined Red Book track by Chris Jones.
Designed by Art Powers Sr., who, I understand, manufactured some of the older Lamm amplifiers and designed their loudspeakers, Madison Fielding's second-generation Flagstone all-weather speakers ($3500/pair) include down-firing 10" Eminence 150W active custom-made woofers, and claim a frequency response of 44Hz15kHz ±3dB. The Flagstone series consists of two models and three variations, and claims to cover an area of up to 1000 sq. feet.