AXPONA 2019 Show Report --
Audio Expo North America
The afternoon was wearing on, as the first day started to wind down at about 5pm. Still, I pressed on to the last of the "high floors" at AXPONA. Gated HiFi Distribution was in 1206 at the end of the hall with a relatively straight forward, but expensive system. The Ansuz Acoustics Mainz8 dtc eight-outlet power distribution center goes for $23,000, for example. The Naim CD player was certainly more affordable, but the gorgeous Aavik integrated amp on the top shelf, and the Borresen 01 compact monitor in walnut veneer, with resonance control designed to mate with the dtc above, at $32,500, bring the rig up into the $200,000 range with all the cabling.
The music here, like it was at Rocky Mountain, was spectacular with transparency, focus and immediacy. Again, one of the Best Rooms at the show — and there would be more to come from Borresen in a large room on the second floor.
The Laufer Teknik room showcased the new speaker, The Note ($29,950), from Mark Porzilli, that has roots back to Mark's Pipedreams that captured the imagination of so many, years ago, and evolved into the Scaena speakers which were shown elsewhere at the show. (I'll get to those on my Sunday coverage.) All of these are line source speakers — tall and thin, supplemented with separate subwoofers. In this case it was the excellent SVS SP 4000 sealed sub ($1500) with a front firing 13.5" driver. I was told the price included the sub, but you may want to "substitute" a different model to meet the needs of your particular room. While Copland's "Fanfare for The Common Man" sounded very good with a great sense of "hall", I had the feeling an even larger sub or a pair of 4000s might have made it a little more effortless.
Lots of speaker/subwoofer combinations will acoustically "disappear" in a room, but the beauty of The Note is that it is so slender, it will visually almost disappear as well. The trick, I suppose, is to not bump into it when listening in the dark, but it will not interrupt your view of a grand landscape should you be so fortunate to have one. While not as decorative as the Scaena, the almost industrial styling could be seen as a cross between David Smith and Giacometti sculptures if you need to make an excuse for it. Turn the lights off and listen to music, and you will have no need for any excuses. An Absolare integrated amp ($26k+) and Porzilli's other brainchild, The Memory Player ($25k) were the backbone of this rig that easily rates as a Best Room at the show. (Room 1209)
Across the hall in 1210 was very good sound coming from Dynaudio speakers driven by a silver Octave V 80 SE integrated amp on the top shelf with a pair of KT150 tubes per channel putting out 120 W/ch @ 4 Ohms or a V 40 SE in black with 6550s putting out 45 Wpc @ 4 Ohms further down below in the rack. A dCS digital source was in the middle. I haven't often seen Dynaudio driven by tubes before. Usually at the Canadian shows they are paired with Moon Audio but they worked very well here with the strong Octave amps from Germany that are said to be stable down to 2 Ohms. The V 80 SE ($10,500) with the Super Black Box power supply shown should come home for less than $14k. I especially liked the weathered light finish on the new Dynaudio Evoke 50 floorstander ($5k) which should fit in very well with contemporary décor. It has a strong sense of physicality to the singers and musicians, unlike the The Note, above, that conveys a much greater sense of space. (Box vs. no box?) The stand mounted speaker was the new Evoke 20 ($2000), the larger of two monitors in this series. Out in the hall I renewed my friendship with Mike Manousselis of Dynaudio that goes back to my early days reviewing the Montreal show.
Golden Audio Illusion, Inc. doesn't show up on the web, but Valery Savchenko was there to represent this company from Staten Island, NY. The Block Audio rig showed up Big Time however with stand mounted monitors ($17k) powered by red monoblocks ($59k/pr.) and a preamp ($37k). Founded in 2106, this company from the Czech Republic gets my Dark Horse Award for coming out of nowhere with one of the Best Rooms at the show for this turnkey system that sounded like it had much larger speakers. Unfortunately time was short and I had to move on so I didn't glean much information here.
Bob Carver is a legend in this industry and I was hoping to meet him at the show, but alas, this late in the day he was nowhere to be seen, if he was indeed there at all. Nevertheless, it was a real treat to visit their room. The Crimson 275 stereo tube amp ($2750) with four KT120 tubes putting out 75 Wpc is a real bargain in today's market, much of it due to the fact that it is sold factory direct and it uses circuit boards rather than point-to-point hand wiring like the 350 monoblocks ($9500/pr.) seen next to it. It is also built in batches of 100, I was told. That is a huge number for a tube amp run in this industry. Also on active display were tall and short versions of Carver's ALS line source speakers, the short ones being maybe 4' tall. Grill cloth covered the ribbon drivers facing forward and there were dynamic drivers facing the side wall on the inside of the columns. I heard a bit of "Babylon Sister" by Steely Dan, a song that is a challenging piece for evaluating resolution, that sounded very good, but there was a lot of conversation going on at the time so I moved on.
It has been more than a year since I've seen Jack Woo so it was nice to find him, naturally, in the Woo Audio room (1218). Woo has a tradition of showing in a dedicated room rather than the bull pen headphone zones at shows, though they may have been there, too, at Axpona. Jack says their portable tube amp is doing well and they've come out with a somewhat smaller solid state portable to supplement the line. I heard the WA11 Topaz ($1400), seen here through Abyss Diana headphones sounding excellent for those desiring a high-end Walkman or simply a high-quality rig for travel. And did I say this room was pleasantly quiet?
In 1221 Source System Ltd., Esprit Audio of France, fidata by I-O Data Devices and Lumin Music by Pixel Magic Systems were listed as present in the program, but mostly what I saw was this table of Lumin products on silent display. I see on the floor map that this was one of the larger rooms, so perhaps I missed an active display going on in an inner room of this suite?