AXPONA 2017 was a whirlwind. In spite of being a full three days long, the show's complete exhibitor list was a whopping 738 entries, so spending quality time with every system on hand was a nearly impossible task. With that in mind, I compiled my figurative mountain of notes and photos, and picked out 10 systems that really stopped me in my tracks at AXPONA 2017.
The systems didn't have to be new; in fact I only had one requirement: they just had to sound damn good! So with that in mind, let's get started.
ELAC Adante $2,500 And Audio Alchemy
As an owner of the ELAC UB-5 bookshelf speakers ($500), I felt, in some ways, that listening to CD-quality 16-bit/44.1kHz files on the Adante sounded a little bit like listening to DSD files on the UB-5. They felt airier, with a bit more visceral texture and much deeper insight into the music. The natural reverberations of the recording space were rendered with a stunning amount of clarity. Looking back at my notes from the listening session, I penned, "Detail is borderline shocking."
At the same time, the Adante wisely retained a lot of the traits that make the UB-5 so special, including the pleasantly surprising bass presence and impact, while adding an even tastier midrange and more compelling treble into the mix. At $2,500, these speakers offer a very impressive combination of musicality and technical proficiency. It appears that Andrew Jones has once again outdone himself in terms of delivering a speaker with a stunning price-to-performance ratio.
Paradigm Persona 9H Speakers ($35,000)
But the technology doesn't stop there, not even close. The bass woofers are fully powered, with their own pair of DSP-controlled 700 Watt onboard amplifiers. The speaker also features Anthem Room Correction technology, which made an easily discernable difference during the demonstration, particularly in the bass registers.
Overall, I found these speakers to be exceptionally clean sounding with a deep black background that unveiled microscopic recording details and made dynamics pop forward completely effortlessly. To my ears, it seems that Paradigm has taken the trademark characteristics of beryllium dynamic drivers and further accentuated their positive attributes to an extreme with some very intelligent design choices. Very cool indeed.
Burwell And Sons Mother of Burl Horn Speakers
($87,500) And Rogers Amplification
Acoustic instruments possessed a very rich, woody musicality that felt very realistic to my ears. The soundscape was also quite pleasing, with a nice sense of depth to the stage, no doubt helped by the lovely Rodgers tube amp they chose for the showcase. Overall, this was a sonically well-rounded system with the type of sound you can just sink into for hours and hours on end.