AXPONA 2012 Show Report --
Audio Expo North America
Warm winter brings cool sounds to the
Show Coverage By A. Colin Flood
Fellow reviewer Jason Victor Serinus hosted
three others at a discussion before a dozen tweaking audiophiles. I was one of
them. Joining us was Ray Seda of Dagogo and Neil Gader of The Absolute
Sound. In my prepared notes, I wanted to say:
Mr. A. Colin Flood, write for Enjoy the
by and large, my publisher lets me
say what I think in equipment reviews (Editorial note: That is
100% a lie according to those on discussion boards, so I am editing out
your lie to keep things honest on this site… and if by now you don't
get the humor of this, you may be a Redneck audiophile ;-) )
reason tweaking audiophiles are never satisfied with our systems is
because our ears are connected to one of the most powerful super-computers
on the planet! And what is that supercomputer design to do? Pattern
recognition: a spec of colorful fruit in a jungle of green, a small
flutter of a bird in a forest of trees, a shadow beneath a stream of
waves, a female form miles away, the DNA in a kiss... and the malformed
note of music. Our listening trains us to hear better. Our brains notice
room is the largest component in our systems. I learned about this when I
reviewed, and loved, Ethan Winer's Real Traps (see
Enjoy the Music.com review) acoustic panels. Learn the frequency
response not only of your systems, but also of your room. Knowing the
peaks and modes of both empowers you to refine your system to a higher
level of quality.
above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the
day, Thou canst not then be false to any man." Shakespeare's "Hamlet" has wise words for tweaking audiophiles. It is what you hear
and enjoy that matters. I know full well the debates raging among us about
digital, vinyl, tubes, solid-state, horns, cones, stats and panels. In the
end, all that really matters is that you enjoy
Instead of these points, what we discussed first was how we
writers came to be there. In my case, I was fortunate to know Ralph Karsten of
Atma-sphere OTL amplifiers when I was an impressionable teenager. He
introduced to me to horns and tubes. Serinus said discovering the missing
octaves at a live performance was an epiphany for him. He said tweaking
audiophiles are trying to get closer to the point of music creation with our
did I think was the future of high-end audio?
baby boom in high-end audio is peaking! The male portion of the 79 million
babies born between 1946 to 1964, and led by Presidents Clinton and Bush,
will die off quickly in the next decade.
made a comment bemoaning the lack of musical education in schools. I
agreed: a shocking percentage of teenagers have NOT heard the live
acoustic of an orchestra performance. In fact, many budding stereo heads are
not trying to reproduce the 3D sonic illusion of a live,
intimate coffee house or studio artist at all! They want the head-banging
experience of the rock concert or the big-screen movie theater. Nothing
wrong with that. Yet as movies migrate from the public cinema to the big
screen in the living room, why isn't high-end audio coming along also?
Isn't quality audio just as important to movies as screen size?
iPad is a transformative device. I suspect society will continue to deploy
it and other electronic gadgets in ways unimaginable, as according to the
law of unintended consequences (not the outcomes intended by a purposeful
action). Already "Guitar Hero" and the Wii, for example, have millions
of people doing strange things in their homes, including faking, and
maybe, learning something about music. Steve Davis, organizer of AXPONA,
told me in the hallway that the competition for high-end audio is the
ubiquitous iPod. He may be right, but the future of high quality movie and
music reproduction in the home must lie in embracing the new technologies:
we need iPod connections in every device!
Coolest Thing We Heard
Scott Hall, Part-time Audiophile blogger,
asked us "what was the coolest thing we heard recently?" Three events
induced the blissful, somatic state of dream-like alpha waves for me, which I
equate with audio nirvana:
located seats (for $10!) at the Florida Orchestra performance of one of my
all-time favorites, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's buoyant second symphony, "Little Russian"
2A3 Paramours with Supravox's single driver Carla towers (Bottlehead
here and Supravox
powerful Operetta amplifier with their A3 loudspeakers (Operetta
here and A3
Serinus said he heard a MBL system once that floated a
magical note from Beverly Sills above the audience at exactly the right spot!
(No, the loudspeaker cables in the picture above are not pipes of white light;
it is merely reflection off their shiny white sides.) Seda said his similar
experience was with the original Mark Porzilli Pipedream and amplifier system.
Porzilli, a child prodigy, now with Nova Physics Group, designed all of Melos
Audio's solid-state and vacuum tube products. He is also the designer of the
original, award winning Pipedreams and new Scaena loudspeakers.
Another, "you must check out this room"
favorite amongst my audio club, was the unique design, looks and sound of the
Tom Maker's system. Maker was founder of EDGE Electronics. This was a
$24,000 three-way system, with two 6" drivers and a 2" tweeter in a
boy-girl-boy known as a D'Appolito arrangement. Marker's first loudspeaker
enclosure is aluminum, carbon fiber and fiberglass reinforced polyethylene
tubes. He fronts and backs the tubes with 0.75"-inch thick aluminum plates to
remove resonance. The interiors of the tubes are lined with rock wool, known
in the room acoustics for its acoustic properties. The outside of the tubes
are covered with wood veneers. The subwoofer cabinet was shaped like a
truncated pyramid to reduce reflections. It houses a 700 watt amplifier,
digital signal processor and music streaming electronics as well as a 330mm
woofer. The cabinet is made of 1" thick high-density MDF, reinforced with
carbon fiber and an aluminum composite panel. In addition to surprisingly
large and solid bass from mid-size cabinet, the soundstage of the M-Audio
system exhibited a lot of air around the images.
Back this time with their own room,
Audioengine had three very interesting little items:
a 7" tall 22-watt desktop amplifier – just the right size and power
to drive my Big Ole Horns
2: tiny powered desktop monitors with 2.75" Kevlar woofers, silk dome
tweeters and built-in 15-watt, class A/B amplifier, providing 65 Hz to 22
kHz, within 2-dB for only $200! Smooth enough at low volumes up close, but
"forgetta 'bout it!" Save up your shekels. Get the bigger brother
instead. The larger model is well worth it.
5+: an extra 200 bucks gets you a larger, more powerful and much better
sounding monitor. Wrapped in rap-solid bamboo, the 5+ has a USB port,
remote control, 150-watt peak power (50-watt RMS), 5" Kevlar woofers
reaching down to 50 Hz (big difference) and up to 22 kHz, within an
incredibly flat 1.5dB! Much better sound. Approaching some qualities
tweaking audiophile love: mid-bass, ability to make music sound realistic,
better sound stage and imaging. I would love to hear these with an
integrated tube amplifier.
The specs on the bookshelf Monitor I
mentioned in Part Two above include a passive 5.25" mid-range Coincident
coaxial driver with its 1" tweeter and 8" active long throw woofer,
for a frequency response of 38 Hz to 20 kHz within 3dB! Even better, AJ claims
the three-way Monitor is within a very flat 2dB in the hypercritical 100 Hz
to 10 kHz range. The Monitor includes a 300-watt BASH plate amplifier on the
rear. Sure enough, AJ says "both the amplifier and sub driver are being
upgraded, ETA end of April" and price is going up, to $1300 per pair. The
boxy 1812 Overture prototypes (not yet on website) are 3-way enclosures with
satellite sitting high above the sub on stands. They include passive 12"
mid-range coaxial driver with 1.75" ring radiator tweeter and 18"
active cardioid subwoofer for 25 Hz to 25 kHz within 3dB. The powered woofer
on both models allows tweaking audiophiles to drive the Soundfield mid and
high-range drivers with their own amplifiers, such as the tubes I think are so
magical. With a very high sensitivity of 97dB/W/m and their 300-watt plate
amplifier, at a listening seat about ten feet away, the Overtures should be
able to reproduce microsecond music peaks of about 112dB!
Named before the movie existed, Darren
Censullo, ex- fighter pilot, ex-Delta Airlines Captain, brought his "always
one of the best sounding" Avatar rooms back again. Front and center in his
parade were the Italian four-way Rosso Fiorentino Siena speakers ($24,995 per
pair). They include 8" woofers, 6.5" ScanSpeak midrange cone with
1" silk-dome tweeter, for a response of 35 Hz to 100 kHz, within 3dB.
Censullo used a rack of Abbingdon Music Research equipment: CD player
($11,000), phono pre-amplifier ($12,000), integrated amplifier ($10,000) and
Censullo also used finger-size, wall mounted,
room tuning blocks again. These $250 to $2850 gem-decorated tinker-toys claim
to have high-density precious metals to preserve space, conversion
of the room's low frequencies into high frequencies to cancel unwanted
resonances and to fine-tune a room's harmonic response. The small wood blocks use Maple bases and tiny metal
bowls. The five different models are based on pure metals and proprietary
alloys: Copper, Silver, Gold (yellow gold), Gold Special (Red Gold) and
Platinum. Count me skeptical about everything; I can't see how such tiny
blocks could effectively attenuate a room, but no less a personage than Harry
Pearson gave them an Absolute Sound
award in 2008.
Driving the big, square, 100dB/W/m efficient
Bastanis boxes in the Beauty of Sound room were a pair of Tubeguru 300 B
single ended monoblocks. Gorgeous in red, these babies put 8.5-watts per
channel, about three times what my Big Ole Horns need to reproduce microsecond
musical peaks above normal listening levels. THD is said to be 0.8% at 1 kHz,
with response within 2dB from 12 Hz to 49 kHz. Bill said the pair is available
for $6400. I said send me a pair for review!
Thrilling systems with incredible looks, sounds and
yes, expense, were showcased at the AXPONA 2012. it indeed another exceptional
event for tweaking audiophiles. I very much look forward to next year's event.
Click here for main AXPONA 2012 show