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Audio Expo North America (Read 3160 times)
Palomino
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Audio Expo North America
03/06/13 at 16:03:56
 
I'll be going to the Audio Expo North America in suburban Chicago this weekend to look at the audio jewlery and see how my humble system stacks up against the "high end" stuff.

I'll be interested in the First Watt room.

Big vendor list and lots of people coming.  According the press release they have not had a high end show in Chicago for 14 years.

http://www.axpona.com/
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Palomino
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #1 - 03/11/13 at 14:40:43
 
Well the show was interesting and a bit overwhelming.  I only had about 5 hours to see everything and there was a fire alarm and they had to clear the building for 30 minutes or so.

I'd say I saw about 30 or so systems.  I was focused more on amp/speakers than source components.  There were a pretty good number of people there and you had to wait in many of the rooms to get a seat in the sweet spot.

I don't know if those rooms are tough to get right or what but I didn't hear any imaging that blew me away.  Some of the high high end systems with speakers as big a refridgerators produced some impressive pressure in the room.

I did get to hear what 8 watts into high efficiency Volti horns sounded like.  I think they were 102db and now I know why they used horns back in the day in movie theaters.  It just showed me how big a sound you can get with very few watts.

Knowing something about the US household income statistics, I came away with the impression that a lot of there are a lot of high end companies chasing very few audiofiles with that much dough.  Either they sell international or margins are pretty big. Or maybe they aren't around long.

I've only been in the hobby for a few years and heard a few Decware amps/speakers, but value for the dollar, compared to what I heard at the show, Steve's offerings are ridiculously good.  To give you an example, the 8 watt SET driving the Volti horns sold for more than double what Steve sells his Torii monos for.

Any possible buyers remorse was put to rest after viewing all this high end gear.  I came home and fired up my system and listened to that sweet deep 3D soundstage and said "ah, there it is."
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ZYGI
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #2 - 03/11/13 at 15:10:49
 
Palomino, I've got one word for your post....NICE!!!

I wonder what Steve came away with?

Zygi
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Palomino
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #3 - 03/11/13 at 18:52:41
 
Yeah I would be interested in his review of what value he saw. I ran in to him.  He hade the whole crew there.
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Chris K
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #4 - 03/12/13 at 21:52:12
 
Steve?
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Steve Deckert
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #5 - 03/13/13 at 02:20:26
 

observations:

If Robert Harley's magazine (The Absolute Sound)  is correct, he claims that somewhere around 80% of the magazines readers have higher educational degrees and make over 100,000 annually.  

That actually makes sense because those are the only people who can afford the gear the magazine writes about - not that it targets expensive gear, but that expensive gear makes up the majority of main stream hi-end... which ironically takes it out of the main stream.

Expensive gear was of course the theme of the show for me in that I found myself, as usual, wishing the industry wasn't so stuck on itself.

I noticed that all of the venders assumed that because they're name was on the room, everyone would be familiar with their product lines and coming to the show to hear specific things.  That was a well repeated mistake.  The rooms are small, a lot of people to funnel in and out, can't see the name on the speakers, can't see what amps are playing because of course everything is turned on, and the recordings....  makes it impossible to know what the system really sounds like unless you brought the recording.

Personally, if I did another show, based on my observations, I would go with a less is more approach.  Bring the SuperZen 2 watt amp, my corner horns, and a well done flyer with the simple goal of making a big enough impression so as to have them take a single page hand out and look Decware up on the internet when they get home.  

The smallest amp I saw at the show was 8 watts, the overwhelming majority that were in use for demo purposes were high power many to the extreme.  A lot of solid state stuff there that fell into that camp and of course it sounded good on the surface, albeit always a bit clinical, it just didn't have the magic.

Naturally there was some silly stuff going on... $9000.00 power strips with 6 outlets made from $56 dollars worth of granite with some gold spikes... I remember seeing a power cord that was between 3 and 4 inches in diameter but can't remember what system it was on or even what room, that's how big an impression it's contribution to the sound was...

Oh, and the $90 fuses and quantum chips that a pre-programmed for specific things - tape one to your forehead and everything you hear will be better until you take it off.  I thought about actually getting one of those... and taping it to my dick.

Some things that caught my attention were the Newform Research speakers (large towers with a sub and big amps to drive it all)... they had an amazing frequency balance throughout the room.  I had to give him a thumbs up on that one!  There were some little kef speakers there that were belching out the most bass from the smallest box ever that were pretty impressive, although the specs say -6dB at 45Hz and it sounded like +6dB leaving one to wonder what kind of equalization and or digital manipulation goes on since most everyone playing digital used a laptop or server of some sort.  

Vinyl is not a strong enough medium to overcome the clinical qualities of solid state.  Many of the super tables and arms at the show sounded too similar to digital.  I did like the cactus needle cartridge by Sound Smith - I could hear it doing something special.

I was also impressed with Modwright's room and the speakers he paired up with.  It was solid state done right and sounded like it.  Audionotes amps sounded good, but shame on me for not being up to speed on what each model is so I have no idea what I listened to.  Speakers in the corner thing sounded predictably good but with predictably limited depth, at least in a hotel room.



Sarah and DeVon in the Newform Research room.



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Palomino
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #6 - 03/13/13 at 03:06:10
 
I absolutely have to agree on the name recognition point Steve makes.  They would just look at me and seem almost offended that you asked about them. Maybe because I don't read much of the absolute sound.  

I would say that a $100k income would be the absolute low bar to afford many of the rigs I saw.  And that's if they didn't have kids to put through college.  I found myself feeling lucky I found decware.  Thanks Steve for putting such value on the market.
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Lon
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #7 - 03/13/13 at 03:19:39
 
Palomino wrote on 03/13/13 at 03:06:10:
 I found myself feeling lucky I found decware.  Thanks Steve for putting such value on the market.


Word.
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Palomino
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #8 - 03/13/13 at 04:13:04
 
BTW, I did like the KEF bookshelf spearkers, but also felt they were a little overpowered on the low end.  Lots of sound from a little $1500 box.

If I had to come up with one word to describe most of the systems, I would repeat Steve's comment "clinical."  That's a good way to describe the "feeling" I got from most of them.  Precise, but clinical.
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beowulf
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #9 - 03/13/13 at 06:05:31
 
Quote:
by Palomino
BTW, I did like the KEF bookshelf spearkers, but also felt they were a little overpowered on the low end.  Lots of sound from a little $1500 box.


Are those the LS50 Mini Monitors?  Pretty cool, but not too efficient at 85dB though, so I would imagine not very tube friendly either (as a lot of KEF speakers seem to hover around 8Ω @ 90 or below dB).
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Palomino
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #10 - 03/13/13 at 14:46:00
 
Yes that's the speaker and I think they are 85db.  A few people I talked to were impressed by them for their size and price.  The bass could have been affected by their close proximity to the wall.
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Chris K
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #11 - 03/13/13 at 16:21:10
 
LOL at the chip on the dick!!! Thanks Steve that alone was worth you going. Just reacquainting yourself with how ridiculous the high end of high is. Key word is "high" as in "9 GRAND! for a powerstrip? Are you high or what?" Four inches of power cord? So the electrons can do what? Stop at the lounge have a party and move on to the job of powering the unit? The industry is getting "thick" with it ehh? Grin
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Chris K
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #12 - 03/13/13 at 16:23:33
 
Palomino, I have a pair of LS50's. They're good speakers. I'll reserve detailed comments till later. If I still have them in Oct. I'll bring em to DecFest.
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« Last Edit: 03/13/13 at 16:36:56 by Chris K »  

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Palomino
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #13 - 03/13/13 at 16:33:40
 
I have some 85db Silverline minuets that sound nice and full with 6 tube watts. I'd be interested in hearing the Kefs on a Torii.
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stone_of_tone
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #14 - 03/14/13 at 05:02:24
 
The only thing I have found in the Audio Weenie World, that I won't sell is that damn Kimber PK10 Palladian Power Cord hooked up to my Emotiva XPA-2. I ABA it, and it just makes better music come out. I could sell it for what I payed for it (that is why I bought it used) on Audiogon in a heartbeat to Robert Harley's demographic. Solid State (at any price) sounds like such crap compared to my Super Zen CKC & SE84CS, the Emotiva is all that is needed on my behemoth Polk SRS SDA 1.2's (with the Kimber PK 10 Palladian of course Smiley...not 4 inches in diameter).

Well, two other things I won't sell (and once again-I could sell them tomorrow for what I payed for them new in 2000)...are my Kimber Select 1030 & Kimber Select 3033....connected to my Polk LS-90's...have a special bond (did not want to use the word synergy...hehe).  -Stone    
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« Last Edit: 03/14/13 at 05:03:29 by stone_of_tone »  

Sony as Transport
Illuminati D-60
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Audio Alchemy DDE 3.0
Kimber Select 1030
Zen Select #76
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Polk Audio LS-90
Tri-config/TipToes & Vibropods underneath Speakers
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Lon
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #15 - 03/14/13 at 13:47:57
 
Well, I'm divided about the high high end, have a different viewpoint and won't be trashing them all. If you have the money, I'm sure there's really incredible components to have and enjoy. AND there are developments and steps forward in all aspects of playback that result from the development of these products.

I love my Decware components and feel they get me so close to the ultimate level I want to fly on in my listening world. And if I could live with just vinyl playback, my Decware amp, phono preamp and preamp and speakers just DELIVER in such a satisfying way that I would be done.

Where I've gone past that is with digital playback. I just was not ever as satisfied with a Decware digital component, and I have such a massive cd collection that I wanted to get to another level in playback, and went happily with PS Audio products, which are in the lower tier of the high end. I had to shell out really big money for me for the transport and DAC but it really transformed my listening and I have no regrets, only gratitude to be able to have this sound. And I feel I can stick with it for a long time and still be satisfied.

And the other aspect that sucked me up into the higher end is power treatment. First it was PS Audio power cords, I climbed the chain with these and their top items are AMAZING. I've bought these top of the line items used and still paid a lot, but they really allow my amps and preamps and sources to flow in a way that nothing else has. Like stone's Kimber cabling, they're just offering something I haven't found elsewhere and won't be without now. On top of that the PS Audio power conditioning has allowed everything to shine, probably because my house wiring and power is pretty bad untreated, but I bet they'll still transform the sound in my next home. It's just so much better than the isolation transformer route I went before, I will now always feel that is an essential foundation for my system.

Sure there's a lot of pretentious BS in the industry at the high end (and low end!) level. But I'm glad that there are these options out there, it helps all aspects of the industry, in my opinion. I won't just heap scorn on them all.
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« Last Edit: 03/14/13 at 15:29:11 by Lon »  

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Palomino
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #16 - 03/14/13 at 14:39:08
 
BTW, one of my disappointments at this show were the LCD headphones.  I listened to botht he LCD 2 and 3s.  I was expecting a more speakerlike sound and just didn't get it.  They actually sounded a little dull to me.  Maybe it was the headphone amp.  I can't remember the brand.
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Pale Rider
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #17 - 03/14/13 at 20:32:05
 
Interesting Palomino. Not sure what you mean by "speaker-like," because of course headphones, and the environment they create, are anything but speaker-like. Still, I find my LCD-2s very realistic.

Were there by chance any binaural recordings to listen to? That can make a huge difference if one is accustomed to speakers as the reference point. I recommend the HDTracks' Dr. Chesky Binaural+ recording as nearly essential for testing headphones. And of course the amp matters as well, but there are so many good amps for good headphones, that there is no excuse for a bad showing at the show.
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Palomino
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #18 - 03/14/13 at 21:19:38
 
They were touted as the headphones for speaker lovers.  I thought it was because they created more of a speaker like sound stage.  What peaked my interest was when Steve created a version of one of his amps specifically for these headphones.

The headphones were all just plugged into a headphone amp.  I wasn't sure what the source was.

The table next to it had Senheiser and I tried the HD800.  I did find the sound from these to be more open.  Again, no idea what the source was.

I'm not a headphone guy but was just curious about these >$1K cans.  Probably not the best test site to learn about them.
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Pale Rider
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #19 - 03/14/13 at 22:02:58
 
I had Senn HD800, but I replaced them with the LCD-2, after several weeks of side-by-side listening tests. The very nature of the Senn design will allow them to sound more open, and I think they do sound brighter, but not to my ears "as good."
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Pale Rider
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #20 - 03/14/13 at 22:09:06
 
Palomino wrote:
Quote:
I found myself feeling lucky I found decware.  Thanks Steve for putting such value on the market.
+1, 10,000. google.
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Lon
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Re: Audio Expo North America
Reply #21 - 03/16/13 at 19:15:44
 
I can't help but imagine that if Steve had set up a room with a nice turntable, the ZP3, the CSP2+, the Torii Mk III and the HR-1s or ERRs, there would have been many doing double-takes. And a few doing back flips.

These are all just plain fine-ass music-making components no matter what price tag appears on them.
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« Last Edit: 03/16/13 at 19:16:19 by Lon »  

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