Went again this year and found the show to be larger, higher quality sounding rooms than previous shows. I have been to many brick and mortar stores which have good sounding rooms, but at Axpona this year many rooms were better sounding than their store show rooms!
My best sounding large room was the VAC/Von Schweikert Audio/Esoteric, room. The Wilson room with the DCS stack was also very good. My best small room, and there were many, was the Gershman Accoustics room, their new speakers were sounding great with top end electronics. Also, I was impressed with NOLA room again.
Thoughts on my 3rd AXPONA. I need to preface while I visited quite a few rooms with expensive gear, I am a 'poor' audiophile who just finished putting 2 kids through college, have had to very recently replace two cars (one with >210,000 miles and the other just too clunky) so two car loans, and trying to pay off my mortgage so I can retire! That said, I was especially interested in realistically affordable (for me) gear. However, I still spent quality time listening to speakers well beyond my means. Here were my favorites
1. VANATOO - not on my screen but while talking with none other than David Janzen he strongly encouraged going up to the 4th floor and taking a listen. He was absolutely right! The entry level powered monitors (Transaparent Zero) were simply amazing, especially for <$375. If you are looking for speakers for your desktop or small room, you should consider these. They also exhibited a new larger model that will be available in mid-summer - these were even better.
2. ELAC Andante AS-61. Heard these at last year's show and I was very impressed. Since that time and especially recently elsewhere on Audiogon Forums these speakers have taken quite a bashing from some folks. Hearing them again, all I can say is "Have those folks actually listened to these in person?" Dynamic, great air, beautiful midrange. All at an affordable price.
3. Alta Audio Io - Never heard of this company but visited to see the Van Alstine electronics. These may be my best affordable speakers of the show that I personally heard. Open, spacious, full, great bottom and top ends and liquid midrange. These are making me think bout how I might be able to sell my current speakers which I truly love (and a pair of Spendor floorstanders currently not in use) and replace them with these.
Others outside my price range that I really enjoyed were:
Volti Audio Rival - great sound and gorgeous cabinets. If I ever win the lottery and get a bigger house! Spatial Audio X2 Modular Dipole - for me, cost-prohibitive plus very not cat friendly! But boy, did these sound great! Harbeth 40.2 - see Volti. Aerial Acoustics 7T - everything written about these sure seemed true to me. ACT SCM40 - beautiful presentation.
Overall, a very enjoyable show, and really nice new venue. Now if only the exhibitors would just lower the volumes a bit! It really made some rooms unlistenable. Why do so many feel 95 - 100 dB dB or louder in a small room is the way their speakers sound best and that most people listen at that volume?
This was my second year at Axpona and my buddy and I had a great time. Some of the brands I didn’t care for last year I thought sounded great this year. For example, last year I did not care for the MBL room but I was blown away this year. It sounded best in the sweet spot but the sweet spot was huge. Plus the music they were playing was fun; Blood Sweat and Tears (Spinning Wheels), Michael Jackson. I voted it the room most likely to break out into a party. Loved it.
Other rooms I thought were great: - The big Von Schweikert room was awesome just like last year. - Legacy Room. - Harbeth 40.2 speakers. - I totally agree with the statement about Aerial 7t but I was probably more impressed with the 5t’s in the same room. Very full, natural and spacious sound from a small speaker. Those might be my next speakers. - Martin Logan Impressions with Benchmark electronics in a relatively small room were holographic. OK maybe those are my next speakers. - Dynaudio Special 40s with Octave tube integrated were surprising with the bass response from such a small speaker. In fact, I’m really surprised with the overall sound quality and bass response from small speakers in general. (BTW thanks to the Octave rep for playing my requests.) - Raidho monitors were fantastic. But boy the price. - The Neat speakers were, well, neat. Tiny little things making really good bass but I wanted to play with placement. I felt like they were too close to the wall. - I too liked the ELAC Adantes, maybe just a tad too sharp sounding but for 2500 bucks I thought these had great promise. - Primaluna room was big and vivid with the Golden Ear Triton References. I’ve heard the Golden Ears at my local dealer and there I wasn’t impressed at all. But at the show with Primaluna they were great. Go figure. - Jeff Joseph room with the reel to reel had a presence to the sound that was unmatched. - Plus a bunch of others that I just don’t remember.
In my opinion, musical bliss is not reliant on price. There was a lot of great stuff that was relatively affordable and there was some mega expensive stuff that just didn’t do much for me. My one criticism would be the music being played in many of the rooms but this isn’t new. A little too polite mellow jazzy kind of stuff. Don’t get me wrong I like that too but I would prefer to hear more of a range. But again it was great fun, plus getting to talk to all kinds of folks about this stuff. Hope to do it again next year.
My two cents on AXPONA 2018: On the cab ride out from the airport, which was 1.5x the meter price, I wasn't digging it. When I got to the hotel and got a feel for the vast number of rooms, I quickly recovered my enthusiasm. BEST ROOMS AT THE SHOW (IMO) 1. Joseph Audio/Rowland/Cardas---Pearl S3s driven by the Rowland Daemon Integrated. Source was a Marka tape deck with a Doshi pre. Nothing beat this little room. It was audio magic at 3pm on Sunday. Met Jeff Rowland; nice man. Hard to find any fault in this room except its diminutive size. 2. YG Acoustics/Audionet--Powerful! I find the YG Acoustics sound to be too detailed in the treble for me generally. But the Audionet gear transformed the YG treble into something simultaneously detailed and smooth. I heard YGs in two other rooms and they weren't close to the sound synergy happening in this room. The Audionet amps had ample headroom while driving a whole lot of speaker playing dynamic symphonic passages. If you have a massive audio cavern, this setup should be on a short list to fill the space. 3. Constellation/Martin Logan room was blues butter when I was in there. Felt like the singer was standing right in front me. The room was simple; the sound infectious. Others to mention: Border Patrol DAC with Volti speakers. Nice room. If you are looking for a DAC and don't want to spend more than $2K, you should seriously consider the SE unit. Very impressive for the money. Prana Fidelity--I had never heard these products. The manufacturer was in the room; energetic young guy who clearly loves his work. I was taken by the sound I heard. This appears to me to be another high value proposition. Thrax Audio--a confusing room with lots of gear up front not plugged in. Turns out they had every bell and whistle present but were only running the entry level set up. Once I knew that, it explained why I wasn't hearing a massive sound from massive gear. They were in a huge room--they should have plugged it all in and pushed a lot of air through the space. Nagra/Organic room--I think I would have liked it; but two guys kept talking about carbon fiber. The music was at 60db. Their conversation was at 65db. One of the guys was the salesman. Can't sell audio if we can't hear the music. I'm not bemoaning the music listening level. I'm saying people should talk less and listen more at an audio expo.
laserjock1963 I listened to the Revel F228be but I can’t give you too much info other than really liking them. Though not huge speakers I was sort of expecting them to overpower the room when I first walked in (why I thought that I have no idea) but they sounded poised and refined with some driving music. My buddy and I left the room with the intention of giving them a more serious listen, but completely forgot to follow up and only remembered that when I saw your post. We walked out of that room saying they were really, really good. Man, wish I had remembered to follow up with those.
With 59 as my next birthday, reading astewart8944's description of me as "an energetic young guy" is more than kind. When TAS said they were going to include me in their History of High-End (Electronics) coffee table book, I presupposed published historical references applied to those no longer with us--and felt a little awkward. Thank you, astewart8944, for helping me feel renewed.
It was my first Axpona, and I was impressed. Most rooms sounded good. Some downstairs rooms seemed cavernous. The full-up Avantguard system in a room suite seemed ridiculous.
Always amazed at the breadth of tastes and hearing. Here were my impressions...
Most realistic sound - Horning Hybrid with an SET amp. 98db efficient. This to me seemed the system for the true connoisseur of fine recordings. Never heard of them before but got a tip from some guys at the hotel. I'm not sure how dynamic they are, but it seemed like all noise and fog had been stripped away leaving only the singer's voice and the musical instruments.
The most modern sound - Gayle Sanders Eiken system. This system was all digital-like amps in the speakers and DSP's on steroids, and sounded extremely good. We're entering a new age of sound processing, and in the end, digital will win. It eventually can mimic, tailor, correct, and surpass the current big iron and glow tubes. It's a replay of Kodachrome vs. digital cameras.
The "it" sound -- Doshi Audio. I by chance had dinner with an industry insider who said some of the top companies use Doshi in-house as their reference. Nick Doshi is the real deal. But the units are rather industrial looking.
Most surprising sound - at the high-end, the full Einstein system. For their size and depth, their speakers were robust, and the bass from that shallow box surprised me. At the low-end, Elac $1000 system including their 60 watt integrated and two stand-mounted speakers. Can't recall the name...Debut 2?
I was considering the Revel F228 be, but a woman's voice seemed a little shouty. Maybe it was a bad recording or I'm just afraid of Beryllium. I wanted to hear the Elac AF-61, but couldn't find them. One room had Elac on the door, but were playing JBL's.
I drifted into the Sonist room playing their new Concerto 4 Gen2 and my foot started tapping. I looked at the brochure and they seemed so reasonably priced that I asked if the price was for each. It was for the pair. Then the owner said he didn't want to drag them home and had a good discount on the show pair. I listened to a song or two and bought them. I had some restrictions on height and "not ugly" and these seemed to fill all my audio and WAF needs (we'll see.) They were using the new VAC integrated but the speakers are 97db, and don't need many watts.
Also liked Joseph Audio, thought the Golden Ear Reference was cleaner than expected, and thought the Lumin White speakers had one of the clearest windows onto the performance. I missed a lot but can't recall any real duds.
Thank you for this post jab. *The von Schweikert Ultra 11’s had a HIDDEN SUBWOOFER in that room!! - But I digress..... I FINALLY made it Sunday! It was my first AXPONA. I now know to sign up for at least two days next year. I did not hear nearly all of the speaker rooms, but the two that blew me away were first the Legacy Focus SE’s! I reintroduced myself to Bill Dudleston. We met ages ago at a P.S.A.C.S. stereo club meeting in IL. What a great Gent he is. He was not playing the larger legacy’s at the time, but the S.E.’s sounded like Heaven on earth. "There Is Something Happening Here" Then I walked into The Audio Company room, with the von Schweikert Ultra 11’s. Michael Fremer walked in, sat down in front of me, then he moved to the front. I SHOULD have introduced myself, but I was afraid he would go Don Rickles on me! LOL He brought in a Clarity Audio, custom-made album of the Who in white vinyl, 45 RPM, and hand pressed! He was not shy about standing up and explaining all about it before the TT operator played it. The sound was simply astounding! *In that room was a hidden 15" subwoofer. In that curtained off little room that was in front, off to the right as you walk in there. I asked the gentleman who was back there moving something, and he said it was for cancellation, which I assume he meant room nodes? Maybe out of phase like the old Pass Phantom Shadows? They should be UP FRONT about that, literally. They should have explained it. I noticed during the playing of The Who, those little woofers were really moving and looked ready to give it up if pushed a bit harder. I could see their movement from my 3rd-row seat. Hmmmmm. I will say, those von Schweikert Ultra 11’s, IMO because of the large vertical stack array, controlled that whole HUGE room perfectly! It sounded like they were ten feet away from me instead of, maybe twenty-five? With Michael’s pressing, it was the sound that God listens to. I REALLY wanted to hear the Focus S.E.’s next to them, but...... Anyway, I do not know why I didn’t go to one of these before, but next year, I will hear every room there with the larger speakers. I can’t wait to hear all of the "Best in show" impressions! Me: (Dave Smith on Facebook. The guy with a plane over my head in my selfie. P.M. me if you want to connect there.)
Might as well throw in my .02. Much better venue this year than last and lots of good listening. Highlights for me. In the cost no object rooms... Sonus Faber, MBL. Next were the Wilson Sapphires and the other Quintessence rooms, Thrax, Martin Logan, the Magnepan 3.7i, Whammerdyne room, Dynaudio and several others. Bang for the buck, Vanatoo Transparent Zero, ELAC, Hsu. The vendors area was very good too
I heard the Tekton Impact Monitors and felt it was one of the very few smaller rooms to get the speakers to disappear, matched to the room so appropriate bass w/o boom or bloat, precise vocal image, believable voices, piano clear, big dynamic swings, good deep bass extension, value extremely high, have DIs coming! You may have seen me, tall guy with left arm in a sling.
There was definitely some amazing stuff at the show! Two of the systems that impressed me the most were the Ayon/Lumenwhite and the PranaFidelity.
As far as I'm concerned the Ayon/Lumenwhite is probably the best sounding system I've ever heard. Too bad it's way out of my price range.
I had never heard of PranaFidelity before but I really liked what I heard. The 'bookshelf' speaker just blew me away and it's a two-way. I want a pair of those!
The Salk speakers with the Accutron drivers were very nice. I could live with a pair of those quite easily.
The Fritz speakers were quite nice. I'd like to see Fritz make a 3-way or 4-way floorstander similar to a Legacy Audio Focus SE or Signature SE.
Speaking of Legacy Audio, I'm a big fan of their speakers. Wonderful stuff!
I don't care for horn designs so I didn't care for the Volti room. Too bright and harsh for my ears. There was another room that had a pair of horn design speakers (can't remember the brand/name of the speaker) but they were also bright and harsh sounding to me.
I heard the Tektons and liked what I heard. Not bad! I wouldn't mind having a pair of them. I'll pass on the orange paint job though. I prefer to see wood. That's one of the reasons I like Salk and Daedalus; the cabinetry is killer!
Joseph Audio/Rowland/Cardas- I head these in the hallway and thought someone was playing a piano in the room. NO, just the Pearl S3s, Cannot get it out of my head.Was disappointed that AXPONA did nothing for my two $25 tickets for us veterans or seniors, and I told the so. Paul
It is interesting how differently people hear things. With all of the hype for Tekton, I was very eager to hear them. I was there all three days and stopped in the room for a listen half a dozen times to try to get a wide range of music to listen to. I even got to listen to a couple of songs that I brought with me. They never made me say, "I have to buy those". In fact, I thought several speakers in their price range were better, including the Monitor Audio Silver floorstanders, Totem Sky, Vehement Audio monitors, and both of the offerings from LSA. YMMV.
At even lower prices, both the Vanatoo and Riva rooms sounded very good for those on a tight budget.
I went into the room with the Maggies 3 times, one was ok, but on two occasions, they sounded worse than I have ever heard a Magnepan speaker sound. And I have heard Maggies many times. On top of that, I normally like the Silnote rooms, so it is a head scratcher. Maybe I was in there at the wrong time.
I agree that the Prana monitors were very good, a true pleasant surprise. There were more good sounding rooms than normal. I also really liked the Magico A3, the Thrax room, Kharma, both of the Tidal rooms, Lumen White, Eikon, and Legacy. There were many others that sounded good also that I can't recall offhand, but overall the show was very good.
I went to Axpona for the first time this year with my good buddy Mike. We had a good time and went to every room. That’s right, every last one!
It became easier and easier as we went room-to-room to immediately make an assessment of setups that sounded good and sounded bad. There were some amazing systems all around, some amazingly good systems done on a budget that were very impressive, and more than one cost-no-object setup that was less than impressive. Occasionally a room was slighted by a less than stellar recording, but sticking around for a second song would tell you if the recording was to blame or the room and setup generally was lacking.
In no particular order, here were my detailed impressions:
The best-of-the-best was the Sonus Faber paired with Audio Research ARC Ref. 750SEs tube monoblocks. I swear to you it sounded like Louis Armstrong was on a stage in front of me playing live. Later on we returned to hear Beyonce’s "Partition" playing; it was a modern song (loudness wars destruction; garbage in, garbage out) but still quite impressive.
A close second was a big Wilson Audio room. Wilsons - when set up correctly - never cease to sound great. In fact several of the rooms who were promoting other gear (tables, cables, etc. and not speakers) chose to use Wilsons as their speakers. There is a solid reason for that.
My third favorite - in all honesty - were the three rooms featuring GoldenEar Triton References. They are indeed amazing speakers and a tremendous value. I heard them in the GoldenEar room, a PS Audio big room, and one vendor (Saturday Audio Exchange) also had them in use. They sounded great in all three rooms. I am a bit biased and I own Triton Ones; my impression is that the Refs are like my T1’s except more refined. A bit more clear, a bit better bass, and a bit taller and wider. The PS Audio room with the T-Refs sounded very, very good. Easily top three for me.
Fourth place was a room featuring some big Martin-Logan electrostats. They sounded amazing. I have always loved ML’s...and once again they did not disappoint. I will own a pair at some point in the future along with my Tritons (or maybe I’ll upgrade to T-Refs) and of course I’ll always keep the Mirage M1-Si’s I recently acquired (I also have two pairs of M3-si’s and a pair of M5-si’s...I love Mirage bipolars and the way they disappear). I should have asked Sandy Gross if he will ever make a GoldenEar bipolar speaker lineup...maybe I’ll e-mail him.
Continuing on...I had a few "must hear" rooms on my list; MBL’s were one, and so were the Tekton and Magico rooms. Sadly, all were initially "meh" to me. The Tektons sounded "bright" and I did not care for them as much as many other speakers I heard. They did not have the new mega-tweeter Tektons that everyone is talking about on display or available for listening.
The Magico room itself was a total let-down; they did not bring any big, impressive super-high dollar monster speakers, and the smaller pair that they had did not do much for me; I preferred the sound of my GoldenEars as well as many other show speakers I heard. Later on, I heard a different room that just so happened to have some larger, more "magic" Magico’s playing, and that pair did indeed sound quite good, so the jury is still out for me on what they can actually sound like and whether they are worth all the hype. I would have to spend a lot of time listening to them and carefully weigh the value they represent before I could ever seriously consider them. I preferred several other brands better such as GoldenEar and Martin-Logan that to my ears sound better and are cheaper. Don't get me wrong, the bigger Magico's sounded good, but they didn't blow me away. I expected them to blow me away. With that said, I do get the hype and why people like them. They were very accurate and detailed.
Concerning the MBL’s: There were two rooms featuring MBL’s. The room with smaller MBL’s sounded very nice. Bass was a bit lacking, but the mids and highs and sense of open space and a nice deep sound-stage was very pleasant. The room with bigger, more expensive MBL’s ($75,000+) sounded awful. The bass in multiple songs had a very strange frequency / resonance issue. It may well have been the room interacting with the speakers, but the bottom line is that it did not sound pleasing to my ears. I had never heard MBL’s before, so I was very curious. Overall, I will consider them a strange curiosity and cannot say I would ever aspire to own a pair. Even the small ones that I liked were bested by other speakers I heard at less than half the price.
Other interesting rooms were Daedalus (amazing craftsmanship and the speakers sounded excellent!) - I could see owning a pair of those.
I also liked the Exogal speakers I heard. Very nice.
I had two big surprises where the (very good) quality of the sound seemed to not match what I saw in front of me. "Ryan" was the first pleasant surprise; these were $4,000 bookshelf speakers on stands that sounded absolutely amazing - they sounded like speakers costing much, much more. It was a very well done setup. The second surprise were the Elac monitors. I could not believe how great a set of small, sub-$600 speakers could sound.
In my "best bang for the buck" category you have to give props to Emotiva and Hsu research. Emo had a full home theater setup on the main floor and it sounded great! Of course it featured the un-available RMC-1 processor. Heck, I own an XMC-1 myself - and they still don’t have the Dolby Atmos board out for it despite talking about it for over a year. I don’t know if the HDCP2.2 HDMI board is out yet either. Emo makes great stuff, but they need to fix their marketing and production issues if they want to be a serious contender as they are angering many of their existing customers with continued delays and broken promises.
Dr. Hsu was in the Hsu room and he gave a great home theater demo. He pointed out the low cost (great value), great sound and amazing bass their products offer. If on a budget, Hsu is a great way to go for good sound. You simply can’t beat his subs for their performance at their price point.
Gayle Sanders had a new full digital setup (Eikon) being rolled out. It was a complete end-to-end setup (processor, amplification, speakers) for ~$25,000 retail. It sounded fine, but did not blow me away, and I much prefer his older Martin-Logan electrostatic designs, particularly at that price point. For that kind of $ I could pick a much better system from gear I heard at the show. Kind of like the Magico's, they did everything well, but did not impress me overall.
There was a room with lots of snake oil / cable nonsense set up, from carbon fiber outlet covers to cables with all sorts of cable magnet witchcraft and some guy with a dry erase board talking about how they shift the space-time continuum and make your stuff sound better.
Lastly, I saw many amazingly expensive turntables, but few were in use - and digital sadly ruled the show, with lots of TIDAL/MQA streaming setups in use. I did hear a nice Triangle Art setup.
In the main expo, I picked up a SWEET 6 record Stevie Ray Vaughan 45 RPM limited edition remaster setup from Acoustic sounds. I talked to Chad Kassem himself about it before I pulled the trigger. It wasn’t cheap at four bills, but I love SRV - so it will be worth every penny.
My only gripe was a lack of restrooms on each floor (you had to go down to the main floor or sneak into a demo-rooms bathroom) and a lack of listening etiquette with some attendees (if you are in a stereo listening room and folks are waiting in a line for the center seats to open up to give a proper stereo listen, be it in the front, middle or back center), it is not polite (in my opinion) to go sit in the front row in a left or right (off center-line) seat where your head and body block the direct path from either the left or right speakers to the center listeners! Perhaps they thought they were being polite by not taking a coveted center-seat, but it screwed up more than one room where I was trying to get a good listen to the equipment. Many of the vendors were talking too much in their rooms as well. I think they should just let people listen, or take the side conversations into the hallway.
I can’t say I’d go every year as a consumer, but I am glad I did this time, and I had a blast with my buddy Mike. It proved to me what I’ve always known - that my two ears and the squishy gray matter between them are the best way to judge equipment and speakers. It did also confirm that a lot of the stuff that gets consistently hyped (Wilson, GoldenEar, Sonus Faber, Emotiva, ARC, Martin-Logan, Magico) gets hyped for a reason...it is because it sounds good to a lot of people!
I very much enjoyed AXPONA this year and opted for the 2 day pass. I was there both Friday and Saturday and am glad, not just because the amount of rooms to cover. @ihor mentioned the db levels at some of these rooms and I couldn’t agree more. There should be a max db level as one room with it set to high shot my ears on both days, to the point I couldn’t walk in another room and listen. Other thoughts in no particular order:
The new location was fantastic and the atrium layout made it feel less crowded compared to rooms on both sides of the hallway at previous locations.
ARC/Sonus Faber: one of the best systems at the show the past 3 years. It had it all, detail, soundstage, instrument timbre. If you heard analogue on it was even more of a treat.
Wilson/D’Augustino: for the 3rd year in a row I did not like this combo. I didn’t think the sound was balanced and did not feel like I was sitting in a studio or concert hall. Disappointed again.
Aesthetix: Great sound, both smooth and detailed and had a great under $10k TT.
Joseph: He’s got it. The sense of realism and soundstage when paired with that tape deck is hard to beat.
Martin Logan’s: every system I heard paired with MLs I thought performed extremely well. Detailed, great soundstage, sense of realism, and range were better than they’ve ever been. On one piece played the crescendo at the finale was just as lifelike and detailed as the single instrument in the middle of the score. Glad they didn’t try to pair with McIntosh this year again.
Gobel Aeon - did anyone else get a chance to listen to these? I thought they were some of the best I’ve ever heard. The speaker was designed with an almost full range transducer combined with a woofer. Their engineer explained the transducer to me, and it doesnt work in the same way a dipole does that moves forward and back to reproduce sound. Therefore you don’t get sound bouncing off the back wall out of phase. When listening I felt as though we were sitting in the orchestra hall or in the studio. The sound reproduction was incredible in every way (IMO). I guess for $150k they should sound good :). In comparing them to a speaker of similar price range, I would take them over the Raidho $140k models all day long as their life like presence and transparency were far and away better.
Lots of other good stuff too! Missed out on hearing the Odyssey stuff as my ears were too shot after the Maggie’s room nor did I get to hear Atma-sphere for same reason (though not the Maggie’s).
I totally agree Axpona was better this year, it was promising to see attendance up and the nicer venue had gravity. Great reception hosted by the founder too:) Below are a few standouts on the show for me. Like many said here I will echo the J.Rowland & Joseph Audio room was near perfection. I would have liked to pick a few tracks I know well for reference but it had a realism that was uncanny. Class D sorcery! I always dig the Volti Rival Triode room, its fun and incredible what they do with 16 watts, that room ROCKS, free beer after 4! Prana Fidelity had passion and really great sound. Beautiful hand made finish. Gryphon has incredible reproduction of vocal tracks. Timbre and tonal balance. They had the very best DJ! The big Sonus Aida's & Audio Research monster 750's playing their drum demo > holy sh*t Salk makes great gear, it was everywhere. Again the VAC - Von Schweikert room did not disappoint. I got lucky Sunday and listened in with the press folks to some special pressings of The Who and then someone in the back made my day breaking out Dead Can Dance's Spritchaser> Song of the Stars r-mastered on vinyl. Big speakers in a big room! The bass seemed a bit overdriven to me which was noticeable on a few tracks but still wow what a fun room. I think everything plugged into a Wilson speaker sounded good this year. Design, how about the VU meters on the Reference Audio Research amps? or Technics big juice on their turntables and beautiful classic lines on their reference amps?
How about value? I love everything Pure Audio Project does, the highs are so clean, revealing but not harsh and an open baffle powered by a 2A3 has a magic like nothing else. Their big room was running thru the only COS dac at the show. -I have a D2 and it made me a digital convert. Power cables and audio foils by Verastarr. Cables matter, I want to hear the furniture:) The Dynaudio room always sounds great. Vehement has some of the best sounding bookshelves I heard all weekend. Their setup was dialed-in and they have real passion for sound. Did anyone else hear the Elac's, they really did design a great sounding speaker with the E6. $200! How bout HSU, the nicest guy at the show and still one of the best deals in an audiophile sub. Emotiva has a crazy bargain in home theatre with 16 individual channels individually decoded, 360 immersive sound. Their demo was impressive.
Hats off to Avantgarde who turned the room into your living room, I finished the show with their big horns and 12 watts of Class A Sunday @445pm getting the Led out, then the last song was Another Brick in the Wall, turned to 11 and I was center stage. Thanks guys, go Germany!!
This was my first AXPONA and it was an amazing experience.
Some of my favorites:
Big Von Schweikert Room - What can you say about a room of gear that costs more than most homes? It was absolutely amazing, full range, incredible sound stage and imaging, absolutely effortless dynamics, smooth and detailed, just about perfect in every way.
Big MBLs - Incredible volume output without losing coherency, and on an African chant and drum track they played the speakers demonstrated an absolutely chilling brutality - I could feel the beats of the drums in my bones, it was like standing in front of a marching band drum line playing at full-tilt, it was visceral and breathtaking (literally, almost hard to breath from the SPL they were producing at some points).
Revel F228be and M126be - The most well-rounded, top-to-bottom-excellent speakers at the show for a price that's attainable for most. They didn't falter on anything, soundstage, dynamics, imaging, very surprising bass extension for the bookshelf (and that without compromising the integrity of the midrange which was even more impressive with it only being a 2-way), beautiful finishes, etc. The F228be were easily the best $10,000 speakers at the show, with the M126be getting so close in performance for 40% of the price that Revel might have a problem on their hands.
Gayle Sanders Eikon - Another great entry showcasing the future of high-end audio. Active speakers with amplifiers matched to each driver, digital crossovers, and excellent room correction solve so many of the old problems of audio it's amazing more companies aren't embracing it. These just sounded flat out awesome, with great dynamics, some of the best coherency at the show, and a clear open sound that made anything played on them come alive.
Legacy Audio - Like Gayle Sanders, Legacy has embraced the future with active drivers (though their two setups I checked out, the Aeris and Valor are hybrid active/passive designs) and room correction with their amazing Wavelet Processor. Beautiful cabinets, big rich sound with a nice full lower midrange and midbass that made male vocals sound very fulfilling, truly deep bass, dynamic slam, open clear treble without harshness, just great sound all the way around. I'd love to have a room and budget big enough to own a pair myself.
Paradigm Persona 5F/Martin Logan Expression 13A Room - More hits on the 'room correction makes better sound' parade, with the Paradigms using Anthem's amazing ARC-enabled STR-Pre and STR-Amp, and the ML's taking full advantage of their built-in ARC for their cone woofers while being driven with McIntosh electronics. There were so many rooms at the show where poor acoustics harmed what should have been amazing set-ups it's almost ridiculous that more companies haven't been embracing digital room correction. The Paradigm Personas sounded great as they always do, but the big surprise was the MLs. They had probably the best imaging of the entire show, with an orchestral piece drawing the entire orchestra across the soundstage with appropriate size, width, and depth an each instrument coming from exactly where it should. They also showed incredible blend between the Electrostatic panels and the cone woofer, with a big bari-sax solo in a jazz piece they played traveling up and down between the cone and the ESL panel and not changing in tonality at all.
Salk/Schiit Room - The entire setup cost less than single pieces of gear in adjacent rooms, and it absolutely killed in terms of sound quality. The Salk Song3As with their RAAL ribbon tweeters, Accuton ceramic midrange, and meaty Satori woofer down low just sounded beautiful and musical, and looked great with Jim Salk's famed cabinet work. The Salk Streamplayer fed a stack of Schiit gear (Gungnir DAC, Freya Preamp, and two Vidar amps bridged to act as monoblocks) that was beautifully transparent, delivered plenty of power, and got out of the way to let the Salks do their thing. Easily one of the absolute best bang-for-buck setups at the show.
Elac - Everything Elac brought sounded great. The new Debut 2.0 line raises the bar again for ultra-inexpensive speakers. A pair of $300 bookshelves has no right to sound that good. Combined with the Elac Element integrated (which, full disclosure, I own one of myself and love) handling power and room correction this setup killed, not just for the price, but overall in terms of SQ without budget being in consideration. While they have nice rich bass they don't have the low-end impact of larger speakers, but that Elac Element has built-in bass management with a sub-out and automatic blend and phase correction for a sub, so adding low-end oomph would be very plug-and-play.
The Elac Adantes also impressed, and they were showing off the first Elac in-house designs since Elac acquired Audio Alchemy. The new Alchemy gear is black and sleek, and sounded great paired with the Adante stand-mounts. Unfortunately it doesn't have the bass management and room correction features of Elac's lower-cost Element integrated, but apparently they're working on a higher end line of Alchemy gear that will, stay tuned.
Hsu - As mentioned above one of the absolute greats in terms of sound quality for budget. Hsu's CCB8s punch well above their weight. Dr. Hsu thumbed his nose at some of the crazier cable/electronics setups at the show by running his setup from a cheap Onkyo receiver using the kind of cables that come free in an HTIB setup, and it still sounded great. His most affordable sub, the VTF-1 combined with the CCB-8s in a 2.1 channel music demo had great soundstage, imaging, full-range sound, and a great blend of detail and musicality. Turning to his HT demo with three more CCB-8s creating a 5.1 demo really raised the bar and lowered the price on a turn-key HT setup (this was essentially his 5.1 Hybrid 1 package with CCB-8s, adding the Onkyo Receiver and Sony Blu-Ray player he was using you could get the entire setup for well under $3,000). After the HT demo he indulged me and hooked up his flagship VTF-15H subwoofer along with the CCB-8s in another 2.1 channel demo, this time playing some great organ recordings that featured 32' pipes and 16hz bass - it was epic.
JTR - Another great HT room (though considerably larger and pricier than Hsu's ) the full-range coaxial-compression-driver-driven Noesis 215RTs fed by multiple kilowatts of Lab.Gruppen power don't need subs to shake the room, and delivered a goose-bumpy HT movie demo. In pure 2-channel driven by Digital Amplifier Company's new Megaschino amps (had a great chat with their owner/designer, he does everything in-house, and his amps are apparently stable down to sub-ohm loads) the Noesis 210RTs really delivered, with no horn-y sound, no boxiness, great dynamics, and a very 'live' presentation. At $4,600/pair these are speakers a lot of the Tekton fans should check out. IMO they did what the Tekton Impact Monitor did in terms of dynamics and immediacy, but did it all better and without the slightly shouty PA-speaker nature I noticed in the Tekton.
Raidho XT1 - Holy smokes, how does so much sound come out of such a tiny speaker? I wish I'd been able to hear the bigger Raidho room, because if they can get this much quantity and quality of sound out of such a tiny speaker from their entry-line, what could they do with the big-boy D-series? I loved these, they're probably the priciest mini-monitors I've seen, but man did they deliver, and completely disappeared into the music. They're claimed down to 80hz, but I could've sworn I heard much deeper bass coming out of them.
TAD Micro Evolution - Right up there with the Raidho XT1 and Revel M126be in terms of being one of the absolute best bookshelf/standmount speakers at the show.
Open Baffle Stuff - Both the Pure Audio Project Trio15 Horn1 and the Spatial Audio X2 sounded great, I've never considered open baffle speakers before, but there was a lot to love about their sound, which was natural, open, and big compared to the size of the speakers. Emerald Physics didn't bring their OB speakers, but they did bring a new 24" subwoofer in a folded open baffle cabinet. The driver is designed by Dan Wiggins of Periodic Audio/Starke Sound/Blue Microphones/Sonos fame, and will hit a claimed 120db at 10hz with an outboard 1 kilowatt amp. That's a bold claim, but I'd love to see a test report.
Biggest Surprise - The Cube Audio Bliss Magus, a single-driver, no-crossover, full-range paper driver in a quarter-wave cabinet was the first full-range single-driver speaker I've heard, and it really opened my eyes to that sort of configuration. They sounded amazing, completely natural with the old-school jazz and big-band they were playing, with more bass, more natural treble, and an effortlessness doing it all at once that I would have never expected a single small-ish driver to be able to do. They're not cheap at $10K/pair, but they sounded great, really great, I wish I'd had more time to go back and listen to more. These are the kind of speakers you could set up in a room with a big comfy chair and just lean back, close your eyes, and soak it all in while being completely fulfilled.
There was a bunch of other stuff I loved, and I'm probably forgetting some, but this post is probably getting too long. Suffice to say, AXPONA was an eye-opening experience, one of the best vacations I've taken.
Unfortunately I missed Axpona this year. Did anyone hear the HHR Exotic speakers? They are a modern take on the single driver Walsh omni that may do some things as well or better than MBL or German Physiks.
I heard the HHR exotics and IMHO the were quite harsh and metallic sounding and although the soundstage was huge it was also vague where instruments didn't really seem to have a place...they seemed to be coming from "everywhere". Most unimpressive for me. On the other hand the big MBL's were clearly (pun intended) in a league by themselves and were stunning. Sorry to disappoint but I always leave open the very real possibility that the source material during my listen or the listening room tuning was part of the problem. It was a very small room.
@chrshanl37 I’d be interested in hearing impressions of the Exogal room with the new Ryan S610 monitors if anyone can share that.
That one is easy. They were hands-down the best smaller speakers I heard at the show. I listened for a couple of songs and even waited until the crowd cleared out so I could have a go at the sweet spot. My buddy also agreed they sounded excellent.
The only smaller speakers that even came close in that size of speaker were some Elac monitors, but the Ryans were much better, as one would expect at their price point.
I want to say they retail for $4,000 so that would be my only caveat with them; at that price point there may well be other speakers that offer better performance - albeit probably at a larger size.
On a personal note, my gripe with floor standers is that if you are taking up the same real-estate with bookshelf speakers and some nice stands, why not just go with floor-standers and enjoy better bass? I am aware that Ryan also offers some larger speakers, so those could be intriguing as well and perhaps best the S610's?
With that stated, I absolutely cannot discount how accurate, tight, smooth and refined the S610's were. I was frankly blown away by their size vs performance ratio.
While talking with some other vendors later on, the venders -who often don't have much time to get away from their own wares to see the other stuff in the show - asked me what they should go listen to and what some of the best rooms were. I mentioned the Sonus Faber and Wilson rooms, but also mentioned "you have to go hear the Ryans".
All that to say that if they fit your needs and you like that price point, you absolutely should consider auditioning them.
Interesting comments tutetibiimperes....I had a pair of R610’s that I wanted to build a second system around and thought the same thing at first. In my small room with a Hegel H160 they did not sound that impressive to me.
So I took them to a friends house and set them up un a much bigger room and they sounded much better even with a Peachtree Nova 150. But the aha moment happened when we hooked them up to his Exogal Comet/Ion. The speakers completley dissappeared and we both sat there in amazement at how good they sounded. If I had the room to set them up properly I would have kept them.
Hard to say david...every speaker I have heard in my friends room with his Exogal set up sounds really good including his very hard to drive ESL’s. The same friend went to RMAF last year and heard the R620’s with Vincent gear and said it sounded very good as well.
I had a Peachtree Nova 150, Hegel H160 and found them not to my liking with the Ryans in my room but a chinese Bada amp sounded great.... go figure. My guess is synergy is a big factor.
I did listen to the HHR speakers for a short listen and thought they sounded very interesting, not harsh but very open sounding. The people I was with at that time were very impressed and went back for a second listening session.