Magic from Chicago's Kyomi Audio

Some of the best sound at AXPONA filled Chicago-based dealer/concert pianist George Vatchnadze's room. With more than a little help from industry veteran Dan Meinwald, who not only claimed to have simply plunked everything down, but also called the large room at the end of the 3rd floor of the Westin O'Hare "the best hotel showroom I've ever been in," Ella's "Angel Eyes" from her universally lauded LP, Let No Man Write My Epitaph, sounded drop-dead gorgeous. The midrange felt like a warm embrace, inviting me in without fear of witnessing Fitzgerald's emotion drowned in a sea of euphonia. (Note: the recently released SACD version of this recording, available from Acoustic Sounds, was one of my Stereophile 2013 Records to Die For.")

It only got better. I don't recall which Mahler Symphony recording we sampled via music server, but the sound was just wonderful. Ditto for Cecilia Bartoli's voice, which, on a rip of her Gluck CD, sounded as I recall it from the five times I've heard her live. Equally impressive was the sound of the period instrument orchestra behind her.

Making their US premieres were Convergent Audio Technology's CAT JL5 amplifier ($12,000), Marten's Bird 2 ($32,000), and Digibit Technology's Aria music server ($7,000 with DAC and all options). Also heard were CAT's Renaissance preamp ($10,000 with phono stage), Acoustic Signature Thunder turntable ($16,000) with Funk FX-R 12" tonearm ($3000) and Van den Hul Colibri Gold XGP (approx. $7800), and a ton of Stealth cabling.