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

A Music Professor's Assessment Of AXPONA 2023
Great memories of music plus a renewed energy, and inspiration for the art of premium audio.
Audio Expo North America 2023 Show Report By Dr. Michael Bump



Room 1533
There's something about Steve Norber that draws you in I feel this guy's on fire with a passion and determination to design high art audio that delivers incredible musical reproduction within attainable budget marks. I visited his room three times during my two-day visit, each finding, well... Steve! He was there every time, always among a full house, with his vibe fully energized, and always so happy to share his love of this art and great music. His gathering of pieces demonstrated lovely synergy, with his bespoke speakers in particular compelling clarity, spatiality, depth, and organic authenticity.



In addition to his house creations, which consisted of the PranaFidelity purna / ca full-function preamplifier with MM / MC phono stage ($14,500), PranaFidelity purna / ma stereo amplifier (400 Watts @ 8 Ohms ($10,500), and the PranaFidelity Dhara two-way monitors ($9,500), Steve's sources included the marvelous Kuzma Stabi R turntable ($11,139), with a Stogi Reference arm ($4,852), and Denon DL-103R +Fritz Gyger S stylus ($1000), as well as a digital stack, consisting of a Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2 and Pioneer Elite PD-65 CD player / transport (both heavily modified in-house).

Jeff Smith's Silversmith Audio Fidelium speaker cables (2.5 meter @ $1,195/pair) and prototype Fidelium interconnects (1.5 meter $TBD) provided a sense of breath, clarity, and overall dynamic energy to the presentation that was second-to-none. Not to be overlooked were the Furutech DPS-4.1 power cords (2.0 meter @ $2,100 each), and the Furutech Power Distribution station, e-TP609 NCF ($2,200). This room sang so beautifully, garnering well-deserved attention.





Room 1509
Another of my Best Of AXPONA 2023 Award show experiences, this amalgam of Von Schweikert Endeavor SE speakers ($29,600 pr), WestminsterLab Quest balanced preamp ($25,100) and Rei monoblocks ($32,00 pr) powerplant, LampizatOr Horizon DAC ($50,000), Small Green Computer i9 (w/ optical connection) file server/Roon core ($3,499), Sonore Ultra Rendureclocker ($5,499), and a suite of WestminsterLab Ultra Series and Master Built Ultra cables, was nothing short of stunning.



Don't get me wrong, I love what was happening down the hall with the Ultra 7's, but the skilled craftsmanship involved in stitching these otherwise unassuming, modest-but-confident-looking audio pieces together to create an experience that placed you in the performance venue, and kept that venue around you as you moved about the room, was scary good.





It should be noted that, as did the prior Von Schweikert Ultra 7's, the ESE's were isolated with Critical Mass Systems CS2 LS footers (0.8 size)($650 each). I readily admit to being a huge fan of the Von Schweikert ESE speakers, having reviewed, then subsequently bought/hung a "Welcome Home" sign on them. Kudos to team Hear This, led by Gary Leeds, for crafting this exceptional experience for this year's attendees.




Ear Gear Expo
At the end of the day, and before heading to dinner with some Chicago-based friends, I swung by the Ear Gear Expo.




Though I did not partake with any of the companies exhibiting, I noted that it was exceptionally busy during my walk-through, with a plethora of companies and designs represented with easy access for both audition and education from knowledgeable representatives.




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