Welcome high-end audio fans to Enjoy the Music.com's AXPONA 2013 Chicago show report! On my way to the airport was a fun mix of rain, sleet, and then white out snow conditions... and of course the always 'fun' black ice. Of course like the United States Postal Service, neither rain, nor sleet nor black ice will keep me from delivering a live show report to you. And with that said, on with the show!
The first thing you see when entering AXPONA are speakers by Mancave Metal. He is simply an artist whilst speaker manufacturer Legacy handles the drivers, crossover work, etc. They make the custom cabinet out of metal…. for a mere $70,000.
Upon walking into the retail bullpen I saw The Cable Company with a new set of headphones from JPS Labs called the Abyss ($5495). As many of you may recall from RMAF 2012, it was there in prototype form and here they are in virtually finalized production. The headphones come in a lovely wood box, and inside that is a special carrying case with the headphones inside that. At the RMAF these babies sounded really, really great and you can order a set right now from The Cable Company for shipping at the end of March. Yo Joe JPS Labs dude, you got my home address, right?
There is no doubt analog is alive and thriving as Dynamic Sound Associates has their three input Phono II $(12,000) solid-state fully balanced unit here at AXPONA 2013. There is a drop down front panel that makes for easy access to setting resistance and load. There is plenty of gain and no transformer coupling nor step-up. The only transformers in this unit is strictly for supplying power to the balanced analog circuitry.
Things are heating up at the advanced ticket counter as the show is 30 minutes before opening.
AIX Records is setup right in the main hall with a wide variety of Blu-ray music.
Here we see a very proud Robert Lee of Acoustic Zen as he stands by his award winning Crescendo ($16,000). None other than Enjoy the Music.com's very own Dick Olsher gave them a Best Of CES award within his TAS article. Robert has been working extremely hard for well over a decade and it is great to know he's still making great products for music lovers worldwide. The Crescendo is a three-way, five driver design that produces full range sound from 20Hz to 30kHz. Driver compliment is two 8" and two 5" drivers plus a horn-loaded ribbon tweeter.
mbl finally has their C15 monoblocks in production! Sure they'll set ya back $25,000, yet this is ultra-fi mbl here folks! mbl uses their special LASA-technology (Linear Analog Switching Amplifier) and the C15 produces 500 watts (4 Ohms). Of course being mbl you can count on the internal screened/magnetically shielded sections to ensure each stage does not interfere with the other. The C15 has both balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (RCA) inputs. The company's SmartLink network allows this Corona devices to communicate with other mbl gear via standard Ethernet cable.
Channel D has their new Seta DAC Buffer ($3499) that greatly assists in matching the gain in the digital and analog domains for optimum sound quality. It does this via active attenuation, thus no worries about cables of <cough> interesting <cough> origin. To the left is the upgraded version of their Seta phonostage ($5799). Improvements are mainly cosmetic, though the battery power supply has been increased and beefed up and thus it produces less noise.
MYTEK is touting being the first company to handle multi-channel SACD from USB files ($4800)! Here's the deal on how they do it. First you get three of their two-channel units plus of course a computer for file storage and control. Then users simply launch JRiver software and BAM, you have multi-channel SACD in audiophile sound quality. Each of the three units are internally configured and handle the appropriate channels as needed.
Echelon Audio had their first unveiling of their Amoroso (~$20,000) and uses aluminum and titanium drivers. These chic speakers have a fiberglass cabinet and titanium dome tweeter, 5" aluminum midrange and 10" aluminum cone woofer. Bring plenty of power as they are a low 87dB/W/m sensitivity at 4 Ohms. A pair of these pieces of audio art weight in at 125 lbs and colors available include black, white, red, and silver, with custom color options available.
AXPONA's main floor has a large conference room with a nice selection of artwork.
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Color me impressed as value for the dollar today goes to the Seaton Sound self-powered, massive 2000 watts large full range speaker. It uses ICE power to drive two 12" drivers and a BNC 8" coax unit. These are called the Catalyst mains are only $4000 each, with the matching SubMersive subwoofer chiming in at $2545. Yup, these sweet speakers have definitely earned by Best Value Award at AXPONA 2013.
JoLida's Luxor monoblock amplifiers (~$18,000/pair) are made in the USA and have separate power supply chassis to keep noise away. Yes you read that right, they are made in the USA. The sound in this room was incredibly 3D, with the speakers fully playing that magical disappearing act. JoLida also offers a beautiful new matching preamp and CD player as seen below.