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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 7
Many very exciting 6th floor sound systems at AXPONA.
Audio Expo North America 2023 Show Report By Rick Becker



Mon Acoustic, Aurender, And Sanctus Cable
I remember the Mon Acoustic room from last year from the illuminated power strip that graced the front of their rig. There is something glitzy, whimsical, and impractical about it that makes me want to stare at it like I would an aquarium. The cable risers used here fall into that same category like tickling memories of Christmas back in the 1950s. Yet for all the display, they still relied on a more conventional, if obscure, power conditioner seen at the right of the rack.



This decorative Sanctus Zeus power distributor ($2500) challenges the way we typically think of power strips. As a reviewer, I would be grateful for such easy access to the power cords. But for access to the controls of my components... let me think about this for another year. The Sanctus F3 Signature power cords were also glitzy at $2500, but I can see how they might appeal to some people.



On top of the rack were a Chord DAVE DAC, CPA 5000 preamp (discontinued), and SPM 1200 Mk II stereo amp (discontinued). Below that was an Aurender N20 streamer ($12k) and further down was a Bluesound Vault 2i network streamer ($1399).



The big news here was the two Mon Acoustic speakers. The little red one with an air-motion transducer coupled with a small dynamic driver was the Supermon Mini ($2k). The larger silver monitor was the Platimon VC One priced at $6500, including stands. They were connected with Sanctus F1 Signature speaker cables ($2500) and F4 Signature speaker cables ($5500) respectively. I heard the aluminum Platimon VC One, which sounded quite good — better than I remembered my reaction to this room last year. It seems this South Korean company has done its homework over the past year.



Bricasti Design
Bricasti Design from Massachusetts showcased their electronics, bringing in Tidal Audio Piano speakers on Stillpoints Ultra Isolators, Gotham Cable to connect it all, and ASC IsoThermal TubeTraps to tame the bass.



I noticed the wood shelves of the rack were comprised of five-layer PlyBoo and slotted to enhance air circulation. The pillars seemed to have additional spacers added to accommodate the tall monoblocks. Additional vibration-absorbing footers seemed to have been added to all components.



Clockwise from the upper right were the M1 Series II Argento Edition dual-mono DAC ($12k), the M3 Direct Stream DAC ($6k), a pair of M28 Special Edition monoblocks ($30k), the new M20 dual mono preamplifier ($12.5k) and the M21 Platinum Edition dual mono DAC ($19k), which is the DAC I heard here.

Tidal speakers are among the best in the world and the Bricasti gear was certainly up to the task of driving them to maximum performance.



Benchmark Media And Laufer Teknik Products
This is at least the second or likely the third time I've heard Mark Porzilli's The Note speakers. I've been a fan since his Pipedreams and Scaena speaker days.



The Note speakers ($32,500, including one SVS SB 3000 subwoofer) are a challenge to our multiple concepts of what a speaker should look like. The 50 identical small dynamic drivers are mounted in an extrusion you might buy at Home Depot. Psychically, they scare me a little. They weigh only 40 pounds each. Would I forget they were there, fail to see them, and accidentally knock one over? I suppose they could be tethered to an eyebolt in the ceiling to alleviate such fear... or be anchored to the floor with sandbags in a mid-century contemporary art sort of way.

Acoustically, they disappear in that there is no correlation between the music and the physical speaker. The music escapes the box because...well, there is no box. But you positively know the speakers are there because the music is undeniably present with high resolution, high transparency, and uncompressed dynamics from top to bottom. Well, down to 300Hz or so, where a subwoofer is needed to fill in. Modest SVS SB 3000 subs ($1100 each) were used here effectively, but the thought of other possibilities was tantalizing.

The sound here was quite real and three-dimensional. Sitting in the sweet spot was not critical. I got up and walked around behind the speaker to notice how the soundstage retained its perspective to a large degree.

A few paragraphs about "dynamic linearity" on a fact sheet pointed out how with The Note, high frequencies do not compress and distort with increased volume, unlike most speakers. That was particularly audible even through my headphones while listening to my video notes. Did that make the speakers bright in the treble... or more like live music? I'd have to say it is more like live music with an additional word of caution that live music can be tiring. I'm about to be reminded of this in June when I typically take in 50 jazz performances over 10 days at the Rochester International Jazzfest.



The rig, seen here on a Stillpoints rack, uses Mark's Memory Player as a source. The "Elephant" model is $12,500 and there are two higher models also offered by Laufer Teknik. This was a forerunner of many of today's network streamers. The next shelf held a new fourth-generation DEQX device whose price will be announced in the fall. It is an HD-active preamp processor for room correction and also acts as a digital crossover.

Below the DEQX was a pair of Benchmark Media DAC3 B DACs. This is their basic DAC model at $1800 each. I suspect they were using two here for ultimate channel separation. Outboard of the rack were a pair of Benchmark AHB2 power amps used in monoblock configuration delivering way more power than was needed in this room.




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