The Raidho Acoustics X3, at $30,000/pair, makes use of a Controlled Airflow system rather than closing or porting their cabinets. The result is very articulate, responsive, clean bass without resonance.
I have to admit, I've never been a big Focal fan. The convex hard dome tweeter is mostly to blame, it is a bit too hot for my taste. I also understand that this is a matter of preference and that many are enamored by this same tweeter.
While not completely eliminating this personal HF bugbear, the implementation of the Aria 948 in this system ameliorated much of the tizziness I perceive from the inverted dome. A pleasant surprise, in an affordable Focal, at that. I'd like to add that midrange clarity is through the roof, I found the heart of the music to be communicated very well, and this quality kept me planted in the listening chair for more than a little while.
REL S3 sub pair brought the bottom end up, nicely.
Frank Van Alstine's power amps make use of separate power supply regulators, not just on each channel, but on the different amplification stages of each channel, preserving and protecting the microdynamics and energy of the music.
The HHR Exotic Speakers TLS-1 use a full range Walsh driver for omni-directionality, Purity Audio Design supplies the juice. HHR Exotic Speakers makes almost everything, drivers, 3" thick cabinets and metal frames.
At first, I was not a big fan of the mids, particularly female vocals, but so seductive was the omni sound, I persevered. Then, Patricia Barber's MFSL Cafe Blue "Too Rich For My Blood" put my initial impression to rest. Listening further to a few more tracks, I found that the HHR TLS-1 are just super revealing, exposing less than stellar recordings. A very nice and extremely fun system. A top 5 room in my book.
MartinLogan's new Neolith model, $80,000 per pair, an all passive design, was simply awesome. The imposing speakers are simply nonexistent except for some of the clearest, most effortless sound at the show. The huge electrostatic panels produce impecable imaging.
The all McIntosh front end was drool-worthy as well.
Live Neil Young sounds very... live through the $70,000 Sonus Faber Lillium loudspeakers... easily one of the top 5 rooms, in my opinion.
Without truncation, a life-sized soundstage, realistic amounts of air separating life-sized performers. The upper mids/low highs were just a tad bright for my taste, but this was easy to forgive, the Lillium and Audio Research gear effortlessly filled the large room, captivating me with... forgive me... such a life-like presentation.
This could be my new favorite dome and cone speaker. I'm sure the Audio Research equipment had much to do with this fantastic experience. I have to move on, and am leaving this room, regretfully.
The JTR Speakers room featured a bare bones minimalist system, which happens to be my favorite type of machine to listen to music through.
Oppo universal player, SpeakerPower amplifier and the latest addition to the JTR family, the Noesis 210RT. Owner Jeff Permanian played what I thought was a frequency sweep from high to low, which literally beat the room, my pants legs and myself, up. Then music began, because this wasn't a sweep, but a song, "Woofer Cooker" off the Boston Acoustics Bass Test CD.
No subwoofers need apply. The proprietary waveguide maintains pattern control almost all the way down to the room's Schroeder Frequency, ignoring walls and ceiling, directing sound straight to the listener. Couple that with limitless dynamic capability, the Noesis 210 RT delivers a satisfying 2 channel experience.
The Linkwitz LX mini, which is offered by Madisound in kit form, almost looks like a plumbing accident, but the simple, open purity of its sound is a thing of wonder. It is hard to believe the tiny two-way-on-a-pvc-stump can produce such big, open, point-source sound.
The kit includes a miniDSP processor for crossover and EQ. Think of it as a DIY stealth speaker, nearly invisible yet capable of absolute killer sound.
As reported by HTS writer and reviewer Todd Anderson, the cinema system by Seaton Sound was a must-behold showstopper. Mark Seaton always puts together a great demo, but he outdid himself at AXPONA this year.
The big demo room, 32 x 60 x 13 feet, contained 8 Submersive subwoofers with 2 ,000 Watts of power each, delivering the most natural and awe-inspiring movie sub-bass I have ever witnessed. The same had to be said for the setup in general, with its Seymour AV 115" wide 4k Screen / Sony VPL-VW1100ES 4k Projector combo ($32,000 value for the two).
The $35,000 audio system, with total power capability of 24,000 Watts, sounded tremendous with concert videos and with clips from Ender's Game, Interstellar, and Tron Legacy. It was hands down the "Fun" room of the show, demonstrating impact sound with audiophile sound sensibilities in quantity AND quality.
Mark pretty much summed up the show: "Because we can." What a great time to be alive!
Vapor Audio is another loudspeaker company that I have learned to assume will please my sensibilities. Their new Perfect Storm, their $28,000/pair flagship, might be said to be "Practically Perfect in Every Way."
There were some well-performing speakers at AXPONA 2011, and some strong impressions were left upon my mind, but the Perfect Storms stand out as having one of the best integrated sounds of the show, very refined. I told designer Ryan Scott how beautifully they handled cymbals, preserving the complex tonal character and dynamic realism. His response: "Stored energy," referring to their ultra-quick RAAL tweeter. Perfect Storm's cymbals were gorgeous, second to none in the building.
Drums and percussion leapt from them. Plucked strings and drum beats had a succinct impact I have heard in very few speakers.
Vapor's models consistently perform as well as models twice and more the price by other manufacturers.
I visited the Vapor room, super duper curious about their latest flagship, the Perfect Storm. My first audition left me a bit cold. Large images located on a life-sized soundstage with great depth, but the highs were just a touch ragged. Having heard at least 5 different Vapor efforts in many different rooms, and owning one of those pairs as my reference loudspeakers, I know the signature Vapor Audio sound very well, so I chalked it up to lack of break-in and less than optimal placement. I returned the following Saturday, a hectic show day, letting a jazz musician friend that was accompanying me that day have a listen, but not taking much time for myself, as I intended to give the guys time to tweak the set up.
Sunday, AXPONA was generally slower, but did little to thin out the show crowd in this room. Sitting off axis one seat from the front center seat, I was able to discern that the high frequency bug bear had been smoothed out. Intent on getting that listening chair, I hovered like a hawk until the center seat was vacated. "Large images located on a life-sized soundstage with great depth", AND the HF smoothness that I have come to associate with Vapor, were all in check. One of the very best sounds of the show, one of my top 5 rooms.
Later, speaking to designer Pete Schumacher and designer/owner Ryan Scott, I found that Vapor Audio was the first to get and use the 2" Accuton driver, which had only arrived right before the show and was not quite voiced into the system. A running crossover change was made to the new driver, a change that help set the gel on a fantastic, over the top, relatively affordable state-of-the-art system.
Check out this milled aluminum four shelf cantilever rack, created by Vapor Audio cabinet maker Ed Rosenquist. It is height adjustable, staggered to keep components cool and looks strong enough to hold the beefiest gear.
One of the design features that makes Frank Van Alstine's power amps special is the use of separate power regulators, not just for each amplification channel, but for each stage of amplification. Frank explained how this keeps crosstalk to extremely low levels, and helps preserve microdynamics and the energy of the music.