Axpona 2015 was chilly outside, but warm inside, where the audiophile masses and industry insiders mingled in a comfortable atmosphere of semi-seriousness and heart-felt devotion to the art of audio. Here are some memorable moments from the show as I experienced it. My time was quite limited, as I lost most of Saturday due to a conflict in my schedule, so I was not able to reach some rooms I had hoped to hear. Here are some of the systems I felt deserved comment, good or bad.
My first stop was at the room of Essential Audio, a local Chicago dealer. Last year Essential Audio showed towering Sound Lab speakers, but had switched this year to a far more diminutive system.
Atma-Sphere Music Systems, AudioKinesis, Aurender, Clarity Cable, Essence of Music, Essential Audio, Exogal, Kuzma, TEO Audio
I had an interest in the AudioKinesis Zephrin 46 speaker ($6.9K with beryllium diaphragm compression drivers and automotive paint finish) previous to its appearance at the show. I fulfilled my curiosity by spending ample time hearing it, and feel it is a worthwhile speaker to investigate for those contemplating an omnidirectional experience, but for whatever reason cannot bring themselves to acquire an omni. The speaker was full, but somewhat “phasey” sounding on day one as I listened to Susan Ashton’s “Lonely River” and Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “I Am A Town”, but by day three, after slight adjustments and when Chris Owen of Clarity Cable, whose cables I have reviewed and use, was demonstrating the efficacy of Essence of Music CD treatment (which I used on every disc I ripped to file playback) the system was much more orderly and crisp. At that point the Atma-Sphere UV-1 Preamplifier with low output MC option ($2,900) and M-60 MkIII.2 OTL Amplifiers with copper V-Cap option ($7,700), Abbingdon Music Research Cd-777 ($4,995), Aurender N100 Music Player/Streamer ($2,499), Clarity Cable Organic and Vortex products (ranging $750 – $3,750) and TEO Audio equipment rack ($7,500) were a beguiling match with the Zephrin 46.
I had the same reaction of deep curiosity to the Kingsound King Tower omni when I first hear it, and in my possession it has become a diminutive monster of a speaker system. If the Zephrin was matched and tuned in my room as I would like, it might become a to-die-for project at the price level.
I have just embarked on a review of the TEO Audio Liquid Cables, so watch for that in upcoming months. I had the opportunity immediately after the show to hear the Exogal Comet DAC with upgraded power supply ($3K) in my home system with the Kingsound King III electrostatic speakers. I have requested the Comet for review and will be reporting on it as well.
Since I had just finished the review of Silnote Audio products I popped in to hear the effect of the new line, the Orchestra Master series with Digital ($1,695), Interconnects ($2,995) and Speaker Cables ($3,795). Though not perfect recall of the identical system from last year featuring Mark Williams’ older personal audio system featuring B&W 802 speakers, I discerned that the treble was more delicate and the overall sound more fleshed out. There were many superb systems this year in the show. Though this room likely wouldn’t make the top ten, that is no disgrace as this nearly retro rig was elevated well by the Silnote cables. I consider them among the finest wires I have used, suitable for very high end rigs.
Quintessence Audio LTD – Magico
One of the disappointments of the show was the “big gun” rig put up by Quintessence in which the world premier Magico Q7 MkII Loudspeakers ($229K)
were backed by more than $280K of gear from names like Clearaudio, Aesthetix, Pass Labs and Harmonic Resolution Systems and Kubala-Sosna. There was one word to describe the overall sound of this system – sterile. It was my greatest disappointment of the show, as I expected far more from it. The bass was thin and without tactile quality, the mids and highs uninviting. When the playback was switched from CD to vinyl it got better, but not a lot. This was proof that money does not always guarantee terrific sound, and neither does CD playback. I believe this rig would have sounded far better if quality file playback was in use.
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