AXPONA 2022 Show Report Part 2
Professional Audio Design, Inc., was presenting their TAD (Technical Audio Devices Laboratories and division of Pioneer) professional-grade reference line loudspeakers and electronics. This had to be one of the most engaging demonstrations of the show. They featured three models of loudspeakers, a solid-state power amp, and a Streamer Preamp DAC. Dedicated lab/factories in Japan provided top-level performance to this listener. In this case, the Compact Reference One, a three-way stand mount unit offered at $15,000+ (dedicated stands extra) and a larger stand-mount the TAD CRITX offered at $85,000.
The quality of design/construction is without peer in my opinion. All of the loudspeakers performed with astonishing clarity, speed, dynamics, uncolored transparency with solid bass down to 32Hz. Again, likely some of the finest music reproduction heard at the show all while supported by the TAD handcrafted, small-batch electronics and Synergistic cabling.
By coincidence, in attendance at this session was the ultimate guru of TAD design: Physicist (by training) Andrew Jones, chief designer of the TAD Reference line. Even though Mr. Jones has moved on to other endeavors he still enjoys visiting his kids with big smiles and justly so.
Life-size images were being achieved in the Quintessence Audio Limited room showcasing Wilson Alexx V loudspeakers, Audio Research Mono Amps, and dCS digital. Standouts in this room were a pair of Audio Research M160 mono power amps supported by a dCS Vivaldi Apex Stack priced at over $100,000. The Wilsons were beautifully presented in custom Cranberry Pearl like a fine sports car.
As for listening, Boz Scaggs was conveyed as authentically and of scale as I've ever heard, as were orchestra classics. The performers were in the room with us. Without a doubt the audio and music presentation was at the top of the show to this listener.
Margules Audio of Mexico City and founded in 1927 showcased their latest upgrades to their integrated tube amps. The full Class A 100 Watts per channel i240 stereo unit sells for $6000 and was missing due to a shipping situation, so instead they used the hybrid Arch-3 and was well coupled with their Orpheus three-way towers with ceramic drivers offered at $30,000 per pair. These offered a very lively, dynamic, and punchy bass with an expansive soundscape. Also shown was a new Tube / Hybrid Arach-3 integrated amp offered at $4,000.
Also well appreciated in an adjacent room was a pair of further enhanced Margules 30th Anniversary Limited Edition U-280C Class A stereo tube amps (running as mono pairs) offered at $10,000 each. These were serving a set of Raidho Acoustics TD3.8 towers offered at $117,000 to engaging effect. The Raidho's have a dynamic "jump" factor second to none and sounded terrific with the Margules tubes.
The ultimate in audio history and nostalgia was the presentation by David Kennedy of JS Audio (of Washington DC) of an original pair of circa 1982 Dave Wilson, serial No. 001 WAMM loudspeakers. Resurrected and factory restored these are marvelous units with "big stage" sound to match and reinforced by a large pair of subwoofers. Having been an observer, reader, listener, and general fan of Wilson creations over the years, this experience was a revelation for us older dudes.
This set was the personal home audio of Dave and Cheryl Wilson for several years. According to the presenter, the late Dave Wilson spent hours refining and testing his designs especially the time alignment of the drivers. This included attaching ropes to the individual driver enclosures and moving them back and forth to get the alignment just right in relation to his listening position. No fancy computer design software here, just plain ol' common sense trial and error - the old Edison way.
Wilson knew the sound of real live music for he was a former recording engineer. A variety of recordings were played in the demo, a special one for me was a rare 45 rpm, D-to-D LP featuring Hot Stix jazz, this giving up a super-fast, dynamic wow factor and huge soundstage. All of this was enhanced by a brace of D'Agostino electronics. Not a bad legacy Dave.
Legacy Audio really had their room rockin' via the performance of their Aeris SE 6 driver, 4.5-way tower loudspeaker ensemble producing a driving, dynamic presentation with low-frequency response stated down to 18Hz. The bi-amped Aeris includes dual 500-Watt ICEpower amps, dual air motion tweeters, 95.4dB/W/m sensitivity, and other features offered at $24,338 per pair. This ensemble included the New Legacy WAVELET II DAC Preamp/Processor/Room Correction unit according to designer Bill Duddleson is said to have twice the resolution as previous editions priced at $7,950.
Power supporting all of this was the Legacy IV-2 solid-state stereo unit featuring ICSEdge technology offered at $4,785. A set of Focus SE towers offered at $11,962 were also punching well above their pay grade in my opinion. All in all, a fine example of ever-evolving electronics and loudspeakers from the hands and minds of our home folks.