Publisher Profile

2010 AXPONA Coverage

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This is the first audio show I have attended in the USA in a number of years. In the past, I have attended various CES’s, the smoke-filled Sofitel Hi Fi Show in the UK, the Munich Show, and a few of the past Stereophile Hi Fi Shows. As a debut show, AXPONA, was not at all like any of these well-established venues. That is not to say that this is necessarily a bad thing. Attendance was very light and the hotel was clearly challenged in the art of hospitality and basic housekeeping duties, but nonetheless, the show went on.

One thing that struck me immediately on opening day was that the light attendance meant that there would be opportunity for longer listening sessions in the “sweet spots” of each room, and that the exhibitors and the designers in attendance would be accessible. I took full advantage!

The first room was the Captain’s Boardroom. This was a room that could not be ignored. Both the visuals and sound did their job of grabbing you by the shoulder and dragging you in. This was the Scaena/Engstrom Room. Alan Eichenbaum of Scaena, whom you might also know as The “Audiotweaker” of audiotweakers.com and whom I know as a great friend of the South Florida High End Audio community, served up a stunning example of great sound. Equally luscious and certainly valuable contributor to the spectacular sound of this room was the Engstrom “The Lars” amplifiers. Timo Engstrom, co-founder of Engstrom was there and was eagerly explaining the design in great detail to eager audiophiles. While I would normally be very interested in a techno discussion as much as the next guy, I was pretty much riveted to my seat as the always excellent, DCS digital front-end flowed with musical riches as it fed the Lars / Scaena pairing. I must say that the “Naked Pipedream” as I like to call them (the Scaenas) managed to deliver a full hall of sound field as well as the dynamics to match. Not only was this quite a feat due to the challenging room acoustics, but it’s also a real testament to the sonic qualities of the very ballsy 20-watt-per-channel, class A operation, 300B-based LARS monoblocks.

Scaena / Engstrom – An attention-getting sonic experience that elicited spontanteous applause from attendees listening in.

So, was this the Best in Show?? Why spoil it so early in my report! Did I mention that there were quite a few rooms that delivered excellent sound?

Once I managed to pry myself out of the Captain’s Board Room, I headed down the strangely serpentine hallways to the other big exhibit, the Legacy Audio / Ayon / Lumen White / Synergistic Research room. Another well-attended exhibit that was standing-room-only for most of the weekend, it was a challenge just to get into this room, let alone get a reasonable listen. However, judging from the approving nods of those leaving I would say that the sound of the Legacy Speakers being driven by the Ayon tube electronics and fed by the excellent Ayon CD-5 player was definitely winning people over.

Legacy / Ayon – A heavily trafficked exhibit that impressed sonically and visually.

Next was the Aaudio Imports room that was co-sponsored with a dealership on the West Coast of Florida, Lee Island Audio. On exhibit were the Acapella High Violoncello II speakers, Einstein all-tube amplification and CD player, tape-driven Galibier Stelvio turntable and a most fascinating new tonearm, the ‘Talea’, that was just being debuted by designer and music composer Joël François Durand and it was mated to a ZYX Universe phono cartridge. The overall sound of the analog playback in this room was that of a well-balanced, neutral, detailed, and dynamic sound that really emphasized the talents of the Durand ‘Talea’. (http://www.durand-tonearms.com/)
As a true blue turntable/tonearm geek, I managed to steal Joel Durand’s attention for about 30 minutes and he was more than gracious to give me a complete run down of what his tonearm design was all about. The entire wand, counterweight to headshell is crafted from a single piece of Jatoba wood and conforms to the Loefgren A geometry specification. The pivot appeared to be a type of unipivot design, but here’s the catch: This tonearm sports on-the-fly (while it’s playing!!) continuous adjustment of VTA and Azimuth. This makes it a possible “holy grail” in current tonearm design.
The “Talea” is wired continuous end-to-end with the very fine Discovery Cable Plus 4, double-shielded OFC –Copper wire conductors. I have high hopes that this tonearm will make its way to Chez Ray for a full review at some point once it is in full production.

Acapella / Einstein / Galibier / Talea / ZYX – Analog bliss from a modern day classic fitted with a very unique new tonearm. (more to come on this)

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