Jacksonville's very own House of Stereo, run by Bill Gibson, gave me my third opportunity to hear KEF's relatively new Blade loudspeaker ($30,000/pair). Coupled with Ayre electronicsAyre MX-R monoblocks ($19,000/pair), Ayre KX-R preamp ($19,000), Ayre DX5 universal player ($10,000), and Ayre phono preamp ($2500)an Oracle Mk.VI turntable with SME arm and Oracle cartridge ($13,000), and an assortment of Audience Au24 cabling and line conditioners, the system had a laid back and non-fatiguing presentation that just made you want to take off your shoes, lie back and chill. This was an exceptionally quiet and smooth system, especially on vinyl, and one that threw a huge and inviting soundstage.
It's always a good sign when the first room you enter at an audio show makes you happy that you're there. Better yet when the room is on the lobby level, and acts as a good feng shui portal to the 27 other rooms to follow.
Larry Diaz of Miami's High End Palace had put together a fine system whose sound was solid and a bit sweet.
When I arrived on the second floor the first day of AXPONA, the large open landing that had served as a reception area for exhibitors the night before had been transformed into a mellow entryway to sonic heaven. Paving the way on the keys was John Yurick, who was playing John Lennon's "Imagine" as I snapped his picture. Facing him were May Audio's CD display on the left, and Transcendental Meditation on the right. Note that the TM folks do not simply chant themselves to bliss in mantra land, they are also very connected on a cellular level.
With the sound of Jacoby Symphony Hall virtually hyped to life by the glowing accolades on its website and the praises of AXPONA's Steve Davis, I had to hear it for myself. Besides, I'd never heard either An-Lun Huang's Saibei Dance or John Corigliano's Oboe Concerto. I do recall, however, hearing Beethoven Symphony No.7 in A major at least once in my increasingly lengthy lifetime. (I'm being facetious, folks).
Bliss and Beethoven: That's AXPONA founder Steve A. Davis' promise to show attendees. The bliss comes in the form of several show seminars centering around Transcendental Meditation, which he and his wife Carmen have practiced for many decades. Beethoven is served up across the street, Thursday through Saturday nights, courtesy of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra under guest conductor Mei Ann Chen. Further bliss hopefully comes as attendees experience audio nirvana, or at least cumulative sonic epiphany, in AXPONA's 28 exhibit rooms.
It's the afternoon before AXPONA Jacksonville opens, and Carmen Davis is getting prepared. Badges are ready, and welcome smiles and hugs are plentiful. But it's not until after 5 that the show guide arrives from the printer. There were, it seems, so many last minute cancelations and room changes that what only a few weeks before had been announced as 40 exhibit rooms has instead been consolidated into 28.
The largest consumer audio show in America's Southland, AXPONA (Audio Expo North America), returns to its roots when it opens in Jacksonville on Friday March 9. The three-day show, which launched in Jacksonville in 2010, has happily switched locations from a "not-ready-for-primetime" venue to the more upscale Omni Jacksonville.
What the hotel offers audiophiles, besides its amenities and lovely waterfront, is its neighbor across the street, Jacoby Hall in the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. Home of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, the hall's much touted superior acousticsmezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade has called them "sensational"offer attendees the opportunity to refresh their ears with the sound of a live, unamplified orchestra in a very special hall. What better way to tell if the audio systems you're hearing present a reasonable facsimile of the real thing?
Headphone enthusiasts had a field day at Mountain View, CA retailer Audio High on January 25, when both Sankar Thiagasamudram, President and co-founder of Audeze, and Lorr Kramer, VP of North American Operations for Smyth Research, presented their latest and greatest. In a refreshing change of pace, both men dispensed with the usual canned presentations followed by group listening. Instead, they welcomed anyone who wished to partake to a generous personal audition.
As one of the Top Five KEF dealers in the United States, AudioVision San Francisco was chosen as the site for the country's first in-store demo of KEF's Blade ($30,000/pair) on January 19. Given that the Blade's previous three quasi-public demos were either at showsCEDIA 2011, where the environment was reportedly too noisy for anyone to get a good listen, and RMAF 2011, where the room was too smallor KEF's 50th Anniversary Party in the British Embassy in New York City, this was actually the first time that anyone on the West Coast, or any bloke who happened to wander in off the street, had a chance to hear KEF's long-awaited speaker in more supportive surroundings.
Doing the honors for KEF was April Sanders, the company's Western Regional Manager (top photo). Sanders' 30 years experience in the speaker industry makes her one of the longest-surviving women in the high-enda feat that, IMHO, deserves at the least a medal of honor and epaulettes covered with brass stars and other emblems of bravery on the front lines.
One of the most important sopranos of the early music movementtruly one of the great singers of our timehas died. Montserrat Figueras, who together with her husband, viola da gamba master Jordi Savall (left in photo), revivified vast amounts of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque repertoire, succumbed to cancer at age 69.
Diagnosed over a year ago, Figueras continued to record and perform through August. She died at her home in Bellaterra, Spain, with her husband and children Arianna and Ferran at her side.