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AXPONA 2023 Luxury Premium Audio And Hi-Fi Stereo Audiophile Show Report By Enjoy the Music.com

The AXPONA 2023 Chronicles: Part 8
The fascinating 5th floor of premium audio gear.
Audio Expo North America 2023 Show Report By Rick Becker


The AXPONA Chronicles 2023 Part 8 The fascinating 5th floor of premium audio gear. Audio Expo North America 2023 Show Report By Rick Becker


Saturday Afternoon

VPE Electrodynamics And Magna Risers
This was an interesting speaker for folks who don't wish to obstruct a view any more than necessary. That's a premium full-range Cube Audio F10 driver mounted in the acrylic baffle with a downward-firing floor-coupled dipole woofer. Acrylic has its vulnerability to dust and scratches over time, though there is a special polish for it. The $5900 (plus shipping) speaker is also available with gray or bronze tinted baffles which offer interesting possibilities. The wood supports are available in custom colors as well.



The woofer was a 15" Eminence Kappa Professional Series 1200W woofer and out back there was an integral 500-Watt DSP amp / crossover / EQ. The wiring of the drivers and the cables on the floor could have been more neatly arranged with such an open display. Nevertheless, I'm a fan of open baffle speakers and this is another fine example of the many that have come on the market in recent years.



The above item appears to be a planar speaker of some sort. The black backpack in the photo confuses the image. Possibly there is a woofer of some sort in the base unit below the power supply for the electrostatic speaker.



Atma-Sphere And Fritz Speakers
I met Ralph Karsten of Atma-Sphere again this year with an even more impressive demonstration of his GaNFET Class D monoblocks ($5500/pr).



He was driving a pair of Fritz stand-mounted monitors ($2500 or $2800 per pair, depending on which ones you heard) augmented with a single GoldenEar Supersub X subwoofer ($1750). This was my first exposure to Fritz speakers and they lived up to the positive buzz I've heard about them.



Apparently, Ralph has not received the memo about putting his amps on vibration-absorbing footers, so if you liked the sound here, as I did, there is still room for improvement. He was also running them with generic AC power cords. Ralph confided that he was surprised at how well these Class D amps were selling. As the proud owner of a competing brand, it was no surprise to me, given what I heard. Of course, this meant I didn't get to hear any of his outstanding OTL tube amps.

The tube lover in me wept until I learned he was using his MP-1 preamp with phono stage ($22.1k). Then I wept even more. That he was playing LPs on a Technics SL1200G ($4k) with an $800 Hana cartridge was icing on the cake. Small wonder I liked this room so much.

The Atma-Sphere Class D (that's what it's called) puts out 100 Watts into 8 Ohms and 200 into 4, so there is plenty of power to drive a wide range of speakers. And they are small enough to practically hide them behind many of the speakers they will drive. They come with both RCA and true balanced XLR inputs so you can use them with long, balanced interconnects.



Parts Express
The good news at the Parts Express room was that the drivers were not priced, so I could move on to the next room. Really, though, there were people here that get excited about building their own speakers for considerably less than store-bought ones.




KLH Products
KLH had the most dangerous room at AXPONA 2023. If the collective gestalt of high-end audio had seen this coming KLH would have been banned from the show. When I first encountered their Model 3 ($1800) and Model 5 ($2500), both including stands, at the Montreal show a couple of years ago I was amazed at the reincarnation of these historic acoustic suspension speakers. At AXPONA this year they went newer, bigger, and even better with the KLH 7. If I had come upon this speaker back in 1991 it would have been game over and I never would have stumbled into the high end.



With a 13" woofer with a cast frame mounted low in a real wood veneer cabinet that stood taller than the component rack, its classic 1970s proportions, and tan woven grill cloth had a retro vibe that will resonate with any true Boomer. The tonal balance with its prominent bass and articulate and airy midrange and treble, sucked me into the music like a junkyard magnet feeding cars into a crusher. Hommage to the absolute sound be damned, this speaker is all about enjoying the music and all the heartfelt emotions you had when you were a teenager. It will not be available until Q3, but if you're not already in line when it hits, it will be sold out by the time you hear about it. It will likely be found in mass-market mid-fi outlets, but don't let that fool you.



Of course, the Bryston BR-20 preamp and 4Bcubed power amp contributed to the enjoyment here, as did some decent cables. But I'll venture to say that given my recent experience of having an IEC inlet installed on my vintage Yamaha receiver and using a modest power cord, if your vintage amp is still working, you will be good to go with this $4k speaker. It's a classic example of going back to the future.




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