The Audio Traveler

Where Epicurus stops to listen, but only after 8.
  1. There’s was pulsating electro music, and a disco ball. Just kidding, I’m at AXPONA in Chicago, there’s Diana Krall, and Tony Bennet. BUT, and this is a big but, there’s a lot of non-traditional music being played to my ears, and that’s incredibly refreshing from a listening standpoint. No disrespect to either Bennet or Krall – who both have LPs I love – but they Are desperately overplayed at audio shows as safe bets for room organizers because that’s what audiophiles are used to hearing, and I guess they’ve become somewhat expected (and somewhat wickedly mocked of late).   My Saturday wanderings through the halls of the Westin O’Hare were wild, and varied with a panel discussion I was a member of thrown in just to make sure I had enough to do. I heard a lot of great systems yesterday, and the hotel was packed to say the least with many a determined audiophile dragging their spouse or loved one behind them with what actually appeared to be smiles on their faces. A first in many respects for me to see, and a very welcoming sight. But to be fair I shouldn’t be surprised because the vibe at AXPONA 2017 [...]
  2. It’s become a tradition at AXPONA for Quintessence Audio and Musical Surroundings to reserve a sizable block of large rooms together on the 12th floor of the Westin O’Hare. Walking through the displays, adorned with gear from some of the best-known names in the high-end business, it’s easy to let my imagination drift. In this waking dream, I’m a hedge fund manager who’s leased the entire top floor of a high-rise and outfitted three of the rooms with separate audio rigs — one for tubes, one for solid-state and another optimized for vinyl. It only takes a glance down at my lowly audio writer badge to rudely slap me back to reality. But, for an hour in Chicago, I still can luxuriate in the sounds coming from the systems assembled by Morton Grove, Ill.-based Quintessence and Musical Surroundings of California. This year, the partners were showing Sonus Faber speakers in two rooms, one pair powered by Audio Research electronics, the other by Pass Labs products. A third room had Dynaudio transducers, powered by a rack of SimAudio Moon gear. Associated components all were first-rate. Which room was best? That would be a tough call, as they all sounded sublime. There [...]
  3.   The first line of almost any story can be improved by making sure the second line is: “And then the murders began.” Mark Laidlaw’s tweet last month pretty much won the Internet for me. And that’s pretty much how I felt walking into Volya Audio‘s demo room here at AXPONA. As if all expectations were suddenly upended. I laughed. I cried. I took photos. I bid on their charity auction (see the website for more information). The NoLimits speakers look, well, like speakers. The drive unit from a subwoofer, actually. The bass coming out of these speakers was prodigious, so naturally, I walked over and laid my bare hand on what seemed like the “surface” of the “drive unit” before I was told that it was “only a cabinet”. Fooled me! Sensitivity is 88dB for a 4Ω array that can produce 25Hz-27kHz of sound. Drive units are all Accuton ceramics. US prices are about $33k/pair. In the hall was a static display of another, very unusual — and wildly colorful — speaker called “Bouquet”. Bouquet brings the diamond midrange and tweeters from Accuton into the all-Accuton drive complement. 86dB, 4Ω, 25Hz-50kHz in a 210kg (each) cabinet. Currency conversion puts these [...]
  4. Some may snicker at the suggestion that what I do for a living is work, but most have never been to a large audiophile trade show, and do not understand the level of physical commitment it requires to be able to cover the sheer number of rooms at an event the size of AXPONA. Remember, there are more than 140 exhibitors spread over 12 floors of the Westin O’Hare, and the elevators while not unusable, are simply impassable during show hours, so it’s the stairwells that one must navigate: friends, wonder no longer how I keep my svelte figure. While I wrote yesterday that I felt the evening before the show launch seemed rather quiet by show standards at AXPONA this year, Friday’s throngs drowned out Thursday’s silence with a deafening rumble. Like a prehistoric herd on an African plain, the audiophiles thundered into the lobby of the Westin O’Hare on Friday morning, and it was every hapless journalist for themselves as I vainly struggled against the surging tide of bodies to get a cup of coffee in the lobby.   Once caffeinated I made my way to the top of the hotel, and proceeded to hit as many rooms on [...]
  5. If high-end audio manufacturers harbor many serious concerns about the state of the industry, you wouldn’t know it from the long list of new products that went on display Friday at AXPONA in Chicago. The annual, three-day Audio Expo North America kicked off with crowded elevators, congested hallways and more than 400 exhibitors seeking to catch the ears of the stereo-minded. Indeed, after a hectic eight hours of AXPONA Day 1, I was exhausted, but also convinced there’s plenty of life left in this hobby. Lou Hinkley of Daedalus Audio, a friendly guy who’s always eager to share his interesting ideas on speaker design, showed me a new model that’s a bit different than his existing line. The Apollo ($14,250) is a full-range floorstander with a sensitivity of 96 decibels. The speaker sports a new 10-inch woofer Hinkley developed and has a cleverly shaped cabinet that minimizes 90-degree angles. Hinkley previously had built 8-inch woofers, but said he’d been thinking about a bigger cone for a while. “In the professional world, 10-inch speakers are popular with guitar players. They have a magic,” Hinkley told me. The speakers were playing on some new ModWright Instruments models. Owner Dan Wright’s new tube [...]
  6. AURALiC has been impressing us all for a very long time. Their VEGA DAC has been on most best-of component lists since it was first released, and even Part-Time Audiophile has lavished some deserved praise on the unit. And here at AXPONA, we get a sneaky-peeky at what’s on the horizon. Say hello to VEGA 2.0. Oh, and to ARIES 2.0, too! These two products (and perhaps two more) will be showcased in Munich next month, and at this point, there really isn’t much to tell. No idea on pricing, final features, or near-term availability. But I can tell you that this is not an upgrade. These are, instead, wholly new products, and built from the ground up leverage new tech and lessons-learned. For now, all we get is a tantalizing glimpse. I hope I’ll be able to add more details this weekend — but if not, we’ll have the scoop as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, enjoy the visuals.Filed under: AXPONA 2017 Tagged: auralic, axpona, dac
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