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.
Ammar Jadusingh began his loudspeaker company, Soundfield Audio, in late 2010, not long before he exhibited at AXPONA Jacksonville. Sold direct via the internet, his brand new Variable Soundfield Tower 3 four-way loudspeaker ($8500/pair), aka VSFT-3, contains two different, active woofers: a 10" sealed, high-excursion woofer and a 12" dipole woofer. With a claimed frequency response of 20Hz23kHz, 8 ohms nominal impedance, and 92dB sensitivity, the speakers exhibited quite good balance and a warm midrange on a Red Book version of Dave Brubeck's "Take 5," live from the UK.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Let's hear it for a relatively new dealer and father, Jason Walker of Midwest Audio in South Bend, Indiana. You know someone is an industry virgin when he confesses that he first heard of Rebecca Pidgeon, whose 20-year old "Spanish Harlem" was once a multi-room favorite at audio shows, a whole two months ago.