AXPONA 2018 Official Show Report

Discussion in 'AV Expos and Get Togethers (GTG)' started by tesseract, Apr 13, 2018.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2017
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    156
    Some of my friends have asked me in the past what Speaker's I lust over, if cost were no object. That answer is easy, Rockport Audio Atria II's. I've heard the Atria's before, but this was the first time listening to the Atria II's, and the associated equipment was much better this time. Rockport Speakers generally measure excellent, among the best in the industry. They are built to a luxury standard befitting their high price tag. Their sound...Always impressive. Their resolving power is uncanny, you tend to hear things you didn't know where in the recordings. The imaging is outstanding, placing instruments with spooky realism. The bass is tight, subtle, deep, and extended. In fact, most of the time I feel like there isn't enough until it hits you. The speaker is so neutrally balanced, I find myself thinking something is wrong. Yet in the end I recognize what I'm hearing is accurate. Everything is as it should be.

    IMG_2582 (2).JPG

    IMG_2578.JPG
     
    #26 Matthew J Poes, Apr 17, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018
  2. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2017
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    156
    This will be my first less than positive post. Let me start with a quick story to explain a bit. I've been a subscriber to Stereophile for decades, literally since I was a kid, and reading the works of Michael Fremer, John Atkinson, @Kal Rubinson, and others for nearly as long as they have been writing for Stereophile. Even if I don't always agree with them, I still love reading what they have to say, and from each of them, I have learned a lot over the years. I met Michael Fremer, one of my favorite Stereophile writers, at AXPONA this year. His advice to me as a new writer is to not be afraid to be honest, to call a company out when they aren't performing. Good advice. As Michael said, they may not like it. Our job is to tell everyone how we feel. Their job is to not like how we feel. That's how this works.

    In the Wolf Audio Systems room was setup a particularly eye catching pair of Sadurni Acoustics Staccato V2 horn speakers in an eye catching red color with an equally eye catching price of just $50,000. While such a sum is not unheard of for high end speakers seen at AXPONA, it is still expensive by any standard. I accept that high end audio has a luxury component and that some products are built as much to be statement pieces as they are to accurately reproduce music. I am ok with that. I wanted to like the Staccato V2's, but I really did not for a number of reasons. First, the sound was not great in this room. The sound staging was vague and indistinct. Tonal balance was good, but I did find the highs to be a little fatiguing. All of this was no big deal, honestly. Many would find this sound fine, and the sound staging, well these horns were far too big for this room. I would certainly not judge their sound solely by this experience. What bothered me was the fit and finish of the speaker. It seemed like the metal work could have used a little more polish. The horns a little more smoothing (look at the driver rear chamber on the large horn, it is constructed of rings of MDF glued together, you can see the rings through the finish). I wouldn't have even bothered to say anything if I didn't care, but I really wanted to like this speaker. It is loaded with interesting ideas that blend into really compelling potential. The Horns are acoustically time aligned via the mounting arrangement. The subwoofers are actually rear horn loaded with an expanding port. The bass was surprising for the size of those drivers. Their sensitivity was around 106 db's I believe. Just a handful of watts gets you all the output you could ever want. There is no denying that these are a statement piece.

    IMG_2545 (2).JPG

    IMG_2555 (2).JPG

    IMG_2551 (2).JPG

    IMG_2553 (2).JPG
     
    #27 Matthew J Poes, Apr 17, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018
  3. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2017
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    156
    Bybee, Salk Sound, and Wells Audio was an interesting experience. It was in fact one of the best sounding rooms at the show. I was with a fellow writer, and we spent an extended amount of time in this room enjoying some great music through the Salk Sound Song3 BEAT, Wells Audio Amps, and Bybee purifiers around the room. Our host in the room was a rep from Bybee, and I think he made it his goal to convince me of his product. Apparently I could not hide my true feeling. In his defense, the room sounded superb. I just happen to think Jim Salk's speakers were primarily responsible for that. I haven't given the Bybee products an audition nor experienced them in any kind of blind comparison, so its just my scientific skepticism at work.

    IMG_2558 (2).JPG

    IMG_2564 (3).JPG

    IMG_2566 (2).JPG

    They were just so photogenic, I couldn't help myself.

    IMG_2574 (2).JPG

    IMG_2577 (2).JPG

    The Bybee iQSEwas said to help the atoms in the air allow the sound to travel more freely and improve the sound. I promised the Bybee rep I would take a pic and share. I will just say this: I am not sure this is a product for me, but you should always decide for yourself. Use your ears. If you hear a difference, then by all means, you should own these.

    Now...
    IMG_2567.JPG

    I would normally call that an inductor with a power cord running across it. While it didn't seem to obviously negatively effect the sound, that is usually a no-no. You generally should avoid coiling your wire, more so, avoid passing power wires over your coiled speaker wire. That would be how inductive coupling works (as in wireless phone chargers).
     
    ddude003 and tesseract like this.
  4. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2017
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    156
    Gershman Acoustics had a very nice room with some impressive speakers. While the six figure Posh was beautiful to look at, it was the Studio II that impressed me most. This 8" two-way monitor has a low end of 25hz and a relatively compact size. Price is $3500 a pair for the monitors, a fair price given the build quality, fit and finish, and sound I heard.

    Studio II and Posh together
    IMG_2535 (2).JPG

    and the $129,000 Posh
    IMG_2539 (2).JPG
     
  5. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2017
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    156
    While there was no shortage of massive cost-no-object speakers at AXPONA setup in grand ways, it was Legacy Audio that caught my attention most. Walking into the room I was immediately met by the friendly face of Legacy Audio, Victoria Dudleston. Once in the room I saw Bill Dudleston, the very creative designer behind the Legacy designs. The Legacy speakers all had beautiful wood finishes, and the finish quality was nearly jewel like. The new Legacy Valor ($80,000) in Sapele Pommele/black pearl were breathtakingly gorgeous. These technologically advanced and highly unique speakers are supported by Legacy's Wavelet DAC/Preamp with speaker correction, a very unique DSP correction device. At the time I came to the room, I was just in time for a demo of an unfamiliar classical piece, even so, it was an impressive musical experience. I was so in awe of the scale of the performance, that I really would love to hear these speakers again to get a proper sense of what they can do.

    With Legacy Audio being based near me in Springfield Illinois, I hope to visit their factory for a tour at a future date. In the mean time, enjoy the photos.

    Valor Speakers IMG_2433 (2).JPG

    IMG_2432 (2).JPG

    IMG_2434.JPG

    IMG_2437 (2).JPG

    IMG_2450 (2).JPG

    Focus SE ($11,990)
    IMG_2449 (2).JPG

    Signature SE ($7,785)
    IMG_2446 (2).JPG

    A very nice looking on-wall speaker. I would venture a guess that this may be the nicest on-wall speaker on the market. Silhouette ($4,390)
    IMG_2440 (2).JPG

    Studio HD ($1980)
    IMG_2441 (2).JPG

    IMG_2444 (2).JPG
     
    #30 Matthew J Poes, Apr 17, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018
  6. tesseract

    tesseract Senior Admin
    Staff Member
    Thread Starter

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2016
    Messages:
    763
    Likes Received:
    148
    Location:
    Lincoln, NE
    The Angel City Audio room featured a mix of TriangleArt Maestro turntable for source and TriangleArt amplification, Modwright PH-150 phono pre and Teo Audio Liquid passive-preamplifier handling the signal routing. The star of this show, was the ACA Seraphim Prime, a three-way floorstanding loudspeaker with SEAS Millenium tweeter and custom-speced ACA 7" woofers.

    Listening to Phil Collins "Behind The Lines" and "The Roof Is Leaking" was an exercise in hyper-detailed sound, keeping me pinned to the chair, tapping my foot.

    20180415_142313.jpg 20180415_142340.jpg
    20180415_142252.jpg
     
  7. tesseract

    tesseract Senior Admin
    Staff Member
    Thread Starter

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2016
    Messages:
    763
    Likes Received:
    148
    Location:
    Lincoln, NE
    Reserved... stay tuned!
     
  8. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2017
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    156
    Likely one of the most complex and over-the-top speakers that has ever been made is the Von Schweikert Audio Ultra 11 ($295,000). This 14 driver speaker uses a symmetric array of drivers with a rear firing ambience cluster and dual 15" subwoofer drivers (which appear to be Dayton Ultimax but I'm told were custom made for Von Schweikert). The driver quality is very high, as is the speakers overall fit and finish. The associated gear in this room was equally grand cost-no-object and as such, it would not surprise me if the total value of this room exceeded 1 million dollars. While we can talk about all the good that such vast amounts of money might do for charity, or if a more modest amount of money might provide equally good sound, that is not really an appropriate discussion for a review of audio gear or an AXPONA room. There will always be wealthy individuals who can both afford to support great philanthropic endeavors while also enjoying ultra-luxury audio gear. On top of that, the reality is that there is no single dollar amount that we can point to as sufficient to create a system that can perfectly recreate the sounds recorded through a microphone. Converting those small electrons back into sound power the equal of the live event is no small feat, and as such, very large speakers and vast amounts of power are needed to do so. No speaker at any price does this perfectly, but certainly, cost limitations prohibit reproducing the true sound power of a live event. Setting aside any reservations due to cost, I have to admit, I was very impressed. By this I mean, the room itself caused my jaw to drop to the floor. The sound I heard only furthered that awe. There is no denying this is an impressive system capable of impressive musical reproduction. If only I could fit seven of them in my theater for surround sound.

    Amplification was provided by the equally cool VAC Statement 450 IQ along with dual 1000 watt amplifiers built into each tower.

    IMG_2415 (2).JPG

    IMG_2423 (2).JPG

    IMG_2418 (2).JPG

    Update: I contacted The Audio Company to fact check this post. They sent me a full room list with all equipment and prices. Apparently one of the pieces of equipment I missed in the room was a Von Schweikert Shockwave V12 used for "active room correction." While I do not have details on how it was implemented, the concept of using subwoofers to smooth the bass response in a room (as a form of active acoustics) is a relatively new concept, commonly seen in home theater, but less common in ultimate 2 channel systems. I am really pleased to see this concept being embraced by the 2 channel crowd. It's absolutely audiophile, and a concept I encourage everyone to try. I will reach back out to the dealer to find out more about how they made use of this subwoofer in the room and report back.

    Total value of this system came in at $876,750 with a few of the components unpriced in the room sheet. I know, that is a lot of money. Yes, you can get really good sound for a lot less. That isn't the point of this system, this is a state of the art system where some of the most talented designers in the industry were given an opportunity to push the limits of what is possible within their respective area. This is what they created. Few of these systems, in fact, few of each of these components will likely ever be sold. However, what is learned from this state of the art system can trickle down into gear the rest of us can afford. I'm ok with this because a) I got to hear this system and the experience was awesome, and b) because audio gear at all price points seems to get better every day, and I think companies pushing the limits at the extreme is helping with that.
     
  9. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2017
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    156
    One of the coolest experiences for me at AXPONA was the Parasound room. First, because the Tekton Impact Monitor's powered by a Parasound Zonemaster 2350 integrated amplifier sounded excellent. I've been wanting to hear the Tekton speakers for years and was not disappointed in the slightest. Very neutral tonal balance, dynamic sound, tight well behaved bass, and superb SS&I. However, there were a ton of great sounding rooms at AXPONA, some of the best gear in existence was at this show. What made my time at the Parasound room memorable was having an opportunity to meet and talk with the legendary Richard Schram, founder of Parasound. Richard was great to talk with, extremely friendly and very knowledgeable. Like any proud papa, you could feel his excitement in describing the new Parasound JC5 amplifier designed by John Curl. I really like the look of the new amplifier. Subtle changes to the width of the gold stripes on each side and the John Curl signature make for a very elegant looking amplifier.

    IMG_2596 (2).JPG

    IMG_2592 (2).JPG

    IMG_2597 (2).JPG

    IMG_2599 (2).JPG

    The new JC5 amplifier

    IMG_2603 (2).JPG
    IMG_2601 (2).JPG

    Richard and his team were very proud of the binding posts they designed for this amplifier. Apparently John Curl doesn't like this kind of binding post as much as what he had specified on previous amps, but Richard felt their advantages were too great. I happen to love this type of binding post as it's easier to tighten them properly in tight spaces when using bare wire or spade connectors.
    IMG_2605 (2).JPG
     
  10. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2017
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    156
    Parts Express has been a mainstay in my life for more than 20 years. I have fond memories of getting their clearance catalogues as a kid and looking through their buyout drivers for new interesting speaker I may want to use. By the time I was 16 I was buying their drivers to build my own subwoofers. To this day there is no other company I do more business with short of Amazon. Back when I bought a lot of drivers from Parts Express, they weren't yet designing and selling kits. Today they have a large line of very good speaker kits, many of which provide the best value of any speaker kit's I'm aware of. One of the coolest speakers was the new Epique CBT24, available in Kit and built versions. This speaker, designed by Don Keele, sounds fantastic. I've had this speaker in my own listening room and was blown away by its amazing sound stage and impressive dynamics. This room sounded great, and when you consider the price of these kits, impressive how well they acquitted themselves against many of the much more expensive rooms at AXPONA.

    2018-04-15_12-30-50_689 (2).jpeg

    2018-04-15_12-31-12_258 (2018-04-16T03_34_15.684) (2).jpeg

    This was a very cool flamed maple veneer finish. It reminded me of classic sunburst guitar finishes (and as a guitar collector, flamed maple tops have always been a favorite). Unusually for a wood finish, the veneer was not glossy smooth, rather the texture of the wood was still evident. This isn't obvious in the picture and wasn't evident at a distance either. I don't know if this was intentional, but I found it a cool effect.
    2018-04-15_12-31-29_109 (2).jpeg
     
    #35 Matthew J Poes, Apr 21, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2018
  11. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2017
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    156
    This next post will focus on the room of a friend of mine. Since I've talked about this friend before, his equipment, my relationship to him, it's only fair to be honest in our situation. I think many of us would like to believe that reviewers have a sort of firewall between them and the manufacturers and importers of fine audio equipment. Reality is that anyone who spends enough time around this small industry will make friends with the proprietors of equipment they enjoy. That doesn't mean we give our friends good reviews and extra free advertising, there is no quid pro quo.

    I met Skip less than a year ago at a local audio meet. Skip brought along some really nice Mastersound integrated tube amplifiers and Rosso Fiorentino Fiesole speaker. These had an unusual 3-way design using a ribbon super-tweeter. At the time of this event I was skeptical that they would be anything special. I've heard 100's of small stand-mount speakers, some of very high quality and price, and this didn't seem any different than any other I'd seen. What has stuck with me until this day, is the SS&I of these speakers. It is among the absolute best I've ever heard. Precise, 3-dimensional, well layered, and accurate. Now the story may have ended there, but the importer of Rosso speakers is Derek Skipworth, or "Skip" as he is known by his friends. Skip and I found a fast bond with each other. We enjoyed similar music, appreciated similar qualities in high-end gear, and spent hours listening to his wonderful gear.

    How did we end up at AXPONA together? We decided at the end of this GTG that I would provide Skip with some assistance at the AXPONA show by providing some setup assistance and acoustic treatment. For Skip's room, I decided to keep things simple but effective and brought two free-standing 4" minerwool acoustic panels with an inner membrane for first reflection or spot treatment. I added a massive bass trap to the mix. We further treated his room by piling the bedding (originally located in the bathroom tub) under his equipment table. It may not sound fancy, but in fact bedding can be a very effective treatment, what you need is actually large and relatively low density at low frequencies. Between the speakers is also a great place to absorb.

    For this show Skip brought less expensive gear, but none-the-less still impressive. His speakers for the show were the Ross Fiorentino Certaldo 2.5-way floorstanding speaker. This model doesn't incorporate the ribbon supertweeter of the better models. Amplification was handled by the Mastersound BoX tube integrated amp using EL34 power tubes and 12AU7 input tubes, putting out a solid 35 watts per channel. You may be thinking that sounds like a Dynaco ST70 copy, but...unlike the Dynaco, this is actually a single ended pentode design with three EL34's wired in parallel and operated in Class A. The source for this setup was a Northstar Supremo DAC and Aurilac Aires Mini Streamer.

    What did I think of the sound of Skip's gear this time around? As I said to Skip in a private email, I've heard nearly every kind of speaker on the planet at this point. Relying on our memory is a terrible way to judge the differences in speakers, but the many back to back comparisons that were possible at AXPONA allowed me to compare Skip's system to other similar designs. What struck me about Skip's speakers when I first heard them, as well as this time around, was the impressive SS&I. Rosso speakers seem to have a common family sound. They have a neutral if slightly warm tonal balance and an extremely precise soundstage. The speakers are easy to listen to and easier to like. I'm friends with Skip because I like his gear, not the other way around. Yes, unfortunately for Skip, if his gear sounded bad, we would have to part ways.

    Skip and I enjoying the good sounds in his room!
    IMG_2150 (2).JPG

    First listening tests while setting up the room. Yes, we used measurements in the setup process.
    IMG_2147 (2).JPG

    The final setup on Day 2.
    2018-04-14_09-49-58_962 (2).jpeg

    2018-04-14_09-50-57_748 (2).jpeg
     
  12. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2017
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    156
    This post will focus on a set of products that I really think are quite special. Before the show began I had heard a story about a 24" subwoofer being introduced by Emerald Physics. I thought this was an interesting development, and suspected that an oem version of the Stereo Integrity driver was ending up in a finished product. I was excited to check out this beast of a subwoofer. The story got more interesting as time went on, as I heard the subwoofer was open baffle? What! A 24" open baffle audiophile subwoofer. Ok, let's see what this is about.

    Once I was at the show I ran into Dan Wiggins and he suggested I take a look at the LSA speakers. He said they would be shown with a new 24" open baffle subwoofer from Audio physics. Well isn't this coming full circle. He apparently had a hand in designing all of this. When asking about his relationship to Stereo Integrity he responded with, "I taught that kid everything he knows!"

    Once I found the Underwood HiFi room with the LSA speakers and Emerald Physics electronics and subwoofer, I was immediately struck by how small it actually was. Ok, not small, but the cube was 36", my 18" sub is not that much smaller. Music began to emanate from somewhere in front of me, a pair of innocuous looking bookshelves as well as a similar looking tower speaker were the sound, I wasn't sure which. The sound was nice, really well balanced, easy to listen to, detailed, and the bass, well much more natural than expected. To be honest, the sub was a sub, it did it's job, but I lost interest rather quickly (That is really a compliment, any sub that calls too much attention to itself is flawed in my book). I was about to ask the room host which speakers were playing when he switched. He began to tell me that there was an LSA-10 Statement and an LSA-20 Signature, and the Signature was playing. In my head, the signature must have been the better model, and I had mixed up the speakers. I liked the bookshelves quite a bit more, but didn't realize that was what I was listening too. It turned out the Bookshelves were the LSA-10 Statements, and their sound was remarkably more refined than the also excellent LSA-20 Signature tower speakers. I tell you this convoluted story to point out that nearly blind to the speakers I was listening to I managed to quickly and easily discern a difference and preference for the more expensive speaker. I found them to be more detailed and generally smoother sounding, while having roughly the same neutral tonal balance.

    Now for the specs:

    LSA-10 and 20 are bookshelf and towers respectively. Both the signature and Statement line use a Dan Wiggin designed XBL2 motor for lower distortion over a longer excursion. That means better sound and more bass, basically. The tweeters also use an XBL2 motor, with the same basic benefit. The LSA-10 Statement has a 1" Copper Beryllium dome tweeter in a shallow waveguide, a 6.5" anodized aluminum woofer, a 5"x7" passive radiator, and a sophisticated 8th order linear phase acoustic crossover. Response is said to be 35hz to 30khz (+/- 3db). Price retails for $3,495. The LSA-20 Signature is a tower speaker with a 1" silk dome tweeter, 4" carbon fiber midrange, and dual 6.5" aluminum cone woofers. All with XBL2 motors, as before. Dual rear mounted 5'x7" passive radiators replace ports and help augment bass. Response is said to be 28hz to 20khz (+/-3db) and retail price is also $3,495. It is my understanding that while these speakers are fully developed, the actual finish and manufacturing is not complete, and we should expect a different final appearance.

    IMG_2534 (2).JPG

    The LSA-10 Statement
    IMG_2533 (2).JPG

    Really big subwoofer!
    IMG_2525 (2).JPG

    One of the amplifiers in use was the modest Outlaw Audio receiver shown here:
    IMG_2524 (2).JPG

    A full shot of the gear in use
    IMG_2522 (2).JPG

    IMG_2526.JPG

    IMG_2527 (2).JPG
     
  13. tesseract

    tesseract Senior Admin
    Staff Member
    Thread Starter

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2016
    Messages:
    763
    Likes Received:
    148
    Location:
    Lincoln, NE
    The 2018 AXPONA show was a great success this year, so many rooms to see and gear to hear. I did not get the chance to experience them all, rushing through for a few quick photo op passes. Here are some last minute, end of show shots.

    20180415_145641.jpg 20180415_145706.jpg 20180415_150000.jpg 20180415_145920.jpg 20180415_150053.jpg 20180415_150104.jpg
     
  14. tesseract

    tesseract Senior Admin
    Staff Member
    Thread Starter

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2016
    Messages:
    763
    Likes Received:
    148
    Location:
    Lincoln, NE
  15. tesseract

    tesseract Senior Admin
    Staff Member
    Thread Starter

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2016
    Messages:
    763
    Likes Received:
    148
    Location:
    Lincoln, NE
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page