AXPONA 2012 Show Report --
Audio Expo North America
Warm winter brings cool sounds to the
Show Coverage By A. Colin Flood
A very interesting room that was the topic of many hallway
conversations: they demonstrated their $3000 Realiser A8 system, which gives a
very precise emulation of any specific real speakers in any specific real room
through always smooth Stax headphones. They tested people with an earbud in
their ears while playing test tones. This was an amazing effect that I could
swear was real. The sound seemed like it WAS coming from the loudspeaker.
Up to eight speakers in any locations can be replicated, so
the system works for full surround localization in 5.1 and 7.1, but is also
valid for stereo, in which case an acoustic image is in front of the listener
rather than in his head. In every case, the precise characteristics of speaker
performance and room acoustics are re-created. The system includes head
tracking, so that the sonic image in the headphones remains stationary as the
listener moves his head!
I did not however, get to hear this system with music.
What a shame. Guys, if you covet your buddy's mega-buck multi-channel
system, this is a great way to get it. Get the Realiser system (headphones
extra). Record the test tones in your buddy's home. Save the profile of his
system. Play music and movies at your home with the Realiser and your
headphones. Whala! His multi-channel system in your ears at home. Enjoy
the Music.com's Dr. Bill Gaw has reviewed the Realiser at this link.
This was their first AXPONA show. Silnote showed off their new Poseidon
Ultra Reference Speaker Cables and the ORION -M1 Master Series Speaker Cables.
Mark Williams, CEO, said solid workmanship, handcrafted and designed in the
USA makes the difference for his cables. "We care about our customers and we
care about the music," he said. "I myself listen to every single cable I
design before it leaves our lab.
My goal is to provide excellent customer service," Williams said, "provide a
product (audio cables) that connects with people, and to give our customers a
product that they would take pride of ownership."
Chris Sommovigo, Director, said people have an immediate curiosity
once they hear one of their systems: "I love the sound, what kind of
investment do I need to make in order to achieve that in my home?" He
said the answer really depends upon what they can tell him about their present
system, listening habits, room size, sound pressure proclivities, etc.
The Signal Collection partnered with Todd Garfinkle of
"MA Recordings" to play sources that Garfinkle recorded for his
label via his Korg DSD Recorder. My brief listen and hallway conversations
told me that Garfinkle recordings are excellent.
Playback Source: KORG MR-2000s Hi Resolution Digital 1 bit Professional
Recorder (MA Recordings custom modified - Japan)
great sound from desktop size DAVONE Mojo omnidirectional
loudspeakers, that indeed looked modern Swedish ($2300 perpair, Denmark)
with equally sleek Klimo TINE monoblock amplifiers, Class-A, push pull
EL34, 40-wpc ($9000 per pair, Italy)
tube pre-amplifier ($6600 each with remote, Italy)
Cat MORPHEUS! loudspeaker cables and interconnects ($350 / $128)
Ravioli vibration control (various prices, UK)
The AXPONA show in Jacksonville this year did not have the
confusing Y-shape floor plan of last year. More of the rooms used treatments
than I remembered from last time. (Duh, ya think?) No mattresses in
sight this year – the hotel did not allow vendors to sleep in their rooms. I
did not see any other system in the show use
the Behringer equalizer (as reviewed here)
to flatten frequency peaks. Except legendary Bob Carver. He had
four graphic equalizers tucked away in his equipment stand. In general, most
of the display systems sounded “purty darn good!” Almost all of them gave
a very good first impression. There was a lot less vinyl sales rooms at this
one. Once again, most of the venders did not have a spec sheet or press kit
listing the equipment on display. Going up the grand staircase to the second
floor lobby, there was a live piano performance. As usual, this real event
showed how far even wonderful systems have to go to recreate the actual
performance. Only a few incredible dream systems can actually come close to
the wide frequency response and huge dynamics of John Yurick's plinkings.
Our facsimile reproduction systems are but triggers for memories.
Sadly, there were NO horns at this event! In fact, I missed
one of my all-time favorite rooms, Classic Audio, with Ralph Karsten's
output-transformer-less Atma-sphere amplifiers. Dang, that room makes music.
His famous Output Transformer Less (
) amplifiers are acoustically quick. With Classic's Big Ole Horns, the pair
are incredibly clear, clean, with natural sounding vocals.
Instantly won my heart with an Irish version
of Paul Simon's “The Boxer!” As a teenage bar-back near Dingle, this
song got the crowd roaring in the crowded Spillane's Pub. Tucked away this
year along one corridor, Scaena (means elaborate solo vocal composition) left
their striking orange line drive arrays home, opting instead for a subdued
white color scheme this year. Once again, their system provided some of the
best sound of the show. Like the Nearfield
Pipedreams, their tall, thin columns of small multiple drivers was
matched with black, barrel-size front-firing, sub-woofers that clearly had the
best bass of the show. It was not overwhelming to me. Kick drums felt
like kick drums. This system to enjoy the left hand notes of a piano and
anything else has bass in it. Their system claims 16 Hz bottom to 26 kHz,
within 3 dB!
Missing this year however, was the stunning $90,000 pair of
tube amplifiers. The amplifiers use 300B XLS tubes for 36-watts at 1%
distortion. The flawless $70,000 dCS' Scarlatti system was back with its
up-sampler, SACD/CD transport, master clock and DAC.
The always wonderful Scaena line driver room, this time in white (as was the
also incredible MBL system) used Real
Traps (reviewed here) acoustic panels on their back wall.
Brief impression with polite tweaking
audiophile smooth jazz fair is that these sexy columns are quick, full-body,
throaty, tactile bass, balanced upper and lower bass, and a big, solid
presence. They showed the quality of the point source with their unique
two-way driver. As the first room I auditioned, the Blades set the bar at the
show at a high level for price, sonic quality and style.
Okay, there were horns at the show. Klipsch
RF7 IIs, $3,200 in Cherry, with Macintosh amplifier (of course). However, I
did not listen to them since they were in a large room with many other systems
and people. I regret that now.
This new vendor caused quite a stir at the show, not only for his big, square bulky loudspeakers, but also for their enticing drivers and sound. Tennis pro by day, Bill's open baffle loudspeakers sounded so good and played such compelling tunes, that I stopped in his room frequently. He said that all loudspeakers are hard to place and that he was still tweaking the weird folding side wings on his loudspeakers. Bill lit the back of his loudspeakers with a red spotlight so that the drivers were edged in a red glow. Very cool. You can see the spotlight and hinged wings in picture below. His design uses a plate amplifier below 100 Hz with only a small resistor on the tweeter to flatten the impedance curve.
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