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

Closed Thread
 
Thread Tools
post #1 of 40 Old 04-25-14, 07:07 AM Thread Starter
Elite Shackster
Wayne Myers
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Lincoln, NE
Posts: 4,838
AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

This report is coming to you from the beautiful Westin O'Hare in Rosemont, illlinois. just a short shuttle ride from O'Hare Airport. I arrived late afternoon Thursday to find a lot of scurrying as exhibitors completed the setting up of their displays.

Jump to the Discussion Thread HERE.

Knowing Sonnie's generosity, I had booked the penthouse suite -- ooo, ouch, I just caught a burst of Sonnie's infamous death-ray stare. OK, OK, of course I really got a normal room like everyone else here.. This is a VERY nice hotel, as the following photos will attest.



Exhibitors were in varying degrees of readiness / disarray...

]

Some attention getters...



Our buddy A.J. of Soundfield Audio let me in for a miinute, but was camera shy...



Other rooms...



And here it is Friday morning. There were a couple of technical difficulties getting this posted, but it should go smoother friom here.

Much more to follow through the next three days. Stay tuned.
AudiocRaver is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #2 of 40 Old 04-29-14, 07:56 AM Thread Starter
Elite Shackster
Wayne Myers
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Lincoln, NE
Posts: 4,838
Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

Almost my entire focus was on speakers. I had intended to spend a few hours with headphones and simply did not get to it. Of course there were expensive DACs, monoblock amplifiers, turntables, and CD players galore, and they all sounded... Well, they all seemed to sound great, and we will leave it at that. With no way to compare them to anything else, in my mind it is difficult to tell. That is my way of looking at it, although some will disagree.

My test track CD contained the following:
  1. Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box - Radiohead
  2. Ode to a Butterfly - Nickel Creek
  3. Reasons Why - Nickel Creek
  4. Ain't It A Shame - B-52s
  5. Vision of a Kiss - B-52s
  6. Baby I'm A Fool - Melody Gardot
  7. Don't Know Why - Norah Jones
  8. The National Anthem - Radiohead
  9. Weird Fishes_Arpeggi - Radiohead
  10. Chant - Fourplay
  11. These Bones - Fairfield Four
  12. Fête d'Adieu - Deerhoof
  13. Shallow - Porcupine Tree

Wherever I was allowed, I listened at least to Reasons Why and Ain't It A Shame, two of my most trusted test tracks.

What I listened for:
  • Overall frequency response balance, even handling of stand-up bass tones, natural sounding female vocals and fiddle, high frequency extension and smoothness.
  • Dynamics of string picking sounds, clarity, especially of complex cymbal tones.
  • Soundstage wide, natural, comfortable, with open space between the sound images.
  • Imaging very specific, stable, and natural.
  • Did they disappear in the room? Many of the best did not, surely as much a matter of setup as design.
Of course, there was lots of demoing done with vinyl music sources, and while I have nothing against this, in some cases it was a distraction. Some of the recording choices were excellent, but with some the recording quality made it difficult to tell much about the speakers themselves. Fortunately, in most cases the exhibitors were able and willing to play requested test tracks from CD.

A handful of the speakers I heard were set up for good imaging and soundstage at the center listening seats, but in many cases I found myself kneeling three or four feet in front of the front row of seats to find the best position for these characteristics.
AudiocRaver is offline  
post #3 of 40 Old 04-29-14, 09:25 PM Thread Starter
Elite Shackster
Wayne Myers
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Lincoln, NE
Posts: 4,838
Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

Soundfield Audio



  • Monitor 2 (M2): $1600 / pr
  • Variable Soundfield Tower 3 (VSFT-3): $8500 / pr
First stop was with AJ at Soundfield Audio. He had hoped to feature a new pair of towers constructed of butcher block, but there was shipping damage which prevented him from being able to play them for us. That was a disappointment, but we did spend some time with his smaller two-way monitors.

The Monitor 2 (M2), features a 9.5 x 6 inch planner magnetic horn-loaded tweeter, crossed over way down at 900 Hz, and an 8 inch aluminum woofer in a sealed enclosure. With a piano jazz trio, the complex cymbal tones were as accurate as with just about any tweeter I heard at the show. AJ prides himself on experiencing and learning this sound of live, unamplified music and on being sure his speakers can reproduce natural instrument sounds accurately.

AJ is a big believer and controlled-directivity speaker design as a way of minimizing room interactions. Fewer room modes get excited so room mode decay is quicker. The result is a faster-sounding speaker with minimal room treatment.

Ode to a Butterfly - the physical aspect of the instruments seemed very well represented. The pick-on-string sound of the mandolin and guitar were very tactile, very true and present. I also loved the beautiful fiddle tone.

Female vocals were very smooth and very natural. The M2 design seemed very well integrated. The M2 was not a bright speaker, had a more laid-back presentation at high frequencies, very smooth through the mids and highs.

The soundstage and imaging were fair-to-good as the speakers were set up, but improved markedly when I moved forward a few feet. This was typical of the way speakers were set up at the show.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jump forward to Sunday.

AJ go his towers working. They are a 4-way design, including supertweeter, with various bass radiation patterns possible (dipole, monopole, or cardoid).

The cool feature to me was a rear-firing magnetic planar tweeter with its own drive control, covering frequencies above 3 kHz. As it was turned up, the soundstage broadened and deepened quite a bit, and with a totally natural feel. Very nice.
AudiocRaver is offline  
 
post #4 of 40 Old 04-30-14, 05:09 AM Thread Starter
Elite Shackster
Wayne Myers
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Lincoln, NE
Posts: 4,838
Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

Legacy Audio



  • Aeris (top): $19,525 / pr
  • Whisper XDS (bottom): $23,650 / pr
I missed Legacy Audio altogether back at RMAF last fall, so had them at the top of my list for AXPONA.

The Aeris felt incredibly dynamic, with lots of air moving power. As usual, I had to kneel a few feet in front of the seats to get the best soundstage and imaging. They were excellent - drum and cymbal images were clear, sharp, and natural. Cymbal tones were super precise and clean. The tones of a jazz piano were spot on, and dynamic, almost jumping at you. I noticed a few peaky bass notes, but that could have been the recording.

Yet they did not totally grab me. Don't get me wrong, they sounded superb, and I would be very happy with a set of them. But love is personal, and I did not go head-over-heals for them. At least not like the speakers across the room from them...

The Whispers... After about 5 seconds of listening, I commented to another listener, "WOW, I'm already in love!" It only takes a moment, right?

I was immediately taken by the clarity, the crystallized high end, the crisp definition of the bass and mids. Tonal balance seemed about perfect, with the higher range set well above "subdued" but just below "bright," forward enough for my taste yet held back so as not to be fatiguing. The soundstage and imaging were completely open and natural and gathered me in to the Whisper's musical experience. There was simply nothing not to love about them. I could not think of anything about their sound I would change.

Having heard about Legacy speakers, it was a delight to hear them in action. I became an instant fan.
AudiocRaver is offline  
post #5 of 40 Old 04-30-14, 05:57 AM Thread Starter
Elite Shackster
Wayne Myers
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Lincoln, NE
Posts: 4,838
Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

AIX Records, German Physiks


This room was really mostly about AIX Records and their unique surround recordings. The huge German Physiks Emperor MK II speakers dominated the room physically as the delivery devices for the music.

Mark Waldrep, the founder, president and CEO of AIX Records, presented and described the tracks we heard in that room. The emphasis of the recordings and philosophy behind the AIX approach is:
  • Use first-rate musicians who know the music to be recorded.
  • Get the recording done quickly in a minimum number of takes so it sounds fresh.
  • Use simple mic techniques (stereo pairs, etc.) that capture a clean, live sound.
  • Capture several mixes: 5.1 stage mix, 5.1 audience mix, 2.0 stereo mix
  • Present all at high-def resolution (Blu-ray)
Having a recording background, I fully admire everything about the theories and approaches that Mark talked about. And he covered them with such enthusiasm that it was hard not to be convinced. He talked about how it became difficult to enjoy any other kind of recording after getting hooked on the AIX sound. I almost wanted to be hooked.

And I was impressed by a couple of tracks. But I was not hooked. Before I go on, though, let me emphasize that the following comments are completely personal preference. It is not hard to understand how a different set of listening priorities might lead someone else to absolutely LOVE the AIX surround recordings. They did not grab me, though.

A very nice recording with two acoustic guitars and a vocalist was the most convincing one I heard. It was certainly a well-captured recording of an excellent performance. Images were fairly stable but were larger and softer than I care for, and that is probably the personal preference that I had the hardest time getting past. Stereo or surround, I like crisp, well-defined images. They feel more real to my ear. On another track, the sonic image of a flute seemed huge (6 feet wide?) and very non-specific, and that did not work so well for me. Immersive is cool, but if not convincing, I lose interest.

Being in a hurry to move on, I surely did not give the AIX sound the chance it deserves. Anyone who is interested in surround mixes and high-res, well-performed recordings might do well to give one or two of their titles a chance.
AudiocRaver is offline  
post #6 of 40 Old 04-30-14, 06:45 AM Thread Starter
Elite Shackster
Wayne Myers
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Lincoln, NE
Posts: 4,838
Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

Scaena Iso-Linear Array with Bohmer Audio Energy-Time Alignment



When it comes to some areas of technology in the world we live in, there is theory and there is practice. The coolest theories do not always lead to perfect products.

I have always been a bit knocked out by the theories behind line array speaker designs. When it comes to dynamics, they can not be beaten. A whole bunch of light, quick little drivers can really snap the air, crack it like a whip. The Scaena was no exception, you could feel the slap and punch of drum strikes like every square inch of your skin was part of the ear drum. IMPACT!

Frequency response seemed fairly smooth, but not exemplary. Imaging and soundstage - again, good but not exemplary. I could not find a spot where the soundstage felt completely unstrained and natural, where it took over as totally convincing. Was I asking too much? Was I supposed to be knocked over by the dynamics and call it good, or perfect, on that quality alone?

One thing I noticed in later rooms was that in every case where room correction was demonstrated, the soundstage was never quite convincing, it always felt a tad strained, unnatural. Knowing what a difference the mic pattern for the room analysis can make, I will chock it up to technique and the hurry-hurry of getting ready for the show.

So, while the Scaena array might have been benefiting from the Bohmer Audio Energy-Time Alignment, something about the combination was not getting completely out of the way of the music.

The look of the Scaena array is nothing short of dynamite. If some audiophile wanted to make points by helping his teenage sons impress their friends, this would be a way to get there. And knowing how sensitive some designs can be to room placement and treatment, it just might be that the Scaena Iso-Linear Array could behave much closer to perfect under better conditions. I DO love the theories involved. I would definitely like a few days to experiment with them in the right room some day.
AudiocRaver is offline  
post #7 of 40 Old 04-30-14, 07:37 AM Thread Starter
Elite Shackster
Wayne Myers
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Lincoln, NE
Posts: 4,838
Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

Classic Audio Loudspeakers

  • T-1.4 Reference (left): $36,500 / pr

Walking into this room I did not expect much. Was I in for a surprise. I only heard the T-1.4 Reference, which reminded me of the ancient black-and-white TV we had when I was a wee lad. The T-1.4 Reference looks retro, to say the least - we'll stick with "classic" - weighs in at 450 lbs. each (shipping weight), and sounds...

I can not even remember the piece being played when I sat down to listen in the front-center chair. Wait, there it is in my notes - Lucky Man, by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. There was something special about the quality of Greg Lake's vocals coming through that big wooden "tractrix" horn, covering from 400 Hz up to where the super tweeter takes over -- I have to admit I had a brief emotional moment while listening to those speakers -- twice. There you have it, and no other speaker at the show did that for me.

The highs were slightly laid back, but not weak, very smooth and nicely extended by that beryllium-domed super tweeter. All components use proprietary "Field Coil" drivers. A 15" woofer and a 15" mid-bass driver complete the 4-way design. All elements worked together seamlessly.

Soundstage and imaging were very nice, totally easy and natural. Detail was wonderful, and distortion seemed nonexistent - the T-1.4's simply hinted at what was to be done and the air obediently moved on its own with no resistance.

I will probably never own a pair of these speakers, but I will never forget the few minutes I spent listening to them. Special!
AudiocRaver is offline  
post #8 of 40 Old 04-30-14, 08:04 AM Thread Starter
Elite Shackster
Wayne Myers
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Lincoln, NE
Posts: 4,838
Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

Acoustic Zen

  • Crescendo: $18,000 / pr

Zen is exactly the right name to associate with these speakers. There was a very peaceful unity about their presentation. There was no sense of there being separate drivers or a crossover.

Every instrument sounded completely at home on the Crescendo. Piano was simply gorgeous. Female vocals, horns, strings, all sounded like they were meant to be heard through these speakers, so easy, comfortable, natural, restful. I was reminded of the description of the act of artistic creation in Pirsig's classic book "Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance," how the work is complete when the artist and the materials both come to a state of rest. That is how listening to the Crescendo felt.

Bass response went deeeeeeeep. Imaging was crisp and natural, and the soundstage was monstrous.

The Acoustic Zen Crescendo immediately grabbed a spot high on my list of favorites for the show and had no trouble staying there.
AudiocRaver is offline  
post #9 of 40 Old 04-30-14, 08:25 AM Thread Starter
Elite Shackster
Wayne Myers
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Lincoln, NE
Posts: 4,838
Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

Tyler Acoustics


  • Insight (green): $5500 / pr

I stepped into the Tyler Acoustics room just long enough to hear a FUN pair of speakers, the Insights. Tyler also makes Mastering Studio grade systems. The Insights struck me as a great home theater candidate, with good imaging and soundstage and a lively presentation.
AudiocRaver is offline  
post #10 of 40 Old 05-02-14, 09:25 PM Thread Starter
Elite Shackster
Wayne Myers
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Lincoln, NE
Posts: 4,838
Re: AXPONA 2014 Official Show Report by Wayne Myers

KEF


  • Blade: $30,000 / pr
  • 5160 In Wall Main: $3,000 ea
  • 3160 In Wall Center: $1,800 ea
  • LS-50: $1500 / pr
  • x300A: $800 / pr
  • M500 Headphones: $300 / pr
My first experience with high-end speakers was with a pair of KEF towers many years ago, and the company has always had a special place in my heart. So I had to spend some quality time in the KEF room.

They featured the Blade speakers with the concentric mid/tweeter driver and symmetrical virtual-point-source LF drivers. They balanced a nickel on top of one of the Blade cabinets to show how the LF driver configuration cancelled out cabinet vibrations - the nickel never tipped over. Highs were a bit laid back but not dull or weak.

Imaging was sharp and solid and the soundstage was big and open, all VERY nice, although their set presentation and demo material gave only a brief chance to hear them and only with a cappella male voices. Low-frequency performance was impossible to judge under the circumstances.

I admire the design concepts and my intuition sans there is a lot about the Blades that we did not hear. I would LOVE a chance to experiment with a pair of Blades some day.

Their in-wall speakers performed quite well. I have never heard an in-wall installation that gave imaging and soundstage performance that I could be happy with. But the KEF in-walls did alright considering - the flat soundstage was limited to the area between the mains, and imaging was a bit vague, but respectable - more a statement on what can be accomplished in-wall than a statement on the KEF technology. Frequency response was fairly even. Vocals from the center channel were quite forward, good for a home theater installation. If I absolutely HAD to install in-wall home theater speakers, I would definitely look at the KEFs for it.

The little LS-50 bookshelf, with the Blade 2-way concentric technology packed into a small box, made for a WOW little speaker that sounded VERY high-end. They were so very point source, with solid, well-defined bass and lower-mids. The piano demo left absolutely nothing wanting. Soundstage was good (hard to judge) and imaging seemed tight and solid (again hard to judge).

The X300 bi-amped computer monitor with also sounded very high-end, very smooth with tight, well-defined bass. It featured 24bit/96kHz DLNA-capable wifi and LAN connectivity.

The only headphones I spent much time with at the show were the KEF M500 on-ear phones. They were extremely comfortable, folded up nicely for travel, and had very - and I mean VERY - flat frequency response with bass that went DEEP.
AudiocRaver is offline  
Closed Thread

Bookmarks

Tags
2014 , axpona , myers , official , report , show , wayne

Quick Reply
Message:
Options

Register Now




PLEASE COMPLETE ALL REQUIRED FIELDS BELOW... THANKS!

REQUIRED FIELDS ON THIS PAGE
YOU MUST COMPLETE ALL OF THESE

Username
Password
Confirm Password
Email Address
Confirm Email Address
Random Question
Random Question #2




User Name:
Password
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.

Password:


Confirm Password:
Email Address
PLEASE READ BELOW PRIOR TO ENTERING AN EMAIL ADDRESS!

ATTENTION!

YOU MUST ACTIVATE YOUR ACCOUNT!

Activation requires you reply to an email we will send you after you register... if you do not reply to this email, you will not be able to view certain areas of the forum or certain images... nor will you be able download software.

AN INVALID EMAIL ADDRESS WILL CAUSE YOUR ACCOUNT TO BE DELETED!

See our banned email list here: Banned Email List

We DO NOT respond to spamcop, boxtrapper and spamblocker emails... please add @hometheatershack DOT com to your whitelist prior to registering or you will get nowhere on your registration.


Email Address:
OR

Log-in










Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page



Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML is not allowed!
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

 


For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome