AXPONA 2017 Show Coverage
GO TIME at AXPONA 2017
HSU’s CCB 8
Pass Labs and Quintessence Audio demo
AURALiC had several rooms, and this one was featuring their Polaris wireless streaming amplifier. With this, you basically add a pair of speakers and you’re ready to go. It’s a 120w stereo amplifier, pre-amplifier, wireless streamer, music server, and has an internal DAC for $3,800. The Polaris was driving a very nice pair of Ryan R630 speakers at $5,000. The sound quality of this Auralic Polaris / Ryan R630 combination was quite impressive, and the Ryan’s seemed to have more bass than their specs show (38Hz on the low end)
Mark Levinson Demo
At the other end of the Audio Solutions room was their Revel / Mark Levinson system. This is one of my favorite all-time systems featuring Revel’s flagship speaker the Salon II from their Ultima2 collection. Granted, they are not cheap at $22K, but you’re going to be hard pressed to find a better sounding speaker within its price range.
For the first report of AXPONA 2017, we might as well start off with a big-boy room! In here, Audio Solutions had systems on both ends of the large room. The first was a stunning system featuring JBL Synthesis speakers, all Mark Levinson components, and Nordost cables. One can only sit in awe of a system of this magnitude. The sound was as big and bold as you could imagine, and the visual aspect of it all was was equally as impressive. Harmon International (JBL, Revel, Mark Levinson) is on a roll right now, and they have continue to create reference-quality audio. This room was fun!
They say that good things come to those who wait, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing since I heard about Revel’s new F228 speakers that were introduced at CES. While they look like the Revel F208, the only thing in common is the cabinet of the speaker itself. With new drivers and Beryllium tweeters, the F228 will come in at around $9,500 this fall. As my good friends at Genesis Audio in Gahanna, Ohio summed it up, the F228 is like an offspring of the F208 ($5K) and the mighty Salon II ($22K). When I entered the Joseph Audio Video Solutions (of Chicago, Illinois) demo room, I thought for sure that they were showing off one of their subwoofers. But no…the F228 just produced that much bass. As an owner of a complete Revel system myself (F208 mains, F206 rears, and C205 center), I can easily say that I must have a pair of these.
One room I really enjoyed was the Salk Sound / Schiit Room. This was performing way above their weight class, and it’s always good to hear high quality audio reproduction without having to take out a second mortgage on the house! The Salk Song 3-A starts at just $3,695 in standard finish, but when you upgrade with their wide selection of custom finishes, you can absolute works of art like these were. I’ve always been a fan of Jim Salk’s designs, and I think I want a pair of these in for review after hearing them in person. Driving the beautiful Salk speakers was a range of Schiit components…also known for great performance at affordable prices. Good Schiit indeed!
The HIFIMAN booth at AXPONA was a busy one, with many people stopping by to demo the ridiculously cool Shangri-La Electrostatic Headphone system. At a cool $50K, it comes with a massive tube amp, and an amazing set of electrostatic headphones. Among the rest of their extensive product lineup, they were showing off their new Susvarna headphones ($6K) that are slated to be released this summer. I spent some time with them on my head, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t sneak them away in my backpack!
OK, so call me late to the party, but this was the first time I really got to sit down to listen to demos of the highly acclaimed Triton One speakers from GoldenEar. I quickly realized what all the buzz is about! The sound coming from these slender speakers created a massive soundstage that extended far beyond the small hotel room walls. Regardless of what was playing, be it delicate passages or music with a high degree of slam-factor, the GoldenEar Triton Ones performed way above their $5K price point. As a matter of fact, I heard many speakers systems costing 3, 4, and 5 times the price that didn’t have the impact that these did. If you’re like me and enjoy thundering bass, you’ll absolutely love what the Triton Ones are capable of. While they didn’t have their soon-to-be-released flagship speaker the Triton Reference on display, I can easily say that based on what I heard out of the Triton Ones, the audio world is going to be in for a real treat when they are released. ETA on the new Triton Reference is this summer, with a price point of $8,500.
The room hosted by Quintessence Audio showcased Pass Labs, Sonus Faber, and Clearaudio among others. This system consisted of a pair of Lilium speakers ($70,000), Pass Labs Xs 150 amplifiers ($65,000), Pass Labs Xs Phono pre-amp ($45,000), Clearaudio Inovation turntable ($15,000), AMG 12JT Turbo tonearm ($8,500), Clearaudio Titanium V2 cartridge ($8,000), Clearaudio Olympus stand ($13,400), and more. And yes, for all of that money, it sounded absolutely spectacular!
One of my favorite rooms was hosted by LEGACY Audio, along with Raven Audio amplifiers. LEGACY had 4 systems on display ranging from their Signature SE at $6,995 all the way up to their huge V Speaker System (includes the new Wavelet DAC/Preamp/Crossover/Room Correction) at $51,500. The V’s were powered by 2 incredibly beautiful pairs of Raven Spirit 300B Monoblocks (26 wpc) at $26,995 per pair. Also on display was their new LEGACY Foundation subwoofer at $3,850. We hope to be receiving a review sample soon of this new 2 driver sub.
And now for a little over-the-top coverage! On Sunday morning I headed straight for the ultra high-end rooms before the crowds got too big. And in the room hosted by Paragon Sight & Sound, it was featuring Wilson Alexx speakers ($110K/pair), dcs, and Dan D’Agostino.
Not only did this room provide the absolute best eye candy, particularly with the D’Agostino gear, but it also provided one of the most spectacular listening environments as well. With the reality of budgets thrown out the window, this is the one that I would have taken home with me!
Paradigm and Anthem were showcasing some of their latest technologies, and I was very glad that I got the opportunity to check them out (happened to be my last stop on Sunday!). Featured was their new flagship series called Persona. These beautiful speakers feature Beryllium midrange and tweeters, Class D amplification, and ARC room correction. The smallest in the lineup is the Persona B at $7,000 per pair, all the way up to their Persona 9H at $35,000 per pair. The sound was impeccable, with the ARC room correction demo proving to be very effective.
Emotiva, the undisputed kings of value / performance products, had a huge display this year at AXPONA! Their theater room was literally shaking most of the first floor at the Westin, and they had all of their products on display in a separate area.
While they showed us around to some of their new products, we picked out a few of their subwoofers in particular to get in-house for reviews. Stay tuned to SECRETS for complete reviews!
Looking for cool-factor? If so, then the Skogrand Cable room was the place to be. It featured Daedalus Audio Poseidon v2 speakers ($16,450), ModWright components, stunningly beautiful racks by Massif Audio Design (I currently have a custom set of these on order!), and VPI’s brand new Prime Signature turntable in rosewood. As far as I was concerned, this was the coolest looking turntable at the show, and I heard others say the same.
There was a lot of synergy with this system, and I only wished that I had more time to sit and listen. It was always crowded in here, and I started seeing a lot of Instagram posts about it even before the show officially opened!
For the all out fun-factor, nothing at the show came remotely close to what I experienced in the Bang & Olufsen room. Being showcased was their flagship Beolab 90’s. With 18 drivers per tower, and 18 channels of amplification totaling 8200 watts, they reproduce sound in a totally enveloping manner that doesn’t require a “sweet spot”. At $85,000 they are far out of reach from most, but what they will provide is the most complete wall of sound you have ever experienced.
Regardless of how loud it was played (and thankfully, they played it extremely LOUD), it was crystal clean without distortion, while at the same time slamming into you like a truck. I’ve never experienced anything like that demo before…bravo Bang & Olufsen for pushing the envelope of audio reproduction!