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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

 

 

Treehaus Audiolab And Iconoclast Cable
Here was another room that was a stand out just by the very nature of its speakers. I raved about these when they premiered at Capital Audiofest in 2021 and wrote the world premiere review for our February 2022 issue. Using full-range field coil drivers supplemented with a woofer and tweeter, the technical integration with my rig at home was complex with my limited space for components.

Rich Pinto had the components very well organized on the custom rack he built. Most of the components on it were from Treehaus as well. On the left end, the Treehaus preamp resides directly above its separate power supply. To the right, on top, is the stereo power amp with 300B tubes, and its power supply on the far right.

Back on the lower shelf, the second component from the left is the power supply for the field coil drivers. Next was a PS Audio DAC Mk I with modified output transformers, followed by a Zen Mini server / streamer and Purifi Class D power amps from Denmark for the woofers. Cabling, as the sign says, was by Iconoclast.

As much a wizard with a soldering iron as he is with a table saw, Rich Pinto has created a very special rig here. Each speaker will look and sound a little bit different, depending on the board and the drivers selected, but the visual presence of the rig and the pride of ownership are as high as the mountains or the ceilings of urban lofts they are destined to call home.

 

 

Vinnie Rossi, Innuos, And Rockport Technology
Vinnie Rossi's rooms over the past few years have always been an important room to visit and he put together another fine presentation here.

 

 

Vinnie used his Brama integrated amp ($39k) to drive Rockport Technologies' entry-level speaker, the Atria II ($38k). This rig is capable of filling a much larger room than it was shown in, given the Brama's 350 Watts per channel into 4 Ohms, yet the simplicity of the rig and the layout, as well as the fine sound, seemed appropriate even at this small size.

The design of the Brama is not stunning in an over-the-top, superfluous way, but rather a perfect balance between functionality and industrial design that is unique among high-end components today. An Innuos Statement music server with Next-Gen power supply and 1TB of storage ($21,700) with an MSB Premier DAC ($27,500) with Pro ISL / USB ($2k) completes the component package. The component rack perfectly complemented this selection, I might add.

 

 

Cabling was by Transparent with the Ultra G6 speaker cable at $5k for a 12' pair, 1m XLR interconnects at $3,200, and 2m Premium power cables at $1,275. The Stromtank SEQ-5 Distribution Bar was a hefty piece at $4,875.

As in the past, I found the Rockport speaker to sound very similar to my Kharma speaker, given the small difference between this solid-state system and my tube-powered one. Part of this reason must be Vinnie's understanding of both tube and solid-state gear, evidenced in the line stage of this integrated amp that offers a choice between solid-state and 300B tube amplification, selectable from the remote control. Precious few other components offer you such a choice.

 

 

Von Gaylord Audio
I remember Von Gaylord showing at the New York (or was it Canadian?) shows a couple of decades ago. The tube sound with his small monitors was very mellow at the time. Then he disappeared from the scene, at least in my neighborhood in the northeast. He is based in West Sacramento, CA, so maybe that explains my belief that he had fallen off the edge of the earth.

 

 

His presentation here was certainly an ear-opener for me. Gone was the "mellow," replaced by a high-resolution and very transparent musical presentation. The speakers looked the same but sounded completely up-to-date with an aura that filled the soundstage in a way that tubes do so well. Hopefully, they were not Russian. That was a Von Gaylord tube DAC on the lower left in the rig, too. The preamp was the Harmony single chassis preamp ($5k) and the power amps were the Nirvana monoblocks ($8500).

 

 

The frequency range seemed very full from these small speakers, though the jazz playing masked the tightness of the bass with horns and cymbals. Most importantly, the music was eminently inviting with a very transparent signature. These were his VG-18 monitors at $6,900 with a very high-gloss finish that was as transparent as the music. Von Gaylord not only makes a range of models for each component but also a range of cables. I was very impressed with this room and glad to be updated.

 

 

Well Pleased AV And Choice Audio
Qln speakers from Sweden have grabbed my attention at shows since Covid let up. The Prestige 3 floorstander in a dark gloss walnut finish at $12k seemed like a good value. It was easily driven with a Qualiton a75i integrated amp from Audio Hungary with Russian KT150 tubes. Hungary has been the NATO country most sympathetic toward Russia in these evil-filled times.

 

 

The darkened room was an inviting space to listen to the airy sound of this rig. A Merason DAC1 MkII ($8k) was weighted down with a vibration-absorbing block from HRS, no doubt to good effect. Innuos Zenith Mk3 music server and Phoenix USB re-clocker ($3,750) fed the DAC.

A new GigaWatt PC-4 EVO+ power conditioner with twelve outlets at $14.5k was not a trivial item here. Nor were the Swisscables Diamond Series power cords ($2,800 for 1.5m) or interconnects at $3,450 for 1.5m. Speaker cables were $7,150 for a 3.5m pair, more than half the price of the speakers.

 

 

I liked the clean look of the Qln footers that revealed no nut or knob on top. Below the bar were special Levar Resonance magnetic footers that allowed a small amount of vertical travel when I pressed down heavily on one. A screenshot of a measuring device on the Levar website suggests they are very effective in isolating floor vibrations in either direction. These are not standard with the Qln speaker and I expect they would be expensive. All-in-all, this was a very impressive room.

 

 

 

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