John Atkinson

John Atkinson  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  7 comments
. . . proclaimed posters everywhere on the Renaissance Convention Center's ground floor. It turned out that the show had run out of exhibit rooms, so a purpose-built listening room had been built for Chicago dealer Kyomi Audio at the back of the big hall that housed the LP fair, the Master Class space, and the Ear Gear exhibits. Inside—forgive the grainy photo; it was quite dark inside this room—were a pair of Raidho TD1.2 stand-mounted speakers ($27,000/pair) connected with Gamut Reference cables to a pair of Jadis NEC 845 push-pull monoblocks ($29,990, the first pair in North America), a Jadis JPS2 preamp ($15,500), and a Jadis JPS3 phono preamplifier ($14,900).
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 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).
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.)
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.
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."
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  |  1 comments
I was greeted by a familiar sound from shows past when I went into the first MoFi Distribution room on the Renaissance's third floor: a track from the All Star Percussion Ensemble LP that showed off the superb imaging and terrific transient reproduction of the Manger P2 speakers ($18,995/pair; $21,995/pair in the Rio Palisander veneer being demmed). Using a bending-wave transducer to cover everything from the lower midrange upward, supported below 340Hz by an 8" woofer with a carbon-fiber cone, the P2s sounded perhaps a bit too sweet in the top octaves when the percussion cut was followed by Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
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.
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.

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