AXPONA 2014

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Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 29, 2014  |  0 comments
The second showing of the Magico S3 loudspeakers ($22,600/pair), courtesy of Musical Surroundings and Chicago’s Quintessence Audio, palled them up with Pass Labs’ beautiful sounding XA100.5 monoblocks ($16,500/pair), XP30 linestage preamplifier ($16,500), HRS racks, and Kubala-Sosna Emotion cabling. Heard through a Clearaudio Ovation turntable with AMG 9W2 tonearm and AMG Teatro MC cartridge ($10,850 total), tonalities were gorgeous and warm. The strings on the Reference Recordings Minnesota Orchestra rendition of Richard Strauss? Dance of the Seven Veils from the opera Salome were to die for.
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  |  May 01, 2014  |  0 comments
I have no idea exactly what was in use in the McIntosh room, because both times I paid a visit, the exhibitor was too involved in demonstrating the system's "Room Correction" component to stop to chat. Regardless, the sound was very, very good—just what you'd expect from a McIntosh system that can control challenging hotel acoustics—and the demo far more convincing than my mother's apple pie.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 26, 2014  |  1 comments
Aren't they just beautiful? What's more, they sounded just as good as they look. Absolutely gorgeous tonality on Jonathan Horwich's International Phonograph recording of Jeremy Kahn's "The Shadow of Your Smile" distinguished this pairing of Merrill Audio's made-in-New-Jersey Veritas class-D monoblock amplifiers ($12,000/pair) and made-in-Mexico Sadurni horn loudspeakers, which are sold with their hard-to-see companion subwoofers ($40,000/pair for all three).
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 27, 2014  |  0 comments
Steve Davis, AXPONA founder, caught on the fly between the "Grab 'N Go" snack area and various presentations. Steve had every reason to smile, given the impressive turnout on the first day of the show. But I'll bet he wasn't smiling in the middle of the second, absolutely packed and tremendously successful day when, somewhere after 2 pm, the fire alarm went off and people were ordered to evacuate the hotel. This, after all, was the second year in a row that an ear-piercing fire alarm went off on the busiest day of AXPONA. Thankfully, it was a false alarm. Within a half hour, everyone had returned to the reality of fine sound.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 30, 2014  |  2 comments
Designed by Art Powers Sr., who, I understand, manufactured some of the older Lamm amplifiers and designed their loudspeakers, Madison Fielding's second-generation Flagstone all-weather speakers ($3500/pair) include down-firing 10" Eminence 150W active custom-made woofers, and claim a frequency response of 44Hz–15kHz ±3dB. The Flagstone series consists of two models and three variations, and claims to cover an area of up to 1000 sq. feet.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 01, 2014  |  8 comments
"Whatever you do, don't miss the speaker company around the corner at the end of the third floor," a dealer who had no connection with the room selflessly told me. "The sound is terrific." Thus I scurried along to the exhibit sponsored by Audio Limits of Colorado Springs and Polymer Audio Research of Florida. There I encountered the new, eye-catching Polymer MKS-X loudspeaker system ($60,000/pair), whose 365 lb loudspeakers boast a pure-diamond, acoustic-suspension tweeter and midrange, plus two 6.5" composite-cone, rear-ported woofers connected in parallel.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 29, 2014  |  12 comments
As if an impressive array of products, great seminars, and lots of other goodies were not enough, AXPONA capped its first day with an hour-long presentation by PONO CEO and confirmed audiophile, John Hamm (above). Even before the talk began, John walked through the audience, giving sneak peak, hi-resolution listens to attendees via Sennheiser HD650 headphones.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 30, 2014  |  0 comments
In an exhibit surprisingly free of whisky (unless I was too preoccupied to notice), Music Hall offered proof that you don't have to break the bank (assuming you have one to begin with) in order to get good sound. "Very smooth, nice, and pleasant," I wrote of the enjoyable music from the new Music Hall C-DAC 15.3 three-input DAC/CD player ($549), Creek Evo 50a 55Wpc integrated amp ($1195), and Epos Elan15 bookshelf loudspeakers ($1395/pair). The player contains two different DACs, a Burr-Brown for CDs and a Wolfson for external sources. Source was a computer playing Pure Music, and connected to the C-DAC via optical.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 30, 2014  |  8 comments
Admittedly, the title seems almost melodramatic, if not messianic. But after Emerald Physics' handicapped presentation at, I believe, the last Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I was not expecting to hear such fine and pleasing sounds. While ample credit is due PS Audio's brand new DirectStream pure 1-bit DSD-decoding DAC ($6000), thanks also be to Mark Schifter's canny programming of the DSP2.4 DSP crossover/equalizer ($850) that comes with Emerald Physics' CSE MK2 Controlled Dispersion, DSP-controlled, open-baffle loudspeakers ($3500/pair). Thanks as well to the new Emerald Physics EP 100.2 power amplifier ($1600), DSPeaker preamp/DAC ($1200), and REL T9 active subwoofer that filled in from 25Hz to 48Hz.
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 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 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 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.

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