AXPONA 2018

Discussion in 'Collector's & Listener's Corner' started by Rudy, Apr 3, 2018.

  1. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    It's that time of year. In less than two weeks I'll be en route to Schaumburg IL for the Audio Expo North America (AXPONA). Due to the growth in exhibitors, they have moved the expo to the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. In addition to seminars, they have added "master classes" to display a few new products, plus there are live music events Friday and Saturday night. I'll post a few highlights each day, time permitting.
     
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  2. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    Busy, jam-packed weekend. I'll have photos and a few notes of the unusual and interesting things I saw at the show coming up shortly. It will be less technical than what I am posting elsewhere, but feel free to ask if you'd like more details.
     
  3. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    AXPONA moved to the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center this year since the board had to turn away exhibitors last year due to a lack of available rooms. This year's show grew substantially, and one of the audiophile press I briefly talked to mentioned how he really had to push himself to cover everything in the three day time span. Friday's guest attendance was the best ever. Saturday was even busier, but Sunday was a bit light at times--the terrible weather could have had a lot to do with it.

    I'll give a rundown on how these are set up, to provide some context. During a typical audio show, much of a hotel is taken over by the show. On selected floors, every other room is occupied by a manufacturer, distributor or dealer with a specific system set up. They try to stagger the rooms so that there is not much interference from room to room. At the Ren, floors 3 - 7, plus 15 and 16, were occupied by the show. On floors 1 and 2, the various ballrooms and meeting rooms were used for larger exhibitors. The large hall space was occupied by a marketplace, where recordings (LPs, SACD, CDs, etc.) were sold, along with all sort of accessories, anything from cables to record cleaning machines. One of the ballrooms becomes a presentation room, as there are various seminars given throughout the day. Evenings feature live music.

    The lobby on the 2nd floor:
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  4. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    Here are a couple of interesting rooms we visited. This room featured Von Schweikert speakers and VAC (Valve Amplification Company) amplifiers. These are definitely something you would need a larger room for.

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    For scale, here is a photo of the rear of the speaker--there are dual 15" drivers top and bottom, and a set of tweeters/super tweeters facing rearward. Yes, it is taller than yours truly. :wink:

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    Impressive electronics driving it also, including a Kronos turntable rig and a reel deck:
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  5. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    The Joseph Audio room was sounding nice also--those are the Joseph Audio Pearl speakers, a Jeff Rowland integrated amp (the big shiny component on top of the rack, which puts out 1500w/ch in class D), a Mara Machines tape deck feeding an outboard head amp (in the rack), and Cardas Audio cables. (Thanks to my friends at Cardas for the swag. :wink: ) Popular in the room is the Acoustic Sounds demo reel, a compilation reel of their reel releases.

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    Sadly, I could not get in to see Andrew Jones this time, as ELAC was debuting the new Debut 2.0 series speakers, a fantastic-sounding budget line. I did visit ELAC's other room next door, which featured their Adante speakers and Miracord turntable, as well as a digital source and monoblock amplifiers.

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  6. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    Another favorite room, as it was last year, was featuring the Martin Logan Renaissance 15a electrostatic speakers (more on them below :wink: ), Constellation electronics (digital source, preamp and amplification), and the incredible sounding Obsidian turntable and Viper arm from Continuum Labs. The room was a bit small for the 15a, however--that is one downfall to exhibiting in some of these shows.

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  7. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

    US
    The Village Tavern--the "Chicago 3" and I paid a visit. They're known for their chicken fingers. After this, I had my allowance of fried food for the next month. :laugh: (I had the fried shrimp, BTW.)

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  8. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    Out in the lobby, distributor Musical Surroundings was displaying the line of Clearaudio turntables. Clearaudio has been known for the top notch quality of their very high end offerings, yet they have a "budget" line (relatively speaking). The sweet spot in the line for me is the Performance DC (top photo), but with the tangentially tracking TT5 arm (pictured in the second photo mounted to an Innovation Basic turntable):

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  9. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    Sonist Audio always brings a good sound to the show. Here's one of their models, being driven by VAC amplification:

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    Check out what they were using as equipment stands:

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  10. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    Rogers electronics driving Burwell & Sons horn speakers. The first of my "horn" posts... :wink:

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  11. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    Yep...got horns!

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  12. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    Volti also uses horns, but this particular model uses a direct-radiating woofer.

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  13. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    Now...some horns!! :D Avantgarde Acoustic offers these as their largest system. Yes, they are also quite tall.

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    Those are large bass horns stacked in the middle. They usually demo these with three bass horns per side vs. two. @zloch1 provides some scale in this photo:

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    If those are a little too dominating for the room, Avantgarde offers a smaller model with a powered subwoofer built in:

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    Electronics in this room by Transparent Audio.
     
  14. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    Spotted in the Sonist Audio room:

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    :laugh:
     
  15. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    My good friends at PS Audio (Boulder, CO) made their first full-fledged appearance at AXPONA this year. I spent a moment with co-founder Paul McGowan, and Paul's son Scott who developed the now-updated PS Audio Sprout 100 integrated amplifier. ($599 gets you 100w/ch, full inputs including a phono stage, Bluetooth, remote control via phone app, and DSP...all in the size of a hardcover book.) Kudos to the rest of the staff for the hospitality. :thumbsup:

    They were giving a demo of the Stellar Stack this year. Stellar Gain Cell DAC on top, mono block amplifiers beneath, and the bottom features one of their Power Plant AC line regenerators. (And naturally, PS Audio power cords, like yours truly uses.)

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    I neglected to get a photo of the free beer. :D
     
  16. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    HHR Exotic Speakers might look familiar--if anyone remembers Ohm speakers from the 70s and 80s that used the Walsh inverted cone driver, these are a modern version of the same. The driver fires downward into the cabinet for the bass, but the mids and highs come from the metallic top of the cone which radiates at 360°.

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    For something even more exotic, here are the MBL 101 E MK II loudspeakers. Note: this is not a flux capacitor.

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  17. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    The product that captivated me the most was the new speaker system from Eikon Audio. The founder Gayle Sanders had sold off his Martin Logan company a while ago. That company continues to advance the state of the art in electrostatic speaker technology. When Sanders wanted to get back into the audio business, he wanted to do it with a new product. Since digital technology has advanced sufficiently, he was able to create something new.

    The Eikons are driven by a control unit that works as a preamp, a crossover, a DSP (digital signal processing unit), and DAC. Each speaker is fed by four balanced analog lines from the control unit; each driver in the cabinet is then driven by its own Class D amplifier. Doing the crossover duties in the control unit eliminates some of the distortions that come from the capacitors and inductors in most standard speaker cabinets (such as phase and time delay).

    The Eikon system goes far beyond traditional "room correction" used in some of the home theater systems out there--it has the ability to process various elements in time, such as, a reflection occurring 80ms after it leaves the speaker cabinet, or a bass "mode" that may be bouncing about the room. By being able to control all of the parameters of each driver (including time and phase alignment), the system is capable of a completely unified "wave launch" so that the sound is the purest when it reaches the listeners, and also tunes the system so that it sounds good from many different positions in the room. (For instance, unlike other speakers, you can walk around the room and hear the same, even bass response from just about all places in the room, as opposed to having dips or rises in bass response with traditional speakers.)

    While the technology is miles away from the Martin Logan electrostatics, the concept is remarkably similar--the electrostatic panels use no crossover in the critical midrange and highs, and emit sound similarly from a single source. As a compliment, I told Sanders that this is one of the few non-electrostatic speakers I liked.

    Here is one of the speakers. Rather disarming and low key in appearance, considering all the technology it uses:

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    The control unit (sorry--the room was quite dim):
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    The rear, with four balanced XLR inputs, and the rear-mounted subwoofer driver:

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    I have to admit that what really drew me into the room was the bass. :D I opened the door and got a powerful wave of it. I had recognized Sanders from Martin Logan, so it was a must-visit anyway. The rest did not disappoint!

    Didn't have the heart to tell him his Lamborghini was double-parked in the marketplace. :laugh:

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  18. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    Yes, I am. Or was. :laugh: (Thanks for telling me, Springhill Suites. :wink: )

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  19. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    Finally, "stuff." The marketplace had a lot this year. The hall was enormous, far larger than at the Westin O'Hare last year. Records, SACDs and CDs, accessories, headphones, turntables, record labels, even the men in white coats selling an ultrasonic record cleaner.

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  20. DeeInKY

    DeeInKY Well-Known Member

    That ELAC turntable is killer! And if I may ask, what the heck is a "supertweeter?"

    I always wonder why there are so few women at these events. I love audio equipment, just like I love computers, and cars. Maybe there's something wrong with me.:hmmm: I was always the kid who sat next to the stereo to watch the record go around, bugged dad and my brother to tell me what they were doing when they were working on cars, loved to go with dad to buy a car, loved programming since I could tell the computer what to do and it would follow my instructions, and looked into the tube radio to watch the tubes glow. Oh, well.
     
  21. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    That's how a person ends up in I.T. :wink: I got hooked on the electronics largely because my grandfather used to build the Heathkit kits...the large ones, like the stereo receiver he built in the 70s, and numerous other things.

    You're right though--there are very few women at the audio shows. If I had to go on ratios, though, I would say the ratio of women to men is wider apart in the attendees than it is for the dealers, distributors and manufacturers who exhibit. There are a few who run or own audio companies, though. George Cardas's daughter Angela Cardas now runs Cardas Cables. EveAnne Manley owns Manley Labs. There are others I am forgetting also.

    I will say that compared to record shows, at least audiophile show attendees bathe, use deodorant, and wear clean shirts. :laugh:
     
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  22. Looking at the pictures, I think all of these guys could be my neighbors - and I live in a 55+ community.
     
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  23. Murray

    Murray Well-Known Member

    Oh crap, I qualify to live in Harry's community! Now I feel really old! :D

    Seriously, what does this say about the future of the high-end audio industry?
     
  24. Murray

    Murray Well-Known Member

    ^^^^
    Hmm, I didn't word that question very well... if the average age of the attendees at that trade show is any indication, it can't bode well for the future of the audio equipment manufacturers. Were younger people not there in numbers, because they can't afford the equipment, or is it that they just aren't interested anymore? I remember going to a couple of shows back when I was in my twenties - I certainly couldn't afford to spend much, but I was interested in all the cool technology, and it gave me something to aspire to.

    I however, don't aspire to own those huge horn speakers. I'm sure they sound awesome, but if I put them in my house, the neighbours would be on my lawn with torches and pitchforks! :laugh:
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2018
  25. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin Thread Starter

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    The plus side? You couldn't hear them on your lawn. :D Horn speakers are very efficient. Or to put it another way, one watt will drive them to uncomfortably loud levels. It doesn't take much to give the neighbors a good blast. :laugh:

    Funny, my Chicago gang I hang with...one is probably my age, the others are at least a decade younger. A couple of our audio club pals are also younger (including one who exhibited at the show--Creative Sound Solutions). The manufacturers, dealers and reps all had younger folks working for them. Where you would find many younger attendees was in the headphone exhibits. Granted, some aren't there to spend $1,000+ on headphones and $800 DAC/amps to drive them with, but a lot of the younger buyers gravitate towards personal listening, and the displays with headphones (like the Woo Audio room) were very popular. They also lean towards powered speakers, but anything powered here is far beyond what they are looking for (quality-wise). I don't see them dumping $17k on a pair of Kii powered speakers, for instance.

    For the rest, though, you're right--many of the attendees skew older. It's been an ongoing discussion about the high end audio world in general for the past several years. Some see a bright future--vinyl is still growing and young people are now seriously into it (now that LPs are too mainstream for hipsters, so they moved to cassettes :laugh: ), streaming digital is improving every year, and there are more components each year that feature ease of use, where owners can control parts of the experience with a smartphone or tablet. But the pessimists out there see the systems with the tube amplifiers, larger speakers, multiple source components, etc. as being a dead end that only the older audiophiles could appreciate. Yet there are more of these products out there than ever, so...go figure!

    Truth be told, I cannot afford most of what is on display. (I could buy an entire large house much closer to the lake if I picked up those Von Schweikert speakers at the asking price!) But that is no reason not to go. It is still a great experience to hear these systems. It gives us ideas on what we can improve in our own systems. We can compare our gear at home with others we hang out with, or meet along the way.

    There are often deals to be had at the shows--I found an upgrade for my interconnects in the used cable bins in the Morrow Audio booth in the marketplace. (No way I could afford brand new Cardas interconnects, but I came away with two pairs that I have wanted for a while, which were further marked down 50% from their marked pricing.) There are show specials, and keep in mind that most of these exhibitors are out of town, and there is nothing more they dislike than having to haul that equipment back home with them. Heck, one room even mentioned that he was selling the Oriental rug in the room since he didn't want to carry it home on top of his truck, since the weather was so bad! :D
     
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