AXPONA 2017: Clement Perry PAGE 2
Burwell & Son's Mother of Burl horn loudspeaker ($90k) was new to the audio scene for me. This horn transducer's low profile created a dense and hi-rez feeling to the music. However, its height (very low) allowed a unusual view into the music that wasn't to my liking. The wonderful thing about horns is how infinitely adjustable they are. I bet, they could have fixed the low stage issue had I mentioned it. Because I didn't know the folks, I also didn't want to alarm them about personal preferences either. I'm 6'3" and maybe these were voiced for someone shorter than me. Hopefully, I'll run into these guys again.
Modular and Open-Baffle designed loudspeakers are gaining notoriety here in the USA. Finally got the opportunity to hear them at AXPONA and thought they possessed a wide open window into the music. I expected them to be devoid of any colorations whatsoever in addition to being well-balanced but they performed beyond my expectations. Our own Don Shaulis wrote in his review (here): “The PureAudioProject bridges the gap between pure DIY and completely hands-off prebuilt by shipping flat-packed open-baffle speakers which the buyer assembles. This results in providing drivers and crossover components at a level of quality unprecedented even at several multiples of the Trio10 MundorfAMT’s price. PureAudioProject removes the guesswork and provides the opportunity for audiophiles to be involved in creating speakers that out-perform speakers costing much more…”
Ran into GTT Audio's Bill Parrish once again showing his Kii Three Loudspeaker System ($13,900). What always surprises me about this compact dynamo - besides its amazing ability to fill up a room despite its small size - is that it boasts six channels of DSP, D/A conversion and power amplification all hidden behind its neat exterior. It's products like these that amaze me more than the big guns because I'm caught totally off-guard and never expect much to begin with. Another one of those loudspeaker systems built for folks who enjoy music more than components.
Glad I finally got a chance to hear the Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 active loudspeaker system. I also have to admit that I was blown away by a simple and casual presentation offered up by some very young rep from B&O. So much so, I began to daydream and think of life with them. I then thought again of life without my system and quickly snapped back to reality. The thing is, while lost in their magic I was enamored enough to day dream of what they'd sound like in my home. They seem to have enough dynamic headroom with absolutely incredible dynamics, image-specificity, soundstage and depth was beyond reproach.
This is a most unusual design and its side-firing drivers were reminiscent of one of my all-time favorites in the legendary Audio Physic Caldera - except this is a self-powered design that claims a whopping 14-channels using B&O's own highly efficient ICE power amplification. Not just a few watts either. A whopping 8,200 watts of power per loudspeaker! This newest state of the art speaker system sports 18 state-of-the-art Scan-Speak drivers placed in carefully defined locations and directions to deliver maximum performance in frequency, time and space.
Manhanttan audio retailer Bob Visintainer of Rhapsody Music and Cinema also handles Goldmund and the Logos Sukha active loudspeakers in particular. These $95k beauties are in addition to being self-powered, are also wireless: AC plug-n via a Goldmund USB dongle and iPad is all that's required. Visintainer says the Aurender music server makes the Sukha sing. The sound here was impressively clean, open and detailed with nary a hint to digititis. Not necessarily for the audiophile but most certainly for the music lover. Make no mistake, there is a difference.
Dave Thomas and I finally caught up to Bill Wells (right) in Doug White's The Voice That Is suite which featured a near Tidal (wave) of electronics - in addition to their popular and fabulous loudspeakers. There's Dynamic Design's cable architect Olu Sonuga attempting to keep a low profile.
Doug White provided a wonderful informal introduction of the components used in his room. The Tidal Presencio Preamplifier, Tidal Impluse mono amplifiers and Tidal speaker cables and interconnects (AC cords were compliments of Olu Sonuga's Dynamic Design Neutron SW16) for example. A TW–Acustic Raven AC 'table with a Transfiguration Proteus MC cartridge kept the vinyl breathtakingly realistic and illustrated just how great sounding Tidal electronics are when paired with their loudspeakers.
I'm not talking about walking-through-the-show-good sonics blah, blah, blah. I'm talking about the type of sonics that allow you to feel the music and not just hear it. It's a rare occurance but you know you're experiencing it. What's more amazing is this was achieved in a hotel room and not a dedicated space or even at Doug White's place where I hear the system is MUCH better says Bill Wells. My next trip will be there hopefully this summer. Lastly, digital playback was by way the Bricasti Design Ml SE DAC and Aurender A10 Music Server perched atop an attractive Stillpoints ESS rack.
There's Kevin Hayes of VAC in a fine fedora hat and Damon Von Schweikert in a well-manicured beard welcoming me into their suite.
I didn't get the memo! Is there a new sheriff in town? The VR ULTRA 11 loudspeaker looks like a declaration of war on anything less. This was my first time seeing or getting the opportunity to hear this latest and most auspicious design yet from Albert Von Schweikert. Massively-built (in beautiful black laquer) VR ULTRA 11 loudspeakers ($295k), believe it or not, actually looks affordable considering all the other over-priced loudspeakers that are at or near its asking price. There's so much to say with regard to how impressive this loudspeaker is, I ask that you go to their website and read the specs for yourself. I'll say this however: I was astounded by the overall feel and sonics. I didn't get what I expected in terms of a large multi-driver creating larger than life images . The VR ULTRA 11 has an intimate voice and only swells in size and scape when required. The VR ULTRA 11 strapped to the VAC 450 iQ Ref monos, ladies and gentlemen, was a soul shocker! The quality it exudes is reserved for the best high-sensitivity horn designs. So, once again, I was startled by its unusual dynamic response, poise and ebb and flow. But there was more...
Kevin Hayes of Valve Amplification Company (VAC), was proudly showing off some super exotic designs that included his VAC Statement 450 iQ Monoblocks ($120k/pr) VAC Statement Line Stage ($75k) and VAC Statement Phonostage ($80k). Analogue sources were by way of the Kronos Audio Pro turntable ($38k), Kronos Audio SCPS-1 Power Supply ($13,500), and Kronos Black Beauty Tonearm ($8,500) equipped with an ZYX Audio Ultimate 4D Cartridge ($4,400). Got a glimpse of an old rebuilt (J-Corder) Technics 1520 reel-to-reel while digital came via the YFS Ref 3 Music Server ($17,500), and an impressive sounding Lampizator Golden Gate DAC ($20k). Cabling throughout was by way of MasterBuilt Audio's Ultra Line series ($195k), while acoustic treatment used was the new IsoThermal TubeTraps from ASC ($26k). Equipment rested on the increasingly popular Artesania Audio racks from Italy (including the VAC Statement 450 iQ monos above).
Live versus Memorex. While heading out the room for a lunch I saw jazz songstress Lyn Stanley heading into the Von Schweikert/VAC suite. This was especially insightful because while playing one of her songs on a specially cut laquer pressing, Lyn also stood up and sang the same song live over the LP. No microphones. No specialized booth. Yes, she sang right over the music playing behind her. The system had an uncanny way of fooling you into thinking some live session musicians had joined in. The system - and that special laquer pressing - injected that much life into this recording and Lyn made it appear that much more realistic. Yeah, if you did't get the chance to hear this demo, then you missed one hell of a system.
It's easy to qualify this as the Best Sound at AXPONA but when you look at what was employed here versus the competition, then it better had been BEST SOUND. When you start counting how much money went into this setup then you'd expect greatness in a hurry. Unfortunately, setups this grand and outlandish rarely perform at this level. So fortunately for all who attended, this show was more than worth it for me. God willing, I look forward to including Chicago AXPONA into my future adventures.