A Willing Audience

Talk about an eye (and ear) catcher. Dominating the Wyndham’s Rope room—all the conference rooms have cute nautical names—and set up by Bill Gibson of Jacksonville-based House of Stereo, loomed Audience's ClairAudient LSA 16+16 line source loudspeaker ($54,000/pair). A one-way bi-pole, it uses an identical array of 16 Audience A3-S 3" drivers in the front and back, and boasts an impressive 99dB sensitivity. With its line-source array, it should image well anywhere in the room, and can be driven to a continuous and deafening 129dB.

Using a highly modified Denon 3930 CD player (not for sale), Adept Response aR6-T (4600) and aR12-T ($8000) power conditioners, Au24 powerChords ($2200), and Au24e interconnects, I heard the system with two very different amplification set-ups. The first, using the Audience Wavemaster buffered autoformer preamp ($13,000) and prototype Wavepower class-D power amp (probably around $6000), blew my mind with its huge, set-back soundstage; compelling airiness and sense of acoustic space; clarity of focus; and full-range sound. Having heard far too many gray, lifeless, and monochromatic class-D amplifiers, the Wavepower/LSA 16+16 combo blew me away with its full-range sound.

The contrast to the Balanced Audio Technology REX linestage preamp ($20,000) and REX Power monoblock power amps ($30,000/pair), allied with the VK-D5 SE CD player, could not have been greater. As might be expected, the BAT amplifications was harmonically richer and even more tonally compelling. But its more forward presentation had less focus and clarity, and lacked the ultimate sense of acoustic space that the Audience amps transmitted.

If I have time (hah!), I'd love to return to this system on the last day of the Show, when everything has settled in. Meanwhile, I have the photo that John Atkinson snapped of me and Audience President/CEO John McDonald, (left) to remind me of the experience.

bob D. Stuckiez's picture

Would be perfect for my office at work.

buddha's picture

Jason! Cool! I particularly enjoyed your report on the imaging. I'm a 'set back' guy, myself! Thanks for the report.

Bob Hesson's picture

This was the best sound I heard at Axpona. I'm a classical-music guy, so take this for what it's worth, but I was stuck by the number of exhibits that were playing music far beyond concert volume levels and reproducing music that just sounded unmusical. I don't know whether it's the quest for detail, but I heard many mega-buck systems in which singers sounded like their vocal chords were made of aluminum, violins that sounded like plastic, etc. The Audience/House of Stereo exhibit was a breath of fresh air, along with a few others.Anyone in the Southeast looking for a great dealer need look no further than Bill Gibson at House of Stereo in Jacksonville. Knowledgeable, zero pressure--the exact opposite of the stereotypical, holier-than-thou high-end dealer. He and Audience put on a great demonstration of what music reproduction is truly about.

bob's picture

I thought it sounded poor and life-less , it had very good bass response but felt lacking in a lot of area's. Again could be the room or the gear or it could also be the speakers.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I believe the different reactions to this system stem from the switch of amplification from Audience to BAT. As I discovered on my return in the last hour of the show, after this blog entry had been posted, the BAT amplification was not a good match with the LSA 16 + 16. How much that had to do with a voltage drop in the hotel, which I suspect was major on the last day, I do not know. The weather had warmed a bit, so there were undoubtedly lots more air conditioners running in the hotel.