AXPONA 2019

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Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 14, 2019  |  2 comments
The North American debut of the DeBaer Saphir turntable with Reference power supply ($57,000) and DeBaer 9" Onyx tonearm with VTA adjustment ($7000) and equally pricey Top Wing Suzaku (Red Sparrow) cartridge ($16,500) was the big news in a room that paired Rockport Technologies Cygnus loudspeakers ($62,500) and high-end Argento Audio FMR silver cabling with a full line of CH Precision electronics. Focusing solely on vinyl reproduction during my time in the room, we began with one of the most overplayed audiophile classical demo tracks, the Reference Recordings version of Rimsky-Korsakov's unquestionably exciting but ultimately tedious Dance of the Tumblers. At least it was only the first time I'd heard it at AXPONA.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 12, 2019  |  0 comments
AXPONA's Master Class lectures offer a series of seminars on sometimes controversial subjects. To wrap up Friday afternoon's talks, Channel D's Rob Robinson explained why for phono preamplifiers, current-mode amplification, with its zero-ohm input impedance, gets the best signal/noise ratio from moving-coil cartridges, compared with conventional voltage-mode circuits, and even improves tracking performance.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 17, 2019  |  18 comments
By the time I knew they were handing out cots, it was too late: They had already run out. The person at the Help Desk at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport said he'd never seen so many people camping out there. (Thanks to Mike Trei for the above photo.)
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 12, 2019  |  3 comments
I am not a bot. I measure my own DIY audio gear. But as an audio-show reporter, I'm only interested in those biologically significant sounds that connect my mind as directly as possible to the music being played. I want to see and feel some inkling of a real orchestra floating between the speakers. I found that connection right away in the room sponsored by retailer-distributor Refined Audio.
Jim Austin  |  Apr 12, 2019  |  17 comments
One of my first stops this morning—the first morning of AXPONA 2019—was the Shunyata room in the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel. Shunyata, as you're probably aware, has long been one of the more scientific-minded of the companies focused on quality power for home audio systems.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 13, 2019  |  0 comments
Loudspeakers by Danish manufacturer Dynaudio were featured in two rooms; both demonstrated exactly how clearly, and authoritatively precise, their speakers could sound when driven by amplifiers from the German manufacturer Octave. In Dynaudio's big demonstration room I heard the $5000/pair Evoke 50 loudspeakers (the floorstanders in the photo above) being driven by an Octave V80SE integrated amplifier ($10,500), itself fed by a dCS Bartok DAC ($13,500), with all Nordost cables. Every musical selection made me think, very consciously, that this is the kind of sound 90% of the audiophiles on the planet would be proud to show off in their homes: well-voiced, properly punctuated, tight as a drum head, and clean as fresh snow.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  4 comments
As soon as I entered the second Kyomi Audio room and heard a track from Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders' great recording Journey in Satchidananda, I realized that it had been far too long since I'd had the pleasure of listening to Dan Meinwald's eclectic and thankfully outside-the-norm music selections. Meinwald, a longtime member of our industry who has spent a considerable time working for EAR USA, had paired the EAR Acute Classic CD player ($6795), V12 integrated amplifier ($9795), and, in a world premiere, the company's new Phono Box phono preamp ($1895 in black) with a Merrill-Williams 101.3 turntable ($8995) with Helius Omega Standard tonearm ($3695) and Koetsu Rosewood cartridge ($3495). Speakers were Marten Django L ($10,000/pair) and cabling Magnan Silver and Signature.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 14, 2019  |  0 comments
I admit up front I've been behind the curve in understanding/appreciating the EgglestonWorks house sound. I'm a slow learner, but whenever I finally get something—I've got it. Today, in the room sponsored by retailer Tenacious Sound (with stores in Syracuse, NY, Augusta, GA, Jacksonville, FL, and, soon, Louisville, KY), during the world premiere of EgglestonWorks' very beautiful Nico Evo standmounted speakers, I realized why so many people love this brand . . .
John Atkinson  |  Apr 14, 2019  |  0 comments
The smallest model in ELAC's Carina series, the BS243.4 ($1200/pair) represents a departure from Andrew Jones' other designs that feature a concentric tweeter/midrange driver in that it combines a folded ribbon HF unit with a 5.25" aluminum-cone woofer. A reflex design, its port fires downward from the bottom of the enclosure with a slot formed between the base and a plate underneath it. This should make the speaker easier to place in a room where it can't be used well away from the wall behind it.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 14, 2019  |  0 comments
The first of the two ELAC rooms I visited featured the Navis ARF-51 powered tower speaker ($4000/pair). This design from Andrew Jones, shown in my photo, features a coaxial tweeter/midrange unit and three woofers. Level controls allow the balance to be optimized—up to ±1dB for the coaxial unit, up to ±4dB for the woofers.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 12, 2019  |  0 comments
Happily, extremely listenable and well-balanced sound from a 24/176.4 file of Brubeck's "Take Five," and a 16-bit file of a track that I think was titled "Camptino," from the Erik Truffaz Quartet featuring the wonder Rokia Traoré, was the hallmark of a large, air-walled space sponsored by multiple companies. Here, chatting was minimal, perhaps simply because the sound was so good. I really enjoyed how mellow the sax sounded, and how drums were rendered with truthfulness without becoming clattery.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  0 comments
I had forgotten how dynamic Avantgarde's Uno XD speakers ($32,000/pair) could sound, coupled with a fine delicacy that was in evidence on an SACD track by Jenn Chapin (daughter of Harry Chapin), where Ms. Chapin was palpably placed in the center of the stage, with a double bass on the right and a baritone saxophone on the left. Electronics were all from Esoteric: the new Grandioso P1X SACD transport ($50,000) feeding DSD data to two of Esoteric's new Grandioso mono DACs ($50,000/pair), these all clocked from an Esoteric Grandioso Rubidium Master Clock ($26,000). The transport uses a new mechanism and the D/A processor a fully discrete DAC topology with 64-bit processing.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 16, 2019  |  2 comments
Manley Labs' firebrand CEO EveAnna Manley always seems to enjoy audio shows and AXPONA was no exception, where she was showing off the Absolute Tube headphone amplifier ($4500) in the Ear Gear Expo.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 16, 2019  |  0 comments
The final MoFi Distribution room I visited at the show featured the version of the classic BBC LS3/5A minimonitor made by Falcon Acoustics that I reported on in our report from the 2018 RMAF. This is said to be the only version currently manufactured that is truly identical to the original and was very favorably reviewed by Herb Reichert in October 2017.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  0 comments
Retailer, concert pianist, and pedagogue George Vatchnadze, whose shop Kyomi Audio contributed products to at least five rooms at AXPONA, assembled an impressive system distinguished by a wonderful, warm midrange and excellent bass tonality. On vinyl, which is all I heard, the system's strengths came to the fore in the classic RCA Living Stereo recording by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra of Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije suite, where the depiction of depth and space was superb. "Soundstaging for days," I wrote in my notes, while also praising the system's midrange. I also loved the warm, smiling midrange core and the ability to hear artificially added reverb on Ella Fitzgerald's recording of "Cry Me a River" from Let No Man Write my Epitaph, and the excellent bass tonality on "Use Me" from the MoFi reissue of Bill Withers' Greatest Hits.

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