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AXPONA 2019 Show Report By Enjoy the Music.com

AXPONA 2019 Show Report -- Audio Expo North America
AXPONA 2019 Coverage By Rick Becker -- Part 5




  Room 562 housed a handful of Atohm speakers and Atoll electronics from France, the latter which I commented on at Montreal as having handsome new faceplates. The sound here was not just good, but affordable, too.



I usually think of solid-state gear when it comes to Modwright Instruments so I was surprised to see their name on these beautiful Ambrose 845 DS monoblocks ($50k/pr) dressed in highly figured flamed maple with dovetail construction. With a single 845 tube he gets 32 Class A Wpc in triode mode, way more than enough to drive the large Destination Audio NiKA three-way horn speakers with a sensitivity of 99dB/W/m. I was so captured by the gorgeous wood on these two pieces that I didn't notice the top mounted compression driver on the speakers and almost cut them out of the photo. They reminded me of the vintage Altec Voice of the Theater speakers I owned as a young man, though their $29k price tag is a lot higher than what I paid for the Altecs at an auction.

A SOTA Cosmos Eclipse turntable ($9700) was new this year, coming standard with the Total Eclipse speed control technology from Phoenix Engineering, whom I thought had gone out of business. (Note to self: look into Phoenix Engineering again.) An Origin Live Enterprise Tonearm ($6k) and Dynavector XV-1s cartridge ($5650) completed the table, which ran into ModWright's PH 9.0 phono stage ($2900) that I had seen earlier in the show. WyWires tied it all together with a variety of their Platinum and Diamond series cables.




My audio buddy, Tom, had given me a "heads up" about McGary Audio so it was a delight to find them in 570 where they had their new SA2 power amp (about $8000), putting out around 75 Wpc. The styling seemed a bit over-done to me but I was very impressed with the features offered. Variable feedback from a knob on top where else do you get that? Select the inputs between RCA and XLR with the flip of a switch (allowing you to run two separate system right down to the power amp, say one digital and one analog). Dim the lights on the faceplate or turn them off completely, mono or stereo, triode or ultralinear? Nice!



The Salk 9.5 speakers sounded good but again, I was kind of turned off by the antique shading on the edges. Coming from the furniture industry, I've seen a lot of that over the past two decades on less expensive goods where they used the technique to obscure seems where the veneer comes together. Maybe it has emerged here from the guitar industry where it is used for effect, but in an age when contemporary styling is trending strong, I have to wonder why. Cables here were by Anticables. This was another room where I asked them to switch from ultralinear to triode mode and once again, I though it improved the sound a lot.



Cube Audio (Poland) designs single full-range drivers and single driver speakers. In Room 574 I heard their Nenuphar model ($14,900) with 92dB/W/m efficiency that begs to be driven by a low power SET amp. It's available in gloss white or gloss black and the driver features three whizzer cones plus the main cone and a chrome plug in the center. This was also a room in which you could hear a Pass Labs rig with the XP-17 phono stage ($4,300), XP-12 line stage ($5,800), and either the highly acclaimed XA-25 25 Wpc power amp ($4,900) or one of the last handful of First Watt SIT-3 amps ($4000).

The main Pass Labs exhibition was a large room on the first floor filled with their product on static display only. A Merrill Williams turntable was the front end here. Refined Audio of Forest Park, IL, seems to be the importer/retailer, but the nature of their business seems pretty sketchy on their website.



I'm not sure if this TW-Acoustic Raven GT turntable with Raven 10.5 tonearm was in the room with Cube Audio or in one of the two following rooms with Luxman / Melco / Triangle speakers. Sometimes at these big shows one can get a little lost. In any case, it is a very handsome entry level turntable to the TW-Acoustics line with a relatively small footprint and a separate power supply.



The Haniwa room had a rig nicely laid out on top of a long table with what looked like full-range drivers in a black bell-shaped enclosure atop a single pedestal stand. I didn't find it very engaging.




Jeff Catalano built his equipment rack out of concrete blocks and slabs of wood or stone, with an additional SRA (Silent Running Audio) platform beneath the TW-Acoustic GT2 turntable ($10k) that seemed to differ from the one seen a few rooms earlier by the substitution of brass arm boards and a top layer of brass on the platter. The 12" tonearms were $6000 each, one sporting an Ortofon Windfeld Ti cartridge ($4390) and the other a Miyajima Labs Zero Mono ($2150). The  electronics were new to me, though they have been in existence since 1980.

The Stradivari line and phono stages were $12k each and the Ultimate 211 SE mono blocks were $34k/pr. TEO cables that use a liquid metal were used for speaker and interconnects. Furutech did the phono and power cables. I spotted the fabled Shun Mook record clamp and some of their tuning blocks on the phono stage, a power supply and the speakers.

Speakers were Horning Hybrid Systems Eufrodite Ellipse Mk III ($28k) and didn't look at all the part. Most visitors, myself included, probably missed what this speaker is all about. (Jeff is big on listening and shy on educational signage.) The front baffle houses a high efficiency paper cone tweeter protected by a single capacitor. Below it is a Lowther 6.6" full-range paper cone driver running from 200Hz to 12kHz without crossover. And on the back baffle are mounted 8 woofers in facing pairs connected in push-pull configuration, similar to what Wilson Benesch does on the front baffle of their speakers, I believe. The Eufrodite is said to have 98dB/W/m efficiency, so it is a prime candidate for low powered SET tube amplification. The 211 tubes in the New Audio Frontiers monoblocks were way more than sufficient. It was a real treat to sit through a tune from Roy Harper from a 1970 album.



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