Publisher Profile

2012 AXPONA, Part II

Audioengine, Channel D/Joseph Audio, Audio Images AV/Audio Research/Krell/Aerial, Linkwitz Lab, Soundsmith, Scaena

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Brett Bargenquast of Audioengine was showing their new line-up of unique lifestyle products that were both easy on the eyes and ears. The Audio Engine 5+ self-powered speakers ($399/pr.) defied their size with their big sound. A notable addition to their line-up is the all new D2 wireless 24-bit/96khz DAC ($599) and D1 24-bit wire DAC ($169). The speakers and DAC certainly offered up a compelling reason to have excellent sound wherever you want it, anywhere in the home or office at a very affordable price.

Channel D and Joseph Audio teamed up to produce excellent sounds. The Joseph Audio Pulsar speakers were fed by the Channel D Pure Music digital music server and Hegel amplification.

A local dealer, Audible Images AV had a very good sounding room which featured the Audio Research Reference 5 preamplifier, Krell 505 digital player, and Aerial 7T speakers.

Once again, I was pleasantly surprised with the sound of the Linkwitz Lab Orion-4 speakers. These particular pair of speakers were manufactured by Wood Artistry of Healdsburg, California and, of course, follow the exact specifications of the design as dictated by Siegfried Linkwitz white paper. To that end, the SEAS woofers, 2 per channel, employed by the design are manufactured by SEAS specifically to meet the Linkwitz dipole implementation. The speakers also employ a proprietary Linkwitz 3-way active crossover.

This system was biamplified using Pass Labs’ superlative X250.5 stereo power amplifier to drive the bass drivers, and two Pass Labs XA30.5 Class A monoblocks to drive the midrange and tweeter drivers.

The system front-end included the superb Pass Labs XP-20 linestage, and an MSB digital front-end which included the Signature data CD transport and Signature platinum DAC IV.

I was lured into the Soundsmith’s by the promise of a truly unique analog music experience and indeed it was. Peter Ledermann, the sound smith, was demonstrating a new prototype phono cartridge which employs a real cactus needle (yes, organic matter!) as a cantilever. The “Hyperion”, a moving iron design, utilizes an optimized line contact stylus which is mounted on the end of a cactus needle. The cartridge’s output is 0.4mv and is projected to have an MSRP of $7,000. Peter has even gone to extremes in quieting fears regarding reliability of the new cactus needle technology by offering a 10-year warranty on the stylus and stylus assembly.

The system included the VPI HRX turntable and tonearm, Soundsmith preamplifier, and the diminutive-yet-remarkable “Firefly” speakers. I must say that they system as a whole was enjoyable. The Hyperion cartridge was delivering an engaging and natural sound when playing the Ry Cooder LP, A Meeting Down by the River. The room actually merited a second visit, but I didn’t get back there. I look forward to a much closer look at the “Hyperion” once available for review.

Once again, Scaena did not fail to impress. Their 3.4 System which features 4 subwoofers, and line source arrays of 12 midranges and 9 ribbons, was sounding spectacular. The system was complemented by a DCS Scarlatti digital front end, a battery-powered Veloce linestage, and pair of Conrad Johnson GAT power amplifiers.

On Saturday, I was invited to participate in a ‘Meet the Reviewer” panel that was organized by Jason Serinus of Stereophile magazine. The panel discussion drew a good crowd of audiophile enthusiasts and the discussions were lively and engaging. Included in the panel were Jason, yours truly, Colin Flood from, and Neil Gader from The Absolute Sound. The discussion drew to a close on a poignant note when each of us shared our ‘A-HA’ musical experience moment.

It took some doing, but we were able to convince Jason to sit together with us non-Stereophile folk for a group picture…

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