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Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 29, 2014  |  1 comments
Show attendees have grown accustomed to hearing Sony's SSAR-1 loudspeakers ($27,000/pair) and other components mated with Pass Labs electronics. This time, however, their appearance with Rogue Audio's Hera II preamp ($8995) and Apollo Dark monoblocks ($14,995/pair), with Nordost Valhalla 2 cabling and power treatment, made for a unique and most successful pairing. This room sponsored by Holm Audio of Chicago was a definite best-of-show contender.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 29, 2014  |  0 comments
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.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 29, 2014  |  0 comments
I've always admired the late Randy Bankert's Sonist Audio 3 loudspeakers. But now that the entire line, including the new Sonist Recital 2 bookshelf loudspeakers ($1895/pair), which are based on the Recital 3 have been upgraded with Snake River Audio internal wiring, their sound is exceptional for the price. The pairing with de Havilland's Mercury preamp and 50A monoblocks was a winner. I've always thought of the sound of Kara Chaffee's superb electronics as somewhat dark, but this presentation was quite illumined, colorful, and satisfying.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 29, 2014  |  1 comments
One of Musical Surroundings and Quintessence Audio's four rooms paired Aesthetix electronics, including the new Aesthetix Romulus Signature DAC and CD player ($10,000) with Focal Stella Utopia Em loudspeakers ($97,500/pair), HRS (Harmonic Resolution Systems) SXR Signature rack and amp stands, and Kubala-Sosna Elation cables. On a CD of the great pianist Murray Perahia playing Handel, the system's beautiful tonality and very warm, loveliest of midranges distinguished the presentation.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 29, 2014  |  3 comments
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 44Hz—20kHz, 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.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 29, 2014  |  1 comments
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.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 29, 2014  |  0 comments
The US consumer-show debut of the Magico S3 loudspeaker ($22,600/pair), provided by Hanson Audio Video of Dayton, OH and one other exhibitor on the 12th floor, was a major success. Heard through Octave monoblocks, preamps, and phono preamp and Nordost Odin cabling, the sound of Alison Kraus on vinyl was extremely warm. "Just wonderful, exceptionally neutral sound," I wrote in my notes.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 29, 2014  |  2 comments
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).
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 28, 2014  |  5 comments
I spent a lot of time trying to get a handle on the sound in the "Ambassador System" room, one of four rooms sponsored by distributor Musical Surroundings and Chicago retailer Quintessence Audio. My very brief taste of vinyl was warm and inviting when sourced from Clearaudio's Innovation Wood turntable and Stradivari V2 MC cartridge ($18,750 total). Sharing the analog honors were Simaudio's Moon 810LP phono stage ($12,000), whose performance was upgraded by the new Moon 820S external power supply ($8000) that can simultaneously power two Simaudio components.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 28, 2014  |  1 comments
ProMusica Audio Specialists of Chicago demmed a Naim/Dynaudio system that was initially hard to hear over all the shouting. When things settled down, I enjoyed the lovely warmth and excellent midrange on a bit of the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra's recording of Schubert's Symphony 5.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 28, 2014  |  4 comments
"We're headed into a new era where you can have music delivered your own way," AIX's Mark Waldrep told the assembled throng.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 28, 2014  |  1 comments
The midrange on Christian McBride's "Hallelujah Time" was excellent, and the deep bass pretty damn fabulous. Ditto for the depth on a recording by Amber Rubarth, and the air on Reference Recordings' hi-resolution version of dance from Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa (you know, the one everyone plays at audio shows). Instrumental timbres were also spot on. Even though Alan Eichelbaum and Sunny Umrao had not been able to successfully tame all the problems in their very slap-happy room—Alan called it "echo chamber"—their set-up persistence allowed the music to come through loud and clear.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 27, 2014  |  4 comments
A lucky 13 exhibitors held forth in the Audiophile Marketplace in the Westin O'Hare's LaSalle Ballroom, with another eight, including Stereophile, positioned in the foyer. Even on Friday, the areas were packed. Unfortunately, LP purveyors such as Analogue Productions, Acoustic Sounds, Music Direct, and Elusive Disc dispensed their goodies in the world's crinkliest plastic bags. Given how popular vinyl was at AXPONA, you can imagine the racket each time a new person walked into an exhibit room.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 27, 2014  |  2 comments
As I literally flew through the Marketplace, I wanted to say hello to cable manufacturer Greg Hovsepian of DH Labs. As you can see, however, Greg was but one of many vendors occupied with making a sale.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 27, 2014  |  0 comments
The ever-kinetic bassist Dean Peer was but one of several musicians providing live music at AXPONA. As you can tell, my camera's indoor, flash-less "Night Scene" setting could not keep up with the movements of Dean and his drummer Bret Mann, who were sponsored by Audio Power Labs and Cardas Audio.