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.
This compact system, in which Monitor Audio's Gold GX 200 loudspeakers ($4500/pair) and brand new Silver 10 loudspeakers ($2500/pair) mated with the Cyrus Lyric 09 all-in-one class-D system ($6499, due in June or July), sounded very fine through Nordost Red Dawn cabling. Especially when I moved up a bit from the back wall, I noted how controlled and musical the system sounded at the start of the Budapest Festival Orchestra's Channel Classics recording of Mahler Symphony 2, and how good the bass was.
Some of the best sound at AXPONA filled Chicago-based dealer/concert pianist George Vatchnadze's room. With more than a little help from industry veteran Dan Meinwald, who not only claimed to have simply plunked everything down, but also called the large room at the end of the 3rd floor of the Westin O'Hare "the best hotel showroom I've ever been in," Ella's "Angel Eyes" from her universally lauded LP, Let No Man Write My Epitaph, sounded drop-dead gorgeous. The midrange felt like a warm embrace, inviting me in without fear of witnessing Fitzgerald's emotion drowned in a sea of euphonia.
Mated with the new Avid Ingenium turntable with Pro-ject tonearm ($1999), Marantz PM14S integrated amplifier, and Audioquest cabling, a not fully broken-in set of Wharfedale Jade 1 loudspeakers ($1199/pair) sounded very impressive for the price. On the Cowboy Junkies Whites Off Earth Now LP, a take-no-prisoners depiction of electric guitar was balanced by a decent midrange, good bass, and a fine depiction of female voice. Abetting bass response was Wharfedale's Diamond 10.2 subwoofer ($799), which filled in between 35 and 65Hz.
"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.
With a name like Lampizator, as in Lukasz Fikus' "Audio from Poland with Love," who wouldn't be intrigued? The good news is, even paired with Vapor Audio's day-old Derecho loudspeakers ($7600/pair), which Ryan Scott builds behind his house in Hot Springs, MO, Lampizator's Level 7 DAC ($9650) and SQBX Based transport ($2650), Purity Audio's Silver Statement preamp ($35,000) with ultra power supply, and PSE300B 18W monoblocks ($26,000/pair with Sophia Electric 300B tubes), and Verastar cabling won me over with their beautiful sound.
Released in early April, Channel D's Pure Vinyl 4.0 ($299, or $139 for previous users) enables you to easily split tracks via automation. Rob Robinson (above) describes it as "a major upgrade in usability. We've smoothed the rough edges and made it easier to use, while retaining the same sound." (The list of at least 25 improvements takes up a full sheet.) The software also has a built-in crossover time-alignment feature for time alignment of subwoofers, thereby enabling the sounds of main speakers and subs to arrive at your ear at exactly the same time with maximum impact and slam.
Clayton Shaw, who designed Emerald Physics loudspeakers and founded the company, returned last year with Spatial Audio loudspeakers. The Spatial Hologram M2 standard ($1995/pair) contains a new Hologram Circuit, and is a completely passive, analog, high-efficiency, open-baffle speaker. Each baby contains two 12' mid/woofers and one coaxially mounted compression driver. Designed to eliminate floor bounce, it claims not to need DSP or bi-amping.
For the second year in a row, a fire alarm sounded in the middle of AXPONA's busiest afternoon. Although it seems that the warning didn't reach all floors, it sent some who did hear it scurrying. In my case, that meant grabbing my heavy jacket, computer, computer glasses, camera and monopod, and complete collection of show literature and notes and trudging down seven flights.