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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



  On the short side of the 6th Floor, which was the highest floor of the open atrium of the hotel, I found a room full of the new TAD speakers and electronics supplemented with a Synergistic Research Galileo SX power conditioner as well as one of their PowerCell SX power conditioners. A Synergistic Black Box, this time actually in black, was positioned in front of the rig. TAD, from Technical Audio Devices Laboratories, Inc. in Japan, has recently re-entered the North American market.



I had been impressed with one of their previous models in the Wells Audio room at Capital AudioFest and I was very interested in hearing about these new models. To the right of the stand are the Micro Evolution One, the Evolution One TX, and the Compact Reference One ($85k), TAD electronics were on the top two shelves of the Modolo rack.



Spendor stand-mounted speakers placed near the front wall were heard in room 662 with a Chord Hugo TT2 DAC mated to a Chord Hugo M-scaler that upsamples the signal to sound more analog-like, at the front end. An Aurender was seen just below.




Next door was a hand-printed sign advising people not to enter if they want to spend huge sums of money on gear. Inside was one of the most modest rigs of the entire show featuring a Rega Planar 1 turntable, Rega IO amplifier and Rega Kyte monitor speakers for a grand total of $2115. The gentleman in coat and tie seemed quite unlikely to be selling snake oil.



Audio Thesis, a distributor from Arlington, Texas, put together a rig with Norma Audio electronics driving a small Rosso Fiorentino monitor. I've raved about the sound of Rosso Fiorentino speakers for years but always felt their styling was just a little too unusual. They come from Italy where designers are expected to take risks, after all. These small monitors ($4900, barely visible in the photo) avoided that shortcoming and their size belied the depth and control of the bass. The Norma electronics also come from Italy, but their physical design, on the other hand, seemed to be influenced by the Swiss school of minimalism.



There was a preamp ($10.5k) and a pair of monoblocks ($25k). They come from Cremona, the land of famous violins, which is in the northern part of the country, not far from Florence. The sound of the music here grabbed me emotionally with its resolution and transparency putting me right in the presence of the musicians. A Lumin streamer/server was in use here and it looked like most of the components were placed on very substantial aftermarket footers. What I heard here put it into the Best Rooms category.



Martin Logan showed up with their portable in-wall speakers ($45k/pr) that I found so impressive at the Montreal show where they filled a huge room, supplemented with a couple of their subwoofers. Here, in a small hotel room, they played just as well with two subs dialed in just right, going deep and holding the audience in rapt attention, just as they did in the north country. The people here were so glued to their seats you would have thought they were watching an action movie. The music was sounding very good to me and mounting these in the wall would certainly give you more room to dance. If you were expecting one of their traditional hybrid electrostatic speakers, you were out of luck.




In yet another Holm Audio room (678) I found a pair of Hegel integrated amps, a #390 ($6k) and a #590 ($11k), teamed up with a Hegel V10 phono stage ($1500) driving a KEF Reference One Meta speaker ($9k/pr) on Sound Anchor stands ($1400). The source was an Acoustic Signature Typhoon turntable, and the cabling was by Nordost.



The Triode Wire Labs / Volti Audio / BorderPatrol Audio is a well-known combination, teaming up for shows together for years, if not more than a decade? With quality, reasonably priced cables, very high quality, low-power tube amps, and great high-efficiency speakers, it is no wonder why they stay bundled together at shows. The Volti  Razz speaker shown here had a very distinctive book-matched veneer with the left speaker being a mirror image of the right. I liked the sound here just as much as I did at Capital AudioFest 2021 last November. Clear, dynamic, and reasonably priced at $6900.




The BorderPatrol S20EXD caught my attention with the eye-catching veneer and quartet of Western Electric 300B tubes used in parallel SET configuration putting out 16 Wpc. My reference tube monoblocks with parallel 300B tubes in SET configuration are considerably more powerful than single-300B models. BorderPatrol here goes to the extraordinary measure of cryogenically treating the power supplies and other parts of the amp. With the optional volume control and Western Electric upgrade on the tubes, this amp came to $23k. I've had feedback from others who say the WE 300B tube is a spectacular performer. Also in the rig was the BorderPatrol DAC, a non-oversampling, ladder DAC with a hybrid tube/solid-state design that starts at $1225 and goes up from there with various input, power supply, and capacitor options.




I finally caught up with Clayton Shaw of Spatial Audio Lab and had a very interesting conversation with him. I'm a fan of open baffle speakers and thought the system here sounded very good. Two LTA (Linear Tube Audio) integrated amps were listed — the Z40+ Integrated w/headphone amp ($7650) with NOS EL34 tubes, and the ZOTL Ultralinear+ Integrated, also w/headphone amp ($7650). I'm not sure which was playing at the time, but having reviewed one of David Berning's amps years ago, and having an Eddie Wong integrated amp with EL34 tubes, I suspect the sonic signature of the two LTA amps is quite different. Select carefully between them.



The highly regarded Holo Audio Kitsune HiFi May DAC (KTE) at $5598 was at the front end. The Spatial Audio Lab X4 Premium speakers ($7500) looked especially nice in the Ultralam wood that is more clearly seen in the riser beneath the Holo May DAC. This wood adds a visual texture to the otherwise clean, contemporary lines of the Spatial Audio open baffle designs. While this looks to be a two-way speaker with an AMT driver supplemented with a pair of 12" woofers, it is a 2.5-way with the middle driver being a 12" midrange.

The 20 Watt per channel LTA stereo integrated amp drove the 93dB/W/m sensitivity speakers very well in this room. The interconnects, speaker wire, and power cords here were all from Anticables, who offer high value at entry-level and moderate price points. While these cables were certainly appropriate for the cost of components in this system, I couldn't help but wonder what excellence was not heard for want of better cables.


That's it for the 6th Floor, so the next installment of the AXPONA 2022 Chronicles will cover the 5th Floor. Check back in a few more days.




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