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Rogier van Bakel  |  Apr 16, 2023  |  9 comments
As audiophiles, we strive almost obsessively for a low noise floor and no distractions, only to be spectacularly thwarted when we evaluate equipment in a retail or show environment. Around us, people are entering and exiting, and often talking up a storm. The air conditioner is set to a low drone. Bass notes leak in from the next room over. AXPONA's cavernous Ear Gear space, where more than two dozen manufacturers of headphones and related equipment were demonstrating their wares, was awash with buzzing, excited people—the best kind of noise, really, even if you have to turn the demo cans way up to block it.

I had come to pay RAAL-requisite a visit, hoping to audition a first for me: a recently-launched ribbon headphone called the CA-1a.

Michael Trei  |  Apr 16, 2023  |  0 comments
Washington DC area distributor Notable Audio showcased products from Joseph Audio, Doshi Audio, J Sikora, Berkeley Audio Design, and Cardas Audio at AXPONA. Notable's Jeff Fox had put together an impressive system, with a mix of brands we have seen used together at many prior shows to great effect, only this time he used the best of everything to create a system that really sung.
Ken Micallef  |  Apr 16, 2023  |  0 comments
Jay Rein (right) and Chad Stelly (left) of Bluebird Music Limited presented multiple debuts and US firsts at AXPONA, including a chance to meet SME CEO Stuart McNeilis (center), on hand for the first American spin of his newish SME Model 60 turntable ($71,900; Stereophile review by Michael Trei forthcoming).
Ken Micallef  |  Apr 16, 2023  |  3 comments
Cambridge Audio CEO Stuart George arrived at AXPONA for the debut of the Cambridge Audio MXN10 streamer ($499). The faithful British brand's two hotel rooms were fairly jumping with interested "punters," I think that's a malleable Brit term one could use to describe audiophiles eager to hear more of this legacy brand that has for decades offered incredible value.
Ken Micallef  |  Apr 16, 2023  |  4 comments
I admit, I have my preferred rooms, my biases, at shows. Hey, I'm only human! One such joint is the Volti Audio, Border Patrol, Triode Wire Labs room commandeered, respectively, by Greg Roberts (right), Gary Dewes (left), and Triode Pete Grzybowski (center). I favorably reviewed one of Gary's SET Border Patrol amps, and use Greg and Pete's components in my system. So, when I hit their AXPONA room and saw a bust of Beethoven staring glumly at the rig, I asked "Who's the new guy?"
Ken Micallef  |  Apr 16, 2023  |  1 comments
Jeffrey Catalano of Lower Manhattan lives in an ancient building near the South Street Seaport where ghosts of seaman and slaves mingle with investment bankers and tourists. Catalano's High Water Sound is the place where every New York City area audiophile dreams of being invited, cause it's here where this mad audio wizard (and former jazz drummer (1957 Ludwigs) and jazz LP collector, like moi) cooks up the magnificent sounds that appear, like magic, at every show where High Water Sound presents. Year after year, show after show, as consistent as Big Ben.
Ken Micallef  |  Apr 16, 2023  |  0 comments
Schofield, formerly of Krell, produced a bevy of smart gear (smart as in cool and hip, not Internet of Things smart) to bear on the AXPONA audience. Terry Medalen's Primare electronics from Sweden, including the Primare PRE 35 preamplifier ($5000, reviewed by Sasha Matson in April 2023), Primare A35.8 Amp, 150Wpc into 8 ohms, ($5500, reviewed by Kal Rubinson in November 2022), and Primare DD 35 Transport ($3800) relaxed my internal grouchy beast with their smooth sound and refined sonic beauty.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 15, 2023  |  5 comments
There's nothing quite like starting off the show with a million dollar system. Holding court in the huge Schaumburg D partition of the Convention Center, the imposing Estelon Extreme Mk II bi-amped loudspeakers ($269,000/pair) received their juice from two Vitus Audio MP-S201 Mk I stereo amplifiers ($230,000/total) via Crystal Cable Art Series cabling ($330,000). But they were just the start of a system where each amplifier required three power cables, put out up to 500W/pc into 8 ohms and 1000W into 4, and weighed more than I can type without getting back spasms. (Okay: Each weighs 125kg. I don't dare convert that to lb.)
Michael Trei  |  Apr 15, 2023  |  0 comments
It’s always fun to see a new company making their first presentation to the public, and AXPONA 2023 marks the debut of Toronto, Canada-based Audio Craftsmen. Headed up by Thom Pahmer (above), the company showed four models, ranging in price from the Laval stand mount at $2699/pair, up to the floor standing flagship Halifax at $10,999/pair.
Rogier van Bakel  |  Apr 15, 2023  |  1 comments
Two months ago, at the Tampa audio show, I got better acquainted with Acora Acoustics and its flagship loudspeaker, the VRC. They made some of the most impressive music at the expo—as they should for a price north of 200 grand.

For 15% of that small fortune, could an Acora speaker further down the line, like the SRC-1 ($35,000/pair), keep pace? I found out in Mimic Audio's dealer room on the hotel's 12th floor, where a high-level UN meeting of sorts was going on, with brands from four countries.

Ken Micallef  |  Apr 15, 2023  |  0 comments
The Analog Matters room, presented by Big Ear Consulting LLC and original AXPONA cofounder Steve Davis, debuted a variety of components, including the return of (wait for it) Plinius!
Michael Trei  |  Apr 15, 2023  |  3 comments
Acoustic Sounds' Chad Kassem has every reason to look as happy as he does here, because this really has become a new golden age for vinyl, with so many high-quality reissues of classic albums on vinyl that it's hard to know where to start.
Ken Micallef  |  Apr 15, 2023  |  1 comments
As an enterprising Stereophile reporter, I do my homework. When I saw that Alex Sound Technology, of Windermere, Florida, was bringing the gorgeous Japanese Takatsuki 300B TA-S01 SET amplifier ($32,000, 8Wpc, new to the USA), along with new Japanese brand Sforzato (below), including their DST-050EX network transport ($4600), DSC-030EX Zero Link DAC ($9900), DSP-030EX Network Player ($9900), and PMC-015EX Master Clock ($4990), plus the Blumenhofer Acoustics Genuin FS 2 Mk2 horn-loaded loudspeakers ($22,850/pair), a bee flew into my Southern man's bonnet and I requested room coverage to major domo Jim Austin.
Michael Trei  |  Apr 15, 2023  |  9 comments
I have long found it kind of disappointing that just a handful of companies still manufacture turntables in the United States, but SOTA is a true survivor, having delivered their first turntables way back in 1979. At AXPONA, SOTA co-owner Donna Bodinet was displaying their new Quasar model, which moves the suspension-less Urban product series a few steps upmarket.
Rogier van Bakel  |  Apr 15, 2023  |  0 comments
Last year's AXPONA brought the debut of SVS' Prime Wireless Pro active speakers ($899/pair). In the fall, I spent a couple of months listening to them, and came away impressed. "No sub-$1000 all-in-one system can attain anything close to perfection, but night after night the Prime Pros surprised me," I wrote in my review, praising their sonic balance and satisfying low-frequency extension.

The Ohio company recently launched a product that approaches streamable music from the other direction: What if you already have a good pair of speakers . . . and are in the market for a versatile, nicely-outfitted streamer/amplifier to drive them?