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AXPONA 2024 High-Performance Audio, Luxury Premium Hi-Fi Stereo Audiophile Show Report By Enjoy the Music.com

 

The Big AXPONA 2024 Show Report
The largest, most well-managed, and most amazing show in North America!
Audio Expo North America 2024 Show Coverage By Greg Weaver

 

 

1420 – Treehaus Audiolab
I was fortunate enough to have Rich Pinto, owner and designer at Connecticut's Treehaus Audiolab, make time for me to interview him at last November's Capital Audiofest. And while this system is of a general design that would typically not pique my interest (four-chassis, 300B based, 6-Watt amplifiers and field coil speakers!), I've had to give Rich credit for creating an absolutely beautiful, and beautiful sounding, system.

 

System Details:
SME Model 12 Mk 2 Turntable with SME 309 Tonearm – approx.. $12,500
Ortofon Verismo MC Cartridge - $6,999

Treehaus Audiolab Preamplifier "The A/Machines" - $19,000

Treehaus Audiolab Amplifier "The A/Machines" - $39.000

Treehaus Moving Coil Step-Up Transformer (MC SUT) - $3,000
Treehaus "Phantom of Luxury" Field Coil Loudspeakers - Starting at $29,000
with Iconoclast SPTPC internal wiring - $3,500 additional
and Elm Cookies Plinth - $3,000 additional

 

Why do I typically have little interest in such systems? In my experience, such systems most often offer editorialized tonality, often with a euphonic coloration, and compromised extension at both extremes.

 

 

Not this rig. Rich has managed to develop a system capable of remarkably accurate timber, tonality, and texture, and with an ability to recreate a realistic three-dimensional image and soundscape, all while maintaining credible instrumental sizes. The system can recreate delicate and expressive nuances while rendering robust body and untainted tonality. Astonishingly transparent, it offers remarkable dynamic expressiveness, especially in the micro realm, and in its ability to scale, rendering lifelike dynamic contrasts – even at lower listening levels. The result is a relaxed and natural, yet dynamic and rhythmically engaging presentation. Bravo, Rich.

 

 

1427 – Vinnie Rossi And YG Acoustics
When I arrived, Vinnie was just finishing swapping loudspeakers after an accident had damaged a driver in the previous models, the roughly one-third more costly YG Acoustics Hailey 3s. Hey, it's an audio show, and sadly, things like this do happen. Fortunately, the team had a backup plan that they were able to implement almost immediately!

 

System Details:
Innous Statement Music Server - $25,000
Innous Phoenix ET - $4,349
MolaMola Tambaqui DAC - $13,500
Vinnie Rossi BRAMA Preamplifier (gen2) - $38,995
Vinnie Rossi BRAMA Monoblock Power Amplifiers (gen2) - $59,995/pair
YG Acoustics Vantage 3 Loudspeakers - $41,700/pair
Nordost cabling throughout
Nordost QB4 / QB8 Mark III AC Distribution Units - $1,399/ $2,299

 

 

I have to mention that given my experience with these remarkable electronics; I expected this room would sound good. But just like my time with the EMM Labs electronics driving the Vantage 3s in Dallas just four weeks prior, I was presented with another surprise.

I was completely enchanted with the system's ability to present such authentic tonality and dynamic expressiveness with piano and the human voice. Everything played during my brief visit was very well rendered, with vibrance and energy.

 

 

1428 – Well Pleased AV, Merason, QLN, And Vinni Rossi
I had gotten a press release from QLN's Export Sales & Marketing Director, Mark Sossa, discussing the release of the new Reference 9. QLN is the largest audiophile speaker manufacturer in Sweden, and they have always managed to impress me with previous designs. The plan to launch this flagship product at AXPONA had earned it a place on my list of "To Do's."

 

System Details:
Innuos Statement Next Gen Music Server - $25,000
Innuos Phoenix NET - $4,350

Merason DAC1 MKII- $8,500

Vinnie Rossi Brama Integrated Amplifier - $47,995

QLN Reference 9 Loudspeakers - $42,000 - World Debut

GigaWatt PC-4 EVO+ Power Conditioner (w/LS-2) - $14,500

SGR Audio Model 5/3/1 Symphony Rack

Graceline Level 3 Cabling

- Speaker-$13,995 (4m)

- XLR Interconnects - $6,495 (1.5m)

- Power Cords - $7,995 (2m)

- AB- Tech REN Ethernet - $1,250 (2m)

- AB- Tech KLAR USB - $1,350 (2m)
Modell (Amp Stand) - $1,200 /shelf

Model 3 - $2,200 /shelf

Model 5 - $3,200 /shell

 

 

This new three-way QLN Reference 9 is their flagship. With a new, custom-designed 9" coated, ultra-stiff carbon sandwich cone woofer, its proprietary 7" Kevlar cone midrange driver (featuring hexagonal copper voice coils), and a custom-designed 25mm textile-dome tweeter featuring a unique airflow magnet system, the Reference 9 sets a new bar for them.

And driven as if under a spell by the remarkable Brama Integrated amplifier, delivering 400 Watts of matched Western Electric 300B power (the Ref 9 is a 4-Ohm speaker), this pairing was a match made in audiophile heaven.

While listening, Mark was kind enough to play some tracks from my Qobuz Hi-Fi Audio Partners playlist (for any interested), including the David Bowie / Georgio Moroder collaborative movie soundtrack cut, "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)." When this track kicked up at about two minutes, the cut's bass impact, dynamic contrasts, as well as its airy sense of space, were delivered in spades. Along with its lively and vibrant presentation, someone else in the room commented on the presentation's blush of immediacy.

It was with the 1972 Decca/London release of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (and Chorus), under Sir George Solti that the wonderful sense of space of this recording, and the clear individuality of the choral and soloists, was given flight. Yeah, this would have to be considered a spectacularly successful launch event. Well done, all.

 

 

1445  – Gryphon Audio Designs
My visits trying to get into this room proved to be too busy to even wade into, let alone to find a seat. However, I ran into Gryphon's Director of Sales & Marketing, Anthony Chiarella, in the static display room Schaumburg E, on the first floor, on Sunday, and was able to get a few photos of this simply amazing-looking and sounding gear. (I've heard Gryphon products quite regularly over the decades).

 

 

 

1210  - DarTZeel
Though I was able to catch up with the mastermind behind Swiss-made DarTZeel, Hervé Delétraz, when spending time in Schaumburg F later in the show, I was unable to get into this room as well. They were doing something different by hosting Jazz saxophonist and composer Jerome Sabbagh playing live - in the room. He played along to custom backing tracks from his "No Filler" release. And my timing seemed to be awful as both times I tried to stop by, the room was packed. By the way, the name DarTZeel came from the rearrangement of the letters of his last name!

 

 

1225 – Fidelity Imports
What a simply splendid-sounding room! I've been a fan of North London's J.A. Michell Engineering analog products since I first encountered them in the very early 1970s. They first garnered attention as the builders of the earliest versions of the Transcriptors Hydraulic Reference turntables designed by the late David Gammon, as featured in Stanley Kubrick's film "A Clockwork Orange" and as works of art in several museums.

The very impressive electronics offerings from Soulnote, a company founded in 2004 by the former members of Marantz Japan, is headquartered in Kanagawa, Japan. The Acoustic Energy audio brand was based in the Cotswolds region of England in 1995 but chose to move its manufacturing to China in the late 1990s to reduce production costs. But MAN do these flagship Corinium floor-standing models grab your attention!

 

System Details:
Michell Gyro SE turntable - $6,499
Cartridge not listed
Soulnote E-1Phono Preamp - $4,999
Soulnote D-1 DAC - $6,999
Soulnote A-2 integrated amplifier - $7,999
Acoustic Energy Corinium Speakers - $7,499/pair
QED cables/Titan Audio Power Cords

 

 

When I took into consideration the real-world pricing of this very attractive and utterly overachieving system, I was completely knocked out. Listening here was engaging and detailed. The system simply had superb bass extension, with amazingly solid, authoritative impact. Its control and coherence broadband, combined with its very nicely delineated treble left me nearly speechless at its price. "Say Something," featuring Chirs Stapleton, from Justin Timberlake's 2018 Man of the Woods release, made for a very convincing and effective demonstration of this system's myriad of strengths.

 

 

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