Audio Expo North America, 2016
When it comes to audio shows, both regional and “national”, putting one on and finding that ideal weekend that can mostly likely pull in the audiophile and pre-audiophile masses is a bit of a black art. In case you haven’t noticed, some of the more successful shows have been conveniently held over an actual holiday weekend or within a week of a national holiday weekend. I guess the theory is that folks will have more disposable free time to dedicate to a multi-day hobbyist event such as ours. Other shows such as RMAF for instance have succeeded quite well with timing on or around Columbus Day; similarly, the Newport Show has succeeded in part to timing itself on or near the Memorial Day Holiday. The New York Audio Show has tried a couple of holidays and has failed to get the traffic through the door, this despite also moving the venue around a couple of times; the latest being from New York City proper to the ‘burbs in Westchester County. The reason I bring this up is because AXPONA had suffered through these pains early on. They first attempted Jacksonville, Florida, which actually brought in a decent crowd considering it was not very well publicized and in a fairly remote part of the country. After a couple of years AXPONA then moved to Atlanta, a great location from the standpoint of accessibility and hotel space. It was not held over a holiday weekend and in fact was held on this very weekend. The show proved quite successful, but was still bringing in substantially fewer people than the most powerful of all “national” shows, RMAF. Finally, AXPONA moves to Chicago at a new venue, still very much a transportation hub such as Atlanta, but rich in musical culture, high end audiophilia (who can forget the summer CES Shows of yesteryear?), and gobs of hotel and convention space. I attended the early AXPONA’s in Jacksonville and in Atlanta, but this is my first time attending Chicago. It is clear that the AXPONA organizers have hit their stride and hit pay dirt in this move to Chicago.
Merrill Audio / Reference 3A
The sound in this room had wonderful balance and musicality. The Merrill Audio Room featured the spectacular Veritas monoblock amplifiers and the new Cara linestage amplifier.
I am more than a bit curious about the new high performance linestage preamp ‘Cara’. I am definitely going to have to get up close and personal with this new addition to the Merrill Audio line. It appears that that it is a chip off the ‘ole (Veritas) block
This year Merrill Audio chose to exhibit using the Reference 3A 2-way ‘Taksim’ speakers. I can only wonder and speculate the effect a more extreme high end speaker would make on the Merrill Audio display such as say, a “small” pair of Scaena or even something like a large Magico. I have a fair amount of confidence that The “Veritas” has the goods to make virtually any speaker sing in spectacular fashion.
Salk Sound / Wells Audio / Dana Cable / Luminous Audio Technology / Gingko Audio
On display and making some sweet sounds were the Salk Sound Exotica III speakers, Wells Audio Innamorata Signature amplifier, and the active Salk Powerplay monitors. The front-end consisted of a Streamplayer GenIII on the digital side; analog audio was courtesy of the VPI Prime turntable with the 3D printed tonearm and Soundsmith Hyperion phono cartridge. Those rather small active monitors in particular did not fail to impress.
Vinnie Rossi / Acoustic Signature / Harbeth
The Vinnie Rossi LIO Components were featured in this room including their superb wide bandwidth DHT tube line preamp. The front-end was an Acoustic Signature Thunder turntable fitted with a 12’ TA-5000 tonearm. These blended nicely to a warm and inviting effect.
The LIO MOSFET amplifier was driving the handsome Harbeth M40.2 speakers.
Gershman Acoustics / LAMM / Oracle
Gershman Acoustics was showing a new sub-$6000/pair speaker system and the sound overall was quite impressively warm and inviting; clearly the recipient of some of the best character traits of the big brother Avante Garde model.
Rounding out the system were the always fabulous LAMM preamp and 1.2 monoblock amplifiers. The source was a striking red lacquered Oracle Paris digital player. Cables were Nordost and perhaps even more significantly, the footers utilized on the Oracle player were Gershman levitation control devices. You will be reading much more about these devices in the coming months as I seek to uncover the unique value they add to an audio system’s musicality.
Mod Wright / Triangle Art / Skogrand Cables / Eggleston Works / Massif
This room had a very pleasing and room-filling sound. It featured a pair of Eggleston Camilla speakers, Modwright electronics such as the KWA150 Signature monoblocks, Elyse Reference Tube DAC, PH150 Reference Phono, and a Modwright modded Oppo 105D.
I was particularly pleased to see and hear the Triangle Art Signature turntable sporting the 12” Osiris tonearm and Triangle Art cartridge. These appear to have come a long long way from the early production reference turntable that I reviewed several years ago. I think a revisit is in order!
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