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AXPONA 2022 Show Report By Enjoy the Music.com


Rick Becker's AXPONA 2022 Chronicles
Sensational Premium Audio On The 6th Floor At AXPONA 2022.
AXPONA 2022 Show Report By Rick Becker


AXPONA 2022 Show Report Sensational Premium Audio On The 6th Floor


  Taking the stairs, I dropped down to the 6th Floor. Fidelity Imports brings in a lot of brands but in 602 & 694 I spotted a stack of Cyrus electronics on their signature stand designed specifically for their half-rack width components. I had just seen a Cyrus rig in Montreal and commented that it looked refreshingly compact when doubled up on a full-width rack. Oh well. But what was new here was a tube amp anchoring the stand to the floor. Painted in a luscious red finish, the 41c model ($10k) comes from English, a young British company. It delivers 25 Watts per channel from 506 power tubes in pentode mode, which I prefer to the starker-sounding ultra-linear configuration, but not as much as SET designs.



Again, oh well. We all have our preferences. I thought the Q speakers were very attractive looking here. The larger floorstander is their flagship Concept 500 model ($6500) and the shorter is their Concept 50 ($3000).



Innuos had a long table of their servers and streams on silent display. In an adjacent room, they had a complete rig featuring their Statement server in both black and silver as well as the Phoenix network server. The rack was by Thixar, a brand new to me. YG Acoustic Vantage Live provided the amplification and speakers shown here. The component on the bottom shelf of the rack is the control center for the active speakers. It has inputs for external sources as well as a flexible phono stage for both MM and MC cartridges. It is Roon ready and will direct stream Tidal and Qobuz as well as many others. The control center connects to the power modules encased in the base of each speaker.



The crossover was designed by Cambridge Acoustic Sciences, working in the digital domain, and ensures phase accuracy from bass to treble. Bel Canto developed the Class D amplification with a 700-watt amplifier driving each driver in the speaker. A fiber cable by Transparent connects the control center to the amplifier modules. This was a very fine sounding system with the YG aluminum speaker easily surpassing the new Summit floorstander from the Peaks series heard earlier in the day on the 16th Floor.




Two things stood out in a tube-powered system with an analog front end. First was the entrepreneurial effort by Brian Walsh of Barrington, Illinois, a suburban town about 6 miles north of Schaumburg where the show was held. Billing himself as ttsetup he will travel to your home and perform expert turntable and phono cartridge setup. For those of us who have never (or seldom) installed a new cartridge, and hopefully won't have to again for years to come, this is a great idea. Particularly if your eyesight is failing and your hand trembles as it is wont to do in your golden years. (And there certainly seemed to be quite a number of audiophiles in their golden years at the show.) I know I don't set up a turntable or change a cartridge very often. And someone who does this once a week at a store or repair shop certainly has more expertise than I will ever achieve... and probably a lot more tools, too. I expect Brian serves the greater Chicago area, if not beyond.



The other thing that caught my eye here was the new Usher Audio ML-801 speaker with a magnesium alloy tweeter, magnesium-lithium midrange, and a hybrid carbon fiber woofer. It is priced at $12,950/pr in satinwood finish or $14,850 in high gloss as shown here. The tweeter and midrange are set back from the woofer and the front baffle is black to ensure it disappears when listening in the dark. The fluid lines of the setback and the contour of the extended feet give it an attractive appearance. I haven't heard or seen much about Usher in recent years but this speaker and another on their US website look very promising.



The room featuring the white floorstanding Sonner speakers sounded very good to my ear with a great sense of space. Co-sponsored by Small Green Computer who appeared on a couple of AXPONA-sponsored Zoom presentations this past year, the front end was a sonicTransporter i9 ($2.8k) and a Signature Rendu SE optical ($4.8k). These fed a Chord Dave DAC ($12.6k). A Hegel H590 integrated amp ($11k) drove the Sonner Legatto Duo in a custom pearl white finish with an upcharge price bringing it to $11k. A version in semi-gloss Rosewood or Cherry has a standard price of $8.5k.



Cabling was by Nordost with a Qx4 hiding under one rack and an Entreq Silver Tellus ground box from their Infinity line seen under the other — evidence of the growing interest in grounding schemes. The Sonner monitor and stand combo next to the Legatto Duo was very attractive, too, but I did not hear it. The Hegel and the Signature Rendu SE were on Nordost Sort Kones. I haven't been fond of most Hegel rigs I've heard, but this combination with the Sonner speakers won me over.




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