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AXPONA 2010 -- Audio Expo North America
AXPONA 2010
Audio Expo North America
A Skeptic's First Audio Show
Part Two of Two
Report By A. Colin Flood

  Part one introduced my foray to my first audio show. It covered my expectation for "Really way too expensive equipment." This part covers:

 

Some Really Good Sounding Systems
Mediocre Equipment
Techno-babble
Awkward Geeks
Show Girls
All Things Digital 
All Things Analogue
Worth the Weekend
Awesome Demos
Audio Illuminaires
Change in Thinking
Freebie Junk
Recognition

 

Really Good Sound & Looks
Apart from the extra large rooms on the first and fifth floor of the Wyndham, there were some exceptionally sounding music systems at the first Audio eXpo Of North America (AXPONA) show. In no particular order, a few of the ones I noticed were...

There were a dozen great looking amplifiers for Enjoy the Music.com's Tube Lust pages. ASW's Genius 400 loudspeakers ($5500) showed off liquid upper mids with Master Sound's beefy Reference Evolution 845 amplifiers ($15,000). This is a single ended, dual mono, class A amplifier putting out 50 watts with zero negative feedback. Instead of hiding the tubes away behind a squirrel cage, the tubes are protected by bands of metal. Very cool looking. Also with a 845SE tube amplifier, the Eggleston room displayed smooth mid-bass and a soundstage that wrapped around to the sides.

 

Glowing Woods
A really interesting room was the Audiowood/GLOW Audio room. Wrapping equipment in gorgeous pieces of wood, the two vendors had not only good sounding systems, but also good looking ones too. Cables and interconnects were supplied by CRL Labs. Joel Scilley from Audiowood often uses reclaimed or recycled wood for his beautiful creations. One of these pieces housed in recycled redwood wine cask was a Decware/Audiowood "Dragon's Tooth" remote-controlled tube preamplifier ($1750).

This was paired with a Red Dragon Audio class D dual mono power amplifier (itself housed in reclaimed redwood), capable of 500-watts ($3,000). This combo proved to be all Audiowood's single driver Jordan jx92s loudspeakers needed to make remarkably enjoyable sound. In Carpathian Elm burl veneer, the $1600 Jordan employs a transmission line (reviewed here) to accomplish surprisingly good bass. I suggested Scilley mount an awesome full-range driver in a large slab of wood to create a gorgeous infinite baffle loudspeaker.

Patrick Tang of Glow Audio was in the same room with Scilley. He and I had a very interesting conversation about what the different social and legal values mean when doing business between the U.S. and China. In the Audiowood room, the original version of the GLOW Amp One featuring EL84 output tubes was driving GLOW Voice One single driver loudspeakers, mounted on custom bamboo stands made by Audiowood, and connected to GLOW Sub One subwoofers. The loudspeakers are globe shapes like the famous Gallo orbs, but made of recycled scrap wood with a patented "facet" interior to minimize standing waves. The combination sounded quite spacious for the money. Like other single driver offerings, such as the Omegas (reviewed here), the midrange on both the Jordan and the GLOW loudspeakers was compellingly smooth and uncongested; never fatiguing and very easy listening.

Patrick has a new amp offering from GLOW Audio: a 7-watt amplifier with an 832 tetrode power output tube that was driving the admirable SONIST loudspeakers in the room across the hall; it offers a built in DAC and USB port for under $800 and sounded smooth with Randy Bankert's new SONIST Recitals. There were several rooms that I regret not spending the time for a serious audition and Bankert's SONIST is at the top of the list. His sumptuous towers looked like they could be a very pleasing system.

 

NAPA Acoustic
In this room were two interesting new items. First was a new $100 RA-801 acoustic panel. This looked like nothing more than orange pyramids of foam behind a black scrim in a choice of black or wood frames. The four inch pyramids though effectively tame reflections in the hypercritical midrange, 500 Hz to 4000 Hz. NAPA has a clip-on battery operated echo analyzer available to maximize placement of the diffusers.

The second impressive item in the NAPA room was their new mini system. Centered on their NA-208A tube amplifier ($199), this unit used 6N1 tubes for 25-watts (into 6 Ohms). The amplifier has inputs for CD and iPod. NAPA matched it with their NA-208s two-way speakers (9.5 inches high) and DT-307CD player for a system price of less than a thousand dollars. The 4 inch woofer gets down to 75 Hz and the midrange sounded smooth, warm and lush. Although the mini system did not have enough snap for drums, I think it would make most non-audiophiles quite happy.

 

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