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AXPONA 2012 Show Report
AXPONA 2012 Show Report -- Audio Expo North America
Warm winter brings cool sounds to the South
Show Coverage By A. Colin Flood

 

Smyth Research
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.

 

Silnote Audio
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."

 

The Signal Collection
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.

Digital Playback Source: KORG MR-2000s Hi Resolution Digital 1 bit Professional Recorder (MA Recordings custom modified - Japan)

Surprisingly 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)

Klimo MERLINO, tube pre-amplifier ($6600 each with remote, Italy)

Black Cat MORPHEUS! loudspeaker cables and interconnects ($350 / $128)

Black 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 ( OTL ) amplifiers are acoustically quick. With Classic's Big Ole Horns, the pair are incredibly clear, clean, with natural sounding vocals.

 

Scaena
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 THE LARS 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.

 

New Kef Blades
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.

 

Southern Cinema
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. 

 

Beauty Of Sound
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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