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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited by Moderator)
AXPONA 2013 Official Show Report by Joe Alexander of HTS


March 8th - Hello from sunny Chicago! :)

My day started out very well - I was actually able to get on the road by 5:30 - shocking I know. And, it just continued to get better and better!

The Marketplace was the first area open - the first place I stopped at was the AIX Records booth. Very interesting experience - Mark Waldrep has built a state of the art studio and records musicians in a rather unique manner - instead of separate booths with their own headphones, they are all in the studio together. He stated that he felt the recordings went so well because the musicians were really able to "feed" off one another. Mark uses different microphone configurations to record in stereo, "audience" perspective, and true surround. They also produce video for the entire session and it is formatted to blu-ray.

He also had set up a conference room with a JVC DLA-RS66U3D projector, OPPO-95, and Bryston SP-3 Pre/Pro. He had set it up to use the HDMI out from the OPPO and use the Brystons DACs. The speakers were the B&W 802 Diamonds - he had 4 - with the seating located in the middle. He then demonstrated the three different recordings on each track. I was utterly amazing at how fantastic the full surround sounded - it really felt like you were completely enveloped in sound. It was rather odd to be looking at the screen seeing all the musicians but having the sound come from all around - but turning on Pure Audio made the experience quite astounding.

Perhaps the best way to explain was that "audience" perspective felt like you were in the audience while full surround felt like you were right on stage in the middle of all the musicians.

More Information can be found here.

Please use the AXPONA 2013 Discussion / Comments thread for questions and comments.
 

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Re: March 8th AXPONA Impressions /pictures

I then made my way through the marketplace. I stopped first at the Sota turntables booth where they had three different turntables set up. Kirk and Donna Bodinet are the owners, and I had a chance to chat with Donna for a few minutes.

She told me that two of their players had been used for the TV show House - one is his office and one at his home. If you have seen the show, you will recall the sequence where he is lying on the floor in his office with a set of headphones on listening to vinyl - that is one of Sota's players. They also were asked to provide a "prop" for The Sopranos, but it did not end up being used. However, they were specifically mentioned in one episode!

I have never been a big vinyl person, but I wanted to stop and take a listen so I listened to the Moonbeam. It was a very different experience for me - I really came out of today with a better appreciation for a good turntable.

Here is a pic of Donna and Rick:



This is a picture of the Moonbeam - its MSRP is $750:



If you look closely at the picture in the upper left corner, you can see the picture of House with the Sota turntable:

 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited by Moderator)
Re: March 8th AXPONA Impressions /pictures

As I continued through the Marketplace, I came across a couple of locations selling vinyl and SACDs - if anyone is interested in more information on these, please let me know as I picked up a catalog with a full list of inventory and pricing.

Next up was Dynamic Sounds Associates and their DSA Phono II Phono Pre-amplifier. It was set up in a system that included:

No code has to be inserted here.

Here is a picture of the system:



The Phono II allows the user to select between 3 different tonearm / cartridge combinations as well as 4 different gain selections (40, 50, 60, and 66db). It also allows for simple switching from Moving Coil to Moving Magnet cartridges and has Standby, Mute, and Run functions.

Again, non-vinyl guy here but I just had to give this system a listen. I was shocked to get the sensation that the singer was behind me instead of to my side - quite exhilarating. This could have been a function of the headphones, but irregardless it was well worth the visit.

For more information, you can check out DSA here.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Re: March 8th AXPONA Impressions /pictures

Thus ended my visit to the Marketplace area (at least for today! :))

I wandered a bit to get a feel for where everything was, and it just so happened that the first room I chose to go into was one of the Quintessence Audio rooms. Ironically enough, it just so happened that these contained the most expensive speakers that I saw today - the Focal Grande Utopia EMs at an MSRP of 190K.
A couple photos:






Here is a side view so you can see the finish:



One thing you cannot quite get a feel for from the pictures - these stand 6'8" high! John (The rep from Quintessence Audio) pulled the back panel off the speaker for me and showed me the series of jumpers that allows the Grande Utopias to have up to 1800 different settings. There is also a "crank" in the back panel that is used to physically adjust the upper portion of the speaker so that you can adjust the drivers to the targeted area.

He then showed me an example of how the inverted dome tweeters are constructed in such a way as to reduce the mass of the tweeter assembly (coil, etc) so that it is easier to move and control. He stated that most manufacturers will not attempt this type of construction as the slightest mistake in assembly means that it cannot be used - they have approximately 15% of the tweeters that need to be discarded as they have very stringent QA.

He then brought out one of the beryllium domes for us to hold. Once you put it in your hand, you could not feel the weight of it at all. He actually tossed it in the air - it fell to the ground like a feather. One of the benefits of beryllium is that it dissipates heat incredibly well - in essence acting as its own heat sink (beryllium is actually used in F16 brakes).

The amps used in this set up were Pass Labs XS 300s - it is a Class A amp that has an MSRP of 85K for all 4 chassis pieces each of which weighs in at about 150lbs.

The dynamic range of the vocals and instruments on these speakers was amazing - and they actually had the LF level turned all the way down as it was too much for the size of the room - it got really boomy when he turned them up a bit. Now I know why JJ is so enamoured with the inverted dome - it really was amazing that I did not feel fatigued at all and they were not quiet by any stretch. :)
 

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Re: AXPONA 2013 Show Report by Joe Alexander of HTS

Good morning! Some more sights and sounds from Friday!

Quintessence Audio has a second room on the Mezzanine right across from the Grand Utopia room. In this room they have the Sonus Faber Amati Futuras:





You will more than likely tire from reading this for every speaker, but, wow, what a gorgeous speaker. One thing I noticed going through each room - most of the speakers deviate from the traditional rectangle design which I personally enjoy. In my opinion, it really gives the speaker a more aesthetically pleasing feel and makes it something to be shown as well as heard. Now, that is not to say there are not some beautiful rectangle shaped speakers - my last visit of the day attests to that - but to me it just makes them stand out in a room.

These were bi-amped using the Audio Research Reference 250 Tube amp with an MSRP 26k per pair and the Audio Research DS450M solid state amp which have an MSRP of 11k per pair. There were 4 REL Gibraltar G-1 subs also set up and they had them crossed over at 25Hz which really meant that the Futuras were pretty much doing all the work. They also were using the Audio Research Reference DAC.

A couple of points on the design - the Futuras use a Tuned Mass Damper that has multiple tuning frequencies to convert residual vibrations into heat as well as Stealth Reflex which is a patented Sonus Faber solution implementing a para-aperiodic venting system. It allows them to reduce the dimensions of the cabinet while at the same time attaining lower frequencies with lower distortion. The cabinet itself follows the Lute shaped design.

I sat down to listen to the Futuras - and almost right away they just completely disappeared - which, given their appearance, it quite astounding. Dynamics were amazing - I recall one track in particular which had female vocals with a bass guitar at some point and this speaker handled that sequence quite well - neither sound overpowered the other. The low end on these was very clean - not boomy or flabby at all. It is really quite chilling to be able to hear every snap of a drum!

The MSRP on these speakers is 36k. The stated frequency range is 25Hz - 30,000 Hz with a sensitivty of 90 db and a nominal impedence of 4 ohms.

I plan to revisit this room as they also had a set of the new Venere 3.0 speakers set up, but they were not playing those during my visit.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Re: AXPONA 2013 Show Report by Joe Alexander of HTS

Next up was the Legacy Audio / Morrow Cables room. I actually spent part of the first hour of Saturday in this room as well as I wanted to get a bit more listening time in on the Whispers.

There were two separate setups with 2 different speakers in each setup. Here are those configurations:

No code has to be inserted here.

All four of these speaker use the new dual Air Motion tweeter which allows them to extend bandwidth and dynamics due to the premium grade Neodymium magnetics and Kapton diaphragms which are stable to 750 degrees farenheit. To construct the tweeter, a 16" square piece of Kapton is folded into a 4" long, 1" wide chamber. This tweeter is mounted on the same faceplate as the complementary 1" AMT ribbon super-tweeter to give more uniform dispersion which gives the treble more weight and natural fullness.

Here are a few pictures:

These are the Whisper and Signature speakers - notice the very unique design of the Whisper:



Here is a picture of the back of the Whisper. The open design of the back really allowed you to move around the room and not really lose the soundfield:



Another view of the Whisper and Signature:



The Aeris and Focus speakers:



Here is a side view of the Aeris. What the picture does not show is that the panel on the side is opaque and there is a low level green glow eminating from inside the speaker where you can see some of the inner components:



I did not get to hear the Whispers very much - what I was able to glean from the time I had was a very wide soundstage with little to no degradation off axis, excellent dynamic range, and excellent clarity and detail.

The Aeris speakers have a very unique design and a beautiful finish. These also had fantastic dynamic range - no doubt a function of the Air Motion tweeter - with very crisp, clear vocals. During one track, there was a bass guitar playing with vocals and I was still able to hear a triangle being struck plain as day. On a different track, you could actually hear the pluck of the pick against the guitar string! Still another track provided some horn action - no desire to cringe when they were played - just excellent detail and clarity. The low end was fantastic as well - extremely tight bass.

I actually had a marvelous opportunity to speak with Bill Dudleston himself. He showed me the XP-4080 DSP they were using to do all room EQ and the software that allowed you to tweak specific points and immeadiately save them. It allows up to 30 different configurations - very neat piece of equipment.

Please use the AXPONA 2013 Discussion / Comments thread for questions and comments.
 

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Re: AXPONA 2013 Show Report by Joe Alexander of HTS

I knew that Wayne would be very upset with me if I did not get photos of this area! :)







I stopped by the booth for CEntrance and spoke with Michael Goodman for a bit:



CEntrance had a few products on display - the DACport which is a DAC and Headphone Amp and the DACport LX. The DACport's amp is a Class A headphone amp. The DACport LX, which has a USB to D/A converter, is designed for the person that wants to use an external headphone amp. Both products draw power from the USB connection.

They also had the Audiophile Desktop System that includes the DACmini PX DAC / Amp, the Masterclass 2504 two-way coaxial speakers, and a sturdy travel case for portability. I sat down and listened to this system for a bit, and I was quite impressed by the sound quality of this quite compact desktop system. The MSRP on the system is $1499.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Re: AXPONA 2013 Show Report by Joe Alexander of HTS

Next on the tour was the KingSound King III Full Range Electrostatic speakers. The configuration was :

No code has to be inserted here.

Some pictures:







I had been hoping that there was an electrostat here as Sonnie and JJ have been telling me I really need to hear one. The King III is a full range ESL with a stated FR of 32 Hz to 24 kHz. It is designed with the crossover and step-up transformer in an outboard control driver allowing for more robust components and easier maintenance and connects to the speaker with a sturdy multi-pin connector. This made it possible to design the speaker to be lighter with a stronger enclosure that can be moved by one person.

Right off the get-go, I was floored by just how open and full these sounded. I actually spent a fair bit of time in this room as I was continually getting those jaw-dropping moments. First, it was the fullness of sound. Then, it was the dynamics of the vocals and was followed by the snap of the mids - the snare drum was just so crisp and clean. Lastly, I just did not think an electrostat could produce bass on a level with a speaker with a woofer. Boy, was I ever wrong! These played low so effectively that I was sure there was a sub hidden somewhere!

This was definitely a mind-opening experience for me - at 26+" wide, they are too wide for my room. However, they do make the Prince 3's which are somewhat narrower that I am awaiting more information on.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Re: AXPONA 2013 Show Report by Joe Alexander of HTS

Next up was the Nightingale Concentus CTR 2 speakers. A couple photos:





These speakers are designed with two woofers, one midrange, and one tweeter in an open baffle build. It has a very unique design with either a walnut or silver-painted finish with a stated FR of 35 Hz - 22 kHz. They used no treatment at all in this room.

I was impressed with the dynamics - the first track had female vocals coupled with a bass guitar and maintained excellent clarity. I did not feel they imaged really well - I sat just a bit to the left of the sweet spot and I could really localize the left speaker. It just did not have a very wide soundstage IMO. They were also a bit forward and reminded me of my audition of the Studio 100's - without the Studio 100's overpowering low end. After three tracks of female vocals in succession, I was starting to get fatigued and moved on. That said, the clarity of male and female vocals is stellar as well as the piano and cymbals. I could really pick out the stroke of the key and the ping of the cymbal which I really enjoy in a speaker.

I was not able to procure an MSRP for these, but a 2010 article lists them at $10.900 / pair.

Please use the AXPONA 2013 Discussion / Comments thread for questions and comments.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Re: AXPONA 2013 Show Report by Joe Alexander of HTS

I am going to go slightly out of order now as I thought a few of you horn guys would love to see these!

The configuration:

No code has to be inserted here.

A few photos:

These are the T-3.4s:



A closer view of the horn port:



This is one of the two Hartsfields:



Here is a closer view of the front stage components:



First, the Stahl-Tek Ariaa DAC is able to stream bit perfect audio up to 24-bit at 192 kHz and supports sampling rates from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz. It has a remote control with volume adjustment and supports the following digital formats: I2S, SPDIF, AES/EBU and USB 2.0 (asynchronous). I sat and chatted with the rep for a fair bit and we played various tracks in different formats and you just could not tell the difference - great performer!

John from Classic Audio was long enamoured with the original Hartsfield speaker system, but discovered that they were out of production in 1964. Through the 70's and 80's, most of these units that became available were exported overseas. It was then that he decided to build a reproduction Hartsfield. These have a nominal impedance of 16 ohms with a shipping weight of 400 lbs each!

The T-3.4 employs 2 15" woofers - one is front-firing for upper bass and the other is floor-firing for 20 Hz extension. The 4" diameter beryllium disphragm is loaded into the 6475 2" throat field coil compression driver to provide articulate vocals and music. Last, the super-tweeter is added to give a feel of air and openness without any fatugue. These also have a nominal impedence of 16 ohms with a shipping weight of 350 lbs each.

The Hartsfields were going when I came in. The cabinet has a gorgeous finish (other finishes are available as well) and they were placed directly in the corners. The first thing I noticed was the clarity of the vocals - crystal clear. That continued on to the instrumental tracks as well. In comparison to the T-3.4, the bass was a bit less, but then it was not designed to go as low.

I loved the finish on the T-3.4s as well, but what really struck me was how well they imaged. I just could not localize the speakers at all - with eyes closed, if I had to point to where the person was "singing" from, I would have pointed directly in the middle of those two speakers. The only horn-based speaker I have previously heard were the Klipsch RF-62s and to me they were just too bright. These were the polar opposite - I was probably in that room for an hour and I did not have any sense of fatigue at all. Also, their ability to really dig deep while not getting too boomy (there was no treatment in this room) was a delight. Clarity you ask? Off the charts - again, I love being able to hear all those little sounds - the pluck of a pick on a string, the ping of the cymbal - and I could hear each breath the artist took.

If you cannot tell by the above, this was one of my two best experiences of the day. Well done!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Re: AXPONA 2013 Show Report by Joe Alexander of HTS

Next up was the Legacy Audio / Morrow Cables room. I actually spent part of the first hour of Saturday in this room as well as I wanted to get a bit more listening time in on the Whispers.

There were two separate setups with 2 different speakers in each setup. Here are those configurations:

No code has to be inserted here.

All four of these speaker use the new dual Air Motion tweeter which allows them to extend bandwidth and dynamics due to the premium grade Neodymium magnetics and Kapton diaphragms which are stable to 750 degrees farenheit. To construct the tweeter, a 16" square piece of Kapton is folded into a 4" long, 1" wide chamber. This tweeter is mounted on the same faceplate as the complementary 1" AMT ribbon super-tweeter to give more uniform dispersion which gives the treble more weight and natural fullness.

Here are a few pictures:

These are the Whisper and Signature speakers - notice the very unique design of the Whisper:



Here is a picture of the back of the Whisper. The open design of the back really allowed you to move around the room and not really lose the soundfield:



Another view of the Whisper and Signature:



The Aeris and Focus speakers:



Here is a side view of the Aeris. What the picture does not show is that the panel on the side is opaque and there is a low level green glow eminating from inside the speaker where you can see some of the inner components:



I did not get to hear the Whispers very much - what I was able to glean from the time I had was a very wide soundstage with little to no degradation off axis, excellent dynamic range, and excellent clarity and detail.

The Aeris speakers have a very unique design and a beautiful finish. These also had fantastic dynamic range - no doubt a function of the Air Motion tweeter - with very crisp, clear vocals. During one track, there was a bass guitar playing with vocals and I was still able to hear a triangle being struck plain as day. On a different track, you could actually hear the pluck of the pick against the guitar string! Still another track provided some horn action - no desire to cringe when they were played - just excellent detail and clarity. The low end was fantastic as well - extremely tight bass.

I actually had a marvelous opportunity to speak with Bill Dudleston himself. He showed me the XP-4080 DSP they were using to do all room EQ and the software that allowed you to tweak specific points and immeadiately save them. It allows up to 30 different configurations - very neat piece of equipment.
I should add that I also had a great conversation with Larry from Morrow Cables about some of the things he is doing and had a great give-and-take on the current state and direction of listening to music in its many formats. Great guy!
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Re: AXPONA 2013 Show Report by Joe Alexander of HTS

On to the Venture Grand Ultimate MK II speakers!

A couple photos:



Up close:



A side view:



This room was treated, and, unfortunately, I was not able to get an idea of the gear in play and the MSRP. The stated FR is 22 Hz - 60,000 Hz with a nominal impedence of 4 ohms. It employs one 2" AGC tweeter, one 7" CFGC Underhang midrange, and four 7" CFGC woofers and weighs in at 175 lbs each.

The speaker had very good dymamic range - I especially liked the snap of the drums. It had one of the widest soundstages I heard for the day - there was no real degradation in the soundfield off axis. It handles females vocals with aplomb - one track in particular stood out for me where the vocalist has amazing range and this speaker just kept right up. There was also a track that had an interesting drum / violin sequence which also showed off this speaker's range.

Please use the AXPONA 2013 Discussion / Comments thread for questions and comments.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Re: AXPONA 2013 Show Report by Joe Alexander of HTS

I progressed on to the next Venture speaker - the Ultimate Reference speaker. A couple photos:



A view from the side - this is the Makassar Ebony finish:



The signage - as you can see, the Venture Pure Class A V200A+ amps are in use:



The Ultimate Reference speakers have one 1.5" Abaca based graphite composite (AGC) tweeter, one 5" graphite composite (CFGC) midrange, and three 7" AGC woofers using a first order crossover. They have a stated FR of 26 Hz - 40,000 Hz with a nominal impedence of 6 ohms and weigh in at a hefty 152 lbs each. Other available finishes include Rosewood, Elm Burl, Piano Black and Pearl White. The MSRP is $145,000.

Again, the finish on these is beautiful - it also has a bit of shape to it (C shaped cabinet) rather than your standard rectangle which gives it some personality. I was immeadiately struck by the dynamic range and clarity of these speakers - cymbols were very crisp and you could hear that wonderful ping of it being struck. Male and female vocals were incredible - they really picked out a couple of great tracks to show off the ability of these speakers to handle tonal changes. There was excellent separation of instruments - if you closed your eyes, you felt you could point to where each musician would be sitting and the soundstage off axis had very little degradation as I had difficulty localizing the speaker even when standing on the far right side of the room. The horns and piano were both excellent as well - no discomfort when the horns really started to dominate the track and you could hear the piano's keys being struck.

What probably stood out most from the speakers for me was the clarity of the wind instruments and the clean low end. It is not often that when I hear a wind instrument I know exactly what it is - with these speakers, I could really tell the difference. And, this again was one of those speakers that you would have sworn was crossed over to a sub - just great clean, tight bass. I do recall thinking that these speakers would be best suited for a larger room and would have no issue filling that room with fantastic sound.
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Re: AXPONA 2013 Show Report by Joe Alexander of HTS

Next up was the Orion-4 / George-Warren room. A few photos:

The George-Warren turntable:



The setup:



A closer look at the Orion-4:





Here is the system configuration:


No code has to be inserted here.

The Orion-4s are a Siegfried Linkwitz designed open baffle speaker using two Seas L26RO4Y woofers, one Seas W22EX001 midrange, and two T25CF002 tweeters crossed over at 90 Hz and 1440 Hz. A new refinement on the Orion-4s prior to the show was performed on the Linkwitz Analog Signal Processor/Active Crossover (ASP) to improve the frequency crossover values and component tolerances. These refinements provide an overall smoother frequency response and more clarity as the outputs of both channels are more evenly matched.

The suggested room size for these speakers is at least 14'x20'x8' (WxDxH) positioned 3' from the rear wall and 2' from the side walls and now I understand why. When I moved around to look at the finish of the speaker and the back side, there was absolutely no degradation in the soundfield - at all! The design allows you to really sit anywhere and enjoy the same level of detail. Stand up; it did not matter, the soundfield was the EXACT same - amazing. When I came into the room, there was a female vocal track playing that showed just how dynamic these speakers are - quiet as well as at volume. The detail provided by the speakers was equally as impressive as all the little sound nuances could be heard - and that was true no matter where you were in the room. Plus, the small footprint shocks you - if I went in blindfolded and had them revealed after listening, I would have sworn they were much larger.

I had a chance to chat with Don Naples a bit - he is the owner of Wood Artistry, LLC and I must say that I just love sitting down and talking with a true enthusiast as you can see their face just light up when they talk about there passion. He explained how they were built as well as chatted about a new concept from Siegfried for evaluating audio playback using symbols to represent certain measureables - very interesting stuff.

They also had a prototype multi-channel amplifier with integrated ASP on hand that simplifies the connection for these speakers. New owners can choose between a single or dual chassis configuration that contains the ASP and amplification needed to drive all the Orion-4 drivers. I had planned to try to make it back on Sunday to hear this amp in use, but unfortunately I was not able to get there.

The George-Warren turntable has a very unique design and the hardwood finish on this particular model was just gorgeous. It is powered by a Maxon DC motor and controlled by an "intelligent" closed loop feedback system that allows speed information to be taken directly from the platter to maintain precise platter speed automatically. It has 33.3 and 45 rpm speeds with a clean function for use with a record brush. However, the foundation of the turntable is the decoupling between the top plinth and bottom plinth (split plinth design as George calls it) that eliminates vibrations from external sources resulting in smoother sound.

As I said earlier, I am not a vinyl person, but having an opportunity to hear a system such as this one, I can definitely see now what has so many enamoured with vinyl.

Edit: No room treatment was used in this setup.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Re: AXPONA 2013 Show Report by Joe Alexander of HTS

The Von Schweikert VR-100XS Universe system was next - a few photos:

The front wall:



A close up of one of the towers - front view:



The back of the same tower - notice the drivers on the back:



A closer view of the system components:




The system configuration:


No code has to be inserted here.


First thing to note - GIK supplied all the treatments for this room!

The VR-11 MKII towers use two 15″ Kevlar-Nomex honeycomb woofers, four 8.5″ magnesium mid-basses, two 7″ carbon Kevlar-cellulose Aerogel midrange drivers, two 1.5″ dual-concentric silk ring tweeters, and two 5″ aluminum ribbon supertweeters with all drivers using a proprietary Advanced Motor System with low distortion design. The tower also has a rear-firing 5" aluminum ribbon. They have a stated FR of 10Hz - 100,000 Hz and sensitivity of 99 db when the subwoofer and supertweeter boosts are engaged with a nominal impedence of 8 ohms and weigh in at a massive 700 lbs - each! All the drivers are designed to work on the same frequency impulse so that they blend seamlessly.

This is probably the one system of the day that when I walked into the room, I stopped and said "Woah". I am pretty certain they reserved either two conference rooms opened up or one big room, and it still seemed small with the towers and subs all set up. I sat down and started listening after snapping a few photos and noticed almost right away that the dynamic range for this system was just astounding. Then, as I continued to listen, I was equally awed by the midrange punch that was squeaky clean and crisp as well. Now, add in a good THWUMP in the low end. If that was not enough, I could then start to pick out the little details - the piano keystroke, the ping of the cymbol.... I was simply amazed at all this wrapped into one system.

Then, one of the exhibitors stopped by to chat and I explained my experience so far. I had to raise my voice as it was louder than I thought it was - always a good sign IMO. He said "Get up and move around the room". Well, what I discovered was that it did not matter where I stood in the room - the soundfield AND LPE were virtually the exact same. I sat back down and told him what I thought I heard - and he said "That is right - it is within 1db all around the room". Imagine that. As you may be able to surmise, this was my top performer of the day.

The good news - they make less expensive speakers as well. The VR-33s can be had for $4,500 MSRP - check them out here.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
Re: AXPONA 2013 Show Report by Joe Alexander of HTS

My last stop of the day was at an exhibitor's room whose products I was familiar with - Salk Sound. The system equipment was provided by Audio by Van Alstine. Here are a few photos:

Jim Salk brought three speakers - the Supercharged Songtowers (in white), the Soundscape 8s, and the Salk Silk Bookshelfs:



A closer view:



The system configuration included:

No code has to be inserted here.


The Soundscape 8s use the RAAL tweeter, an Accuton midrange, two custom 8" long-throw woofers, and two 12" passive radiators. The stated FR is 25 Hz - 60,000 Hz with a sensitivity of 87 db. Next, the Supercharged Songtowers use a RAAL tweeter and two Seas Excel W15 mid-woofers. The stated FR is 34 Hz - 20,000 Hz with a sensitivity of 88 db. Last, the Salk Silks use a RAAL tweeter and a Scanspeak Illuminator woofer. They are a new speaker that actually is not listed on the website yet.

For those that do not know already, my dedicated room currently uses all Salk speakers - QWT Songtowers, the SongCenter, and 4 SongSurround Is. I have also heard the Songtowers with a RAAL tweeter, the Veracity HT2-TLs and the Soundscape 12s. So, I was really looking forward to hearing some of Jim's other speakers. And, as expected, they did not disappoint. The dynamic range of each of these speakers is quite impressive - if I did not see the entire room, I would have sworn the Silk monitor was crossed to a sub! All of the speakers have the RAAL tweeters, which is synonymous with clarity and detail - you can hear every minute detail. Plus, if you have seen a Salk speaker, you know I do not need to mention the beautiful finishes each of these speakers receive.

The MSRP of the Silks starts at $3,499, the Supercharged Songtowers start at $3,495, and the Soundscape 8s start at $7,995.

As I am very familiar with the sound of Salk speakers, most of my time in this room was spent talking with Frank Van Alstine. The two units we talked about are both really new - the ABX Switch Unit and the Humdinger. The ABX switch unit (MSRP $1500) allows a user to have 2 sets of speakers, 2 amps, 2 pre-amps and a source all hooked up at the same time. A couple applications we discussed were using it in a "blind" test mode to test the differences in speakers, amps, or cables without have to continually physically swap cables - it is merely the push of a button on the remote. It also uses a random number generator to allow for true "blind" testing. The unit can also be used by a speaker builder to compare speakers where a manufacturing tweak has been made to one to gauge the effects of said change. The Humdinger unit (MSRP $125) is a DC offset unit that removes DC from an AC circuit to remove potentially damaging DC before it reaches your equipment. The unit on display had all the equipment plugged into it.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Re: AXPONA 2013 Show Report by Joe Alexander of HTS

One of the "hey, that is different!" pieces I saw on Saturday morning was the Intuition 01 from Wadia Digital - it is a Dac and Amplifier all in one package:

Top view with curtains open:



Front view - you can see here the gap underneath. The unit pulls air up from underneath for cooling and then vents it out both sides:



Top view with curtains drawn - nice illuminated effect:



Set up:



It is a two channel Class D+ amplifier that delivers 350W at 4 ohms per channel with 1% THD. On the DAC side, it focuses on the digital inputs with 192 kHz / 24 bit resolution for coaxial, optical and AES as well as 384 kHz / 32 bit via USB. It also has two analog inputs and offers native DSD playback via USB.

It had been running since Thursday afternoon, and when I hovered my hand over it, it was throwing off very little heat. I did not sit down for a full speaker review since it was more about the Intuition 01, but I was impressed with its ability to drive the speakers and remain relatively cool all while seconding as a DAC. Very ingenious idea and a great space saver!

It is a prototype that will likely come to market later this summer for an MSRP of $7,500.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
Re: AXPONA 2013 Show Report by Joe Alexander of HTS

Also on Saturday morning, I checked out the Herron Audio / VPI Industries room. A couple photos:

The front wall:



A side view of the speaker:



The equipment rack:





The system configuration:

No code has to be inserted here.


The Herron VTPH-2 Vacuum Tube Phono Preamp was created after demand for the original design (VTPH-1) was so high - it is based on the original design with some refinements and has some additional features and performance enhancements. It has two operating modes - moving coil and moving magnet each of which has separate input connectors. It uses Class A operation with a Toroidal power transformer and has a 15 second mute function during mode change. The appearance is very unassuming with a solid chassis design and only 3 LEDs on the front - it is built to blend into a system.

The Herron speakers (yet to be named) have a standard rectangle design and a nice simple finish - it did not create a "wow!" effect for me, but grew on me with their simple elegance the more I looked at them. They use two woofers, one midrange, and one tweeter and have a same-polarity design meaning they are not wired out of phase. The detail and clarity were fantastic - I was able to discern every instrument in the orchestral track. Also, during that track, I closed my eyes and while listening could point to the exact location where I felt each musician would be sitting in the arrangement - very, very satisfying. Mids and low end did not stand out for me - the mid lacked the punch I crave. All in all, a good speaker, but I felt I could find a better match for my preferences at a lower price point.

Please use the AXPONA 2013 Discussion / Comments thread for questions and comments.
 

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Re: AXPONA 2013 Show Report by Joe Alexander of HTS

Madisound - one of our sponsors here at HTS - was a fun thirty minutes or so for me. Here are a few photos:

Hello Madisound!



One table that was displaying crossovers:



A whole table just loaded up with drivers!:



The two speakers that were built from Madisound kits:



The two speakers that were built were the SEAS A26 kit and the Scan-speak NADA kit - the SEAS A26s are the inside pair. The SEAS A26 uses the SEAS A26RE4 woofer and the T35C001 tweeter and have a design based on the well-known Dynaco A25 loudspeaker which was first introduced in 1969. The MSRP for the SEAS A26 kit is $1177.

I sat down for a listen and noticed right off that these monitors sounded bigger than they were - always a plus in a monitor in my opinion. They also imaged really well - eyes closed or open, you really felt the vocalist was standing in the middle of the speakers. I got up and moved around a bit to check the soundfield and discovered very little degradation off axis - pretty impressive for a monitor. We then got up close and personal with the speaker and took a closer look at how they are built - it looks like a pretty straightforward project which is perfect for the new builder and the end result is a great little monitor.

What made this such a great experience for me was the guys - I could tell they were just thoroughly enjoying themselves and it was really infectious. And, the great news - they are a mere 25 minute drive to the other side of town for me. Plan on seeing me drop in soon guys to start developing my building chops!

The room used no room treatment.
 
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