LATEST ADDITIONS

John Atkinson  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  4 comments
The 3rd-floor room shared by Schiit and Salk Signature Sound was so crowded the first two times I stopped by that I couldn't listen, But the third time, Béla Fleck's classic "Flight of the Cosmic Hippo" was playing, I snagged a second-row seat and liked what I heard. A big, clean sound from an affordable system. Speakers were Salk's Song3 BeATs ($4495/pair, $4795/pair in custom finishes like those at the show); source was either a Salk Streamplayer Gen III ($1695) feeding Schiit's Yggdrasil DAC ($2395) or an SOL turntable (estimated price $799); phono preamp a Schiit Mani ($129); preamplifier a Schiit Freya ($699); and amplifier a Schiit Aegir ($799).
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  2 comments
Voxativ's deceptively simple-looking Absolut Hagen System ($7900 with Voxativ speaker cables), which consists of a Voxativ Absolut Box 30Wpc class-AB integrated amp, complete with custom DAC with DSP, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth aptX, and a pair of Voxativ Hagen single-driver loudspeakers, took advantage of a Samsung S10 Android phone to stream music wirelessly from Qobuz via aptX Bluetooth. The Absolut Hagen System, which used optional Synergistic Research cabling in the demo, can stream files up to 24/192. Thanks to built-in DSP, it is claimed to descend flat to 45Hz.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  7 comments
There were two causes for excitement in Room 1534: the premiere of the Stenheim Alumine Three ($29,900/pair), the Swiss company's newest three-way floorstander, and the return of Einstein Audio to the US. The latter comes courtesy of its new brand ambassador, Walter Swanbon of Fidelis AV. The sound wasn't perfect—it was a little peaky on what may have been an unnaturally bright Deutsche Grammophon LP of Geza Anda playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No.17, but it was still wonderful (and, sadly, the only Mozart I heard at the show). That a totally different, winningly smooth sound came from Intervention Records' reissue of the LP Joe Jackson Live in New York suggests that an LP of someone else playing Mozart's PC No.17 might have been a better choice sonically.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  0 comments
A room sponsored by multiple companies and overseen by Steven Norber of PranaFidelity immediately won me over with its gorgeous midrange. "So beautiful and warm and all-embracing," I wrote in my notes as I listened to a surprisingly good-sounding 1991 CD of David Wilcox on a substitute basic Pioneer Elite player used as a transport. I also loved the sound of an LP that melded the artistry of two greats, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  5 comments
"Handcrafted In Germany" it proudly says above AVM's new Rotation R5.3 Cellini Edition belt-drive turntable, with its acrylic Illumine platter softly glowing blue. With its 10" AVM tonearm, the R 2.3 will cost in the region of $8900 and, fitted with an Ortofon Cadenza Black cartridge, did justice to Diana Krall singing "Indeed I Do." (For what it's worth, while many showgoers dismiss Krall as an over-exposed pop singer—I'm looking at you, Jason Victor Serinus— I respect both her musicianship and her piano playing.)
John Atkinson  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  0 comments
Alta Audio was showing off their Celesta FRM-2 stand-mounted speakers ($15,000/pair) at AXPONA, driving these two-ways with AVA SET monoblock amplifiers ($5000/pair), which use two of Frank Van Alstine's single-ended MOSFET amplifiers in push-pull to obtain 600Wpc into 8 ohms. The source was Frank's laptop feeding data via a 25' USB cable (!!!) to his Mk.5 DAC and FET/Valve CFR tube preamp. Cabling was all by a brand new to me, Anticables.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  0 comments
The Larson 9 speakers ($14,995/pair) in this room were set up firing across the room width, meaning that the one row of listeners had to sit relatively close. Even so, this system, which used Gamut M250i monoblocks ($25,990/pair) and a Gamut D3i dual-mono preamplifier ($8390), all hooked up with Gamut cables, was definitely "room friendly," producing a comfortable sound from an LP cut of Chet Atkins and Mark Knopler playing "There'll be Some Changes Made."
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  3 comments
Once again I experienced the mellow core of the Jeff Rowland sound. This time, it was in the room he shared with Joseph Audio and Cardas Audio, where the big news was the premiere of the Joseph Audio Perspective2 Graphene speaker ($14,999/pair). When I entered, a track from a recording I know very well, Rosa Passos and Ron Carter's Entre Amigos, was sounding far more mellow and toned down than on my system. This setup also brought out the mellow core of a sweet violin in the Bruch Scottish Fantasy.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  4 comments
As soon as I entered the second Kyomi Audio room and heard a track from Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders' great recording Journey in Satchidananda, I realized that it had been far too long since I'd had the pleasure of listening to Dan Meinwald's eclectic and thankfully outside-the-norm music selections. Meinwald, a longtime member of our industry who has spent a considerable time working for EAR USA, had paired the EAR Acute Classic CD player ($6795), V12 integrated amplifier ($9795), and, in a world premiere, the company's new Phono Box phono preamp ($1895 in black) with a Merrill-Williams 101.3 turntable ($8995) with Helius Omega Standard tonearm ($3695) and Koetsu Rosewood cartridge ($3495). Speakers were Marten Django L ($10,000/pair) and cabling Magnan Silver and Signature.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 15, 2019  |  0 comments
Retailer, concert pianist, and pedagogue George Vatchnadze, whose shop Kyomi Audio contributed products to at least five rooms at AXPONA, assembled an impressive system distinguished by a wonderful, warm midrange and excellent bass tonality. On vinyl, which is all I heard, the system's strengths came to the fore in the classic RCA Living Stereo recording by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra of Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije suite, where the depiction of depth and space was superb. "Soundstaging for days," I wrote in my notes, while also praising the system's midrange. I also loved the warm, smiling midrange core and the ability to hear artificially added reverb on Ella Fitzgerald's recording of "Cry Me a River" from Let No Man Write my Epitaph, and the excellent bass tonality on "Use Me" from the MoFi reissue of Bill Withers' Greatest Hits.

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