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AXPONA 2023 Luxury Premium Audio And Hi-Fi Stereo Audiophile Show Report By Enjoy the Music.com

The AXPONA 2023 Chronicles: Part 3
Fascinating audio gear on the 14th floor.
Audio Expo North America 2023 Show Report By Rick Becker

 

 

Dr. Vinyl
This was a very fine-sounding room from Dr. Vinyl out of Baltimore. I heard music from the digital source, but the analog front end was equally special. On top of the left rack was a J.Sikora turntable. Below that was the McGary Audio SP1 preamp taking a big jump in price from the Capital Audiofest to $12k. Below that was a DS Audio phono stage ($15k), and on the bottom shelf, a Puritan power conditioner.

On the rack on the right was a top-loading C.E.C. TL5 CD transport ($2,524) with an Ideon DAC below, followed by Ideon Absolute Time re-clocker ($10k) and Absolute Stream streamer ($19,900) on the very bottom.

 

 

The big surprise for me here was the Usher 801 speakers ($15k). I haven't heard much about Usher in recent years, nor seen them often at shows. With a high gloss finish over the black baffles and wood veneer sides, they not only looked stunning but sounded as transparent as their finish with a very silky voice. They were driven very effectively by the McGary MA1 monoblocks which can be used with KT88 tubes sourced from other countries if you don't wish to buy Russian tubes. The cabling was by ArgentPur with pure silver.

 

 

J. Sikora turntables have been seen quite a bit in fine-sounding rooms since they were introduced just a few years ago. The Standard Max model for 2 arms is priced at $22,495. The Tru-Glidder tonearm ($5,975) seen on the right was equipped with a DS audio cartridge.

 

 

On a solid wood board to the right of the racks were two CAD (Computer Audio Design) ground-enhancing devices, GDC 1.1 ($3,300) and GDC 3.1 ($2,750) which were likely used on the noisy digital gear in the system. Rooms that I've heard with CAD ground components have sounded quite good over the years.

The good Dr. Vinyl put on a very good show here.

 

 

Nokturne Audio And Lejonklou HiFi
I was looking forward to visiting Nokturne Audio to see Thomas O'Keefe (The Linn Whisperer) and Fredrik Lejonklou again. I had just heard a very fine-sounding rig at the Montreal show in the Hearken Audio room where Lejonklou gear drove a pair of Graham LS8/1 speakers with excellent results. I had forgotten to take photos of that room, so I had promised to make up for that oversight here in Chicago.

 

 

Fredrik wasn't in the room at the time, but I caught up with him in the hallway on a lower floor on Saturday.

 

 

Like the Montreal show, I was impressed with the top-of-the-line Linn LP12. This turntable has evolved considerably in the past few years and has come out of hiding. This one was described as a Harban moving plinth / Karousel / Klimax Radikal 2 / Keel / Trampolin 2 / Ekos SE1 / Ekstatik and if you're a Linnie, you know what all those parts are. This one is priced at over $30k. A Linn LP12/rosewood plinth / Klimax Radikal / Keel / Trampolin 2 / Ekos2 / Adikt3 was priced at $20k, and you can go even more basic (or is it basik?) than that.

 

 

The other star of the show here was the new Lejonklou SINGularity monoblock MC phono stage ($55k) in a copper chassis. While it is not made from billet copper, but rather conventional chassis construction with folded sheet metal top and sides with a thicker engraved faceplate, it is still expensive and probably acts as a Faraday cage for the good stuff inside, which is solid-state. Monoblock front ends are a European fashion these days and are an upstream extension of monoblock preamps and power amps that have been around for decades. Think Jadis back in the 1990s, for example. The monoblock phono stage is the ultimate expression of the obsessive approach Fredrick takes towards his components, which are all minimalist and purist to the extreme.

For those with more simple needs, he also offers a well-reviewed Slipsik 8 reference MM phono stage in a single box for $1795. And he also showed the Kalla Digital Music Player ($8495) for those into streaming.

 

 

I suspect the photo above is the new Lejonklou Tundra 3 Monoblocks ($12,990/pr.), but their website's stereo version looks the same. Using switch mode power supplies, they put out 100 Watts per channel. I was surprised to learn that Lejonklou products ship with Volex power cords that Nokturne Audio also sells for $45 each. Volex is a mass-market industrial supplier, so presumably this cord is at least one of the best they offer. The cords were run through a modified CablePro Revelation power strip ($350) again, not expected in this environment. It is all about the sound with this Swedish company. Their website will give you greater insight, along with access to their forum with over 2000 members.

 

 

The speaker here was the Orfeo Grande ($19,500) from JM Reynaud in France. It is actually a dark blue finish on the floorstander with a front slotted port near the floor. It is recommended to be placed further out from the wall than it was in the room here, which likely compromised the airiness and soundstage a bit.

There was also a Lejonklou Giella II 1.2 headphone system ($3,395) on display with a handful of impressive headphones including an Abyss Diana TC ($4,495), Dan Clark Audio Stealth ($3,999), ZMF Verite Open ($2,499) and a Grado SR125e ($150), which is pretty close to what I use at my computer workstation.

 

 

 

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