The Inaugural Pacific Audio Fest - Seattle 2022
I was immediately greeted by Lars Kristensen, AGDs Owner and Founder, and Peter Hansen, their North American Sales Manager, who were presenting their all-out assault with their latest and greatest products. The room featured the Aavik S-580 streamer module ($25,200), feeding the Aavik D-580 Digital/Analog Converter ($25,200), which in turn was connected to the Aavik I-880 integrated amplifier ($70,000), which employs a Class A amplifier, producing 200W per channel into 8Ω. All cabling was from the Ansuz Gold Signature lineup.
They describe the integrated I-880, and the standalone P-880 amplifier's operation class as a "different" class-A. While they say that the output devices are never switching and remain linear, their approach is claimed to allow for a more efficient degree of operation, producing less heat than the more "typical" Class-A.
This all drove the staggeringly priced Børresen M1 Stand Mounted Loudspeaker ($100,000/pr., including the stands). You may wonder how anyone may possibly justify such a lofty asking price for a two-way, stand-mounted monitor. Well, the M1 employs a topology-optimized, 3D-printed woofer basket made of zirconium, a driver membrane that they claim has the highest stiffness and the lowest membrane resonance yet, and they use iron-free drivers, which they allege give them an overall inductance that is about ten times lower than that available from conventional drivers.
As most of you know who have followed my work over time, technology and measurements are one thing, but it is the performance that matters most to me. It was just amazing what this system could do, both in terms of SPL, AND its ability to render texture and tonality at realistic, and louder, volumes. When I walked in, all the visitors in the room were rocking out, including Lars, to the track "Deutschland," by the German Neue Deutsche Härte band Rammstein. As a German metal record, this raucous cut does a great job at doing what it was made to, get your blood rushing and stir you to your feet.
This setup had the speakers VERY widely spaced, nearly spread from side-wall to side-wall, sporting a rather aggressive degree of toe-in, with all the components mounted centrally. But what an engrossing, spectacularly dynamic, and natural presentation. Moving to Leo Kottke's "Across the Street," I was even further impressed with this system's ability to render markedly relaxed, neutral-sounding acoustic 12-string guitar tonality, while maintaining its superb texture, and harmonic bloom. This desperate contrast in musical styles really showcased how accomplished and refined this system was. What an exceptional – and FUN – room!
In 2203 I was greeted by perhaps one of the most overlooked and exceptionally performing loudspeakers available today, Daniele Coen's superb planar dynamic Alsyvox loudspeakers, designed in Italy and handcrafted in Spain.
Here the source was the superb Taiko "Extreme" server ($30,000 as configured), which streamed to the exceptionally analog-sounding Esoteric K-03XD CD/SACD/DAC ($15,000). Electronics were the hand-crafted Greek Pilium "Alexander" preamp ($50,000) and the Pilium "Achilles" amplifier ($50,000). The speakers were the Alsyvox Botticelli X, ($100,000/pr., plus $36,000 for the "X" external crossovers). All cabling was of the "Orion" series of VYDA laboratory Audio Solutions of Italy, including "Orion" speaker cables ($15,000/pr.) and interconnects ($6,000/pr.)
I've repeatedly fallen hard for these speakers when driven just right – as they were here. These are, in my experience, the most spacious and dynamic sounding planer-dynamic loudspeakers you are likely to hear. The presentation here was liquid, with rich tone, and was finely layered, with vivid dimensionality, and an almost scary natural presence. As with every time I hear them, I was so impressed with their remarkable bass extension, blistering transient attack, and dynamic abilities, especially with percussion. Not only could this system recreate a huge and accurately sized soundstage, but it also pulled a complete vanishing act. I so want a pair of the Botticelli's in my room for review!
I was somewhat surprised when I ran into Julian Margules in room 2206, as the PAF 2022 Audio Guide showed that this room was to have been hosted by Esoteric. Margules is a company some one hundred years old now, founded in Mexico City, Mexico, and they have made fine audio for decades. I've had the honor of knowing principal Julian Margules for nearly twenty-five years. The Luxury Audio Group's Bruce Ball was in the room as well, and I was very drawn into this system's neutral, rich soundscape from the moment I walked in the door.
Fronted by the prototype Margules Music Server ($TBD), the preamplifier was the Margules SF-220 Special Edition Class-A Valve-based Preamp ($7,000). The SF-220 employs a circuit that integrates the output stage with the input stage, which Margules claims allows them to obtain an unusually high-frequency response and greater transient speed. Next was the Margules U-280SC 30th Anniversary Special Edition Class A Amplifier, ($10,000). This amp uses their proprietary Active Servo Bias circuit, which they claim allows its output stage to operate in pure class-A with zero negative feedback. It can use 6550s, KT88s, KT90s, KT120s, or even KT150s, with no adjustments necessary. It can be configured as a stereo or mono amplifier, and may be switched between Triode or Ultralinear modes, offering up to 55 Watts Mono/25 Wpc stereo in Triode mode, or 100 Watts mono/50 Wpc stereo in Ultralinear mode.
The speakers were the brilliant Benno Baun Meldgaard-designed Raidho TD3.2s ($70,000/pr.), and all AC Power Cords and power distribution blocks were RSX Tech, with speaker cables ($4,000) and interconnects ($2,000) from the Shunyata Alpha V2 series.
This room really impressed, as it was so natural, so not-hi-fi, and so authentic sounding. It covered all bets, from having excellent dynamics and impact to offering delicious tone that was almost dripping with texture! This room had remarkable coherency with very good resolution. I was so impressed with the overall performance here that I asked to get the Margules electronics for review. Bruce let me know that arrangements had already been made to get them into the hands, and ears, of our own Tom Lyle.
Watch for the next report which will finish up the bulk of the exhibits, to be finally followed by my "Fab Five" roundup of the five most authentically musical systems presented at this inaugural show.
More show coverage to come in part two. Be sure to check back for more PAF 2022 show coverage!