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2016 Axpona show report, Part 1

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Essential Audio


Aurender N100 Music Server, Resonessence Labs Veritas DAC, Atmasphere UV-1 Tube Preamp, Atmasphere M60 MKIII Tube Amp, Audiokenesis Bienville Suite speakers and Clarity Cables.

I have many times heard the paring of the Classic Audio speakers with Atmasphere Amps. The Audiokenesis speakers reacted as well with these more affordable quality tube components. I might have fought Duke LeJune of Audiokinesis over the positioning of the speakers, but there was inherent beauty in the matching of Clarity Cables, Atmasphere and the Audiokinesis Bienville Suite speakers with Swarm Subwoofer System.



Aqua Acoustic Quality by Well Pleased Audio Video


La Diva CD Transport with Formula DAC, Stella Integrated Amp by Angstrom Audio Lab, Kuro Cables and Diesis Audio Aura Speaker. This was a most pleasing discovery at the show, a brilliant hybrid speaker being driven by a formidable integrated amp! This collection of gear had a sense of extreme immediacy, as though recordings had closer microphone placement than when played on other systems. The quality of the sound reminded me much of the glorious years when I used a pair of Pathos Classic One Mk III Integrated Amps in Mono with various speakers. The Italian designers’ flair for aesthetics and sound quality often catch my eye.



Silnote Audio


Apple MacBook Pro with Signalist HQPlayer software, LampizatOr Reference Level 4 DAC, Jadis DA-60 Reference Integrated Amplifier, Silnote Audio Cables, and B&W 802 Nautilus Speakers. The Slinote Cable room always improves considerably year after year. Mark Williams of Silnote picked my brain this spring and tried the HQPlayer software, to much good effect. A late arrival to the room on Sunday was a pair of the new Sonus Faber Il Cremonese Speakers, which perked up the system nicely. This system began as Mark Williams’ personal rig to showcase his wires and has developed to become impressive, even though the purpose of the system was to showcase the cables!


Paragon Sight and Sound


dCS Vivaldi Digital System (D/A Converter, Up Sampler, Master Clock, CD/SACD Transport), Brinkman Audio Balance Turntable, Koetsu Axule Platinum Cartridge, Doshi Audio 3.0 series Line Stage, Phono Stage and Tape Stage, along with Doshi Jhor Mono Amplifiers, Wilson Audio Alexx Loudspeakers.  I was startled by this system, and not so much by superior performance. It was disappointing in the low end dynamics, where speakers such as Duke LeJune’s Audiokinesis Swarm and Bienville Suite crushed most other competitors regardless of price with a vast and clean amount of LF. The Paragon system struck me as though someone had jacked up the gain, which was not at all pleasing to me. Paragon should consider moving to a cable such as Silnote.


Ilies Sound


Look carefully at this system; it’s a laptop feeding a Peachtree integrated, which powers the Ilies Sound Orion O2 Series Speakers. I had never seen Ilies Sound speakers before, and seemingly neither had anyone else. The system was smallish and limited in its capacity, but had a lovely open character similar to panel speakers. These local manufacturers have devised yet another take on the transducer with an eye toward maximizing midrange performance, proving yet again innovation is limitless and that one can aspire to the High End with a computer and integrated amp pushing speakers. I will be reviewing this unusual system.


The Voice That Is


Silver Circle Audio TCHAIK 6 Isolation Transformer; Aurender W20 Reference Music Server; TIDAL Presencio Preamplifier and Impulse Monobloc Amplifiers; TIDAL Agoria Speaker, and TIDAL cables. I always enjoy the systems designed by The Voice That Is. The gear is luscious and the sound enveloping and unencumbered. The Aurender and TIDAL components were superb together.

This system proved (once again, as have so many) that it is relatively easy to put a huge speaker system in a smallish room and achieve excellent sound.


MSB Technology


MSB Universal Media Transport with Dual Power Base, Select DAC, and M203 Mono Amplifiers, YG Sonja 1.2 Speaker (Cables not listed). This was my favorite room of the entire show. Yes, the mbl system was overwhelming, and the Scaena system was ethereal, however the MSB rig sounded the most like perfect representation of music from digital data I have heard at any show. I would take the MSB stack and YG speakers as my reference in a heartbeat! In the past the Sonja 1.3 has struck my ears unfavorably, chiefly due to its giraffe neck, but this 1.2 version is just right!




Scaena la Maitresse Ulitme Speakers with phase control, DAC and preamp functionality by Bohmer Audio, Audio Research 75 Amplifiers, “Mainframe server” source, and High Fidelity Cables. This was one of the sublime moments of the show, hearing a truly world-class system. What can I say about the seeming ridiculous amount of tweaky cables? The sound was superb in every respect, and represented a far higher than average synergy between components.

4 Responses to 2016 Axpona show report, Part 1

  1. Kirk says:

    Glad to hear you’ll be reviewing the Ilies. My girlfriend & I were won over by the clarity it produced at its price point. Of course it helped that as (unfortunately) one of the less busy rooms, the staff was very accommodating to all of our requests. Definitely intrigued.

  2. Dave B says:

    Yes! The MSB room was the best sound at the show for me too, by far!

  3. bornie says:

    I couldn’t agree more about the Pass/Focal room. Had very high expectations but was left cold as well. Not at all engaging and very thin sounding.
    I remember the representative in the MSB room saying, wait till you hear the piano rendition… Don’t know what the problem was,, speakers, cable? I missed the rich sound of the keys..
    Agree too with the impressions of the big Wilson room… Maybe the Doshi’s weren’t the best match. Much preferred the Constellations with the Wilson’s at RMAF.

  4. Brian Walsh says:

    Thank you for the coverage of our room. Two omissions, though: Teo Audio interconnects and equipment rack were used, as was a Kuzma Stabi S turntable with Stogi Ref 313 VTA tonearm and CAR-30 cartridge.

    Brian Walsh
    Essential Audio

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