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AXPONA 2022 Show Report By Enjoy the Music.com

 

Rick Becker's AXPONA 2022 Chronicles
Sensational Premium Audio On The 6th Floor At AXPONA 2022.
AXPONA 2022 Show Report By Rick Becker

 

 

  A few years back Steve Evans of Perfect Vinyl Forever gave me a three-minute rundown of his LP cleaning service at a table in the Expo Hall and I vowed to bring a dirty record for him to clean. This year he had a dedicated room with a pair of AMG turntables with Hana Umami cartridges at the front end of a very serious rig to demonstrate the sonic benefit of his Archival 3.0, 9-step, 50-minute cleaning process. The $150k rig included Audio Research Ref Phono 3, LS28SE line stage, Ref 80S amplifier, Vandersteen VLR-CTs monitors, and a Sub 3. HRS isolation rack and devices, and about $50K in AudioQuest cables were less obvious. On one turntable he played LPs that had been cleaned with a five-step process using a vacuum record cleaner. On the other turntable, he played an identical record cleaned with his Archival 3.0 process.

Steve said over 500 people sat through his demonstrations and listened to a selection from the 70 different duplicate titles he brought with him. Given the pace I have to maintain at the show, I couldn't stay for a demo, but I handed him a gritty copy of Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home in mono and said, "See what you can do with this."

 

 

The mail carrier brought the cleaned LP right to my door in a stiff cardboard box. Normally, people send batches of 16 or 32 LPs at a time for cleaning. (See their website for volume deals.) Inside the box was extra cardboard for stiffening and sheets of foam for protection from compression. A clear sleeve covered the jacket and a very nice anti-static inner sleeve protected the actual LP. Additionally, a small round sticker indicated the LP had been given the Archival 3.0 treatment on 5/1/2022 and was initialed by the technician. I was impressed, though I think their service normally requires that you just send the LPs in the inner sleeves they provide beforehand.

 

 

The cleaned LP looked like a new record, except for a few scuffs. It previously sounded pretty gritty with scads of clicks and pops, even after I had cleaned it with my Nessie vacuum cleaner. After their professional cleaning, the first side still had a lot of clicks and pops, but it was immediately evident that there was improved resolution and greater transparency. Still, it was not something I'd like to listen to for pleasure. I flipped it over to side two and there were far fewer clicks and pops such that I could listen through them and appreciate the music.

Like side one, there was great resolution and transparency that was not there before. To double-check this, I pulled out another Dylan mono LP of the same vintage from my collection. (The first LP had been a garage sale find that cost me 10 cents or a quarter at most.) I cleaned the second Dylan album on my Nessie and took a listen. There were very few clicks and pops because I always use a record brush. But there was a very noticeable drop in resolution and transparency — far below the record cleaned at Perfect Vinyl Forever. I'd say the improvement of the PVF service was equivalent to the proverbial improvement from buying a better preamp or a major cable upgrade. I was impressed.

If your records are crap, I'd suggest you pick up used copies in better condition or spend the big bucks for new pressings. But even if you buy new LPs, if they are records you love and will play time and again, the Perfect Vinyl Forever Archival 3.0 cleaning is something you should consider. Check out their mailing & cleaning service programs, or consider delivering them in person if you live near southeastern Wisconsin.

 

 

The Best Rooms award is normally given out to rooms that offer truly superior sound or outstanding value, or some sort of innovation that broadens the experience of listening to recorded music. I don't know for sure if their demonstration provided as dramatic results as my trial with a couple of vintage Dylan LPs, but I suspect it did on his fine playback system. Given the size of my record collection, my first thought was that I need to buy a cavitation cleaner. But from what I read on their handout and website, I may still want to send a few dozen of my reference LPs to Perfect Vinyl Forever. This was another Best Rooms at the show, particularly if you are into vinyl.

 

 

 

Further down the hall, I encountered this long table of Aurender products and their flagship N30SA S/PDIF and  USB output music server / streamer with 8TB SSD storage plus an expansion slot for $24k. As I am not into streaming, this room held little interest for me, but it was well laid out and labeled for those who are.

 

 

 

The darkened room hosted by Professional Audio Design, Inc. felt more like I had walked into The Guitar Center after hours. Indeed, their website invites you to visit them at NAMM in June — a show for pro-audio companies. Showing efficient Augspurger speakers with horns and lots of ports driven by Augspurger three-way Class D amps designed for tri-amplifying their speakers, it certainly felt a lot more pro-audio-oriented. I noticed a Wolf server on the bottom shelf and Synergistic Research power conditioner and Black Box (in white) in the mix.

The place was rockin' with the Doors doing "LA Woman". Boasting a maximum SPL volume of 115dB without a sub, 120dB with their SUB12, and 122dB with their SUB18, you can guess their target audience. While these bad boys were shown in a standard black finish, custom finishes including metal flake and pearlescent finishes are available. Seemingly out of place was this attractive contemporary speaker stand that would look great with any number of small monitors seen at the show.

 

 

 

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