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Herb Reichert  |  Jun 19, 2023  |  5 comments
The Stereophile crew at AXPONA 2023, minus Herb Reichert (L–R): Jason Victor Serinus, Rogier van Bakel, Michael Trei, Jim Austin, Ken Micallef. Photo by David James Bellecci-Serinus.

At AXPONA 2023, I saw teenage besties cruising rooms together. I saw fashion-conscious 20-somethings listening in sweet spots, and young parents with younger children. Yeah, there were a few gray boomers like me, but only a couple were wearing Hawaiian shirts. AXPONA 2023 vibed like a tribal conference at a sacred pilgrimage site, and I've never enjoyed an audio show this much before.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 24, 2023  |  3 comments
Mick Survance of Quintessence Audio in Morton Grove, IL knows his brands well. Wilson Audio, Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems, Clearaudio, DS Audio, dCS, Transparent, Bassocontinuo, Sonus faber, Boulder, Critical Mass Systems, Hana, and Kubala-Sosna: these are among the major, time-honored brands that fill the homes of many audiophiles with means.

Each of these rooms had several elements in common: premium equipment, meticulous set-up, and heavy black draping that, while necessary to reduce multiple issues in narrower air-walled spaces (which were nonetheless larger than my music room), also reduced three-dimensionality and air. It was thus a wonder that individually as well as collectively, Quintessence's showcases produced some of the best sound I encountered at the show.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 24, 2023  |  0 comments
Just as I dashed into the Expo Hall to check out Coherence Systems' ADD-POWR SorcerX4 ($4399.95) and smaller Apprentice ($3299.95) harmonic conditioning devices, Bill Stierhout (above) was packing up. We just had enough time to snap this photo before his booth became a booth no more.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 24, 2023  |  0 comments
Grandinote owner/designer Massimiliano Magri (above) joined his North American distributor Reinhard Goerner at AXPONA for the premiere of the Grandinote Premier Mach 8XL loudspeaker ($30,800–$33,000/pair, depending upon finish). According to Grandinote's endearingly "English as a second language" website, the Mach 8XL's eight full-range drivers utilize a special treatment behind the drivers' membranes that prevents cone break-up. The drivers roll-off above 13kHz, allowing a super tweeter that handles harmonics above 7kHz to come to the fore. Rather than employing a crossover—the Mach 8XL has none—drivers are modified to create "a solution in the middle between bass reflex and transmission line."
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 24, 2023  |  2 comments
Some believe that Dolby Atmos, Apple's spatial audio variant, and other immersive technologies are the wave of the future. While the best way to determine what the future will bring is to live long enough to render the future the present, Jim Austin and I independently dipped into Focal Naim's impressive self-contained 7.2.4. Dolby Atmos Theva exhibit, staged within their larger exhibit space, to get a taste of what's available right now.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 24, 2023  |  0 comments
Credo Audio Switzerland's Cinema LTM loudspeakers ($199,995/pair) may have towered above all else, but the gear from EMM Labs and their lower priced Meitner Audio line, van den Hul, VPI Industries, and DS Audio displayed in another "give it all you've got" large room was nothing to scoff at. Though I've grown tired of the overblown sound on Gary Karr's LP, Adagio di Albinoni, I was awed by the midrange beauty of Sara Barreilles's voice on a 24/88.2 file of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." The recorded sound of this live performance seemed uncannily real, and the soundstage was awesome.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 24, 2023  |  0 comments
Air-walled exhibition rooms are one of the biggest challenges at audio shows. With no solid surfaces, many exhibitors in the large rooms on the first and second floors of the Schaumburg Convention Center had no choice but to struggle to put their best face forward.

Dynaudio and Octave probably had it better than most because, at the end of a row in Utopia D, presumably two of their walls were solid. Their sound on their biggest system certain was solid and all-of-one piece, yet extremely smooth. It had lots of life and flow, especially if you listened to LP and sat in the first row where the sound was at its tube splendor wettest and the low bass clearest.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 23, 2023  |  14 comments
I'm not one for abusing punctuation, as in ending every sentence of a press release with an exclamation point. (It happens more frequently than you may wish to know.) But when MBL named its top-of-the-line loudspeakers X-treme ($398,000/pair), they weren't kidding. These speakers are as huge as they are imposing.
Rogier van Bakel  |  Apr 23, 2023  |  1 comments
Trigger warning: If sky-high prices for audio gear make you gnarly, this AXPONA report (and many others) won't lift your mood. Just the MasterBuilt-brand cabling in dealer Scott Walker Audio's room carried a heart-stopping six-figure price tag.

The space, featuring Von Schweikert Ultra 7 speakers ($180,000/pair), wasn't especially small or large. Let's call it a Goldilocks room. Leif Swanson, Von Schweikert's chief designer, said that the brand's products had often been demoed in big expo rooms, which occasionally scared off potential buyers who assumed that the speakers needed a jumbo-sized space to sing. Not so, says the company.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 23, 2023  |  0 comments
The room was noisy, and the switching between selections a classic case of trackus interruptus. Nonetheless, the ability of Atohm's GT1 bookshelf speakers ($4499/pair) to convey bass far more powerful than one might reasonably expect from speakers of their size left me smiling. I was smiling as well because the first demo track chosen to display this wonder was one I occasionally reference for color, texture, and speed: Yosi Horikawa's "Bubbles" (16/44.1Tidal/First World Records).
Rogier van Bakel  |  Apr 22, 2023  |  1 comments
Room 352 at AXPONA, where cable constructors Shunyata Research and speaker builders Clarisys had joined forces, was something of a feast for the senses. The Clarisys Minuet speakers ($38,800/pair) look like high-tech heaters in a 1940s film noir, and I mean that in the best possible way—I love how they seem simultaneously retro and thoroughly modern. They sounded wonderful too.
Rogier van Bakel  |  Apr 22, 2023  |  7 comments
Masimo must have been the biggest, most valuable company at AXPONA by far. Its market valuation is slightly north of 10 billion dollars. The NASDAQ-listed firm had more than two billion in revenues last year. And yet it's a safe bet that most expo-goers who saw the Masimo name on one of the demo rooms thought, "Who?"
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 21, 2023  |  1 comments
Longtime readers of Stereophile may recall my 2019 rave review of the diminutive low-cost Transparent One Encore active loudspeaker ($599). The reason I ended up reviewing a bargain component that retailed for well under four figures—one that measured quite well, I might add—was not because Stereophile's former editor, John Atkinson, assigned the product to me. Rather, after being blown away by Vanatoo's sound at an audio show, I asked to do the review.

Now, Seattle-based Gary Gesellchen (above) is preparing to release that speaker's successor, the Vanatoo Transparent One Encore Plus ($649.99).

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 21, 2023  |  0 comments
Harmonic Resolution Systems (HRS) unveiled its new, significantly less expensive EXR-1921-4V audio stand ($7795) at AXPONA. (I'd originally seen this stand at Definitive Audio's private Music Matters event in Seattle.) Put to good use in the Ultra Fidelis Room, it joined HRS's SXR-1921-5V audio stand ($11,550/frame), M3X2-1921 isolation base ($3995), R3X-1921 isolation base ($1975), and Vortex V150 isolation feet ($1630/set) to support a system that included Vandersteen M5HPA High Pass Amplifiers ($16,800/pair) and Kento Carbon loudspeakers ($41,700/pair)...
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 21, 2023  |  2 comments
William Duncan (right), who lives relatively close to me in Sammamish, WA, has been after me for a while to hear Laufer Teknik Product's new offerings. Finally, the opportunity arrived at AXPONA. Sharing the room with John Siau of Benchmark Audio (left), Duncan and Laufer Teknik Products showed The Note ($32,500/pair), a line array speaker designed by Mark Porzilli of Melos vacuum-tube electronics fame. The price includes a SB 3000 subwoofer ($1010 each).