Publisher Profile

2011 AXPONA Coverage I

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The second annual Audio eXPO of North America (AXPONA) was held in the Atlanta Sheraton Hotel from April 13-17, 2011. Though modestly sized with regard to both exhibitors and attendees, it was a great deal of fun, with some surprisingly good sound (given the difficulties of hotel room acoustics) and a relaxed, congenial atmosphere. There were many rather good systems, though I will restrict my report to those that particularly struck my fancy. In no particular order:

Fernando Cruze (of CruzeFirst Audio in Miramar, Florida) and Importer Brain Ackerman (Aaudio Imports) showed a system comprising Lansche 5.1 speakers ($40K-$45K, depending on finish) which use an ion tweeter, a 5” midrange, and two 8” woofers. Electronics were from BMC: single-ended M1 monoblocks ($15,580/pair; 200W at 8 Ohm, 360 at 4 Ohm), the DAC1 D-to-A converter with built-in preamp and USB inputs (the latter soon to be upgraded) ($5,790), DAC-1 belt-drive transport ($5,790), and MCC1 moving coil phonostage ($3,890). The analogue front end was from Bergmann, and utilized an air-bearing, linear tracking arm. The sound was detailed yet smooth, and virtually devoid of solid state “edginess.” I hope to review the DAC and phonostage in the near future.

At previous RMAFs I have enjoyed rooms featuring Sonist speakers. At this year’s AXPONA, making music were the Concerto 4 speakers ($5895; direct sales only) powered by a 5W Glow Audio amplifier with volume control, USB inputs, and headphone jack, using EL34 output tubes ($648); the digital source was a Cary 306 Pro SACD/CD player. The Concerto 4 speakers are 97dB sensitivity and present an easy load, and utilize a horn-loaded ribbon tweeter and 2 woofers. The sound was sweet, dynamic, and all-in-all a pleasure to listen to. Very good sound at bargain prices.

About 5 years ago, cable aficionado Robert Lee of Acoustic Zen introduced the Adagio speaker, which met with near-universal raves. Robert has followed up with two larger models, the Crescendo and Maestro, the former of which was at AXPONA. The Crescendo uses a 2” horn-loaded ribbon tweeter, 2×5” midrange drivers (with under-hung voice coil) and 2×8” woofers (also with under-hung voice coil), in a transmission line enclosure. Electronics were from Triode Corp. of Japan, distributed in the U.S. by Twin Audio Video: TRV-845SE integrated amp used only as an amp ($6000), aTRX-1 preamplifer ($3000), and TRVpCD4SE CD player ($2,200). The sound was warm and inviting yet highly detailed, with excellent control of the bass despite meager room dimensions. Very impressive.

Darren Censullo of Avatar Acoustics showcased a system centered on the Italian-made Siena speakers from Rosso-Fiorentini ($24,995pair). These speakers are magnificent to behold, and consist of a trapezoidal compartment housing a Murata super tweeter, 1” silk-dome tweeter, and 6.5” paper midrange, sitting on a larger cabinet housing twin aluminum cone woofers. Amplification was provided by an AMR AM-77.1 integrated amplifier ($10,995), with digital duties via an AMR CD-77.1 CD player ($10,995) used solely as a transport, feeding the new AMR DP-77 DAC player ($4,995). The DP-77 has an asynchronous USB input (plus all the usual inputs), and a variety of filters. On the analogue side, the turntable was the Dr. Feikert Analogue Blackbird with DFA 12.0 Tonearm ($7,995 /$1,495), which fed the brand new, fully adjustable, feature-laden Monk Audio phono stage ($2,995). Racks and acoustical treatments were from Acoustic System International. The sound was warm and inviting, with no trace of harshness. With a bit of arm twisting, perhaps I can get Darren to provide review samples of the DP-777 DAC and Monk phonostage.

A few years ago a new kid came bursting into the electrostat scene, King Sound, designed and built in China, and distributed in the U.S. by the affable Roger DuNaier. Two models were on display at AXPONA, the smaller Prince II ($6000/pair) and larger King II ($11,500/pair), the latter recently reviewed by Dagogo’s own Doug Schroeder. As in previous shows, the speakers were paired with electronics from VAC; for the King II, VAC head honcho Kevin Hayes provided the Statement 450 stereo amplifier and Signature MK 2 triode preamp (driven by a VPI Classic turntable with Ortofn cartridge), while the Prince II saw duty with the VAC Sigma 160I Integrated amp (180 W/channel; $9990), and Marantz CD player. Both speakers used VAC’s power supply. The sound from both systems was similar, differing mainly in scale: open, transparent, with excellent microdynamics. The King II is nearly full-range, giving up perhaps the lowest octave, with the smaller Prince II giving up a bit more at the bottom. The pairing of King Audio speakers and VAC electronics is…regal.

Pictured: Kevin Hayes of VAC (left), Roger DuNaier of Performance Devices, King Sound importer (right).

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