AXPONA 2019 Show Report --
Audio Expo North America
ModWright Instruments teamed up with Studio Electric loudspeakers in room 354. The integrated amp shown here had 150 Wpc, I was told, and had NOS (new old stock) tubes in the Class A preamp section as you can see at the rear of the top plate. There was some discussion about how their newest integrated was not useable and that a reserve integrated was substituted. I don't have the facts straight here, but I'll mention a price of $8500 just to give you an idea of the ballpark they play in.
The Studio Electric speakers are the first I've seen from them in years and they are far more conventional than the spherical ones I remember from the days of yore. The floorstander F2 looks to be a new version of the FS1 (priced at $5900) on their website. I'm obviously playing "catch-up" here with some brands I haven't seen in a long time. I apologize if I've made you more confused than necessary. (Room 354)
Danville Signal Processing was the name on room 358 and they do digital products as their name suggests. Specifically, here, they make the dspMusikLCD 2x8 which is a digital crossover and high-rez DAC with a remote volume control. Inputs include analog, USB and S/PDIF and both input and output levels are adjustable. All inputs and outputs are balanced and recommended for use with balanced sources and amps. The unit was used to drive The Monoliths, an open baffle kit speaker with servo-controlled dual driver subwoofer, one facing forward, the other facing aft. A Rythmik Audio HX300XLR3 servo amp is supplied with the kit, but you must supply four channels of amplification in some form for the planar tweeter and midranges. The complete system in kit form is $8500. Obviously, this is a project for the adventurous — and I know you're out there! (Room 358)
ATC loudspeakers, distributed by Lone Mountain Audio, were driven by the ATC CDA2 MKII CD player / preamplifier / DAC and new P2 300Wpc dual mono power amp to drive the SCM50 passive speaker. They were able to give me a demo of the active version of this speaker, the new SCM50SE versus the passive. The SE is internally tri-amplified with 200 Watts on the bass, 100 watts on the soft dome midrange, and 50 watts on the soft dome tweeter, as well as the crossovers being active and phase corrected. As I've heard before with ATC's, the active has more presence and transparency in the room. Perhaps with ELAC jumping into the active speaker arena, this approach will become more accepted among audiophiles as it has been for years in the pro-audio world.
Given ATC's roots in pro-audio, these speakers are designed to play LOUD, and they can also be designed to fit your décor with a wide variety of finish and veneer. They were playing the right music here, too, with BB King's 3 O'clock Blues sounding like I was right in the studio. (Room 362)
Alta Audio monitors were driven by a rack full of Van Alstine electronics including (from the top down on the rack) a hybrid, remote-controlled preamp, their DAC Mark Five fed from an OPPO disc player below it. A pair of their Vision SET 600 monoblocks were on the floor, but don't be confused by the name. "SET" in the land of Van Alstine means "single ended transistors" so these are actually solid-state amps. Still, 600 watts per channel is something to pay attention to at $5k/pair. The Celesta FRM-2 Speakers from Alta ($13k/pr) were reviewed by Enjoy the Music.com in 2015 when they were first introduced. They are said to go exceptionally low (29Hz) for a stand mounted monitor and feature multi-layer technology in their cabinets. The music I head here did not have content that low to verify the claim. (Room 366)
Importer Vana Ltd had an enticing presentation with their EAT (European Audio Team) Forte Leather Edition turntable with a large diameter high inertia platter ($18k) equipped with EAT F-Note 12" alloy tonearm with on-the-fly VTA ($8k) utilizing an Ortofon A95 cartridge. Here again, I noted the section of the platter supporting the LP was slightly undersized to permit complete contact with the playing surface and facilitate lifting the LP from the turntable. Notice the turntable has a separate power supply and two-motor belt drive. The EAT massive record weight ($195) used here is separate and incorporates three rubber O-rings to provide a secure grip.
The EAT E-Glo tube phono stage with Macassar wood side panels was in the rack. On a side table was their E-Glo Petit hybrid tube phono stage ($1495), also with beautiful Macassar wood side panels and top-mounted controls. EAT also manufactures tubes and were introducing their new EAT KT88 Diamond Valve ($1795, matched quad set) and new 300B ($1695, matched pair). Moon amplification and Nordost cabling was brought in to complete the rig and drive the Audio Physic Virgo III speakers ($18k/pr, which Vana does import). The music here, featuring female vocal, while not familiar, sounded very good with excellent resolution as is typically expected from the German Audio Physic speakers. I wish I could have stayed longer in this room. (Room 370)
Audio Video Interiors of Chicago put on a display of Paradigm Persona 3F speakers ($10k) driven by a large Anthem STR integrated amp ($4500) with 200 Wpc in a rig wired by AudioQuest. There was also a large dual-driver subwoofer in the corner that I'm not sure was connected. This wasn't the best I've heard these speakers sound—they had fine resolution, but were a bit hissy, so I wonder if they were fully broken in or whether it was just the Nora Jones recording. An Aurender A100server ($3900) and AudioQuest Niagara 5000 power conditioner ($4k) were also on the rack. (Room 374)