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John Atkinson  |  Apr 16, 2011  |  4 comments
"It's fitting for the world premier of the Da Vinci 384k DAC to happen on the first day of Axpona," explained Light Harmonic's Larry Ho, "as today is Leonardo da Vinci's birthday." 384k? Yes, the Da Vinci DAC ($11,999 regular price, $8999 Axpona price [NOTE: The actual retail price ended up at $20k-ed.]) will operate at sample rates up to 384kHz. At the show, in a system featuring Wilson Sophia 3 speakers driven by Pass Labs amplification, a 2L recording of Ole Bull's violin concerto, sourced from a Mac 2-modded Mac mini running Pure Music and recorded with a 352.8kHz sample rate, according to the DAC's front panel display, offered up some of the sweetest-sounding, natural violin sound and the most solid stereo imaging I have experienced from a classical recording. The 384k DAC uses the USB2.0 protocol and functions on a Mac without a driver having to be installed.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 16, 2011  |  1 comments
Electric bassist Dean Peer's concerts with drummer Bret Mann at the Montreal Show two weeks ago had been a highlight for me of that Show. At the Atlanta Show, Dean Peer was scheduled to take part in a jam session Saturday night, but Friday and Saturday afternoon, he gave a 60-minute talk on how he approaches playing the bass, making recordings, and how a musician and composer became involved in the world of audiophiles. He also played some of his compositions, including a favorite of mine from his first album Ucross, which was released exactly 20 years ago. Can't beat that live music!
Stephen Mejias  |  Apr 15, 2011  |  First Published: Apr 16, 2011  |  7 comments
Hey, as I type this, it’s 2am, which means it’s officially Record Store Day. Woo! Earlier in the week, I was feeling a bit bummed about not being able to participate in the festivities. Since I’d be covering Axpona, I figured there’d be no way that I’d get out of the hotel and down to a record shop. Don’t ask me why, but after 33 years of life, I continue to rob myself of opportunities, enforcing upon myself limitations that need not exist. It’s as if I’m still punishing myself for having been born. What is up with that? I don’t know. Good thing I’m getting soft in my old age, succumbing to peer pressure with much more enthusiasm than when I was a kid. A friend here at the show convinced me that I’d be out of my mind to pass up an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the country’s greatest independent record stores. So, at around 5pm this evening, he and I snuck out of the show and made the quick trip to Criminal Records in the colorful, entertaining Little Five Points section of Atlanta.
Stephen Mejias  |  Apr 16, 2011  |  0 comments
Well, not really miles, but definitely a lot. Feet and cones and spikes and pucks and all sorts of fun stuff. I kinda just wanted to run as fast as I could and fling myself right up onto this table to swim with all of these little goodies. But I managed to restrain myself.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 16, 2011  |  2 comments
"A North Carolina firm called Bob's Devices has joined my list of favorite phono step-up suppliers," wrote Art Dudley in June 2010. There in the Analog Ballroom at Axpona was Bob Sattin himself, showing off his range of affordable step-ups, using selected new and vintage transformers from manufacturers like CineMag, Sowter, and Altec.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 16, 2011  |  1 comments
While making my way to the Goldmine seminar room at Axpona, to catch Michael Fremer's turntable set-up talk, I came across pianist John Yurick playing some smooth jazz improvisations to a background of a Lamborghini and Aston Martin that happened to be parked in front of the Stereophile booth.
Stephen Mejias  |  Apr 15, 2011  |  First Published: Apr 16, 2011  |  1 comments
Check out the sexy Oracle Paris ($3150), available in four high-gloss finishes. This one is in red, and ladies love red.

It uses a carbon fiber Paris tonearm ($950), which begins as a Pro-Ject 9cc, but gets dressed up with Oracle’s Micro Vibration Stabiliser System, developed for the more expensive Delphi Mk.VI, and which uses a silicone damping bath and precision plunger fitted to the tonearm tube. The Paris phono cartridge ($1150), a high-output moving-magnet design, is machined from a magnesium-aluminum alloy. Fully assembled and pre-calibrated for a nearly plug-and-play installation, the Paris package costs $5000. The ‘table uses a semi-floating suspension system with Sorbothane decoupling, has a two-piece acrylic/aluminum platter system, includes adjustable Delrin feet and a Delrin record clamp, and uses the same motor and drive electronics found in the Delphi Mk.VI.

“We have a hard time compromising,” confessed Oracle’s Jacques Riendeau. “With the Paris, we pushed the limits of performance while hitting a lower price point.”

Stephen Mejias  |  Apr 15, 2011  |  0 comments
Thursday was the trade-only day at Axpona, held at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Many of the exhibitor rooms are situated around a lovely, inviting pool. I arrived in Atlanta at around 2pm, thrilled to see sunshine and feel warm, southern air on my skin. The staff at the Sheraton immediately struck me as being just as warm, eager to help and genuinely happy just to smile and say hello.

Thursday’s show activity was limited to system setup, however—many exhibitors had been up till the very early hours of morning, unpacking boxes and crates which had arrived only a few hours earlier. It must be tremendously tough to unpack gear and set up a system after a long day of travel. Some exhibitors told me they’d stayed up until 4am, preparing and tweaking to achieve the best possible sound.

Judging from what I heard today, on the first full day of the show, they did an outstanding job.

Stephen Mejias  |  Apr 15, 2011  |  4 comments
On Thursday night, I attended a fantastic dinner at a “beer bar” called The Porter, in the colorful Little Five Points section of Atlanta. As my good friend Michael Lavorgna says, any place with the words “beer” and “bar” in its name has got to be at least half great. And The Porter, as it turned out, was all great. If you’re ever in Atlanta, go!

But before you go to The Porter, you should first go to Criminal Records, a wonderful record store. I didn’t go in on Thursday night, but Michael Fremer quietly wandered away from our group and snuck inside for a bit. As we sat around our table, drinking Dog Fish Head and Victory, we made guesses as to when Mikey would finally arrive. We were all wrong: We had had two rounds and had finished almost all of the appetizers by the time Mikey finally joined us. He came in with a stack of beautiful $1 LPs, and displayed them throughout our dinner.

“Have you ever heard this?” he asked me.


“Oh, it’s great. Here, take this. I’ve got a bunch of them.”

And that’s the story of how I got a pristine copy of As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, by Pat Metheny & Lyle Mays. Thanks, Mikey!

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 10, 2011  |  2 comments
Now in its second year, and almost double the size of its launch, AXPONA (Audio Expo North America) is set to make a major impact on East Coast audiophiles when it opens to the public on April 15. Sponsored by Stereophile, the annual show, which runs April 15–17 in the beautiful, centrally located Sheraton Downtown Atlanta, promises at least 70 exhibit rooms alive with gear from at least 250 individual manufacturers . . .