Well, I survived my first audio show as one of the newest members of the SECRETS team, and if you followed my coverage, you could tell that I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Getting the opportunity to attend AXPONA for 3 days was a great experience for sure.

Based on the feedback that I received from the manufacturers, and from seeing the crowds particularly on Saturday, the audio business is alive and well. Both consumers and dealers alike were genuinely interested in auditioning new gear, and the manufacturers (and showing dealers) greeted everybody with enthusiastic demos and displays.

While it’s easy to find systems ranging from entry level price points, to ones so expensive that very few people will ever be able to afford, I didn’t find the sound / enjoyment factor to be ranging as much as the prices did. Granted, the really expensive stuff sounded fantastic, but the lesser expensive systems did quite well, and in many cases, performed way beyond their price points. It’s definitely good to see that companies are not only bringing products to market that are attainable by the masses, but they’re also creating entry-level pricing with a high level of performance to go along with it.

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Speaking of companies and products that were showcasing more moderately-priced gear, I need to call out a few that really stood out to me in terms of value and performance. For one, KEF has an absolute homerun on their hands with the LS50 Wireless (powered) speaker system. And when visiting the TEAC room, they had a wide range of turntables, speakers, and DAC’s that are aimed at the more entry level price ranges. ELAC’s room featured their new AS61 Adante stand-mount monitors at $2,500 per pair, and even on Sunday there was standing room-only to get a chance to listen to them. And if you wanted high performing tower speakers at affordable prices, then the new Song 3-A from Salk Sound was a real winner at $3,695. Finally, I also need to give a kudos to the team at Neat Acoustics from England who were showing off their Iota Alpha speakers at $2,000/pr. These tiny 17” tall speakers produced sound that seemed to defy physics. Listening in nearfield, they produced a holographic image, and produced way more bass than should be capable out of a cabinet this size. I need to get some of these for review…

As for new products at the show, there were definitely a few that stood out. The new Revel F228 speaker ($9,500) will come in above their highly successful F208, but below their reference Salon II’s. I thoroughly enjoyed the demo, and hope to get my hands on a review pair later in the year when they come available. While VPI’s Prime Signature turntable isn’t new, their rosewood finish is. As a matter of fact, Mat Weisfeld from VPI literally got it finished the day before the show. For those like me who want the looks to go with the performance, this new rosewood finish was nothing short of stunning.

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It can’t be a follow-up show report without getting into some of my favorites from the 3 days of listening. While so much of it was enjoyable, I had a handful of rooms / systems that really stood out to me:

Bang & Olufsen. As I stated in my coverage of the show, the mighty Beolab 90’s produced THE most fun / wow-factor. The sound was clean, big, bold, in your face, and it was like a wall of sound hitting you like a truck. This is my kind of listening, and if I had a pair of these at home, I don’t know that I would ever leave.

GoldenEar. While they didn’t have their new flagship speaker in attendance (Triton Reference), I absolutely loved the sound from their highly acclaimed Triton Ones teamed up with McIntosh gear. I had a great time here, and visited them twice! Jack Shafton, GoldenEar’s VP of Sales & Marketing was running the show, and we even got the opportunity to talk cars as well as we are both car-guys! I pitched him the concept of doing a “super-system” review featuring Triton Reference up front, SuperCenter XXL in the middle, and Triton Ones bringing up the rear in my Dolby Atmos system. He was intrigued by the idea, so fingers crossed I’ll be able to make this happen sometime in the future for our readers here at SECRETS!

Paragon Sight & Sound / Wilson Audio / D’Agostino. Granted, this was an exercise in pure excess, but having the opportunity to listen to a system of this magnitude is just priceless. For me, just having the opportunity to drool over D’Agostino gear alone is worth the price of admission.

Pass Labs. Desmond and Kent at Pass Labs did something a little different this year, and I really liked the concept. For their main room, it was a quiet space with many of their components on display with the tops off. Since there was no music being played, you could hold a normal conversation about the products without worrying about interrupting a demo. Then when you wanted to hear them, you could walk next door to the (amazing) Quintessence Audio room that featured their products along with Sonus Faber speakers. Great idea!

Well I could go on and on about the weekend, but I need to break here so I can get back to some reviews that I am working on. Hopefully between the show report and summary, the readers of SECRETS were able to gain a good appreciation for what we saw and heard during our 3 days at the show. Thanks for following along, and we’ll look forward to reporting from the next big event.

Read the AXPONA 2017 Highlights

  • Jim Milton

    Nice write up, Todd. Covering these events can be both exhausting and rewarding at the same time.