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

AXPONA 2023 Was Bigger, Better, And Bolder
Taking it from the top with the uppermost floors Part 1.
Audio Expo North America 2023 Show Coverage By Greg Weaver



1509  Von Schweikert Audio, LampizatOr, WestminsterLab, And Small Green Computer
Yet again, an exceptional synergy of components was revealed in this room. In fact, I recorded video interviews with two of the electronics manufacturers represented in this room for my YouTube Channel. First with my relatively new acquaintance in Angus Leung of WestminsterLab, the designer of the Quest and REI electronics, and then with an old friend, creator of the remarkable LampizatOr Horizon, Łukasz Fikus. Here is the product lineup in 1509.

Small Green Computer i9 - with optical connection - File Server/Roon Core - $3499
     (includes four terabyte SSD drive)
LampizatOr Horizon DAC - $50,000
Sonore Ultra RenduReclocker - $5499
WestminsterLab Quest Balanced Preamplifier - $25,100
     (includes full carbon pack internal shielding package)
WestminsterLab REI monoblocks - $32,900/pair
FalkenOhr custom sized for Rei amplifiers - $6000
Von Schweikert Audio Endeavor SE's - $29,600
     (this price includes 8 Critical mass Systems 0.8" footers - $650 each)
Von Schweikert Audio proto 10" subwoofers - model/price TBA - one pair
Cable Suite:
WestminsterLab Ultra Series interconnects, USB, and Power cords
     (with carbon shield upgrade)
Master Built Ultra speaker cables


What can I say.... While this was clearly a pricey system, it was also still considerably more affordable than many of the other spectacular rooms I would cover this year. But the sound regenerated by this system soared impressively above the expected limitations of its cost, delivering a performance that was off the hook, not only capable of holding its own, but of competing with some of the mega-dollar setups I heard this year, especially regarding its tonal balance, dynamic scaling, and spatial recreation!



The undeniable synergy of this extraordinarily engaging digital front end, these resolute, powerful, and transparent electronics, and the implementation of VSAs proprietary crossover and ambient sound retrieval technologies in this model, combined with their unrivaled setup skills, allowed this room to punch so far above its weight that it effortlessly earned its spot in my Top Five Rooms at AXPONA 2023. A large part of the setup factor I'm referring to had to do with the critical deployment of the two as yet unnamed 10" VSA subs, dispersed to manage active room correction and cancel nodes and resonance. Simply a stellar performance.



1527  MBL North America And Kyomi Audio
It is always a pleasure to visit with Jeremy Bryan, of MBL North America, and George Vatchnadze, who is not only the owner of Kyomi Audio, but a professor of applied piano at DePaul University, and a world-class touring and recording pianist. This year, featuring the 101E MkII Loudspeakers and the 9011 Mono Amplifiers in stunning white, made for almost as compelling a photo as the sounds this beautiful rig created in this space. Jeremy and George had this gear in play.



MBL 1621 A CD Transport - $33,400
MBL 1611 F D/A Converter - $34,200
MBL 6010 D Preamplifier - $32,400
MBL 9011 Mono Amplifiers - $64,100 each
MBL 101E MkII Loudspeakers - $91,000/pr.
WireWorld Eclipse Series 8 cable loom (no prices given)



From the minute you walked in, you knew you were hearing something extraordinarily special. The stage depth in this small room was exquisite, unlike almost every other room I heard during the weekend. The dynamics and scaling were astounding, and horns were so vibrantly and faithfully rendered, it was scary. My hat is off to Jeremy and George for turning in one of the finest MBL room presentations in memory.



1534  ATC Loudspeakers And Lone Mountain Audio
Walking into the room, I was met by long-time friend Leland Laird, Eastern USA Hi-Fi sales manager for Lone Mountain Audio / ATC Loudspeakers. After some quick quips and a chat, I sat down to the most engaging presentation I've heard in recent years from an all ATC system. Here is what was playing.



ATC CDA2 Mk-II CD / Preamp / DAC - $4,999
ATC MUTEC REF10MHz Master Clock - $4999
ATC MUTEC MC3+USB - Digital Interface 1G-Clock, Re-Clocker - $1649
ATC P2 Dual Mono 300w Amplifier - $5,499
ATC Classic Series SCMSOP Passive Loudspeakers (Rosewood) - $17,999/pair


I confess to being easily won over by this rig's relatable sense of the energy and drive of the music, which happened to be Fleetwood Mac's Rumours when I entered the room. It also portrayed remarkably well-resolved definition and detail, along with a very convincing tonal balance. The system really shined here, exhibiting excellent separation and detail with vocals, including backing vocalists, and presenting a superb sense of stage spacing and spread. It was an especially engaging presentation! Well done!



Club Lounge  Bending Wave USA And Audio Research
Swinging into the big Club Lounge found Bending Wave USA's Elliot Goldman at the controls, sharing one of his most pleasurable presentations ever achieved in this room. This year, the room set up was a bit differently, with a scaffold system draped with some open weave black cloth hanging behind the Noblesse Speakers and Audio Research amps and extending slightly up the sides of the room on each side. His choice for sourcing the music he used to demo with was also different. During the entire half hour or so I spent in this extremely engaging setup, all tracks played were streamed from Qobuz! No files or media was played at all. Here are the system details.



Wadax Reference Server - $68,800  
Wadax Optical System AKASA - $20,400
Wadax Reference DAC - $166,420
Wadax Reference Power Supply - $52,700
Divin Noblesse Speakers - $250,000 pair  
Divin Sovereign Subs - $29,500 each  
Audio Research 160 Mk2 amps - $38,000 pair -



One of the most obvious strengths of this system's presentation was its rich, vivid, and textured tonality. Another was its ability to so corporally recreate the space and dimensionality of the recordings, with a deft articulation of speed and impact. The result presented acoustic guitars, pianos, basses, and most every voice with an immediacy and presence that I've not heard from previous appearances here!



739  Stillpoints, Audio Design & Marketing, Rockport, Viola, And Wolf
As I headed down the hall on floor seven searching for a colleague, I was greeted by Bruce Jacobs of Stillpoints. After a few minutes spent catching up, we stepped into room 739 to be delighted by an ambitious collection of gear that seemed to be offering an undeniable sense of synergy and expressiveness. Here is the whole collection assembled in that room.



Wolf Audio Systems Alpha SX Music Server System - $10,495
Bricasti M1 SE MDX DAC - $10,000
Tien Audio CTS Turntable (with torque control) - $8,000
Phase Nation PT2000 Cart - $8,000
Viola Audio Labs Sonata Two Chassis Preamp - $33,800
Viola Audio Labs Cadence Power Amplifier - $34,000
Rockport Technologies Atria II's Loudspeakers on Still points Ultra 7's - $38,000/$10,392
Stillpoints Reference ESS 40" wide rack...
complete with Ultra 7 V2s, Rail Grids and Ultra 6 V2s throughout - $65,000
Stillpoints Aperture II's - $960 x 9 - $8,640
Stillpoints Aperture Stands - $719 x 4 - $2,876
Stillpoints Component Stand with Ultra 6 V2's - $12,190
Stillpoints Rectifiers $600 X 5 - $3,000
Purist Audio Design 35th Anniversary Digital - $4499
Purist Audio Design Corvus Speaker - $3309
Purist Audio Design Aquila Power Cable (2) - $2238
Purist Audio Design Dominus Power Cables (3) - $13827
Purist Audio Design Corvus Interconnects (3) - $6357
Purist Audio Design Neptune Power Cable - $2409
Shunyata Research Everest with cable - $10,000
Shunyata Research ALTAIRA Grounding System - $8,400


What struck me - almost immediately, was the remarkably neutral tonality realized with this bold setup. The music was delivered with a very laid-back sense of ease, yet with a vividly detailed presentation. I was taken by how accurately it was able to reconstruct the shimmer and energy of a well-recorded piano. Nicely done.



Coming Up Next
Next up, starting on the ground floor... Till then, please, Enjoy the music!




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