AXPONA 2019 Show Report --
Audio Expo North America
Their website further explains the new LRS was designed to be driven by high end gear with high current amps, rather than by mid-fi receivers as was the MMG. I guess that explains why it sounded so good driven by Bryston BP 17 cubed preamp and a Bryston stereo power amp. Regardless, at $650/pair with a 60-day home trial, this is a major Entry Level portal into the high-end. You can design it yourself, choosing natural or black oak, or dark cherry trim and either off-white, gray or black cloth — subtle, but tasteful, too. I've left the photo uncropped to give you a better idea of how the room was set up and how well these speakers fit into this modest size room. Note the large black panel on the right wall acting as a non-parallel absorber/diffuser. The real danger, as I see it, is that people wanting to get a taste of panel speakers might decide to upgrade everything else in their system before ever wanting to purchase a larger Magnepan. It's that good.
Room 546 was a visual and aural delight for me. The gorgeous Daedalus Apollo speakers ($18,500) with their in-laid front baffle and solid wood exposed dovetail construction had immense appeal to the furniture guy I used to be. Their 96dB/W/m efficiency and flat 6 Ohm impedance appealed to the tube lover in me. The wood theme carried over to the amp stands and the Vicoustic sound panels behind the speaker, but crashed when it came to the black equipment rack.
The monoblocks were from Linear Tube Audio ($6800 ea.) and the digital front end featured a LampizatOr Golden Atlantic 2 DAC ($10k) with a pair of special Riccardo Kron commemorative KR 150 tubes made only for LampizatOr and an Emission Labs 300B. The server used here was also by LampizatOr, their Super Komputer starting at $8000. The female vocal was clear, smooth and transparent with an excellent sense of space and air. I had the honor of speaking with Lukasz Fikus, the man behind LampizatOr. His presence and that of other heads of European companies underscores the importance of AXPONA 2019.
What's old is what's new again in Room 552, such as this vintage Garrard 301 turntable with a Dobbins plinth, custom platter from Xact Audio and Reed 2P tonearm with a Van den Hul Colibri Master Signature mc cartridge ($12k). There was also a mysterious van den Hul wood box on top of each speaker, too, that I forgot to inquire about. The black box beneath the turntable was van den Hul's The Grail SE phono stage ($26k). Other electronics, except for the Wolf Alpha 3server ($7195), were all Accoustic Arts, including their Mono II monoblocks ($25k).
New from Acoustic Arts here was the Tube DAC II ($16,400). Amp stands and equipment rack ($14,800, as configured) were, once again, by Stillpoints. Finest Fidelity is the exclusive North American distributor for Van den Hul and Accoustic Arts. Most of the cabling was van den Hull, with a couple of power cords from Accoustic Arts. Simon and Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence" through the Magico S3 Mk2 speakers in Bronze cast finish ($28k) took me back to the days of the Garrard turntable. Stereo systems back then didn't cost anything like this one.
Turning the corner and sliding into 554 I had my most emotional experience of the show as they cued up a digital version of Leonard Cohen's "You Want It Darker". I don't know if it was the song itself, or reverent silence in the darkened room but my emotions ran high, almost as if the ghost of Leonard Cohen was in the room. His voice came out of one of the blackest of backgrounds I've ever heard. Afterward, I recognized the Verity Audio speakers from Quebec (Amadis S in Makore finish $40,695, $36,995 in gloss black or gloss white) as being a contributing factor. The 93dB/W/m efficiency, in part, means the Amadis S could be driven by lower power SET amps.
I go way back with Verity to their early days when they presented at Montreal. They were great speakers at the beginning and they are still great now. Perhaps they present at shows I don't attend, but there seem to be precious few reviews in print or internet. More recently, Verity has ventured into Very High End electronics, so maybe this investment has come at the expense of their marketing efforts.
Their partners in the room at AXPONA were Computer Audio Design (CAT) from UK who is known in Europe for their outstanding grounding devices (over $28k in this system). They also have a DAC Mk II ($12k) and ripping/streaming/server (The CAT, $14k) in the rack. That probably explains the black background. The other listed partner is Trilogy Audio Systems, a small British company that makes high end amplifiers. The silver 915R Reference preamp ($18,900) in the rack seems to be a new preamp, not yet listed on their website, feeding a pair of large silver monoblocks (#995R, $29,600/pr) sitting on SRA (Silent Running Audio) vibration absorbing amp stands. Cabling was by Bibacord from Sweden. It was easy to hear this was one of the Best Rooms at the show. Founder Julian Pelchat gave me the "heads up" on two more rooms further below that showcased other models — stay tuned!
In Room 558 I admired the Acoustic Signature turntable and the Alta speakers. The electronics were from Krell, but I just received a Press Release that Krell will be premiering now models at Munich, so possibly they had a sneak peek here at AXPONA. It looks like they've got an interesting update to their 300i integrated amp, and more.