AXPONA 2018 Official Show Report

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  1. tesseract

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    From the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center in Schaumburg, IL, AV NIRVANA reporters, Matthew Poes and Dennis Young, will be bringing you live coverage of the 2018 AXPONA, featuring the latest and greatest in home audio, with a few video surprises, as well!

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    Be sure to check out our Master Class session entitled “Room EQ Wizard: The Best Free Tweak You Will Ever Buy!". Attendees may register to win one of two miniDSP UMIK-1 measurement microphones!

    This thread will be closed, comments reserved for the reporters only. Please join the discussion HERE.
     
  2. tesseract

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    The AV NIRVANA REW Master Class presentation, delivered by Staff Writer Matthew Poes. This popular Masterclass filled all of the seats, leaving standing room only!

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  3. tesseract

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    The Wynn Audio isolation booth provided a quiet environment to audition the Kiso HB-1 monitors on the noisy show floor. Great idea!
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  4. tesseract

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    GIK Acoustics has a new feature coming to their website called the Virtual Room Planner software that gives prospective customers the ability to create a computer rendition of their room, including furniture, windows, speakers and their room treatments.

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  5. tesseract

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    PlanterSpeakers introduces three new products, the indoor Pedestal speaker, the outdoor Metropolitan and the GrooveTone line of electronics.

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  6. tesseract

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    20180413_133237.jpg 20180413_133326.jpg Screenshot_20180413-134112_Gallery.jpg I got the chance to audition an upcoming Periodic Audio "element", the name of which shoul be revealed mid-July.

    Also coming in June is the Nickel amplifier, capable of driving an 8 ohm load!
     
  7. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    Classic Audio Loudspeakers:
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    One of the better sounding rooms we heard on day one. Great dynamics and palpable imaging.

    We were on our way to see Seaton Sound and JTR's demo rooms when we noticed an interesting audiophile room tucked in between Mark and Jeff. We decided to take a look inside to see what they had, and were greeted with a very interesting room full of classically designed equipment. Not only were the speakers highly reminiscent of speakers from the 30's, but they had a reel-to-reel tape deck as their primary source and the largest selection of tapes I've ever seen in one place. For many, reel-to-reel remains the ultimate true analogue source, and at it's best, certainly provides very high fidelity.

    The speakers are very unusual. Not only are they horn based, using classical horn designs. but the drivers themselves are fairly unusual. The compression drivers are largely TAD based and the midbass drivers are their own field coil drivers. They look to be based around JBL or Western Electric drivers. Field coil drivers are what all speakers were originally, for the most part, until well after 1940's when permanent magnet speakers became common and affordable. Field coil speakers use a second coil in place of a permanent magnet and DC current is applied to the field coil in order to provide the unmodulated magnetic field. A normal voice coil then is modulated by the amplified musical signal and we get sound. These fell out of favor because of high cost, complexity, reliability, and quite frankly, later magnets were simply better. Today however, we can create much better power supplies and stronger field coils and so I imagine in theory a field coil driver could potentially be "better" than its permanent magnet cousins. A lot of people swear by them.

    I can't speak to the veracity of claims made by Classic Audio Loudspeakers, but I can say that the sound in this room impressed me and surprised me. I had some preconceived notions of what these speakers would sound like, and that isn't what I heard in this room. I expected them to be a bit harsh and unbalanced. That isn't what I heard, I heard smooth highs, a neutral tonal balance, and as mentioned, really good SS&I.
     
    #7 Matthew J Poes, Apr 13, 2018
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  8. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    NAD & PSB Headphones:
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    Enjoying my time with the very cool PSB M4U8 wireless noise canceling headphones, tuned by PSB's Paul Barton. Paul noted that the headphones are very sophisticated, using 20 biquad filters per channel to create the RoomFeel voicing, designed to replicate the good sound found in a listening room. They featured a very slick "listen through" feature where pressing a button on the headphone would allow the mic's to pick up voices around you, making it easy to temporarily pause the music and hear those around you. Very impressive, my wife would certainly approve.
     
    #8 Matthew J Poes, Apr 13, 2018
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  9. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    YG Acoustics and Aurllac:
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    Very good sound from the Aurilac electronics and YG Acoustics Sonja speakers. I've always wanted to hear these speakers in person. While we didn't have a lot of time to listen, nor was the musical material familiar, the sound was neutral and well balanced. The sound staging and imaging were precise, with a solid center image.
     
    #9 Matthew J Poes, Apr 13, 2018
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  10. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    Mark Seaton does In-Walls?
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    Here is a brand new in-wall speaker from Seaton Sound known as the Ember. They are based around a 6.5" coaxial driver from FaitalPro audio. Mark indicated they would be great for any in wall application, including ATMOS effect speakers. Seaton Sound also offers an angled version for aiming the sound when used in ATMOS or In-ceiling cinema applications. These new speakers were being used as reflecting type atmos speakers in the Seaton Sound demo room to great effect. Mark also had these connected to his brand new 12" subwoofer and an Acurus integrated amplifier for an impressive little 2 channel system. These in-wall monoliths and the 12" sub made for an impressive 2.1 system with good tonal balance, high output, great resolution, and impressive SS&I. In fact my notes say, good SS&I, no "for an in-wall" qualifier needed. To get this great sound, it is not as simple as building a box and throwing a FaitalPro coaxial driver in it. Mark spent a great deal of time on the crossover and showed me the fruits of his labor.

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    That looks like about 13 elements total for a 2-way in-wall speaker with top quality parts consisting of all air-core inductors, large ceramic wire wound resistors, and high quality film capacitors. It is obvious that careful attention was paid to the layout of the inductors to reduce coupling. This is a very good crossover, more similar to what we see in speakers costing many times more.

    The impressive little 12" subwoofer was a real surprise. It's bass quality was tight and impactful. The bass seemed to extend low and bely it's size. I noted that it is especially shallow in depth for a 12" sub, which makes it great for placement against a wall or inside a cabinet. Mark noted that it's size makes it great for placing around a room to help smooth the bass out and mitigate the effects of bass modes. It consists of a 12" driver with around 1" of one way X-max (that is 25mm for those not wanting to convert) and a 700 watt ice-power plate amplifier.
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    The Sparks used as part of the Cinema demo. Many people could not believe how much sound these speakers produced.
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    The cinema demo that Mark Seaton showed consisted of the Seaton Sound Sparks, a single 8" B&C coaxial with a pair of passive radiators. He used his F18 subwoofer modules, 6 in total. Sparks were used for the surrounds and the new Ember was used for the ATMOS effect speakers. An Acurus Act4 20 channel processor pulled it all together. The system was impressive. Very well balanced, smooth sound, effortless dynamic range. This system could easily meet anyone's dream theater needs, and this is one of Mark's smallest systems!

    I've known about Mark and talked to him on the forums for years. This is the first time I've been able to meet him in person and hear his system. All I can say is that his reputation is well earned. Very impressed.
     
    #10 Matthew J Poes, Apr 13, 2018
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  11. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    What would AXPONA be without EMOTIVA!
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    Emotiva at AXPONA has long had one of the most talked about demo rooms. It was with great anticipation that the AV NIRVANA team entered the demo theater and we were not disappointed by what we saw. While the Emotiva team's Oppo player was giving them some trouble (Maybe it knew it's maker had abandoned it), our impressions of the demo material were largely excellent. The impressive space had the wonderful sounding Airmotiv T2's anchoring the left/right and surround channels, an Airmotiv C2 center speaker, Airmotiv E1 for ATMOS, and a quad of Airmotiv S12 subwoofers. Electronics included the new RMC-1 processor, Differential Reference XPA amplification, and the misbehaving Oppo UDP-203. A short clip of Mad Max was very impressive with precisely placed effects, seamless pans, and deep well controlled bass. If I had one complaint, it would be that the Airmotiv C2 drew a little more attention to itself than I would have liked. Our host noted that all of the speakers and electronics combined came to a retail price of less than $20,000 for 9.4.6 surround, a relative bargain. Truly impressive.

    We will be back with more once the UDP-203 has decided it want's to play nice.
     
    #11 Matthew J Poes, Apr 13, 2018
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  12. tesseract

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    Kicking it in the avantgard acoustic room, with Pink Floyd and Bach!

    Unlimited dynamics. I have never heard Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) quite like this


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  13. tesseract

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    YG Acoustics, this time fronted with a Kronos Pro Limited (113 of 250) turntable and Audionet electronics. One of the most expansive soundstages I have experienced was thrown up, via Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments", with images in proportion to the stage The snare rasp stood out as much as the SS&I due to the detail, although it was panned hard right, as some recordings do, an oddity rarely experienced in real life.

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  14. tesseract

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    Natalie Merchant's Tigerlily album is one of my favorite albums, done right it pulls at my heartstrings. Listening through the $1530 MrSpeakers ETHER Flow, powered by the legacy Cavelli Audio Liquid Glass amp, with digital conversion handled by the Schiit Yggdrrsil, conveyed that emotion for me. I got to A/B the open-backed ETHER Flow against the closed-backed ETHER C Flow, preferring the open back.

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    A real treat was delivered by a pair of MrSpeakers electrostatic VOCE, powered by a Blue Hawaii tube amp, numbers crunched by a EMM Labs meitnerdesign DAC2. Listening with AV NIRVANA member, Titanium Troy, AC/DC's "The Jack" never sounded so good!

    The VOCE comes with a beautiful storage case and non-microphonic cord with milled teflon insulation and milled aluminum body. The sound can be acoustically tuned with cloth inserts.

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  15. tesseract

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    The JTR Speakers room features an all out home theater assault, utilizing seven JTR 215 RTs, screen by Seymour-Screen Excellence and audio/video calibration by High Impact AV.

    But first, the demo starts with a 2 channel music-only demo starring a pair of JTR 210 RT. Kicking off the audition was Joe Bonnamossa "Sloe Gin". Godsmack "Voodoo" cued up, the pounding intro drums rocking the room, the little high frequency percussion incidentals coming through delicately, the contrast highlighted with precision. This precision carried over into the Rebecca Pidgeon's "Spanish Harlem", showing that the 210 RT can treat female vocals right. The Digital Amp Co. Cherry Megaschino mono amplifiers provided copious amounts of juice, never allowing the speakers to sound strained, helping the signal along with a boost without getting in the way, like a great amplifier should.

    Transitioning to the 215 RT for the 7.0 demo, the sound became BIGGER with the addition of the center, surrounds and the extra 4 ft. of positioning width afforded to each left/right speaker.

    The LG "Chicago" intro video demo was crisp and clean with prodigious dynamics, both audio and video, absolutely stunning! Spiderman action scenes hammered the listener/viewer. "The Fate of the Furious" featured a submarine popping up through the sea ice, with giant chunks of broken ice falling all around, creating a "sub"terranean (I could not resist) rumbling as they fell back down. You are not going to get an experience like this in your average theater downtown, no way, no how.

    From Hillary's America, "The Star Spangled Banner" had the full scale and size of a sitting front and center of a real orchestra, one is compelled to turn their head from left to right to take in the all of the sights and sounds. Wrapping up with the Metallica Through The Never Blu-ray edition of "Nothing Else Matters", the bass picked the room up and shook it, the sound vibrating right to the center of my chest, the tone resonating with sustain as the Lab Gruppen amps fed the 215 RT pair every unrestrained watt demanded of them.

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    Matthew's Take:
    I spent Sunday Morning demoing Jeff's room. I asked Jeff if I could hear his system playing back some music as well as the typical Movie demo he was doing. He set up a pair of his 210RT's, precisely measuring their placement, and adjusting their toe-angle. Using Jriver, a variety of musical selections were cued up for me to hear, covering the gamut of musical styles and genre's. While I've heard some of Jeff's speakers before, I was still blown away by this demo. These modest tower's threw the best sound stage I heard my entire time at the show and among the very best I've ever heard in my life. The performance gave a real sense of the musicians being in the room with you. Instruments had a three dimensional layered effect. All the fun audiophile superlatives we like to lay on major brands (all represented at AXPONA) can fairly be applied to JTR's 210RT's. Beyond that, they got everything right. The tonal balance, bass extension and impact, resolution, effortless dynamics, you name it. Everything was just right. When I left the demo I told Jeff that I really think his brand is under-appreciated by audiophiles. These aren't just speakers that go pop and boom, they don't just play loud, they are true audiophile speakers in every sense of the word. They can play the subtle bow of a violin string or the finger sounds of an acoustic guitar just as well as they can reproduce the explosion of an alien spaceship crashing into earth. Beyond impressed!
     
  16. tesseract

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    The Gayle Sanders Eikon Image 1 loudspeaker is a $25k active system, each tower contains 4 100 watt amplifiers powering individual drivers. Crossover filters and a room measurement/correction system is contained in the outboard processor, the Eikontrol.

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  17. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    I'll have a more detailed write-up of each day and each room at AXPONA in the coming days. For now it is far easier to enjoy the show, take pics, and just post the teasers. For now, enjoy what was an exciting second day at AXPONA for the AV NIRVANA Team!

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    The McIntosh display in full effect. While not a static display, this was in an open area of the hotel convention center and did not allow for any meaningful listening. None the less, the Mac gear remained as beautiful to look at as it ever has been.

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    These were a beautiful pair of bookshelves I came upon in one of the first rooms. Sonist audio bookshelves.

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    The Nola Contender S3. These sounded really nice in this minimalist setup.

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    The beautiful top panel of an exotic DAC in the Avantegarde Acoustics room.

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    Piega Loudspeakers Master Line Source 2. Absolutely gorgeous industrial design.

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    Magico speakers. These appear to be a new version of the S3 and sounded very good. I didn't have a chance to hear them under ideal conditions, so I will reserve any judgement on sound.
     
  18. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    Here are some pictures from the Nagra and Kharma rooms IMG_2291.JPG


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    Ayon Audio room:
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    These speakers had one of the nicest and deepest clear finishes I've ever seen on a speaker. The workmanship was impeccable.

    Wilson Audio Sabrina in a black pearl finish.
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    For decades I've read about Wilson Audio speakers. Their cost and lack of local dealers made it such that I've never had a chance to hear these myself. I was very impressed by their even tonal balance and SS&I that gave a "you are there" realism to the presentation. I can absolutely see why people like these speakers so much.

    Mid-century modern UFO Speaker?
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    No, no. It is just the new Sonus Faber SF16. Seeing a company like Sonus Faber get into the table speaker market like this, I can't help but wonder if Alexa could around the corner for them. Maybe they can give Alexa an Italian accent.

    The Quintessence Audio room had a grand setup with some of the finest gear on the market.
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    This became the second time I have ever heard a pair of Wilson Audio speakers.
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    I believe these are the Alexia 2's from Wilson. The sound was notably bigger and fuller than the smaller Wilson I listened to earlier, with impressively extended bass. The soundstage had similar qualities to the smaller Wilsons, suggesting this may be a signature of the Wilson design.

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    There was no shortage of drool worthy vinyl rigs.

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    The Audio Research Reference 160M monoblock tube amplifiers. The tube's were a mesmerizing maze of thermionic beauty.

    I have many more pictures and more detailed information to share, but it's midnight and I need to get some sleep before the last day of the show.
     
  19. tesseract

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    The Ruel Audio R+ modular line array is stackable, depending on height of the room. This hand-built in Canada system allows a true floor to ceiling line array effect. Each module contains seven 1 1/2" drivers with passive radiator augementation. An 7ft. stack with the integrated DSP processor and amp starts at $36,000.

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  20. tesseract

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    Wilson Audio's reputation continues with the Alexandria XLF. Authoritive bass, anchored by the absolutely gorgeous D'Agostino amplifiers.
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  21. tesseract

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    The Sonus Faber Aida and Audio Research 750 SE amps and electronics.

    Mellow, super-relaxing sound, reminiscent of what I have strived (and suceeded) to achieve in my home.

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  22. tesseract

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    My home-state brick and mortar store, The Sound Environment, killing it with a minimalist system. The Naim Unity Atom, the Totem Sky Tower and REL T9i. Attention to room acoustics puts the polish on. $6800 system price, one of the highest values at the show.

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  23. tesseract

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    Hsu Research absolutely NAILS budget home theater sound. It is hard, if not completely impossible, to imagine getting more performance for less money.

    Five CCB-8 speakers ($700/pr. or $369/each) surrounded listeners with a single 10" VTF-1 MK3 ($400) supplying the lows.

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    Matthew's Take:
    Dennis is right, Dr. Hsu did an amazing job putting together a modest system that sounds amazing. His CCB-8's, which Todd Anderson reviewed for AV NIRVANA previously, sounded great. The finish quality and sound of these speakers seriously belie their price. His room was really very modest, with foam acoustic treatments placed about the room, a projector placed on a table. His speakers were wired with 18 gauge lamp cord and connected to an inexpensive receiver. Laugh if you like, but they sounded fantastic.
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  24. tesseract

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    Creative Sound Solutions is under new ownership and showed the MTM monitor, Criton 2 TD, available kit, partial kit or full build-out in roughly one month.

    It was good to see CSS showing at AXPONA!

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  25. tesseract

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    MBL gets a lot of love (from me, anyway) for their larger speakers, but the smaller models just haven't done it for me. Until now.

    A very simple system, the MBL 120 with a Vitus Audio RI 101 integrated amp with built-in DAC, sourced by a Macbook. The Vitus Audio amp doubles its power into 4 ohms, outputs 600 watts!

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