AXPONA 2019

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John Atkinson  |  Apr 16, 2019  |  3 comments
"Good grief! They are using Quads!" I used to use Quad ESL-57s in the mid 1980s before I moved to the US and in some ways, no other speaker has come close to the sonic transparency offered by these idiosyncratic-looking electrostatic speakers. But to see and hear an original pair dating from 1958 in the room shared by Michigan dealer/manufacturer Nokturne Audio and Lejonklou HiFi from Sweden was a highlight of the 2019 AXPONA.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 16, 2019  |  3 comments
Jolida Audio began life a fabricator of vacuum tubes. But since the early 1990s, it has been known for its musical-sounding, modestly priced tube amplification. Jolida was also famous for its association with Jim Fosgate, famous for his Dolby Pro Logic inventions and, more important (to me at least), his battery-powered cartridge-azimuth alignment tool, the Fozgometer. Which I use all the time.
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  |  2 comments
Voxativ's deceptively simple-looking Absolut Hagen System ($7900 with Voxativ speaker cables), which consists of a Voxativ Absolut Box 30Wpc class-AB integrated amp, complete with custom DAC with DSP, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth aptX, and a pair of Voxativ Hagen single-driver loudspeakers, took advantage of a Samsung S10 Android phone to stream music wirelessly from Qobuz via aptX Bluetooth. The Absolut Hagen System, which used optional Synergistic Research cabling in the demo, can stream files up to 24/192. Thanks to built-in DSP, it is claimed to descend flat to 45Hz.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  5 comments
"Handcrafted In Germany" it proudly says above AVM's new Rotation R5.3 Cellini Edition belt-drive turntable, with its acrylic Illumine platter softly glowing blue. With its 10" AVM tonearm, the R 2.3 will cost in the region of $8900 and, fitted with an Ortofon Cadenza Black cartridge, did justice to Diana Krall singing "Indeed I Do." (For what it's worth, while many showgoers dismiss Krall as an over-exposed pop singer—I'm looking at you, Jason Victor Serinus— I respect both her musicianship and her piano playing.)
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  3 comments
Once again I experienced the mellow core of the Jeff Rowland sound. This time, it was in the room he shared with Joseph Audio and Cardas Audio, where the big news was the premiere of the Joseph Audio Perspective2 Graphene speaker ($14,999/pair). When I entered, a track from a recording I know very well, Rosa Passos and Ron Carter's Entre Amigos, was sounding far more mellow and toned down than on my system. This setup also brought out the mellow core of a sweet violin in the Bruch Scottish Fantasy.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  1 comments
MoFi Distribution's Jonathan Derda was demming the Wharfedale Linton, 3-way stand-mounted speakers ($1498/pair with stands) using a neat little Quad Artera Solus integrated amplifier ($1999), both products making their US debuts at AXPONA. He played me "Sympathy for the Devil" from the Stones' Beggars Banquet album on a MoFi StudioDeck+U player ($1499 with MoFi UltraTracker MM cartridge) and a Tim de Paravicini-designed MoFi StudioPhono preamp ($299) and this relatively inexpensive system had this old geezer rocking.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  4 comments
The 3rd-floor room shared by Schiit and Salk Signature Sound was so crowded the first two times I stopped by that I couldn't listen, But the third time, Béla Fleck's classic "Flight of the Cosmic Hippo" was playing, I snagged a second-row seat and liked what I heard. A big, clean sound from an affordable system. Speakers were Salk's Song3 BeATs ($4495/pair, $4795/pair in custom finishes like those at the show); source was either a Salk Streamplayer Gen III ($1695) feeding Schiit's Yggdrasil DAC ($2395) or an SOL turntable (estimated price $799); phono preamp a Schiit Mani ($129); preamplifier a Schiit Freya ($699); and amplifier a Schiit Aegir ($799).
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  0 comments
A room sponsored by multiple companies and overseen by Steven Norber of PranaFidelity immediately won me over with its gorgeous midrange. "So beautiful and warm and all-embracing," I wrote in my notes as I listened to a surprisingly good-sounding 1991 CD of David Wilcox on a substitute basic Pioneer Elite player used as a transport. I also loved the sound of an LP that melded the artistry of two greats, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  0 comments
The Larson 9 speakers ($14,995/pair) in this room were set up firing across the room width, meaning that the one row of listeners had to sit relatively close. Even so, this system, which used Gamut M250i monoblocks ($25,990/pair) and a Gamut D3i dual-mono preamplifier ($8390), all hooked up with Gamut cables, was definitely "room friendly," producing a comfortable sound from an LP cut of Chet Atkins and Mark Knopler playing "There'll be Some Changes Made."
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.
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.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  7 comments
There were two causes for excitement in Room 1534: the premiere of the Stenheim Alumine Three ($29,900/pair), the Swiss company's newest three-way floorstander, and the return of Einstein Audio to the US. The latter comes courtesy of its new brand ambassador, Walter Swanbon of Fidelis AV. The sound wasn't perfect—it was a little peaky on what may have been an unnaturally bright Deutsche Grammophon LP of Geza Anda playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No.17, but it was still wonderful (and, sadly, the only Mozart I heard at the show). That a totally different, winningly smooth sound came from Intervention Records' reissue of the LP Joe Jackson Live in New York suggests that an LP of someone else playing Mozart's PC No.17 might have been a better choice sonically.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  0 comments
Alta Audio was showing off their Celesta FRM-2 stand-mounted speakers ($15,000/pair) at AXPONA, driving these two-ways with AVA SET monoblock amplifiers ($5000/pair), which use two of Frank Van Alstine's single-ended MOSFET amplifiers in push-pull to obtain 600Wpc into 8 ohms. The source was Frank's laptop feeding data via a 25' USB cable (!!!) to his Mk.5 DAC and FET/Valve CFR tube preamp. Cabling was all by a brand new to me, Anticables.
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.

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