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Axpona 2019 (Read 859 times)
Palomino
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Axpona 2019
03/19/19 at 15:48:23
 
I have been getting less and less out of the show each year, but I will be attending again in April.  If nothing else I come away with some great new music.

I am interested in OBs and Spatial, Voxativ and Pure Audio Project will have some presence.  PS Audio will be there as well so I'll check out their new power regenerator.  Vinnie Rossi's room is always a treat.

Here is the vendor list:

http://www.axpona.com/exhibitors.asp?utm_source=AXPONA+Newsletter&utm_campaign=a...
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #1 - 03/20/19 at 04:59:52
 
I was intending to fly out to the show this year.  As I was searching for good flight options, I realized it would be wise to check my calendar for any conflicts.  Sure enough...

So, I will look forward to hearing your thoughts after your attendance in anticipation of you sharing any observations that garnered your attention.  Have fun!
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Palomino
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #2 - 04/15/19 at 15:28:58
 
Here’s my Axpona 2019 update.  I generally enjoyed the show more this year and ended up spending almost 8 hours there on Saturday.  I took my time and attended a few seminars as well.

The show is bigger.  Both vendors and attendees.  I tried to avoid the elevator because you could wait 5-10 minutes.  

I’ll talk more about rooms and speakers than equipment I think it is hard to evaluate other pieces of equipment very easily in this show setting.  Most of my comments will be on rooms with Decware friendly speakers.

It started out kind of on a low point.  I went into a higher end room only because the other rooms on that floor were not open yet. They sounded fine but they couldn’t control the bass.  I was a little shocked that they were asking $122K.  Beautiful wood work, but it takes some real cojones to ask that much for speakers that are not that different from your competition.  I definitely didn’t pause and say, “oh wow, they have something here.”

Anyway, the guy running the room was nice and we talked a little about the industry while I waited for the other rooms to open.

Then I went to one of the highlights of the show – Vinnies Rossi’s room.  I think I share some of Vinnie’s preferences for both music and sound because I really didn’t want to leave.  

He had his pre/dac and his monoblocks with his prototype speakers (run off a mac air).  The sound was toe tapping musical and he was projecting a nice soundstage despite the lengthwise setup of his room.  The speakers are somewhat modular in that the bottom is open baffle bass (Acoustic Elegance 15”) with a sealed mid/tweet on the top.  

You can tell Vinnie loves music first as he was jamming to the tunes he played.  Anyway, a real treat.  I stopped back twice to listen again to see if maybe I had misjudged, but it sounded great each time.  Higher end stuff than I would ever buy ($20K for the speakers) but I really like Vinnie’s sound.  It was very Decware like to me.

I may also experiment with this hybrid setup in the future.  It would be hard for me to leave open baffle bass, but there are some things I like about my boxed speakers.

I was also impressed with Spatial.  They had their X3 (?) running in two rooms on two different systems and I thought the sound was very good.  I came away more impressed than the last time I heard them. I did like the way they added the horn housing to the ribbon tweeter and might experiment with that on my own speakers.  AT around 95db and $8K, these are more Decware friendly.

For the first time in around three auditions, I liked the Voxativ drivers.  In the past, they sounded thin and maybe a little harsh to me.  This time I heard the 1.6 in the Pure Audio Project modular baffles with the 4 10” drivers and liked the overall sound.  

Also, PAP is also shipping a fully assembled speaker now that basically has a wooden frame and fabric stretched over it.  Nice look.  This version uses the wood cone Voxativ which I felt was far superior to the 1.6.  Significantly fuller and smoother.  I believe both speakers were under $10K but I’d have to visit the web site to be sure.  

I also liked the sound pressure of the two 15s to the 4 10s.

I preferred the Spatial to the first PAP with the 1.6 but it was more of a toss up versus the fully assembled version with the wood cone voxativ.

Another speaker that I like this time around was Daludeas (sp?).  They are also 95-96db and had a nice sound.  I didn’t get the price on these but they are probably considerably more given the cabinet work.

The first person I ran into at the show as I got off the elevator to start working my first floor was Paul from PS Audio.  He was as gracious as could be despite the fact that he had no idea who I was.  

PS Audio had quite a spread at Axpona this year.  Two sections of the ballroom right behind registration.  Lots of signage and display of a lot of their gear.  Ted Smith was there talking about the new statement DAC and they had their prototype AN3 speakers.  I wish I could say I liked the overall sound, but I felt it lacked top and end and the bottom was muddy.  Some of that could have been the room but I didn’t come away feeling these were great.

One interesting room was a guy with all bamboo gear.  Shelving, speakers, turntable, everything was bamboo.  My isolation platform is a cheap piece of bamboo so I was intrigued.  The owners pitch was bamboo is the poor man’s carbon fiber.  Anyway, I liked the sound and so I checked out the speakers.  They were basically an over/under Eminence 15 with a Betsy in the middle.  The xover was in a bamboo box so I couldn’t tell what it was, but basically this was a bamboo betsy.

Something else I came away impressed by were the line array speakers.  I heard 3-4 versions and each time I felt I was getting the soundstage I get from my 25th amp.  They look like a real pain to build but I think Parts Express has a kit.

While in the Parts Express Room, I did inquire about building a super tweeter.  I have been following that thread here on the forums and may build one just to see if I can get it to work.  They guy told me three quarters of the battle is finding a suitable tweeter.  He said ribbons hold up much better at the higher frequencies and you need one that is around 5 db more efficient than your speaker drivers.  He said that eliminates about 95% of the tweeters out there.  He pointed me towards a Fountek which I will check out.

I was also impressed by RTR.  They are more home theater, but I thought the music I heard through their speakers sounded very good in a very large room.  Their home theater demo was awesome.  Very efficient speakers.

I attended two seminars.  One was on the future of high def digital music.  Not very informative and one on using REW that was very informative.  I wish I could have stuck around because they had an extension of the seminar in the RTR room at 6:00 that evening.  

Basically, they guy found that auto room correction rarely gets it right.  He did admit that if his client has it, he uses it as a baseline but always ends up changing things to get the room right.

Overall, I was listening to hear what my DIY speakers are missing.  Some mid range presence.  Maybe some top end sparkle.  My bass was on par or superior to anything I heard.  I heard no soundstage that even approached what I have at home.  Open baffle + 25th = HUGE, layered and interesting.

I always come away with an appreciation for the quality of my Decware gear, especially at the price point its offered.  A lot of markup in the higher end of this industry without that much performance to back it up.

I shazamed about 70 songs so here is the Tidal playlist.  Not a great crop this year, but some interesting songs to listen to and test your system.

https://tidal.com/playlist/303f1aa8-daaa-47b2-a9d0-1ed7e7356acf

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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #3 - 04/15/19 at 16:57:21
 
Pal,

Nice report, thanks for taking the time to give those of us who didn't attend a great overview of what you saw and heard.

Best,
Scott
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Palomino
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #4 - 04/15/19 at 17:10:21
 
Thanks Scott.  I wish I could have come away from the show with a better feel for which DAC I'd like to try next, but it was too hard to judge.  Was it the speakers?  The DAC?  the amp?

Another impression I had was that sand amps are getting better.  There were a ton of rooms running tube amps but a lot with SS gear.  In the past, I have come away feeling that I could never run SS again, but this year I didn't feel that way.

I attended one demo where they switched between SS, tube and class D and preferred the tube sound (as did the other attendees in the room) but the class D especially had a nice sound.

I also found a number of rooms where the speakers incorporated a ribbon.  Given that I have gone this route, I found I liked those rooms.  For example, Spatial now has a ribbon tweeter.  In the past they had the coaxial which I didn't like as much.

Still, there were rooms where I just felt sorry for the people.  The sound was horrendous and I couldn't help but think these people invested a lot of money pursuing their dream and will likely be out of business in a few years.
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HockessinKid
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #5 - 04/16/19 at 10:28:00
 
Pal,

Thank you for sharing your impressions from Axpona 2019. Given room conditions, sound quality can really vary at shows.

One of the speakers you referenced are Daedalus Audio Speakers, built by Lou Hinkley. I've listened to Daedalus Athena and Lou's latest Apollo II speakers at two Capital Audiofest events. They are extremely musical, handbulit speakers with proprietary drivers and exquisite hardwood cabinetry.  Lou also builds guitars and is a musician.

His speakers are pretty pricey, starting out at around $10k and heading up from there. I believe to Apollo II's, a 3-way (5 drivers) system are around $19-20k depending on cabinet design.

Lou's speakers are very efficient at between 94-96dB with 6ohm (+/- 1ohm). While I've never heard them with a Decware amp, I think they would make a great combination. These speakers sounded terrific with a 30 watt/channel Modwright SET amp in 2017.

HK
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Palomino
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #6 - 04/16/19 at 16:15:34
 
Yeah HK, size of room seemed to make a difference as well as orientation.  Not many rooms had room treatments.  I heard it most in bass response and in imaging - mostly depth of soundstage.

What was amazing about Vinnie's small room was he had zero room treatments and was getting a good sound stage and good bass.  I think it helped that he ran his room lengthwise (giving up seating capacity), speakers out from the walls at least 3' and open baffle helped a lot with the bass.
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #7 - 04/16/19 at 16:58:48
 
You would think that "high end" manufacturers and dealers would incorporate room treatments when demonstrating expensive equipment at shows. A few potted plants, a quilt and/or diffusers in the right place can often tame really bad room issues. Often simpler set ups with small floor standers or stand mounted speakers sound better.

I've always been impressed with Vinnie's set ups and sound quality. I remember when he was just getting started. He and Louis (Omega Speaker Systems) used to attend regional audio group meetings demonstrating their early products. Both were/are extremely passionate about good music.

HK
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #8 - 04/16/19 at 18:13:51
 
I used to go to a few hi fi shows in England, 95% ss and 5% valves and one all valves that was interesting.
As time went on I also became less and less interested and only looking forward to the talks or shows.
Always went with a friend that always says they don't sound as good as my. May be the room had something to do with it but mine isn't perfect either.
With me after looking for so long, reserching through the marketing hipe, that was hard in itself, but became entertaining.
But reading for a while just to get one line if truth was a slow process.

If I need a new...... I know where I'm going......


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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #9 - 04/17/19 at 07:46:26
 
Quote:

You would think that "high end" manufacturers and dealers would incorporate room treatments when demonstrating expensive equipment at shows. A few potted plants, a quilt and/or diffusers in the right place can often tame really bad room issues. Often simpler set ups with small floor standers or stand mounted speakers sound better.


First they would have to understand treatment, which most don't.  As classic example of this is the popularity of the prime 7 and prime 13 quadratic diffusers that are seen in some rooms.  They are around 24 inches wide and are often placed spaced apart.  Sadly it takes at least two or three diffusers tightly placed side-by-side to create the sequence.  When you separate them, the sequence is lost and at best they become diffraction devices and do no diffusion whatsoever.  Also, there are no where near enough of them, having two diffuser panels in a room does almost nothing.  Having them on one wall does only 10% as much as having them on all walls.  Also diffusers don't create the semi-disk pattern until a distance of 10 feet away.  There are no hotel rooms at these shows that have more than 20 foot wide rooms, so even if set up correctly in large numbers on all four walls, they would still be mostly diffraction not diffusion.  

That said, if you walked into a show room that was aggressively treated on all four walls and ceiling and the sound you heard in there was best of show, you would leave saddened at the reality that you can never have sound like that in your home because there is no way you can afford or implement all that scientific treatment stuff...  more impressive would be walking into a shitty sounding average room with a modest looking rig that sounded great against all odds.  A Zen amp on a pair of Radials does a great job of this in a stripped out hotel room for the shows.

Steve
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Palomino
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #10 - 04/17/19 at 21:02:24
 
I am trying to understand the economics of high end audio.  What is driving up the price?  Supply?  Demand? Cost of manufacturing? Quality?

Are there so few manufacturers producing that the supply is limited and therefore premium prices can be asked?

Is there so much demand for high end gear such that the prices asked can be so high?

Is the cost of manufacturing so high as to warrant high prices to cover costs and provide margin?

Is the quality being produced so high that people are willing to pay such prices to get said quality?  Kind of related to demand.

Perhaps its a combination of all of the above??
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #11 - 04/18/19 at 00:41:07
 
I think it's a perception market.  Price isn't tied to value but rather perception of value.  Like in some housing markets when prices exceed replacement cost or are below replacement cost.  Most people can't discern differences in audio so they use price as a surrogate -- the higher the price, the better the equipment.
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #12 - 04/18/19 at 01:19:14
 
I see it as charging what the market will bear.
There is a whole segment that buys by price, the more that they pay the better. It is how they measure their selves against others of their perceived equals.
I'll use a neighbor of mine as an example. He rides one of his several Harley Davidson's around the block a few times a year to keep his "Biker" cred up. I asked him why go to the expense of the Harley's when there are so many much better motorcycles that cost considerably less. His rational is that because the Harley's are more expensive that makes them better. Nothing but a status symbol.
So just think of someone of like mind going into a stereo shop and buying something. This person won't listen or even know how to listen and will buy by price and whatever hype the dealer can conjure up.  
Another thing to think about is people who have more money than they can ever spend. Billionaires, that spend all of their time trying to make even more money. While I applaud that they have achieved so much, I have a feeling that to make even more is just a way of keeping score. It is how they can tell who is winning in the big game of life.
Unfortunately I'm stuck in a low scoring game!
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #13 - 04/18/19 at 12:36:30
 
Economics? I don't know if that is synonymous with high end audio.

Supply, demand, costs, quality, disposable income levels, all of the mentioned are guilty in one form or another of steering the prices higher.

In my opinion, it is a good time to be an audiophile, superior performance is attainable no matter what your economic status.

There is quite a bit of high quality obtainable gear out there at reasonable price points. ( Like DECWARE! )

Back in the day, I was on the MSB bandwagon, I had to jump off that ride, the price to remain a passenger became way beyond what I was willing to spend.

I can see that same trend happening with another brand that I been following and am currently enjoying in my system.

I tend to stay down where I belong and that has never stopped me from being able to attain a great listening experience in my own home.
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #14 - 04/18/19 at 13:49:20
 
As far as price goes:

Seems pretty simple to me...you take the cost of operations, including rent, salaries, marketing, cost to build units, profit, taxes, etc and then divide by the extremely small number of units you sell.  Its kind of like dividing by zero...you get VERY large numbers.

Dan
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #15 - 04/18/19 at 14:05:43
 
So is that the point then where the marketing and hype have to take over?  In order to justify the massive pricing and or communicate the differences over mass market gear?  It’s a supply driven market?
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #16 - 04/18/19 at 14:13:38
 
To be honest I was expecting someone to mention "research and development" as a cost factor. I think it's in there and is not inappropriate for many manufacturers.
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #17 - 04/18/19 at 14:17:18
 
Yeah it should absolutely be included as it can be significant. Thus driving prices higher.

It can get a little chicken and egg here but it sounds like the supply side of the market is driving pricing??
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #18 - 04/18/19 at 14:22:54
 
Or is the market efficient in that if quality and price for a given segment are out of alignment, those suppliers go away and or seek different segments?

I guess I am saying that nobody likes the marketing hype over substance but the market will eventually prevail and the price/quality ratio will emerge for a given segment.
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #19 - 04/18/19 at 15:49:01
 
I think the market for high end audio is small and shrinking. As a result, many manufacturers opt to build and sell mega bucks equipment. For many who purchase +$100k systems, I thinks it's simply a status symbol (my system cost more $ than yours) much more than a desire for a system that sounds great.

So, I think it's companies building higher priced equipment with bigger margins that keeps many audio companies afloat. A bit cynical, but it happens with a lot of consumer discretionary products. Just look at the fashion and jewelry industry. It's a status thing.

HK
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #20 - 04/18/19 at 17:04:01
 
Quote:
I guess I am saying that nobody likes the marketing hype over substance but the market will eventually prevail and the price/quality ratio will emerge for a given segment.


This works for stuff people actually need.  Luxury or discretionary buying doesn't follow Economics 101.  (That said by someone who never studied economics.)
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #21 - 04/18/19 at 18:12:23
 
Need or not, long term, people have to buy in order to keep the supplier in business is what I'm saying.  I believe market forces eventually will work to keep a company in business or push them out, luxury goods or not.

Then the argument comes down to the composition of the perceived value proposition (where the hype is a factor).
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #22 - 04/18/19 at 18:29:00
 
Well, no company stays in business forever.  The Market Forces are there but they may not be logical, predictable or linear.  And wasn't it P.T. Barnum who said, "There is a sucker born every minute."?
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #23 - 04/18/19 at 19:10:05
 
I think we are saying the same thing.  Market forces eventually push them out.

It may be the opinion of several forum members here that the market forces may be put off for a period of time based on hype.
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #24 - 04/19/19 at 06:11:36
 
FWIW,  I remember my first hi-end audio show, CES in Chicago back in the 1980's which wasn't long after hi-end audio became a thing. Around that time a great sounding loudspeaker at the top of the price scale went from around $4800.00 a pair. Then someone in the speaker industry had the balls to see what would happen IF he charged $20K for the same basic quality but add a lot of hyperbole and technobabble. It was a great success, for him. Soon people with real money just bought his speakers because they cost the most and with that kind of mark up in a product, there is a lot of ways to leverage reviewers. Soon everyone wanted one and it wasn't all that long before other manufactures jumped on board which started a pissing match that continues to this day. BTW, this is also what started the "special guy price" thing, where audiophiles could become special because they got a $20K speaker for half price witch is only 250% more than it's worth.

About 10 years ago a customer of mine who was a brilliant speaker designer tried to go to market with his design which was fairly priced at $7800.00 a pair. He couldn't even get anyone to look at it because it didn't cost enough. Kind of like Decware... no one in the 5 digit club will touch Decware because it's a predominately 4 digit manufacture. So stupid. Anyway, after failing to launch the product or sign any dealers, he took the advice of an old speaker manufacture who talked him into raising the price to $70K for the same speaker, which he did and is now enjoying a very successful foothold in the hi-end speaker business.

This trend has slowly poisoned nearly everything down to a micro level as the accessory market jumps on board.  Suddenly there are cables costing thousands of dollars and then super hi-tech connectors costing 10 times what they are actually worth, and that seems to be the formula, which is you pay ten times the actual worth.

I have noticed in the hi-end world that the many audiophiles who own ultra-expensive stereos are often the least qualified to setup and operate one.

You know, back before computers, a good movie was good from the drama and the actors and basic story line. Then someone made more money with a movie that featured CGI and lots of stuff blowing up. Now the industry relies on CGI and special effects to hold your interest because for some reason a good story is just too difficult to write. Hi-end audio is similar. Before computers and technology, everything sounded good. The speakers were large, well engineered. The amps were tubes, well designed, and everything was lovingly voiced with great pride and lots of competition. Then we got technology... computers, carbon fiber, titanium, and literally dozens of um's ending in blowmeum composites that somehow make a small pressboard cabinet with a 6 inch plastic woofer sound like a real loudspeaker from the 1950's.

This is what big marketing does to whatever it touches.


Steve
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Palomino
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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #25 - 04/19/19 at 15:16:08
 
Thanks for the insights Steve.  Every time I attend AXPONA I come home wondering about how this market functions.  Knowing the cost of components, woodworking, paint, etc.  It never quite adds up even with significant upcharging for R&D/margins.

There would appear to be some market disrupters out there, but I'd bet you never see them at a show like this.  If what you say is still true, the attendees wouldn't give them the time of day.

I'd love to know how many units the 5 figure suppliers are shipping each year.  Because if perception/marketing drives pricing, I'd be interested to see what kind of volume is produced.



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Re: Axpona 2019
Reply #26 - 04/19/19 at 16:43:30
 
It's always been my dream to charge $60,000/hr for my time.  If I could then find someone to hire me for 2 or 3 hrs in a year I'd be set.  It looks like those 5 figure dealers have figured out how to do this.
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