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AXPONA 2016 Show Report By Enjoy the Music.com
AXPONA 2016 Show Report -- Audio Expo North America
AXPONA 2016 Ear Gear Expo Show Report

Report By Dave Hanson


   A long-time home audio titan, Onkyo, is also making its way into the portable DAP market with their excellent new DP-X1. I was floored by the fantastic interface and flexibility offered by this device. It will play all high-resolution audio formats, including DSD, and offers accessibility to streaming players such as Tidal over Wi-Fi. The DP-X1 player will also decode the much-anticipated MQA format, allowing streaming access to master-quality audio.




Upcoming Products
AXPONA always offers a plethora of in-development and never-before-seen products, and the ear gear expo was no different.  Leading the charge this year (quite literally) was the new prototype electrostatic design from Mr. Speakers. Dan Clark is well on his way to a real gem here, with a spacious and ultra-resolving headphone that still reaches deep into the lowest frequencies. Yes, you heard that right it's an electrostatic with actual bass!




Just across the way, ZMF Headphones was showcasing their first foray into amplification with the upcoming Sonnare amplifier ($999). This all-tube design brings out the deep bass and sweet midrange ZMF has built their name on. Owner Zach Mehrbach is a bit of an amplifier aficionado, so look for this to be a pretty nice device by the time all is said and done. And watch for our review of ZMF's newest headphone, the Vibro MKII, coming soon on Enjoy the Music.com!



A new player, Taction, was also there with their exciting haptic technology and Kannon headphones. These headphones use a special circuit to engage physical vibrations in coordination with the headphone's bass response. At first I was a little skeptical, but the headphone actually sounds pretty darn good and the technology is exceptionally well done. You can learn more about the technology on Kickstarter.




Finally, no show report would be complete without showcasing a stellar, top-of-the-line home setup, and this one comes again from the folks over at Questyle Audio Engineering with their new Gold Edition Reference System ($12,000). This monster system comes with two Class-A current mode CMA800R monoblocks, the fantastic CAS192D Digital/Analog Converter and the CMA800P all-discrete preamp.



Questyle's Gold Edition components are all built on ROGERS Ceramic PCB boards, resulting in a preposterously low THD+N measurement of 0.00022% (20Hz to 20kHz). The result is a sound so clean it defies description. Detail flows forth effortlessly from a massive soundscape with ultimate transparency. This setup makes it quite easy to forget you are even wearing headphones. You are simply "there".


And of course, there were many other new and upcoming products at AXPONA 2016's Ear Gear Expo as well, including the first-ever dedicated headphone amplifier from the iconic Pass Labs, Wells Audio's new ultra-powerful Milo amplifier, and the much-talked-about prototype of the upcoming, ultra-musical Cavalli Liquid Tungsten flagship amplifier. We even saw Etymotic make their first significant revisions to the ER4 IEMs in two decades. Innovation was truly in the air.


Final Thoughts
It is an exciting time to be part of the personal audio community. Particularly as we see the convenience of modern living converge with technical advances that allow for uncompromising sound quality. Portability, flexibility, usability and ergonomics are playing a role they have never played before (at least not to this level). Where it was not uncommon to "sacrifice" these comforts for the music, just a couple of years ago you now see the trend of designers taking a more holistic approach to their products. From my perspective, users only stand to benefit as the industry moves forward. Personally, I can't wait to see what next year brings.  Until then...

Enjoy the Music!


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