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The MBL 101 X-treme, which includes the behemoth bass bins.

As I jumped around the room snapping photos, getting nearer and closer to the speakers, no matter where I stood the sound did not seem to be coming directly from the omni loudspeakers. Sitting down for an off-axis listen, the SS&I was indistinct. Once I took command of the sweet spot chair, everything snapped into sharp focus. Most definitely a one person listening window, but oh, what a large, clean picture window it was.

Huge variable hemholtz resonators tuned to 22 Hz resided in the back corners, lining the walls were diffusers from SMT of Sweden, which were parked atop more hemholtz resonators tuned to 55hz.

The U.S. Naval Band's “Liberty Fanfare” from reel to reel tape - Kettle drum was powerful, a wow moment. The weight was surprising, even knowing it was coming, it still instilled a sense of shock and awe.

Best of show sound, in my opinion, and in fellow reporter Mark Henninger's opinion, as well. He states "By the time “With a Little Help From My Friends” played toward the end of our room visit, Dennis and I had already agreed the MBL Reference represented the best sound at the show. It was truly something special to hear The Beatles sound so transparent."

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Seaton Sound! This is home theater done RIGHT.

There were some AVR HDMI handshake issues coming out of the starting gate. A 2.0 mix was sent to the AVR, then Dolby used to extrapolate a surround signal as a placeholder until the electronic gremlins could be worked out. Audio the first couple of days were not quite up to the high standards that denote the typical Seaton Sound, sound. I left with a mind to come back later.

On my second day back, by lucky happenstance, the same clip was playing that I had caught before, The Fifth Element Diva Dance scene, and my hopeful anticipation was rewarded in full. Atmos now engaged, the 3 Catalyst 12Cs, six of the F18 subwoofers (2 F18+ and 4 F18-Slaves) and Sparks filling in height duties and 4k video, full captivating home theater immersion was complete. The only thing that could pull me from my seat was an impending return flight home. A truly jaw-dropping example of what can be done for a motivated home theater enthusiast.

I hope those that caught the room earlier were able to go back and have a proper listen. From AVS correspondent, Mark Henninger, "With all due respect to the 2-channel rigs at AXPONA 2016, the most impressively powerful system I heard at the show came from Mark Seaton, who brought 17,000 watts of thunder in the form of Dolby Atmos 7.2.4 immersive surround."



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Wayne's Impressions:

One of the demo videos shown on Mark's huge system, extreme high-mountain snowboarding, reflected Mark's
approach to an audio show display: Extreme Home Theater Systems! The 17 kW Dolby Atmos system - with Dirac Live, from Dirac Research - where most IMAX theaters have around 10 kW of sound capability, was truly awe-inspiring! The Sony Laser display added it's own amazement factor. This was my first Atmos experience - no one better than Mark Seaton to introduce you to the newest and best and biggest and baddest of anything and everything having to do Home Theater Audio. Thanks, Mark.
 

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Discussion Starter #23
Mr. Speakers Headphones started out making Planar Magnetic phones based on a Fostex design, but now makes phones of their own design top to bottom. I listened to their two existing Planar Magnetic models, the Ether (open) and Ether C (closed) models. My first impression: WOW! Dan and team have come a long ways very fast in a competitive market, and are showing that they know what they are doing. Both models deliver with huge openness and sparkly cleanness. The closed model sounded every bit as open as the open-backed model.


The Ether, a current open-backed planar-magnetic model from Mr. Speakers, $1,499.

The Ether C, a current closed-backed planar-magnetic model from Mr. Speakers, $1,599.


Their new electrostatic model, still under development, was there in prototype. It was downright exciting to listen through, and I had a hard tie leaving to catch my flight home. THIS IS WHY WE HAVE HEADPHONES! The upper midrange, difficult to control and usually held back in a headphone design, was voiced quite forward in this new design, a brave move that really tickled me. When you DO hear that frequency band with headphones, and hear it handled so well, you wonder why it is so often missing. Nice move, Dan.


The new electrostatic model, still under development, model name and price TBD, gave an impressive taste of things to come.
 

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Discussion Starter #25
Campfire Audio, maker of in-ear headphones, a new company at AXPONA, had their new flagship, soon to be released, their Andromeda model on display. Getting a good fit, essential for IEM use, was a bit tricky, but I blame that on my ear canals, which are a little larger than usual, apparently. Once fit right, the Andromeda really impressed. I have not been a huge IEM fan, but this model could change that. The frequency response was quite wide and seemed pretty even. The machined unit looks like it take a beating.
 

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The Essential Audio room features one of my favorite audiophile/manufacturers, Duke LeJeune's AudioKinesis loudspeakers and subwoofers.

The Bienville Suite floorstander model, backed by a 4 subwoofer compliment known as the Swarm, is much less imposing than names or appearance would suggest, at least until called upon to be so. An unknown to Shazam or to the exhibitor, large orchestral piece, put me completely at ease, the SEOS waveguide handling the compression driver's highs better than any 'guide I've heard, extant. When pressed, the 20 Hz-20kHz 98 dB sensitivity system will lay your hair back, but without the subs ever calling attention to their location. The mains roll off naturally at about 70 Hz, trading the low end for greater sensitivity, allowing the subwoofer system to do the heavy lifting for the last 3 octaves.


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As you can see, the Bienville Suite is completely room and system tunable.


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The Gershman Acoustics/Lamm Amps/Oracle room featured an Oracle CD player, Lamm Audio LL2.1 preamplifier and M1.2 amps and a loudspeaker called the Inspiration ($5900). Classic sealed 3-ways reminiscent of my old ARs, only better. While the presentation was small, likely due to room size, "Ain't No Sunshine" showcased Eva Cassidy's vocals, dynamic and unrestrained.

As AVS writer Mark Henninger said to me as we left the room, "Nothing wrong with a good, sealed 3-way speaker". I concur.

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Discussion Starter #28
Madisound, the DIY supplier of transducers and speaker building supplies, was there, showing off the LXmini again. I just built a pair of them from kit with sponsorship by Madisound, miniDSP, and Linkwitz Lab, and reviewed them and produced a built video, all linked in the build thread. The result is a reference-grade pair of speakers that can really sing!

I got so distracted talking to Adam that I forgot about taking photos, so here is a picture of my pair in the back yard.


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The two-way system is a point source, so the soundstage may seem compressed vertically. But the LXmini make up for that in their ability to deliver very precise imaging and a wide, deep soundstage, plus lots of inner detail.



Dennis' impressions - I left my coat in another room and made a mad dash up a few floors to retrieve it before the dash to the airport! Passing by, I decided the Madisound room is a "must hear", so another dash was made inside for a quick listen. My final stop before leaving the show...

This is my third or fourth time hearing the LXmini, including Wayne's pair pictured above. I concur, this is a reference grade speaker, one that is untouched by anything in or near it's price range for soundstage and imaging capabilities.

Here are a few Madisound room pics... and good job on your DIY LXminis, Wayne!


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In my closing post, I'd like to thank my buddy, Wayne Myers. For each show, he sets up our travel arrangements, gets our rooms and press passes organized and kicks off great starting posts for everyone to enjoy. He is a fun travel companion and a great conversationalist, both with audio and "world saving" topics.

A special thanks to AVS Senior Writer Mark Henninger for organizing the collaboration between sister forums, his wonderful video and photography production and his companionship as we traveled from room to room, sampling the best gear that audio manufacturers brought to bear.
 
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