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Audio AXPONA 2019 Show Report

Rudy

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So...

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...I am here. Or so says the wall art at the SpringHill Suites in Schaumburg.

I'm heading to the show tomorrow morning, and am spending this evening charging up the Pixel phones for the photography tomorrow (thank goodness for the new Night Sight feature, as it will take way better photos in the dimly lit rooms), as well as going over the floor plan to figure out how to attack this beast. The show has apparently added more rooms over last year (its first year at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center). As a sign of the times, all of the floors, except one, are sponsored by the streaming company Qobuz. (The third floor is sponsored by Schiit Audio...and yes, it is pronounced just as you'd think. :laugh: And I do intend on stopping by to see what new Schiit they have to show us this year.)

I'm writing up three separate show reports, and also trying to post a few things on the @rekkidcollector Instagram account, so my posts may be a bit sporadic. But there will be plenty of sights to share this year, and I may speak with a few fellow industry folks to see what's in store for the year ahead. :)

Stay tuned!
 

Rudy

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This year's show had over 180 rooms to visit, but I found myself returning to those rooms whose systems I favored, vs. trying to check out everything (which is an impossibility). So, some of my favorites from this year are similar to last year's.

One interesting comment though, before I continue. I can tell that I am getting my system to where I would like it, as I found an increasing number of rooms at the show where the sound was not to my liking at all. These are rooms where you walk in, listen for a minute or two, and end up walking out of since there is something about the system that is uncomfortable to listen to. (And tastes vary--some of my pals liked systems that I didn't, and vice versa.)

I have also owned "large" speakers so, given the larger number of smaller bookshelf or stand-mounted speakers this year, I found I could easily bypass some of the rooms. (Although I heard a small pair of Falcon Acoustics speakers that are a reproduction of the BBC's legendary LS3/5A that sounded quite good.)

The Marketplace was hopping as usual, with the usual vinyl vendors present, and retailers with cables and accessories. Morrow Audio, a cable manufacturer, is along the divider wall--I purchased one LP from them (they opened a used record store near their facility), and ordered some cables at their special show price. Acoustic Sounds is in the foreground.

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The Ear Gear Expo was in the adjoining space in the hall, and was similarly busy. And rather quiet since everyone was trying headphone demos. :D

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Among other marketplace vendors of interest was ATR Magnetics, one of the few remaining manufacturers of recording tape.

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Furniture and rack systems are also represented. Here is one that specializes in "butcher block" component and speaker stands:

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(Having said that, IKEA actually sells a nice bamboo veneer butcher block cutting board that I might appropriate and modify for use as amplifier stands. :wink: )
 

Rudy

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One anticipated highlight was seeing PS Audio's new AN3 speakers. PS has been mostly electronics over the past 40 years, but why speakers? Paul McGowan (owner, co-founder) at one point sold the company, and went into business with his friend Arnie Nudell to form Genesis, a speaker company. The late Nudell was known as the founder of Infinity Loudspeakers, which has been around even longer than PS Audio. Prior to his passing, he was working on a prototype for PS Audio to begin a new line of speakers.

The AN3 prototype is the result of their labors, and they brought it to the show. The side panels are removable. A large woofer sits on the side panel, and the front drivers are an air motion tweeter (which operates more like an accordian being squeezed), a planar magnetic midrange, and the all-important midbass coupler, which like the woofer, is driven by an internal 700 watt class D amplifier. How did it sound? Impressive for a prototype! The finished version should sound even better.

Equipment? On the outboard side of each speaker are the BHK monoblock amplifiers (designed by Bascom H. King). The components with the large handles are the P20 Power Plants, which regenerate clean, pure and stable AC power. The middle stack, top to bottom, is the BHK preamp, the DirectStream DAC/streamer, and a P15 Power Plant. Tunes were streamed through the DirectStream from Qobuz.

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Paul has done a series of "Ask Paul" videos on YouTube, and he did a live version answering a couple of brief questions at the show, followed by a presentation explaining the new AN3 speakers and upcoming hardware. The Hawaiian shirt, shorts, sandals and long beard belong to digital guru Ted Smith. :laugh: Excuse the poor audio, but I sat in for this presentation (in the back row).

 

Rudy

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In the Needle Doctor room, I found that cartridge manufacturer Hana had come out with a new model: the MH and ML. (The "M" for a Micro-Line stylus, and H is for high output, L is for low.) This gives them three moving coil models now.

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I always take a wistful walk past the Clearaudio turntables....the Innovation Basic with TT5 arm:

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Now for something cool looking...

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No, your eyes do not deceive...

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...and yes, the platter does float! This is Mag Lev Audio, and while it might seem like a gimmick, the platter is completely driven (and suspended) by magnetics, with no physical motor touching the platter. And yes, it actually does work!
 

Rudy

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Popular at this year's show were the "flash DJ" sessions, where an industry figure would arrive in a room and put on a presentation.

David Solomon, audiophile ambassador of Qobuz, was a lot of fun to listen to--he, like his colleagues, are music lovers first and foremost, and his energy is infectious. One of his sessions was in the Legacy Audio room, playing a wide range of selections to demonstrate the Qobuz platform and show off their music selection.

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One of my local audio pals was totally "gobsmacked" and texted me "Wow" after I pointed him in the direction of this million dollar system presented by The Audio Company (from Marietta, GA), featuring the Von Schweikert Ultra 11 speakers (which I featured last year) and the VAC amplifiers. I've never heard anything so effortless on large-scale music, yet they also played "small" when it was a combo or a single voice. The flash DJ session here was Michael Fremer from Analog Planet, giving us some rarities from his extensive vinyl collection, including some that are test pressings.

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The system from the audience perspective (the speakers are around 7 ft. tall):

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One of Mikey's rarities is a test pressing of an unreleased version of Who's Next, by The Who. It was mastered by Chris Bellman (from Grundman's mastering studio), pressed onto two 45 RPM discs at QRP, and in typical Universal Music fashion, they still have not let Analogue Productions release the title (which was completed well over a year ago). Here it is...

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Rudy

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Once again, one of my favorite rooms featured Martin Logan speakers (the 13a this time), with the Constellation electronics and an Auralic streamer. One of my local pals texted me one word when he visited the room: "Wow". It was one of his favorites as well, and reading an early show report at another site, their reviewer said the same.

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While I didn't visit all the rooms, this was the only room I saw a reel deck in. This was again an excellent room featuring Joseph Audio speakers, with cables by Cardas. The Technics deck is only used as a transport--the tape head feeds the tubed Doshi head amplifier immediately in front of it.

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Eikon Audio also had one of my favorite rooms at the show--their system is now in production and features the speakers (with four integrated class D amplifiers in each one, one for each driver), and a preamplifier with highly advanced DSP to adapt the speaker to the room.

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Rudy

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Western Electric was known decades ago as a supplier to AT&T and the regional Bell telephone companies, along with making developments in audio reproduction, including systems for records (the Westrex cutting head for lathes) and film, along with the development of the legendary 300B vacuum tube. The name now lives on in a high-end audio company, and the company offers a series of components with the familiar logo, many of them based around their new version of the large 300B vacuum tube. Here are some highlights.

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Rudy

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And finally, a mention of a cool product.

The SweetVinyl company makes a product called the SugarCube, which I may have mentioned in the past. It is a digital product that removes clicks and pops in real time. The software is far more advanced than anything you find in common sound editor plugins (even the pricey ones), and the 2.0 version now has the ability to differentiate electronic music (like Kraftwerk, EDM, etc.) from clicks and pops, something which the computer programs struggle with. As it is a "smart" system, you can control it from its front panel or via your smartphone.

They have also added to the line-up. The SC-1 is the playback-only version, which will now come in three variations. The SC-1 Mini gives us the essentials. The SC-1 Mini Phono adds a phono stage with adjustable loading. And an advanced model adds in more input and output options.

The SC-2 takes it up another notch. The SC-2 can record to a USB stick, external hard drive or to any storage on your network. Not only that, it automatically retrieves album information online from its database, and will split the tracks and tag them with the appropriate metadata, so needle drops are nearly effortless.

Top to bottom are the SC-1 Mini, SC-1 Mini Phono, and the SC-2.

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I heard a couple of records played through the SC-1 Phono. A relatively recent classical LP that was clean already played back flawlessly. The real test is a "dustbin" pressing of Steely Dan's Aja. Give a listen to how well it works on "Black Cow." Thankfully it came out clearly audible in my video.


The SC-1 Mini might be in my future.
 

Bobberman

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And finally, a mention of a cool product.

The SweetVinyl company makes a product called the SugarCube, which I may have mentioned in the past. It is a digital product that removes clicks and pops in real time. The software is far more advanced than anything you find in common sound editor plugins (even the pricey ones), and the 2.0 version now has the ability to differentiate electronic music (like Kraftwerk, EDM, etc.) from clicks and pops, something which the computer programs struggle with. As it is a "smart" system, you can control it from its front panel or via your smartphone.

They have also added to the line-up. The SC-1 is the playback-only version, which will now come in three variations. The SC-1 Mini gives us the essentials. The SC-1 Mini Phono adds a phono stage with adjustable loading. And an advanced model adds in more input and output options.

The SC-2 takes it up another notch. The SC-2 can record to a USB stick, external hard drive or to any storage on your network. Not only that, it automatically retrieves album information online from its database, and will split the tracks and tag them with the appropriate metadata, so needle drops are nearly effortless.

Top to bottom are the SC-1 Mini, SC-1 Mini Phono, and the SC-2.

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I heard a couple of records played through the SC-1 Phono. A relatively recent classical LP that was clean already played back flawlessly. The real test is a "dustbin" pressing of Steely Dan's Aja. Give a listen to how well it works on "Black Cow." Thankfully it came out clearly audible in my video.


The SC-1 Mini might be in my future.
All i can say is WOW a device that can make scratchy Lps Sound Great and i was digging on that Steely dan track from my favorite album by them Aja still rocks and I enjoyed seeing all the other goodies you shared especially that Cool turntable that plays off the ground everything here is nothing short of awesome thank you Rudy for always educating and Enlightening us
 
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