Upscale Distribution, Cabasse, Feliks Audio, Kiseki, Pathos Acoustics, PrimaLuna, Sbooster, Tannoy

Upscale Distribution's Kevin Deal brought his posse to AXPONA (left–right: Randy Bingham, Kevin Deal, Craig Hoffman, Alex Brinkman). Though Deal's room was static, he also sponsored legacy French brand, Cabasse, in an adjacent room, where Cabasse representative Jean-Michel Polit demoed the thrilling flagship Pearl Pelegrina loudspeakers ($20,999/pair).

First up, Deal spoke about the new, Italian-made, class-A, Pathos Acoustics Inpol2 Hybrid integrated amplifier ($10,595), saying "It's beyond Italian; they have their own woodshop and paint shop, machine their own remotes, and the Inpol uses Italian capacitors and Italian circuit boards." The completely balanced amp offers 45Wpc in a dual-mono, patented design. The Pathos Inpol looks like an Italian F1 racecar, all excitement, color, and curves.

The smaller Pathos Acoustics Inpol Remix Mk.II integrated amplifier ($5395) was also on display, and equally spiffy looking, in a 1950s era, Federico Fellini-meets-Major Tom, brutalist kind of way. The Remix MKII is class-A design with a 6922, tubed input stage, patented Inpol power stage, dual circuit topology, and is available in matte Zebrawood, or lacquered black, red, and white finishes.

The Primaluna Audio EVO 300 hybrid integrated amplifier ($7295) stood sentry next to Primaluna's new EVO 100-11 tube phono stage, price to be determined, but "below 4k, probably high 3s," Deal revealed. The EVO 100-11 features both tube rectification and tube regulation, unusual inclusive at this price. Four 12AX7s are used for adjustable gain in this MC/MM phono stage.

Next door, the flagship Cabasse Pearl Pelegrina speakers ($20,999/pair) look like they sprouted from a War of the Worlds' alien spaceship, all bulging, single-eye, spherical-shaped cabinets and intertwining, spiraling legs. But the sound was anything but mid-'50s or thin. These powerful, limited-edition, triaxial speakers offer an astonishing 134dB maximum spl, and each contains a coaxial midrange/tweeter built of carbon, a neodymium magnet, and a 12" woofer. The speaker's DAC converts up to 32-bit/768kHz. Electronics and amplification are hidden in the base-no doubt where the invading alien monsters store their weapons and blood-sucking devices. The Pearl Pelegrinas were incredibly powerful sounding regardless of genre, but orchestral music benefited especially well with deep decay, a massive soundstage, an ear-surprising dynamics. A mind blower!