I attended APOXNA 2019 on Friday morning (10am-12:30pm-ish). This is a great time to attend the event due to lower foot traffic at the event, as compared to weekend days. But there are drawbacks, too, like absentee exhibitors or less than adequately setup listening rooms. Vendors should seriously consider setting up their rooms before the happy hour on Thursday night. I elected to scratch the following rooms because they weren’t ready to showcase their gear when I got there: Aesthetix, CAT and Linear Tube Audio. As will become evident, I started at the top of my list, floor wise (Fl. 14) and walked my way down to the watering hole on the Mezzanine level.
SANDERS SOUND SYSTEMS (Room 1429): This was the first room I visited at the show. Roger was showcasing his Model 10e Speaker System with his loudspeaker management system and Magtech Amplifier. The Model 10e is a flat panel ESL. The sound was reminiscent of my experience with Martin-Logan Aries and Quest speakers. The soundstage and imaging was outstanding and utterly transparent without any apparent sonic impression of the presence of speakers in the room.
AGD PRODUCTIONS, INC. (Room 1418): I finally met Alberto War, designer of the AGD Productions, Inc. GaN-FET Class D monoblock amps. He showcased two versions of the amps that differed only in the top acrylic panel, wherein the original transparent, “see through” acrylic panel and an alternative, opaque “piano black” acrylic panel were offered. Both Vivace amps were rated with an input impedance of 40 k-Ohm, which is considerably more consumer-audio friendly than the original “pro” version having an input impedance of 600 Ohms. The sound quality from the system, featuring Ocean Way Audio Monterey Loudspeakers, was effortless and very engaging.
EVOLUTION ACOUSTICS (Room 1440): I own a set of these speakers from this company, so I was curious was they had to offer. I also wanted to meet the importer, Jonathan Tinn whom I had communicated with for years. The set-up include primarily an Ohio owner’s audio setup that included an analog front end with a Durand Tonearm, darTZeel preamps and amps and Wave Kinetics gear. The Evolution Acoustic speakers appeared to be a novel variation of the Micro 2 speakers having external crossovers in separate enclosures. The owner even had a high-end reel to reel setup ready to go for taped sessions. Impressive! The sound field was amazing for the space.
LINEAR TUBE AUDIO (Rooms 606, 696): I was truly interested in seeing this company’s implementation of David Berning’s OTL-preamp design. Room 606 was locked all of Friday morning. LTA was present in the Anticables room though I only stayed there for a couple minutes before moving to other room. LTA was also present in the “Ear Gear” Room (8415), which I never got to during my visit. It’s too bad the Principals for LTA weren’t around Friday morning.
BENCHMARK MEDIA SYSTEMS (Room 670): This was a revelatory experience for me, but not for the typical reasons related to sound: Their DAC’s and new AHB2 amps are so diminutive that it shocks the conscious! Truly compact designs that can accommodate the most constrained spaces. And yes, the sound presentation was excellent for such a small room.
TEO AUDIO (Room 594): This was the last room I went to before leaving, as I discovered Teo Audio was not a main exhibitor this year but was nevertheless present. Teo Audio IC’s and speaker cables were showcased in the High Water Sound Room (Room 594), along with TW-Acustic Phono gear ($22,000 setup featuring the $10,000 GT2 Turntable along with 2x12” Tonearms at $6,000 each) with each tonearm tipped with either an Ortofon Winfeld Ti cartridge ($4,390) or a Miyajima Labs Zero Mono cartridge ($2,150), New Audio Frontiers electronics (Stradivari Phono Stage ($12,000), Stradivari Evolution Line Stage ($12,000) and Ultimate 211 SE Monoblocks ($34,000)) Horning Hybrid Systems Eufrodite Ellipse MK.III speakers ($28,000).
While the sound was clean and listenable, I was shocked by some of the comments from the exhibitor regarding the Teo Audio cables. He said that Taras of Teo Audio liked the lower priced IC’s for their tonality but felt that those cables did not fair well in systems having multiple driver loudspeakers. I asked him to clarify whether he was referring to Teo Audio speaker cables rather than Teo Audio IC’s. My understanding is that Teo Audio IC’s have a rather broad bandwidth, that is, in the GigaHz range. How then could it be that the IC’s having such a broad bandwidth can be so limited on multi-driver loudspeaker systems? The exhibitor maintained his story.
Clearly something was garbled in the CA-US English translation!
GLENN POOR’S AUDIO/TECHNICS (Rooms 442 & 444): My pilgrimage to Axpona would not be complete without saying a greeting to Geoff—an audio dealer pal from my University of Illinois days at Urbana. I spoke with the Technics Rep about the design of the Technics SU-G700 integrated amp, which is all digital integrated amp. According to the Technics Rep, all signal inputs, including analog signal inputs, are converted to digital signals before processing and amplification.
CORE POWER TECHNOLOGIES A/V, EMERALD PHYSICS AND LIVING SYSTEMS AUDIO (Room 478): So this was another treat, largely for the A’gon Forum members. A production version of the CPT Deep Core product was showcased, along with the CPT 1800 conditioner. The small LSA monitors presented an impressive 35 Hz frequency response (shaking the walls) owing to a patented, double magnet driver design that enables twice the excursion of a typical driver.
FERN & ROBY (Room 354): Fern & Roby showcased their turntable, along with ModWright phono stage, ModWright Integrated Amp and a ModWright modified Pioneer server. I don’t recall the speakers they used in the room, but the sound was remarkably free of typical tubey sound, displaying a very clean balanced soundstage presentation and tonality.
ATC/LONE MOUNTAIN AUDIO (Room 362): ATC Consumer Audio Distributor, Lone Mountain Audio, displayed SCM50 passive and SCM50 active floor standing speakers, along with ATC’s CDA2–CD Pre-Amplifier DAC and power amps. Sound was typical ATC sound—utterly transparent and detailed. No word yet when their in-house tweeter retrofit kit will be available for the older Pro SCM20-2A active monitors, which I own.
SCHIIT AUDIO (Room 384): This was a highlight for my trip out to Axpona 2019, and Jason and his crew did not disappoint. They had their SCHIIT together.
SOL in production: the long-awaited table was playing at the show. Y-shaped aluminum cast plinth—if one can call it that shape, with a separate (as in isolated) belt-drive motor, the carbon fiber tonearm is said to be a floating unipivot with RT-adjustable VTA and cueing mechanism. I did not get a chance to study in detail the tonearm cabling connections, other than to notice connections on both the turntable plinth near where the tonearm is fitted and a second independent silver box for additional cabling connections to the consumer-supplied phono stage. Jason said (twice—as, in disbelief, I asked him to repeat it to me) the SOL had $699 projected price with launch (maybe) in May, 2019.
The Yggy DAC was engaged in the system, along with other SCHIIT gear (Freya preamp and their new Aegir amp, among others). And contrary to reports on the A’gon Forum threads of having a hot plate-like, heated top surface, the top surface of the Yggy was cool to touch.