As has been noted by other reviewers, it was a challenge at AXPONA this year to spend much time in individual rooms due to the number of exhibitors. In fact, Becky and I arrived on Wednesday, and we were glad we did, because that gave us all day Thursday to get our bearings for how to attack the show once it opened to the public. It also gave us some initial impressions on rooms we had to go back and see when they had their systems “dialed in”. In this post, I’m recognizing a few rooms that met the challenge of AXPONA with systems that are worth mentioning here.
Well Pleased A/V
The Well Pleased A/V room, pictured above, was hosted by owner, Mark Sossa He was using the Rethm Bhaava speakers that sell for $4,500 per pair. The system was especially good with vocals, and Becky and I had fun on Thursday helping Mark get the system dialed in by requesting favorites from various artists that we like.
The amplification In Mark’s room was the Qualiton a50i integrated amplifier from Audio Hungary at $7,500. We had the privilege of interviewing the father and son team that own Audio Hungary at the show, so watch for that interview to be posted soon.
The source was the Innuos Zenith SE music server from Portugal at $7,000 playing through an Aqua La Voce S3 DAC from Italy for $4,750. Everything was plugged into a Gigawatt PC-3 SE EVO+ power conditioner for $6,500 from Poland, and the cabling was from Anticables. The sound was beautifully warm and free from resonance. It floated a fine soundstage with exceptional depth and width.
Elite Audio Systems
In the Elite Audio Systems room, Daniela Manger, the daughter of the late Josef Manger, was showing the two-way P1 speaker that sells for $12,000 per pair. These speakers use the star-shaped bending-wave drive-unit developed by her father. The driver covers the range from 360Hz to 45kHz. Driving the Manger speakers were electronics all from Viola Audio Laboratories, the Sonata preamplifier at $38,000, and the Concerto power amplifier at $22,000 with 125 watts per channel. The source was a Spiral Groove Revolution player at $18,000 with a My Sonic Lab Signature Platinum phono cartridge.
I have no idea why the Manger speakers have never gotten the kind of press that other world-class speakers do, but at $12,000 there are very few speakers in the same league with them. The sound is very coherent, spacious, with plenty of air and breath. I really liked this system.
USA Tube Audio
In the USA Tube Audio room, they were playing the Lumenwhite’s Kyara speakers that sell for $49,900 to $69,000 per pair, depending on the finish. The speakers were driven by the new Ayon Orthos XS Gen4 monoblocks that output 300 watts per channel and cost $28,800 for the pair. The preamp was the Ayon S-10 at $8,300. The source was an Ayon CD-35 SACD player/streamer/DAC ($10,500).
I always find Lumenwhite speakers at shows to be quite pleasing to listen to. This show was no different as the sound was full-range, warm with good imaging and a big soundstage. Voices sounded very natural and had good timbre.
Dr. Vinyl/Audio Skies
The reason I have to mention the Dr. Vinyl/Audio Skies room is, of course, the system. A lot of people need a system like theirs that can go up against the wall and look and sound great without a huge bass bump.This room had Larsen 8 speakers that sell for $7,000 pair. While, I don’t like the white ones in the picture, I have seen them in other finishes, and with the grills on they look great. Now, I know I’m not the only one out there who is room challenged!
The speakers were driven by a Pear Audio Blue Reference preamp at $6,500 and the Pear Audio Blue monoblocks for $6,500. All of the cabling was from EnKlein. Both, the digital player and the turntable were from Pear Audio. I would say the sound they produced is more for music lovers than audiophiles, but It’s a system I would love to have in my living room.
I have loved the sound of the Joseph Audio Pearl speakers for years, and this set up was the best that I have ever heard them sound. The speakers were the Pearl 3 at $31,500 per pair driven by the Jeff Rowland Daemon 1500Wpc integrated amp at $38,800, and the Doshi preamp at $16,995. The source was the Aurender N10 with a 4TB internal drive at $8,000 along with a Mara tape machine at $14,000. Cabling was Cardas Audio Clear and Clear Beyond Cabling, as well as a not-yet-released Cardas power strip. The sound had a big tone, and was wonderfully easy to listen to with great detail and a very spacious soundstage.
The Gryphon Room
The Gryphon Room was busy enough that I had to go back three times before I could get a good listen. I really liked the system, and I think this was the least expensive Gryphon system I have heard. They were using their Mojo S speakers that sell for $29,500 per pair driven by their Diablo 120 integrated amp at $11,200. The digital system was their Scorpio S CD player and the analog source was their Sonnet phonostage for $7,500. The turntable was the Pear Audio’s Kid Thomas turntable at $10,000 with an Ortofon Cadenza Black MC cartridge that goes for $2,729. The cabling was the Magnan Audio Reference series. They used a Shunyata’s Denali 6000S line conditioner at $3995. This room had a very organic, natural sound that was amazing like real music. It’s great to know that a company’s near entry-level components can sound so fantastic!
High Fidelity Services
I have never attended a show with so many debut products; There were three debut products in the second High Fidelity Services room I visited. The first was the Verity Audio Otello three-way speakers in a beautiful Makore finish for $18,000 per pair. The second debut product was the Trilogy Audio Systems 923 hybrid amp with135 watts per channel and fully balanced for $16,000. The third debut product was the Trilogy Audio Systems 907 class-A phono preamplifier with external power supply for $4,000. Also in the room was the TW Acoustic GT SE turntable with TW 10.5 tonearm for $18,000 mounted with the Ortofon A95 cartridge for $6,500.
Their digital source was the Playback Designs Merlot DAC for $6,500. The cabling was the Signal Projects and Vibex. The sound was beautiful with a transparent midrange, very good bass, and a beautifully open top end. Overall, the sound was well-balanced.
The Voice That Is
The Voice That Is put together a system was very nice indeed. This boutique audio store located in Pennsylvania’s focus is, “Conveying the Sound of Music through world-class audio components.” And, the system they brought to AXPONO was certainly true to this focus.
They had three pieces of gear from Tidal: the Tidal Piano G2 speakers for $39,900 to $42,900 a pair, depending on the finish, the Tidal Preos preamplifier at $32,900 and the Tidal Impulse dual-mono amplifier for $35,200. They also used Tidal reference cabling. The source was a TW-Acustic Raven AC-1 turntable at $21,000 with the TW-Acustic Raven 10.5 tonearm and a Transfiguration Proteus cartridge at $6,000. The digital source was an Antipodes DX music server for $7,700. The sound was very open with a detailed top end and a very beautiful midrange.
Vinnie Rossi Room
Harbeth Loudspeakers shared a room with Vinnie Rossi, and Vinnie was there hosting the room and showing his LIO preamplifier for $12,500 and the pre-production L2 Signature monoblock amplifiers. When I was in the room, I heard the Harbeth Monitor 40.2 40th Anniversary Edition speakers at $18,000 per pair. The cabling was from Triode Wire. The midrange was as wonderful as is normal from these speakers, but the big news was how well the new amps handled the bottom end of this big box speaker.
In the Volti Audio, BorderPatrol and Triode Wire Labs‘ room, there was a nice mixture of new and familiar products. One of the new things was the look of the BorderPatrol S20 EXS integrated amplifier and the Volti Rivals speakers. What was new? They matched. I shouldn’t have been a surprise at a show when Greg Roberts of Volti showed his speaker with some other nice electronics I told Greg, “It sounds great, but I always feel like your speakers and the Border Patrol amps are made for each other.”
The 18 watts per channel S20 EXS integrated amplifier whose price starts at $18,500 was driving the Volti Audio Rival speakers that start at $7.900 per pair, and with this finish cost an extra $500. The source was the BorderPatrol DAC SE at $950. According to Greg, the speakers will soon feature an optional outboard crossover, but the price is still TBD. The speakers are a 100dB efficient and have a frequency range of 32Hz-20kHz.
There was one more thing that was new in the system, the version 2 of the cables from Triode Wire Labs. I was not surprised that this was one of the best sounding systems at AXPONA.