Zellaton and LTA with anything but grim Grimm Audio and Great Music

What a perfect way to say goodbye AXPONA 2024. In a pretty simple system consisting of Zellaton Emotion Evo speakers ($44,750/pair), LTA Ultralinear amplification ($7000), and a Grimm Audio MU2 ($17,500) serving as preamp and streaming DAC with a Roon core and analog volume control, we began with a 16/44.1 mastering of Janis Ian’s “Guess You Had to Be There.” Given my age, I expect I was.

The sound was so good that I asked to scroll through the iPad-controlled playlist. Given the opportunity to make up for what I missed, I cued up Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’s great recording of Richard Strauss’s “Ruhe, meine seele,” performed with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by George Szell. The sound was a revelation. Every aspect of Schwarzkopf’s voice, every not-exactly-subtle nuance and change, all the power of her grand crescendo were transmitted perfectly. The beauty of the orchestra was equally gratifying. I sat transfixed.

John-Paul Lizars and Eelco Grimm of Grimm Audio immediately sensed where my sensibilities lay. For the last track I heard at the show, I was treated to TRPTK’s superb DXD recording of “Gute Nacht” from Schubert’s Winterreise, performed by baritone Michael Wilmering and pianist Dan Boertien. Wilmering is not Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau—the voice does not sing mellifluously in certain parts of the range—but his sound is nonetheless quite attractive, and he feels deeply. The sound was wonderful. And thus, very close to four PM, with some of the finest sound I heard at the show, I bid farewell to the most attended and successful AXPONA ever held.

Yes, the most successful ever. Attendance saw a 14% increase over 2023, with 10,391 attendees from 42 states and 31 countries. Gen-Z attendance doubled. How many left the Ear Gear Experience, Expo Hall, and Record Fair to visit 202 dedicated listening rooms, I do not know. What I know for certain is that I look forward to covering AXPONA 2025, which will take place April 11-13 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center.