AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers - Page 2 - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #11 of 40 Old 05-02-14, 10:02 PM Thread Starter
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Wayne Myers
 
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Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

Dynaudio

  • Evidence Platinum: $85,000 / pr

I finished off day one with a bang. When I walked into the main Dynaudio room on the 12th floor, all the right things happened. The Evidence Platinum speakers are imposing and beautiful. I highly favor the MTM virtual-point-source configuration. And they were made by Dynaudio - no secret I am a bit smitten by the name and the mystique. They were playing a well-recorded rock track - I don't remember what, but it was from a digital source - thank you - nice and loud. I was immediately blown away.

They graciously played my demo tracks as well. Imaging was absolutely perfect. Every voice, every string pick, every echo, drum strike - all was point source perfect, rock solid and stable. The soundstage came very close to allowing a complete disappearing act for the speakers, but not quite. A few setup tweaks would have done it, I'll bet. The soundstage was HUGE, wide open, completely natural.

On Reasons Why, Sarah's vocals were delicate, present, intimate. Mandolin and guitar string picks were pinpoint precise and so real I was looking for the instruments in the room.

On Ain't It A Shame, the sheen on Cindy's vocals was airy and clear. The vocal echo that hangs high in space to the right was completely surrounded by openness and hung there with density. The harmonica sounded like a harmonica. The bass and kick drum were tight and detailed.

The guitars and bass on Shallow had impact, the big ringing snare drum pounding on the chest. The effect was delicious.

Frequency response was impeccable. You could have run some kind of room correction software - take your pick - and it would have thrown up its hands and given up. There was nothing to correct. Highs were smooth, and I mean smooooooooooth, and extended. Lows were smooth, and I mean smooooooooooth, and extended. Get the picture? Clarity, definition, impact, power, focus, detail. they were all there and defied you to find the smallest fault.

The design seemed perfectly integrated. There was no sense of separate drivers involved, simply perfect sound emanating from a point source. You could blast craters with them or lullaby baby angels to sleep with them. There seemed nothing they could not do, and do perfectly.

OK, my two respected listening companions the next morning were not nearly as impressed, felt the highs were too forward. To my ear they were perfect.

And that was my comment to the exhibiting rep on my way out the door Friday night. "That might just be the perfect speaker."

That's my story and I am sticking to it. Perfect.
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post #12 of 40 Old 05-02-14, 10:41 PM Thread Starter
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Wayne Myers
 
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Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

Wilson Audio



  • Alexia: $50,000 / pr
  • Sasha 2: $31,000 / pr

Speaker Disappearing Act #1

It was not long ago that I declared the Wilson Alexia the perfect speaker (RMAF last fall). And upon hearing them again at AXPONA Saturday morning, I had many of the same feelings about them.

They were a little laid back in the highs, but very smooth. Imaging was somewhat diffused, but very stable and natural. The soundstage was huge, very natural and completely open, although a bit more recessed than I expected for the room, almost like it was retreating from the listener somewhat. The Alexia speakers did a complete disappearing act in that room, the first speakers to do so at the show for me.

There was detail galore and the sense of clarity was superb. The overall presentation was about as natural and smooth and transparent as you could expect a speaker to sound, yet was far from being boring. The sound reached out to hug you and gently held you in place, whispering, "Now listen to this."

The design allows for individual height aiming of the mid- and high-frequency drivers for the listening position, no doubt contributing to the imaging and soundstage and sense of tight component integration.

The Sasha 2 setup was also impressive. My notes reflected almost the same impressions as with the Alexia setup, although they did not disappear in the room like the Alexia. Soundstage and imaging were good but not stellar. In other sonic categories, the Sasha 2 lagged behind the Alexia slightly, but not by far. The piano in piece being played had a perfectly balanced tonality and wonder inner detail.

The Wilson tonal balance, while a tad light at the high end for me, is overall about as even and smooth as you could want a speaker to be.
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post #13 of 40 Old 05-02-14, 11:44 PM Thread Starter
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Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

MartinLogan


  • Montis: $10,000 / pr
  • CLX 25th Anniversary: $25,000 / pr

I only spent a few minutes in the MartinLogan rooms, but that was all it took to be reminded what a fan I am of their speakers.

The Montis room had a full 5.1 surround setup going, and although I did not write it down, I believe the recent 5.1 mix of Dark Side of the Moon was playing (someone jog me if that is not correct). Those wonderful hybrid electrostatics were so clear, so natural sounding, so easy to listen to, I could not help but be impressed all over again by them.

The big CLX setup next door did not grab me quite as much. The demo was of more about McIntosh's Room Perfect correction system. From the prime listening spot, neither the "with correction" nor the "without correction" soundstage seemed natural and relaxed to me. They were different, to be sure, and "with correction" was a partial improvement, but there was an uneasy tension about the sound that I could not get past. I have nothing against room correction, it can sound phenomenal, but this particular setup did not to me.

Focusing more on the sound of the CLX themselves, they did have a grand, clean presence to them. They are full-range electrostatics with LF and HF electrostatic panel sections. Again, it was hard not to be impressed by the effortless presentation.

I am sure I will be a MartinLogan fan forever.
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post #14 of 40 Old 05-03-14, 12:16 AM Thread Starter
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Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

Horning Hybrid Systems

  • Eufrodite: $30,000 / pr

I regret that I did not spend more time with these speakers. I only heard an acoustical guitar piece played through them and intended to get back to them for another listen, but did not.

The piece I heard was very dynamic, life-like, and engaging. They are speakers that definitely deserve a detailed listen should one get the chance.
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post #15 of 40 Old 05-03-14, 02:15 PM Thread Starter
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Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

Magico


  • S3: $22,600 / pr

I almost missed out on the Magico magic. The room was crowded so I took a seat way off-center. My first impressions were not great, but I could not tell if it was the tracks being played or the speakers themselves that were at fault.

I started to leave. At the door, the rep stopped me and asked if I had some music of my own I wanted to hear. He introduced himself and I recognized him as someone Sonnie Parker (former HTS owner) had worked with in getting speakers for HTS Speaker Evaluation Events. We spoke for a moment and then he started up my requested tracks. I got a better seat and gave the S3 another chance.

The listening experience was completely different, extremely positive. The S3 were wonderfully detailed and smooth through the mids and highs. I loved the detail in Sarah's and Cindy's voices on Reasons Why and Ain't It A Shame. They felt present in the room, right up close. Instrument details like string picks and background synthesizers were gently pushed forward for closer inspection, but never obtrusively.

Imaging and soundstage were nothing short of phenomenal! The soundstage was huge, natural, and spacious, as good as any I heard at the show. Clarity and definition at low and lower-mid frequencies was impressive with the second track really cranked up loud. Overall tonal balance was absolutely spot on. I could think of no performance area where they fell short. The Magico S3 speakers had thoroughly grabbed me and infected me with their charm.

Thanks to an attentive rep, I left the room absolutely loving the Magico S3 speakers. In the "around $20K" price range, they were among a small handful of speakers at AXPONA that left me grinning and wishing for much, much more time to spend with them.
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post #16 of 40 Old 05-03-14, 02:54 PM Thread Starter
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Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

Focal

  • Stella Utopia EM: $90,000 / pr

Upon entering the Focal room and sitting down in the front-center seat, I quickly realized that all I could hear was the mediocre recording quality of the obviously-vinyl source. I asked to hear my own tracks, which were played.

I simply loved the high end of the Stellas, especially on vocals, and especially during vocal harmonies. There was a richness to the way voices blended together, yet they were kept separate and clearly defined at the same time. Cindy's vocals on Ain't It A Shame simply took my breath away, so present in the room with me, so clear and rich and intimate, as though I was hearing the heartfelt emotion in her performance for the first time. The imaging and soundstage were fantastic - best of show? I quickly realized that I just said the same in the previous room. In the end, I had to call it a tie.

There were a few bass notes on Reasons Why that were a little boomy and uneven. That was the only imperfection I noted. But overall, the Stellas were Very Impressive!

I had to chuckle as I left the room, hearing one listener, obviously a vinyl fanatic, tell another with a tone of disbelief, "That was a CD!" The incredulous response, "Really?"

Yes, friends, you can get good sound from a CD. And it sounds mighty fine on the Stella Utopia EM.
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post #17 of 40 Old 05-03-14, 06:17 PM Thread Starter
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Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

Dynaudio

  • Confidence C4 II: $25,000 / pr
More Dynaudio WOW from the Confidence C4's. Again, the MTM configuration really worked for me, had a very tight, "together" presentation that sounded like a point source. Imaging and soundstage were marvelous.

The C4 felt a little bright but was so smooth and clean and clear through the mids and highs that it was not overwhelming to my ear. The sense of detail and impact was very nice.
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post #18 of 40 Old 05-04-14, 01:42 AM Thread Starter
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Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

YG Acoustics


  • Hailey 1.2 Floorstanding: $42,800 / pr

This is another speaker that deserved more listening time, but circumstances did not allow.

Imaging and soundstage, as they were set up, was fair - I have no doubt they are capable of showing much, much better.

I heard a jazz piece with piano, sax, and drums - all three sounded quite good in tonal balance, nicely detailed. Cymbal sounds were very clear and accurate. The source material limited my ability to say more than that.

I do hope to give YG Acoustics more attention at a future show.

Edit: My initial impression of the Hailey speaker had been: Sounds like vinyl. As I entered the room it was obvious that a vinyl source was playing and that it would be difficult to fairly judge the speakers with that source. To be clear, vinyl can sound fantastic, as good as digital if carefully chosen. In many cases it was not, and it seemed that vinyl medium was given priority even where recording quality was mediocre. Thus the "sounds like vinyl" impression that met me in more than one room at AXPONA.
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post #19 of 40 Old 05-04-14, 05:53 PM Thread Starter
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Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

Cabasse


  • Baltic Evolution: $18,000 / pr

It was a special treat to run across an innovative product like the Cabasse Baltic Evolution at AXPONA. This "point source" design consisted of a 3-way concentric driver in a spherical enclosure, mounted on a blade-like stand similar to the tail fin of a jet fighter - an altogether striking and very attractive visual statement. The centered tweeter is surrounded by a ring midrange driver, which is surrounded by a larger outer-ring low-frequency driver (down to 80 Hz). Crossover frequencies are at 800 Hz and 3500 Hz.

As one would expect, the imaging was absolute perfection. Vocals were pinpoint precise, drums were so tightly placed that you could see the point where the tip of the drumstick hit the head. The soundstage was noted as "very nice," and I could not help but wish for time and opportunity to play with placement to improve it - certainly they could deliver better.

The setup included a subwoofer, as one would expect for a speaker cutting off at 80 Hz. The tonal balance was good - I noted it as "lively" and "fun" - meaning not quite reference grade, but not all that far from it, either. Let's call them "serious fun." Female vocals were very clear, with a nice presence and intimacy. Percussion had a nice bounce, like it was jumping right out into the room. Cymbals sounded very clear and natural. Horns, like the vocals, had a presence and detail that invited you to listen closely to the performance.

They were really nice speakers to experience, and seemed like they could play any kind of music well. I thought of them as speakers for music lovers rather than speakers for spec lovers, although respect for tonal accuracy had certainly been paid attention to. The price lined them up against some mighty stiff competition, though, and I would have had a hard time selecting them over other models I had already heard in that range.

But this was a design meant to catch a certain eye and ear, a design for the music lover who wants something a little bit different, a speaker for those who approach music their own way and are not afraid to show it. The Baltic Evolution said, "Relax, stop analyzing, get into the music and have a good time." I felt they could be easy speakers to get attached to.
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post #20 of 40 Old 05-04-14, 06:42 PM Thread Starter
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Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

JTR


  • Noesis 215RT: $7,000 / pr

During a discussion at dinner the night before, a fellow AXPONA attendee described how expectations can shape perception at an event like this. Walk into a room with high expectations and you will often be disappointed by what you hear. Walk into a room with low expectations and you will likely be pleasantly surprised by what you hear.

That was exactly what I experienced walking into the JTR room. Knowing that JTR makes high-impact home theater speakers, I did not expect the imposing Noasis 215RT's (RT stands for Reference Tower) to sound hi-fi grade. And, to my surprise, they were quite impressive as music speakers.

As was generally the case, I was not satisfied that the placement of the listening chairs was best for the speaker pair as set up in that room. I pulled the center chair forward several feet and found a spot where the imaging and soundstage became very natural and relaxed, much better than I could have hoped for. When I heard comments of disappointment by other auditioners in a later discussion, I could not help but think they simply had not sat in the right place to hear them at their best. (Nor had the exhibitor prepared the seating as carefully as he could have - but such was the case in most rooms I entered.)

I liked the sound of the big centered horn quite well, especially the midrange. It seemed very natural for the broad range of frequencies it was handling, from 350 Hz on up. The highest highs on Cindy's and Sarah's vocals on my main two test tracks were not quite reference-smooth, and the standup bass on Reasons Why was a little lacking in definition, but overall the Noesis did very well with guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, synthesizers, guitars - all were delivered with admirable clarity and accuracy. The highs impressed me as being extended without any harshness.

The Noesis had a very quick responsiveness - the finger snaps on Chant were sharp. No doubt they could perform with impact when called upon. As nice as they sounded with fairly delicate music tracks, they would be killer in a home theater setting. My final note was that they were built like a Caterpillar and drove like a Mercedes - a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea.
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