Howard Milstein and Caslyn Anderson offer an overview Of Axpona 2019 13 BEST HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SHOW!
The AXPONA yearly event at Chicago’s Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center in Chicago was the first visit for The Sound advocate and in most respects was quite a vividly, rewarding experience.
Many of the most noted high-end manufacturers and distributors were displaying their current and/ or newest products to good effect. Although room size, acoustics and optimum program material left a bit to be desired, for the most part the show was informative and quite demonstrative!
We had prepared a list of manufacturers to visit but quite naturally could not get to everyone. More importantly, it was a revelatory experience to meet many of the talented designers and audio enthusiasts who share the passion for hi-fi and good music.
Without further ado, here is a rundown of what we consider to be some of the best as well as “personal” favorite product demonstrations most worthy of mention.
MBL surely entices the most extreme audiophiles for their excellent demonstrations and personal, hands on system coordination. Jeremy Bryan, the President and CEO of MBL North America and Jurgen Reis were quite demanding in making sure of that.
The system which included Kyomi Audio as co-exhibitor : the MBl 101E Mk.2 loudspeakers ($70,500/pair), 4x N15 monoblock amplifiers ($35,600/pair), N11 preamplifier ($14,600), and the particularly noteworthy, Noble Line N31 CD player/DAC ($15,400)
GAMUT and LARSON
Michael Vamos, President of Audioskies was presenting the excellent sounding, GamuT preamp/power amp combination along with Larson Ortho-Acoustic loudspeakers. The GamuT Di 150 LE and D200i on display will be replaced soon this year by a new series of GamuT amplifiers.
AUDIO SKIES has recently been assigned to represent the amazing Raidho speakers in the US. GamuT’s Chief Designer Benno Baun Melgaard is now also the chief designer for Raidho and will be the chief designer on all future Raidho speakers as well as continuing to be chief designer for GamuT. The two companies will continue as before delivering the very best in high-end audio.
Alon Wolff was showing the his new Magico $63.5k three-way, four-driver M2 floorstander (1” tweeter, 6” graphene-carbon midrange, and two 7” graphene-carbon woofers in an aerodynamic carbon-fiber and aluminum chassis), driven by CH Precision electronics and sourced by an MSB DAC. Many other of Magico’s models were being displayed by numerous manufacturers at the show including the superb, and relatively speaking, modest priced, A3 loudspeaker.
The Magico loudspeakers were, arguably, the most accurate sounding speakers at the show. As many who are reading this have heard their speakers, if you have not yet given them an audition, you’re missing a phenomenal experience! Although Alon was showing the M2 in the typically small rooms of the Schaumburg, all one need do was to hear the female voice through any of these models (the A3 included) and there is no denying the outstanding neutrality and precise stereo imaging inherent in all his designs!
CH PRECISION and ROCKPORT
CH precision had their stunning line of electronics being presented with the Rockport Cygnus loudspeakers. Some of the most enticing and neutral sound at the show was emanating from CH Precision in conjunction with the latest loudspeakers from Rockport and Andy Payor, the Cygnus. The system comprised of the DeBaer Saphir Turntable and the Top Wing Suzaku cartridge. The Rockport’s were sincere, and impartial to the excellent music sources presented to it which, by the way, were expertly presented.! The CH precision electronics seemed to be adding fine amounts of depth, accuracy and exquisitely detailed imaging to the Cygnus given the size of the display room!
I made sure to visit the AVM demonstration and was greeted by the amiable gentleman himself, Peder Baeckman. If you have not had a demonstration of the AVM line, I suggest you do so. The electronics on display included the AVM’s outstanding Inspiration all in one integrated amp (CS2.2- Sound Advocate review coming shortly) as well as their new top of the line Ovation A8.3 amplifier.
What I personally found to be quite exciting, was the Ovation MP.8.2 CD/media player with PURE CD drive and a plethora of streaming options. To complement the electronics, Peder had the beautiful Wilson Sabrina’s working with them. All of AVM’s products, to my way of thinking, “have no sound of their own”. Could anything be better than that?
Jay Rein and Richard Colburn of Bluebird Music were giving their full force to Spendor’s D7 loudspeaker, which arguably, is their most preeminent and most discerning product venture to date. In case you were not aware of it, the D7 is in the process of being updated (D7.2) and at the time of publishing, is currently just being distributed in England. (I still currently use as reference backups, vintage SP1’s and BC1’s which in some ways, have not ever been surpassed!)
On the main floor, YG Acoustics Sonja 2.2 was featured and producing some excellent sounding music as the demonstration area was large and quite ideal. We also got the privilege of hearing the Auralic Vega G.2 streamer/DAC in action as well. The YG Acoustics range of loudspeakers, like the Rockport’s and Magico’s are not by any means cheap, but when demonstrated in a good size, acoustically opportune room, are another of the greatest high-end loudspeakers currently being produced!
Elac’s Andrew Jones and Peter Madnick happened to have two rooms with their products being displayed. The smallest model in ELAC’s Carina series, the BS243.4 ($1200/pair) was a bit distinctive in that it combined a folded ribbon HF unit with a 5.25″ aluminum-cone woofer. Being a reflex design, theoretically, room placement should be a bit easier.
It was easy to observe that this small boxed design was sounding beautifully natural and expertly designed . (and yes…there was enough bass on top notch source material for classical music) Indeed, the program material being used was quite well recorded. A triumphant and totally enjoyable demonstration by Messrs. Jones and Madnick.!
The Naim Audio “Statement” (NAP S1 mono blocks) was being demonstrated at the main floor’s Grand Utopia room. These amazingly executed and powerful monoblock had a firm hold on the huge and enviable Grand Utopia loudspekers by Focal. They were aided by Naim’s reference streamer, the ND555 and 2 of the PS555 power supplies.
We also had a chance to hear and observe the NDX2 with, arguably, the best integrated amp available, the SuperNait playing the Focal Kanta loudspeakers. The Kanta’s delivered some of the finest stereo images I have yet heard from a floorstander at that price point!
I have always been impressed with the full line of Naim Uniti products particularly the “UnitiStar” which incorporates first rate streaming abilities as well as Naim’s superb CD disk transport. The Uniti line are Naim’s true statement products at their respected price points that must be auditioned by serious music lovers.
Although proprietor Ben Zwickel happened to be in another area of the show when I arrived, It was great to see the MOJO Audio demonstration, as his MOJO Mystique D3 DAC was in full view and performing quite admirably. The Mystique has just been updated last month with some notable improvements!
The Mystique has been “mystifying” me for a while and The Sound Advocate hopes to be able to get the newest updated version sample to review quite soon! Watch our site!
ESOTERIC AUDIO USA
The world renowned leaders in definitive digital front ends and amplification were showing all their products in quite an alluring display headed by National Sales Manager Scott Sefton.
Esoteric CD Super Audio players ~~ The well-established K-01 and K-03 were updated about a year ago with the newest “X” versions; the K-01Xs and K-03Xs. Most enthusiasts familiar with Esoteric Audio cannot deny the outstanding musical performance and build quality inherent in their superb line of products. (our reviewer Frank Perraino uses the K-03 and K-01 as his reference digital sources). Yes, the prices are quite prodigious indeed, but if they are within your budget range, one might refer to Esoteric as the place where “The beat meet the Elite”! ( Integra (U.S. Distributor – 18 Park Way, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
FIDELIS MUSIC SYSTEMS/HARBETH
Distributing and selling a host of some of the most arduous audiophile equipment, it was a pleasure to visit 2 rooms at the show demonstrating the British Harbeth Loudspeakers. Mr. Walter Swanbon, head of Fidelis had his speakers available in the rooms of a few other dealers/manufacturers. Most notable was their new Compact 7ES-3 40th Anniversary loudspeaker, as well as the astoundingly accurate 40.2 Anniversary loudspeaker
Fidelis also distributes an exciting Italian line of products by UNISON RESEARCH including CD players, Hybrid integrated amps, pre/power amplification, and loudspeakers .
DALI LOUDSPEAKERS featuring the OBERON 7
DALI, (Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries) was presenting their relatively new model “The Oberon 7” which is in the process of being reviewed by The Sound Advocate. (watch for our review next month!)
The Oberon 7 is currently being sold for approximately $1400 in the US and from some early observations, may well give their much higher priced Rubicon model something to ponder about. The demonstration was finely illuminated and set up, giving them one of the finest sounding presentations at the show!
( CONTACTS : Peter Hoagland firstname.lastname@example.org Mark Stone MStone@lenbrook.com )
Although I did not have the opportunity to HEAR any of The full line of Emotiva amplifiers, processors and loudspeakers, Lonnie Vaughn Vice President was able to give me an expert and pertinent tour of all the displayed products on hand in his large main floor demonstration area.
As most audiophiles are well aware of , the value for money here is superb indeed, while almost everyone I’ve spoken to raves about the Emotiva sound qualities. We hope to get a few review samples for The Sound Advocate to evaluate quite soon!
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