The AXPONA 2023 Chronicles: Part
I made a big mistake Friday morning. I had read somewhere that the show started at 9 a.m. so I was up on the 16th Floor, ready to go at that time. I wandered up and down the halls of the 16th and 15th floors trying to find music. It seems 9 a.m. was when admission to the show began, while the rooms opened at 10 a.m., which is a normal audio show procedure. I was excited that they would open at 9 a.m. to give me three more hours to work the show, but no such luck. So, here we go!
PureAudioProject, Denafrips, VPI, And Pass Labs
The rig featured a VPI turntable, Pass XP-17 phono stage, Pass INT-25 integrated amp, Aurender streamer, and Denafrips DAC on the bottom shelf. The equipment rack looked like it might be a PureAudioProject design with DIY bent steel struts and Plyboo shelves. It appeals to the little boy within who was the master of Erector Sets, a long-dormant skill, but the PAP speakers are relatively easy to assemble.
I wrote the first review of a PAP speaker back in 2015 and while I felt the sound quality was first-class, I didn't buy the review sample because it was obvious there was a clear pathway to improve upon the design. And they certainly have followed through in that regard. The complex metal super-structure has combined with the wood baffles in what is almost a monocoque design. The stamped-steel baskets on early woofers are replaced with cast or forged baskets with cooling fins around the driver's motor. And the selection of full-range drivers in the center is far superior to the early models. Prices vary on the style and drivers you select. I came upon their least expensive speaker, a two-way, much later on.
Nine years after we first met at the TAVES 2014 show in Toronto, it was good to see Ze'ev Schlik again. He's come a long way in that time, creating one of the most admirable, and dare I say affordable, speaker lines in the high end. I also think back with fond remembrance of Rachel Zhang of Grant Fidelity who first introduced us.
The room sounded pretty good when I heard it early on Friday morning before it had a chance to warm up, but I chanced upon Jeffrey Smith on Saturday who told me he had later installed both his speaker cable and his new, unreleased interconnect. I returned to PureAudioProject first thing Sunday morning — again, before the rig had warmed up, and the difference was immediately apparent — dare I say astounding? The treble was very finely resolved with shimmery cymbals taking the level of the speaker up a very significant step.
The Silversmith interconnects are the black cables just above their gold speaker cables in the photo above. They droop down to the left where you can see the narrow gold/something ribbon shining through the sheath of the cable.
The rig was comprised of an Esoteric Audio front end and VAC amplification, with some streaming gear below that. It was a pleasure to see Zoltan Bayz again. The room is always among the very best at the show despite being confined to such a small room.
While the speakers look heavy and hard to move, only the granite base is seriously heavy, providing a well-damped surface with high-tech footers. The large carbon fiber tubes are made in Hungary, but the speakers are built in Denmark.
The style is unique but having seen it over the past few years, I've grown quite accustomed to it. Like an exotic car or a large work of art, it will define its owner.