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.
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.
I expected this system to wow, and wow it did. As if to up to ante after presenting the US consumer show debut of Wilson Audio's supremely musical Sasha Series-2 loudspeaker, Paragon Sight and Sound's next room paired Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems' new Momentum integrated amplifier ($45,000) and, on other occasions, D'Agostino's Momentum monoblock amplifiers ($55,000/pair) and Momentum stereo preamplifier ($32,000) with the four-piece dCS Vivaldi stack ($108,496 total), Wilson Audio Alexia loudspeakers ($48,500/pair), a costly amount of Transparent Reference cabling, and HRS equipment stands.
The second showing of the Magico S3 loudspeakers ($22,600/pair), courtesy of Musical Surroundings and Chicago’s Quintessence Audio, palled them up with Pass Labs’ beautiful sounding XA100.5 monoblocks ($16,500/pair), XP30 linestage preamplifier ($16,500), HRS racks, and Kubala-Sosna Emotion cabling. Heard through a Clearaudio Ovation turntable with AMG 9W2 tonearm and AMG Teatro MC cartridge ($10,850 total), tonalities were gorgeous and warm. The strings on the Reference Recordings Minnesota Orchestra rendition of Richard Strauss? Dance of the Seven Veils from the opera Salome were to die for.
The familiar show pairing of Salk Sound and Van Alstine got a major boost from Salk's brand new Exotica 3 loudspeakers ($11,999/pair), which includes dual 8" servo-controlled powered woofers. Thanks as well to Van Alstine's brand new FET Valve CF tube preamp ($1895 base price), FET valve hybrid DAC ($1899), and FET valve 600R 300W/channel hybrid amp ($3200 base price), the sound was very nice, smooth, and enjoyable.
After spending years pairing their DACs with components from other companies, Benchmark has opted to do it all themselves. The new Benchmark SMS1 loudspeaker ($2450/pair in black), which ships in 6 weeks, is claimed to extend from 44Hz20kHz, with ±3dB between 50Hz and 12kHz, and a lifted treble in the top octave. These are a variation of the Studio Electric loudspeakers formerly paired at shows with Benchmark DACs, but with better parts including custom-made Clarity caps.
The truly superior sound in the room co-sponsored by Paragon Sight and Sound of Ann Arbor gave me my first listen to Wilson Audio's Sasha 2 loudspeakers ($30,900/pair) and Doshi Audio electronics. First up was an LP of Ray Brown on bass, performing three days after Thelonious Monk died. Played on a Brinkmann Audio Balanced turntable package with Koetsu Azule Platinum cartridge ($46,500 total), the sound through Doshi Audio 3.0 phono stage and line stage preamplifiers ($31,990 combined) and Doshi Audio 3.0 Jhor 160W monoblocks ($26,995/pair) was warm and inviting, as in "I must hear more" (even if Brown occasionally strayed from pitch).
As if an impressive array of products, great seminars, and lots of other goodies were not enough, AXPONA capped its first day with an hour-long presentation by PONO CEO and confirmed audiophile, John Hamm (above). Even before the talk began, John walked through the audience, giving sneak peak, hi-resolution listens to attendees via Sennheiser HD650 headphones.