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AXPONA 2017

Discussion in 'Collector's Corner' started by Rudy, Apr 18, 2017.

  1. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    I will once again be attending AXPONA in Chicago, on Friday and Saturday this coming weekend. Given my reduced schedule, there is much to pack into two days. I will post here as my schedule permits during the show, but will be posting more or less live from the exhibits at Record Collector (@rekkidcollector) • Instagram photos and videos . Once I return, I will drop a few highlights into the thread here.
     
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  2. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    One of the first stops Friday morning was the Music Direct room. This is where Mobile Fidelity demonstrated test pressings for some of their upcoming releases. The system they used for the test pressings was the stack in the middle.

    The blue speakers are by Focal.

    IMG_20170421_120102.jpg
     
  3. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    One of my favorite rooms featured Constellation electronics, which were the best electronics I heard at the show powering Martin Logan speakers (here, the Renaissance ESL 15a model). Two other rooms with the Martin Logans suffered IMHO from bad choices in sources or amplification--the mighty Neolith was on display, but I did not care for the McIntosh monoblocks driving them, as something in the playback chain was making the highs a bit dull and harsh.

    But anyway, the room featured the following. (And excuse the photos...many of the rooms are dimly lit, and all of us struggled to get good photos in some of the rooms.)

    The Renaissance ESL 15a:

    IMG_20170422_103240-01.jpeg

    The Constellation electronics:

    IMG_20170422_103721.jpg

    ...and from Continuum Labs--the Obsidian turntable with the Viper tonearm (on which they were spinning an Analogue Productions 45RPM cut of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition):

    IMG_20170422_104425-01.jpeg
     
  4. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    These are the Martin Logan flagship model, the Neolith. Just don't ask me the price. :D Very disappointing demo, however. Last year, I heard the Renaissance ESL 15a in this same room, and thought they were good. But, I figured the demo music was contributing to some of the sound issues I heard. The Neoliths sounded nearly the same in tonality. What made matters worse in this demo was that the first track I heard when I walked in was "The Great Gate of Kiev" (from Pictures at an Exhibition), and it was blaringly loud, almost painful. Yes, we know they play loud. :rolleyes:

    But the point of this little story is that a different company was running a demo of that Renaissance pair this year (in my post above) and they sounded so much better! So that harshness was something this other demo had going for it which the other didn't.

    The Neolith:

    IMG_20170421_112702-01.jpeg
     
  5. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    Another favorite room had a rig similar to my own (only, newer and a lot more expensive). Electronics are Conrad-Johnson--the ET5 preamp (the large component in the middle, with "37" showing as the volume level) and the new Classic Sixty Two SE power amp, which uses two pairs of the now-popular Tung Sol KT-120 output tubes. On the smaller rack to the right, towards the bottom and showing only its left half, is the brand new Oppo Sonica DAC, which sounded quite good. Speakers are the Vandersteen Treos with the Vandersteen 2W subwoofers.

    IMG_20170422_130336-01.jpeg

    IMG_20170422_130353.jpg
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2017
  6. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    Yes, it's pronounced exactly as you'd think. :D

    IMG_20170422_122601.jpg

    IMG_20170422_122623.jpg
     
  7. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    These reels were getting a workout at the show this year, thanks to Analogue Productions releasing several titles in a limited edition reissue series. AP put together a sampler reel for demos, and many rooms were using them. (A nice touch are the white leaders between the tracks.)

    The deck here is a Technics RS-1500 with the electronics completely bypassed--the tape heads feed into the Doshi tape head amp on the shelf below.

    Thanks to Cardas Audio for the t-shirt, BTW. :wink: (Their interconnects were used in this room.)


    IMG_20170422_120939.jpg

    Speakers were by Joseph Audio:

    IMG_20170422_121020-01.jpeg
     
  8. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    This was one of the most innovative products at the show. DS Audio (Japan) took an older technology developed by Toshiba and refined it into this product--an optical phono cartridge. It still uses a traditional stylus, but rather than having a moving magnet, moving coil or moving iron to create the electrical signal, the innards of this cartridge use a small LED, a photosensor, and a "shutter" of sorts attached to the end of the cantilever which converts the movement of the stylus into a changing beam of light. Due to its low moving mass, it tracked wonderfully--I don't think I heard a cleaner sounding record playback at the show!

    Yes, it is glowing purple. There is a matching outboard preamp this cartridge needs for powering its internal LED light source. They had it running on a Clearaudio Innovation turntable, but I don't recall which arm they were using. (The second arm, in silver to the left, is a Clearaudio.)

    IMG_20170421_142230.jpg
     
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  9. Fancy stuff - but way above my pay grade!
     
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  10. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    @Harry, in the Music Direct room, the setup they had was split into three systems. We listened to the test pressings on the expensive system featured in the center rack, but what they did here was set up three systems at three different price levels. Everything on the left rack, plus the smaller speakers (by Wharfedale), is under $1,000 total. That includes the turntable and cartridge, integrated amp, disc player, and speakers. By today's standards, that is quite affordable for a system that will still sound really good.

    And on the flip side, yes, most things were above our pay grade. Some of the speaker systems alone cost more than our house. :D Yet it is still a great experience to hear all of these systems. And some of us are still debating what we felt was "best" at the show. :wink: Many of us buy our equipment used, so it is nice to "kick tires" on something we may purchase years later.

    The seminar I enjoyed was the Legends of Audio presentation, which featured Dan D'Agostino (founder and designer of Krell), David Wilson (of Wilson Audio), Kevin Hayes (of VAC, aka Valve Amplification Company) and Richard Vandersteen (founder of Vandersteen Loudspeakers).
     
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  11. DeeInKY

    DeeInKY Well-Known Member

    That Obsidian turntable is really something! Question on the Classic Sixty-Two power amp. Were the tubes uncovered for the show, or does it usually operate like that? Love seeing the tubes. Can't afford anything, but I like seeing the new equipment.
     
  12. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    The C-J tube amps do come with "cages." This is the Classic Sixty Two:

    upload_2017-4-25_23-51-37.png

    It is common for some owners to run them with the cages off, mostly so the tubes are on display, but some partly do it to make the tubes run slightly cooler. On most (if not all) tube amps, the case is finished so that it looks complete with our without the cages or covers on them. The C-J amps have the top plate finished in the same gold color as the faceplate. The cages also need to be off when setting the bias on the tubes--with C-J's amps, there is an LED next to each power output tube (the big ones--KT-120s in these), and you adjust the bias until the LED just illuminates, then back it off slightly until it extinguishes. (Individual biasing means you do not need to order matched tubes.)

    Conrad-Johnson Classic 62 | Classic 120 - conrad-johnson
     
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  13. Bobberman

    Bobberman Well-Known Member

    Very nice stuff thanks for sharing Rudy Just because it's way above our pay grades doesn't mean we can't at least dream a little just for the fun of it
     
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  14. DeeInKY

    DeeInKY Well-Known Member

    The cages are a nice finished look. You can still see the tubes and they have ventilation. (Reminds me of looking through the grill of our old table radio to see the tubes -
    Yeah, I know, get a life. :D)
     
  15. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    That's what makes attending these shows a lot of fun. You get to see and hear equipment and trends you've read about. Even more fun is going with friends that have similar interests, visiting rooms together, speaking with the manufacturers reps or even the designers or owners, talking about it all afterward...or (as I found out last Saturday) hanging out in the hotel lounge with some local pals, alongside the high-end audio reps, manufacturers, retail owners and press members is a blast. (A pal and I left after 1am, and the place was still hopping!) While I missed out on it this year, there are live performances after dinner, hosted by the show and included in our admission. I need to attend at least one of those next year.

    What is encouraging to see is AXPONA growing and becoming more popular. This year, I found out that the show not only added over 40 more exhibitors, they had to turn away many more. At the Westin O'Hare last year, the show took up floors 1 through 4, the lower level, and the 12th floor; this year, they added floors 5 and 6. Next year, they are moving to the larger Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg IL, about 20 minutes north. (If the Renaissance has free parking, that will be a big plus--with the discount, parking in the Westin lot is $10 per day; without, it's $30/day!)

    It is actually somewhat of a bargain to attend--early 3-day ticket price is only $45.

    On the flip side, the high-end show in Vegas, which runs concurrent with CES, has been dropping in attendance steadily each year. Likewise, it is getting more expensive to exhibit at the RMAF (Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, in Denver), so manufacturers are starting to pull out from that show also.
     
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  16. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    One tube amp I had considered was by Rogue Audio (the Stereo 90, or the Stereo 100)...and the strange thing is, one small reason I had against buying it was that the tubes were not visible. (I know, I know...get a life. :D ) The top of the case is ventilated, as are parts of the sides, but you cannot see the tubes from the front.

    What I don't like are the units that do not come with cages--I feel it could be hazardous.

    Many more rooms than you'd think feature tube amps--they are very popular, actually. And they are very unlike many of the older amps that could sound overly warm, or bloated and slow--the designs over the past 20 or so years rival the accuracy of solid state amps, but still have a very inviting quality that makes you want to listen at length. Companies such as Conrad-Johnson, Audio Research, VAC (Valve Amplification Company), VTL (Vacuum Tube Logic), Manley Labs (who also makes tubed studio gear), Rogue Audio, Primaluna, and a handful of others are actually thriving.
     
  17. DeeInKY

    DeeInKY Well-Known Member

    Besides, new electronics smell good. (Spoken like a true geek.)

    Yeah, the cover is good - keeps stuff from falling into the tubes and keeps visiting kid fingers out.
     
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  18. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    For now I use a power amp on the large bottom shelf of the rack. But if I end up using monoblocks down the road, I might have each one on its own amp stand near the speakers. If that were the case, I definitely would worry about anything falling on it. A dented cage could be fixed. Busted tubes would cost a few bucks to replace. (KT-120s are about $50 a pop, and with some amps out there, it's recommended to purchase matched pairs.) And of course, anything flammable need not fall on hot tubes either.
     
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  19. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    Here is something else that was innovative.

    Pictured here are the SweetVinyl company's product, the SugarCube SC-1 (top) and SC-2 (bottom).

    IMG_20170421_180340-01.jpeg

    If you can read the front panels, then you've read it correctly--these units can remove the clicks and pops from vinyl. Most editing software out there leaves behind artifacts, even the pro-level filters to some extent. The folks at SweetVinyl have written an algorithm that uses something like a list of parameters to determine if the noise on a record is a pop or click, or music. You insert this into a line-level circuit in your system, and it can remove the clicks and pops from vinyl in real time.

    The unit operates completely in the digital domain at 24-bit, 192kHz resolution. In our listening tests, there was virtually no difference between input and output, so this unit leaves almost no sonic signature of its own on the music. Once you enable the noise reduction, it is amazing to hear how well this works. There is also an "invert" function where you can monitor the noise that the unit is removing.

    The SC-1 (top) adds noise reduction during playback.

    The real gem of a product is the SC-2. It adds a recording feature--you can save the digital files either to a USB drive connected to the front panel, or a network drive anywhere on your network. Not only that, the unit will split your needle drop into individual tracks, and it will also receive metadata online (album and artist names, track names and numbering, and cover art), and insert that into each individual file. In essence, you play your record, the SC-2 recognizes the album, then records the music with the noise removed (optional of course) and the files split and tagged, ready for use.

    Both units are made to be connected to the Internet, through which they will receive all firmware updates automatically. Your unit will always be up to date with the latest code.

    The SC-2 is not inexpensive, but there is a steep discount on it at Indiegogo. If you purchase one now, the cost is $1,750, with a $600 deposit. When it leaves the early adopter status, the cost will be $2,500. A buddy of mine put his deposit on one earlier this week. I can't tell you how tempting it is to sell a kidney or two, and get one for myself. :D I do play some of my needle drops in the car at high-res, and this would save a lot of time for me.

    Welcome to Sugar Cube
     
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