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Axpona 2014 (Read 2910 times)
Palomino
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Axpona 2014
04/24/14 at 20:20:58
 
Ace reporters Lonely Raven and Palomino will be attending Axpona in Chicago this Saturday.

We'll try to get a good listen to the Direct Stream DAC and report our findings here on the forum.  Anything else we should give a listen to?

http://www.axpona.com/exhibitors.asp

I have my list of rooms to visit.  Mostly tube amp/horn/single driver manufacturers (my interests).  We'll go to some of the over the top rooms as well.  Also, there is a tape demo and some rooms with tape players that we'll visit too.
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Lonely Raven
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Re: Axpona 2014
Reply #1 - 04/24/14 at 22:24:25
 

I'm more of the Peter Parker photographer than a reporter, but yeah, what he said. It helps that we have similar interests so his list is my list.

I'm also curious if anyone will be showing off magic bells or little stones or cupcakes or some such.
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busterfree
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Re: Axpona 2014
Reply #2 - 04/25/14 at 00:37:23
 
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts or seeing pictures of the following items/rooms.

Marten - room 315
Aesthetix - room 1234, O'Hare 1 or O'Hare 2 (12th floor)
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Palomino
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Re: Axpona 2014
Reply #3 - 04/25/14 at 00:54:01
 
Any background on these rooms?  Or are you trying not to bias the reporters?
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Palomino
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Re: Axpona 2014
Reply #4 - 04/25/14 at 01:02:23
 
About as close to the cupcakes as I saw last year was the fuses which I actually believe make a difference.  Afterwards Steve humorously discussed taping them to a certain part of his anatomy so I guess that gives us an idea of where he stands.

Mostly it's higher or high end equipment.  I think the lowest end room I visited was Onkyo and their system was just under $10k.  Peach tree has a room that is more on the low end.  Other than that think $10k set amps, ss amps as big as coolers, $30k horns and such.
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Dave1210
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Re: Axpona 2014
Reply #5 - 04/25/14 at 01:03:26
 
My buddy and I will also be there on Sat.  As HST once said, "buy the ticket, take the ride".   Let me know if you guys want to meet up for a beer and compare notes.
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beowulf
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Re: Axpona 2014
Reply #6 - 04/25/14 at 01:45:11
 
If Ayre Acoustics is showing, I would appreciate taking some notes on their:

1. Ayre QB-9DSD USB DAC

2. Ayre DX-5 DSD

Also if you haven't heard the AURALiC Vega DSD DAC/Preamp ~ you may want to check that out (if they are there).  IMO that player will give the PS Audio DSD DAC a run for its money.

Thanks
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« Last Edit: 04/25/14 at 01:47:40 by beowulf »  
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Dave1210
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Re: Axpona 2014
Reply #7 - 04/25/14 at 01:58:59
 
The AURALIC Dac is on my list of gear to hear and they will be there.  

Unfortunately, Ayre will not be participating.  I was hoping to hear their SS amps w/o negative feedback.  The Ayre DAC's would have been interesting too.
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beowulf
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Re: Axpona 2014
Reply #8 - 04/25/14 at 06:19:10
 
Quote:
Dave1210 said,
The AURALIC Dac is on my list of gear to hear and they will be there.  

Unfortunately, Ayre will not be participating.  I was hoping to hear their SS amps w/o negative feedback.  The Ayre DAC's would have been interesting too.


Ah, bummer.  I actually heard Ayre's MX-R mono blocks this afternoon pushing a pair of Wilson Sasha's, it was solid state done right maybe one of the best solid state setups I've ever heard (and for the crazy price it better be).  Their K-5xe mp Preamplifier (Stereophile Class A rated) is excellent too and fairly reasonable on the used market.
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busterfree
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Re: Axpona 2014
Reply #9 - 04/25/14 at 12:51:05
 
Quote:
Posted by: Palomino      Posted on: Yesterday at 16:54:01
Any background on these rooms?  Or are you trying not to bias the reporters?



Posted by: busterfree      Posted on: Yesterday at 16:37:23
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts or seeing pictures of the following items/rooms.

Marten - room 315
Aesthetix - room 1234, O'Hare 1 or O'Hare 2 (12th floor)




Marten and Aesthetix are on my fantasy wish list of audio gear. Just interested in other opinions after looking at the list of vendors. I wish I could go, but I can't.
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Palomino
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Re: Axpona 2014
Reply #10 - 04/27/14 at 13:56:02
 
Our Axpona experience overall was a good one.  A few comments below...

It was in a new hotel this year, which was better than the old hotel.  More spacious, had an auditorium for the seminars, a bigger room for the audio marketplace, etc.  The hotel "listening" rooms were about the same.  3rd and 4th floor mostly had regular rooms.  12th floor had the bigger rooms with higher ceilings and the big suites.

A lot of the demo rooms were overwhelmed by bass.  Pretty tough to control in that small a space.  I think there were more rooms with treatments this year.  Some even had corner bass traps.

Our primary goal was to listen to the PS Audio Direct Stream DAC.  I address those observations in the PS Audio thread.

Unfortunately, we did not get to hear the Aurilac DAC.  That was in a room where the main attraction was turntables and both times we were there they were spinning records.

We did get to hear the Marten speakers and they really sounded great.  Very fast and detailed.  Good balance.  The room was set up well and sounded good.  These were one of my favorites, if not my favorite in the "reasonable sized speaker" category.  But, they are also $32K.

My favorite "reasonably priced" speaker was the Zu Druid.  These are around $5-$6K, 101db, sounded fast, detail, crisp bass and imaged really well.  Much better than some other high dollar speakers we listened to and the room was completely bare.  Not an absorber to be found.  Also, the system was lower end compared to most others.  A Peachtree combo unit and a Mac laptop.  I could see where some people might be concerned that these would be too aggressive, but when the guy kicked in the tube on the Peachtree pre section of the amp, you could see where tubes could mellow these guys out a bit.

My other standout speakers were the Martin Logans.  I am not sure which model, but they had a separate woofer and mid/tweeter panels.  Unfortunately, the guy running the room was an obnoxious carnival barker type and talked more and played music less.  Also impressive was the room correction software in the MacIntosh amp he was demoing.

I expected to like the Janzen floor standers David was demoing more.  (David is a nice guy and seems to be a class act, BTW).  They just sounded thin.  It could have been the recording or I could have been where I was sitting or something because they did improve when I moved to the back of the room.  The bookshelves he later demo'd sounded pretty good both in the front and the back of the room.   Unfortunately, they were only 85 db.  Sorry I didn't get the model numbers, but its his latest offerings on both speakers.

The $40K Sanduri Acoustic horns were fun.  Very impractical due to their size, but I thought they sounded good.

I also like the Volti horns, but again, way out of my price range.

We also saw a couple of rooms with tape decks.  I definitely see the potential of tapes.  Certainly the most "real" recordings I heard all day.  Raven picked up a few tapes at the marketplace (mostly for the nice aluminum reels).

The room treatment seminar we attended offered good information, but I didn't pick up a ton of new information.  It mainly helped me to reinforce or explain more fully what I already knew.  It was good to see EQ Wizard demo'd.

Anyway, that's it for now.  Raven may have some more comments when he comes back on line.

I can say that once again, I came home, fired up my system and feel I have audio show quality at a fraction of the price.
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Lon
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Re: Axpona 2014
Reply #11 - 04/27/14 at 15:18:22
 
Sounds like it was a fun excursion!

I'm looking forward to the DirectStream. My ZP3 is saying "Come on sucker, I bet I can best ya!" We'll see! Cheesy
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Lonely Raven
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Re: Axpona 2014
Reply #12 - 04/27/14 at 20:49:53
 

Palomino summed it up very well. We listen a lot alike, so his write-up is spot on with what I'd say.

I'd add that, as he said, lots of rooms were spinning vinyl - all the high end rooms in fact were vinyl, and the DACs seemed like an afterthought. The exception was the occasional reel to reel, which pleased me greatly. I think it's great that Palomino got to hear some tapes played through nice gear, but I did not hear anything nearly as good and with as much impact as Steve's Otari deck playing studio and radio masters via his Monoblocks to MG-945. I'd honestly put that setup against $50k-$100k systems and only the highest end systems would come close. Granted, Steve's listening room is better than hotel rooms, but I'd still give it the Pepsi challenge.

I heard some fantastic speakers this weekend, and while I'm happy with my MG-944, I know I want something a little higher end to match up to my ZMA someday, so I'm keeping my eyes open.

I didn't see as much douchbaggery as I expected, in fact most people were pretty nice, though a couple of the demonstrators gave me that used car salesman feel.

The high-end rooms not using the DACs seemed very shortsighted to me, it's like they aren't taking the hardware seriously yet...that they just had a DAC to say they had a DAC. The "lower end" systems all used DACs and seemed really happy with them, as I was of the sound they were getting.

All in all, I'd say my system, even in this less than desirable room setup would easily keep up with most of what I heard there. The really high end speakers just killed though. I hope to find something that's a big step up from the MG-944, but not at $32k! I'm positive my ZMA topped most (if not all) of the amps there; I heard some great sound, but nothing really like the ZMA in richness along with accuracy.

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Dave1210
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Re: Axpona 2014
Reply #13 - 04/28/14 at 04:09:02
 
Below are a few systems that stood out to me (doesn’t include the obvious super expensive systems, Sonus Faber/Audio Research, etc).  

Acoustic Zen Crescendo mkii speakers driven by triode japan TRX-845 mono block tube amps (using either 845 or 211 tubes...neither of which I have ever heard of before) sounded very musical.  Tone and timbre were excellent and I found the presentation to be very engaging.  The room was bad, maybe even awful (very small, no bass traps), and I still enjoyed the music, so I can only imagine what this system would sound like in a treated room.  I would love to hear the ZMA paired up with these speakers.  Too bad they are 10x the cost of the 944’s.  $16,500.

The Venture system was excellent.  We were surprised more people weren’t in the room at any one time, but maybe it was because it was a bit off the beaten path (near the Starbucks).   The system sounded very natural and lively. Tone was incredible.  At one point I really thought someone was playing a saxophone in the room.  Speaking of the room, they were in a huge room and they had the system pulled out into the middle of the room.  It was a 2.1 system and the sub integrated seamlessly.  Drums sounded particularly natural and lively.  At one point we were listening to Dave Brubeck’s ‘Take 5’ and it was the best reproduction of this track that I have heard.  The drum hits were spectacular.  The speakers will only set you back $36K and they were being driven by 200 watt Venture class A monoblocks that will set you back 120K.  Geeze.  

I was very impressed by the Legacy Aeris speakers.  We stopped into the Legacy room for a quick listen late Saturday (they were playing the Whisper XD’s) and the sound was intriguing enough to stop back on Sunday.  Of the 3 Legacy speakers we heard (Focus SE, Whisper and Aeris) I definitely preferred the Aeris.  The Air Motion tweeters are awesome--incredible air and detail.  At first I thought they might get fatiguing, but they never did.  The speakers were open, fast and had great clarity.  Impressive.  I wish the less expensive (but still expensive) Focus SE speakers sounded as good as the Aeris, but they didn’t.

Best of the Inexpensive (assuming you can call $8500 for a system inexpensive, but compared to most everything else, it was definitely inexpensive)
-Zu Audio Druid mk5 driven by Peahtree nova 220se.  The Zu’s were clear, dynamic, lively.  Bass that hit you in the chest.  This was a fun room.  We spent a lot of time in this room because they were playing real music (all the audiophile stuff gets old after a while).  The Zu guys were knowledgeable, fun, knew about Decware and handed over the iPad and let us dj for a while.  Good stuff.  I could definitely live with the system they had in that room.

Worst of the Inexpensive
-Rega room (small and congested sound)
-Focal Chorus/Yamaha Receiver/VPI Nomad system (reminded me of something you would hear at BestBuy)

Worst of the Expensive
-Wilson Alexia? Speakers being driven by Dan Agostino electronics.  The room was so small and the bass so ridiculous that this truly was a waste.  I would have preferred to just look at the Agostino gear.  

Biggest Surprises
-I expected more of these super expensive systems to have better soundstage depth.  I feel like I can count on 1 hand the systems that had good depth
-I expected to be more wowed by R2R tape
-I expected to leave thinking I really need to get a vinyl front end setup. In general, I wasn’t impressed with the vinyl rigs at the show.  The one vinyl rig that did stand out was in the Room 1234 system.  It was a Clear Audio turntable, AMG tonearm and I can’t remember the cartridge.  
-I didn’t expect to see horn speakers in the Merrill Audio room.  Extremely high power class D monoblocks powering super efficient horns???
-I expected the sweetspot to be larger in the MBL rooms with the radial drivers.  
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« Last Edit: 04/28/14 at 12:48:24 by Dave1210 »  
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Dave1210
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Re: Axpona 2014
Reply #14 - 04/28/14 at 04:26:23
 
Unfortunately, the guy running the room was an obnoxious carnival barker type and talked more and played music less.

Couldn't agree more about this dude.  Geeze.

I expected to like the Janzen floor standers David was demoing more.  (David is a nice guy and seems to be a class act, BTW).  They just sounded thin.  It could have been the recording or I could have been where I was sitting or something because they did improve when I moved to the back of the room.  The bookshelves he later demo'd sounded pretty good both in the front and the back of the room.   Unfortunately, they were only 85 db.  Sorry I didn't get the model numbers, but its his latest offerings on both speakers.

I wanted to like the JansZen's more than I did.  We went back to the room on Sunday just to double check.  They were impressive on some recordings, but on others not so much.  Dare I say that they were a little too detailed and hot?  I want the clarity, but I also need to be able to listen to non-audiophile music on my system without cringing.  I was surprised how well the drivers integrated (electrostat + dynamic), and they can put out an impressive amount of tightly controlled bass.  I think I came to the conclusion that it would be difficult for me to live with that system long term.  Maybe with different amplification it would be more tolerable.
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