AXPONA 2022 Show Report
With still some time left in the day, I headed down the elevated walkway to the large conference rooms in the Conference Center. Breaking to the far left I started in Nirvana C, which I'll dub The CAT House. Convergent Audio Technology wasn't listed in the program or identified on the floor plan, but they were there in a big way. I've left the first couple of photos as wide as they were taken with my 35mm lens. The big rooms on this floor are roughly 25 feet wide by about 50 feet long. And the ceilings, as you can see are high — like maybe 15 feet. That works out to about 19,000 cubic feet. Now, go measure your listening room. See what I mean?
CAT is all about tube preamplifiers with phono and tube power amplifiers. I lucked into a used CAT preamp early on in my audiophile life and it was a huge step up that I treasured for years. They have only improved since those days and the SL1 Legend Black Path Extreme ($50k) seen here in silver faceplate is the flagship, with only the SL1 Renaissance Black Path Extreme below it. The name has become long and cumbersome and the preamps have become heavier — 80 and 64 pounds respectively.
The CAT Statement Extreme monoblock seen on the left is $210k/pr. and this is what I heard driving the Magico M2 speakers ($68.6k). On the right is the JL7 SE (Special Edition) that lists for $50k/pr. Note the line input is toward the center where it is assumed your preamp will be located. And are those Ginko ARCH footers raising the amps off the carpet?
I didn't catch the make of the turntable but the CD player was Ken Stevens' venerable audioaero Capitole Classic CD player from France. It was a fantastic CD player in its day and he has likely hot-rodded it to keep it competitive. And yes, it had a tube output stage. Below that was an OPPO player for whatever reason. I expect that was a JL5 LE Triode Stereo power amp ($25k) on the lower shelf of the rack.
A male vocalist was singing Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You," which was not exactly a challenging piece, but the resolution, air, tonal color, and analog-like liquidity from Redbook CD were superb. This is the triode sound I enjoy at home (on a more modest scale) so it easily ranks among the Best Rooms at Axpona this year.
The Credo speakers driven by EMM Labs monoblocks gave the impression that they were a thin white line source but the white baffle gave way to natural wood finish running about 4" deep and then disappeared into a substantial black enclosure. The turntable was fitted with a DS Audio optical cartridge which fed an EMM Labs DS EQ1 optical equalizer that will work with any DS optical cartridge. Below the turntable was an EMM Labs PRE stereo preamp and further down, a DA2 V2 DAC. An Isotek Nova Evo3 power conditioner (with a thin plywood top?) and Modolo racks gave additional support.
This is the second time I've seen large Credo speakers. The other time was Axpona in 2019. Their website gives no clues about this speaker and there was no literature to be had. Most of the speakers made by this Swiss company appear to be more modest and suitable for a wide variety of audiophiles. What appeared here was an ambitious quantum leap — and a successful one, from their mainstream offerings. The EMM Labs have been around for quite a while, and have been often praised. The CAT room is a tough act to follow for this tube lover.
Does this woman get around, or what? Every time I see Anne Bisson I know I'm at the right hotel at the right time.
Acora Acoustics loudspeakers have impressed me every time I've heard them, and I've heard all three models. With their SRC-1 ($28k) with a single woofer in a much smaller room at Montreal, once again they earned a Best Rooms citation. Walking into this much larger room (Nirvana A) I was again captivated, this time by the SRC-2 model ($38k) a 2.5-way design with a pair of woofers in the African granite enclosure that is central to all their designs. I was curious to hear how they performed in this large room. Their website claims the SRC-2 is designed for rooms from 250 to 2000 square feet, but ceiling height can dramatically alter the volume. Relative to the tall Credo speakers in the previous room, these looked small. The black granite against the black curtain certainly didn't accentuate their presence, but the music sure did. As with previous experiences with Acora speakers, there was resolution, transparency, and truth of timbre that created an immediacy that captivated me.