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AK Fest 2008
AK Fest 2008
Because Music Matters

Report By Report By Ken Lawing
Page 1

“I have heard it said that it is not about the destination. Rather, it is about the journey, and those you travel with”. AK member pustelniakr.


  In only six years, Audiokarma.org has grown from a small group of friends and audio enthusiasts into a vibrant online community with enrollment approaching 40 thousand members. The 5th Annual Audiokarma Audio Festival, held May 3 & 4, 2008 at the Embassy Suites in Livonia, MI, has matched this growth. The first gathering hosted one vendor in an open conference room along with a handful of member systems. This year's AK Fest welcomed over 650 attendees, 30 exhibitors, 9 member listening rooms, and 2 swap rooms. The show opened with brisk attendance, busy rooms, beautiful equipment, and music everywhere. Attendees were able to hear a wide variety of gear, from the classics of the 70's and earlier, to DIY, to currently available esoteric audio equipment.

I'm an audio and music enthusiast, and an AK member. I was quite surprised to be asked by Steven R. Rochlin of Enjoy The Music.com to write a review of my first national audio show. It was a myriad of sights and sounds, with most of the room hosts asking what style of music I'd like to hear, and that I was welcomed to play my own selections. The large crowd on Saturday made it difficult to take time from the vendors and obtain pricing and equipment information, so pictures and a brief description will have to suffice for some of the rooms. Sunday's traffic flow was lighter, and gave me a chance to sit down with some of the reps to jot down some notes and take photos. For those rooms I missed, please accept my apologies.

As this was my first AK Fest, I was impressed by the welcoming and friendly staff, along with a laid back atmosphere. The atrium design of the hotel provided an open, un-crowded feeling and the sturdy concrete construction of the rooms kept noise bleed, from room to room, at a minimum. All vendor and member rooms had to deal with a pesky 50 Hz room resonance, and many rooms had treatments to help alleviate this problem.

AK members MarkW, modge, WhiteSE and pustelniakr , AK'ers from around the world, enjoy breakfast conversation.


The first room I visited was sponsored by Venus Hi-Fi. Brian has supported AK from its first fest. Unfortunately, his intended gear was held up by shipping damage. He quickly gathered a system that did not sound “thrown together” at all. His FJ Om loudspeakers ($4,000 pr.) were one of the hits of the show, throwing a huge soundstage with their top firing Seas woofers. Although limited in low frequency extension, given their small size and footprint, they were very satisfying.


Driving the FJ speakers was the Manley Stingray ($2250). I've heard this EL-84 integrated amp at regional AK get-togethers, and it never fails to impress.


The ever-busy McIntosh room was full of swinging blue meters and impressive gear.


Their MC 2301 tube mono-blocks ($11,000 ea.) were stunning in their design, power and finesse.


The newly introduced MT 10 turntable ($8,000).



AK members Army and Retro Stereo had vintage solid-state sound nailed in their room. Their Pioneer Spec gear (refurbished by AK member Echowars) bi-amping Infinity RS 2.5 speakers had Ted Nugent and his Gibson Byrdland sounding like they were in the room with us.


David Michael Audio had a mix of silver and wood in their fine sounding room. The Harbeth 40.1 ($12,999 pr.) with their classic design sounded very nice.


The Harbeths were driven by Belles MB 01 mono-blocks and a Belles LA-01preamp. An Exemplar Audio XCD-1 CDP was the source.


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