Notes from AXPONA 2019

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
1,301
177
63
Far Hills, NJ
#1
Although I used to be a regular at Audio shows, I haven’t been to CES or RMAF for a few years, so I was looking forward to attending AXPONA. To begin, the venue was a good one. There was a nice crowd, but it wasn’t unendurable. You could easily get in to hear and see most of the exhibits without feeling stressed. There was an initial impression that the world of aging audiophiles seems to be marching on. There were few and far between young people to be seen. In fact, I was reminiscing about the “good ol’ days” at CES with Harry Weisfeld whose spot-on observation was that he was now running into people who just had their 2nd and 3rd cardiac bypass! He was spot on. Even though this sign was promptly posted, I didn’t see a whole lot of folks use the stairs! If you saw the crowd, you'd know why.

sign.jpeg

So, what was noteworthy? Let’s start at the top of the food chain. There were a number of impressive sonic treats but the one that captured my attention was the Gryphon room. Philip O’Hanlon, who is never short of spectacular music to play, had the new Trident II speakers singing with all Gryphon electronics. It was also the debut of the new Gryphon Ethos CD player/DAC which was perhaps Flemming Rasmussen’s last designed product. The sound of the system was so musical, natural and right that it would be a waste of time to try and guess if one was listening to Tube or SS, analog or digital. It was just damn fine music reproduction (although it was SS and digital to be clear). It’s always hard to listen to a completely new system and try to dissect why it sounds the way it does. But in this case, I think there’s a not so secret element here, and it had to do with the use of silver connectors and wires throughout the system. (No rhodium here!)

But the highlight of the Gryphon room occurred after hours when some live music was performed by two extraordinary Russian artists; a guitarist and an instrument that was a Russian variant of the mandolin. (From what I’m told the mandolin player is the best on this instrument on the entire planet, and let’s just say that this guy took no back seat to Eric Clapton. They were both extraordinary musicians.) I hope that Philip will reveal more if he wishes. What knocked me out was that the guitarist was the wife of Seguei Timachev, the head designer at Stealth Audio. I’ve been communicating with Serguei about some various cables and connectors for almost a year and was surprised to meet him unexpectedly at this event. For no other reason, that was a highlight for me.

The next best things I heard at the show included the Tonda loudspeaker made by a company called Vimburg. This is a lower price point product from the German company Tidal. The product is made in the Tidal factory using a slighter lower range of Accuton drivers, a wood rather than composite cabinet and uses high quality crossovers with first rate construction. It is a musical knock-out; warm, musical, engaging, and emotionally fulfilling. They just sounded, wonderful and hit many of the right notes. This is a speaker I would consider owning if I was in the market for a speaker at the 36K price point. It was genuinely a treat to listen to these. I ran into Mike Lavigne at that demo who was also smiling so I’d love to learn his thoughts as well. I knew nothing about Vimburg before I heard them, but then did some homework on their web site. Much to my surprise I found out that Jeff Fritz, who recently moved to a new room and is in the process of downgrading his mega-expensive system, just ordered these for himself and they are apparently due to arrive around June. Seems Jeff knows a good thing when he hears it. Since they are not yet represented well in the US, if you want a pair, feel free to contact Doug White at The Voice That Is! in Philly who is the US distributor for TIdal.

vimberg.png

Equally impressive was the sound of the Goebel Divin Loudspeaker in Elliot’s Goldman’s room. This 3-way bass reflex design of 95dB efficiency was being driven to ear-splitting levels with only 20 watts showing in the CH amp display. Powerful, and articulate bass with a classic ribbon top end. Very good sound, and not just for an audio show! But at 200K+, it darn well should have sounded very good.

The next best thing I heard was a rather unassuming demo using YG Hailey 2.2 speakers, a relatively unknown German amp called Linnenberg, playing the famous Dafos LP on the Bergmann Galder table with the Odin arm (w Air Tight) in a small 10 x 12 room helmed by Alex from Alma music. The bass was just- holy mother of god- I can’t believe what I just heard. Beyond deep yet unbelievably tight. Johnny Bergmann was in the room also and I swear he passed out as well since everyone knows a straight arm isn’t supposed to do great bass. Heh, heh, heh. Ron, you’re going to be one happy camper once you set up the Odin in your system!

Bergmann.jpeg

Next up- some odds and ends. Perhaps the best “sound” I heard (as opposed to best system- there’s a difference) was from a $1 LP Michael Fremer played on the humongous Von Schwikert Ultra 11/VAC system of Duke Ellington’s “Mood indigo”. IN MONO! Yup, you heard that right. That was the best midrange of the show. Great system, Great LP. And by the way, the Ultra 9’s playing next door were no slouch either, but why listen to a half million-dollar rig when you can listen to a million-dollar rig?

Another surprise was in store for me at the VTL room. There was no traffic when I visited and a noticed that Bea’s system (the newly upgraded VTL 6.5 phono stage was featured) using the Nordost QKore grounding system. Bea’s always been very straight and brutally honest with me about what she thinks sounds good (and as everyone knows she has some of the best ears in the business) so I asked “hey, does this stuff really work?” She asked me if I wanted to take it out and put it back in to hear the difference. You already know the answer (so did she!). We played the great DGG recording of Beethoven’s First piano Concerto recorded live with Giulini and the Vienna Phil featuring Arturo Benedetti Michelangelo. We took out the Nordost components and put them back in several times. The difference was impressive and rather easily heard. Better spatial presentation, darker background, deeper bass. I know that others have said the same, but this was the first time I was able to do a good A/B/A on a good system, so it was a new experience for me. I can’t say for certain that it was a matter of all benefit and no liabilities since it may take some extended listening to make that call. But I’m certainly intrigued.

Another product that caught my attention was a shocker. It was the legacy “V” loudspeaker, which just knocked me out in one regard, which was the bass. Yes, it was a fully DSP’d system and therefore couldn’t be audiophile worthy, right? Not true. But yet the overall bass performance was powerful, clean, articulate, extended and perhaps the most complete bass sound at the show. I can’t say the same for the midrange and top end, but as far as bass, it was damn impressive and outperformed virtually every other mega system I could find. One might think that displays such as the Magico M6 with their dual monster subs would do a better job. But it was no contest. There is definitely something to be said for a speaker that does the full bass range without external subs since as many audiophiles know, dialing in external subs is an exercise in patience, frustration, and more patience that often has an unsatisfactory (or at least a compromised) outcome except for bragging rights for the ridiculous amount for money spent. What the Legacy V showed me was the promise of future of high end speakers that are starting to incorporate DSP for bass reproduction in what might be an otherwise non-DSP’d loudspeaker. (To be clear, the Legacy "V" is fully DSP'd. I'm just sayin'...)

Now for a change of pace, let’s talk about the most disappointing room at the show. I went into the Synergistic Research Room where I stumbled into a demo where Ted Denney tried to convince a room full of people that four of his system enhancement devices were ones that you could not live without. He played mainly Kraftwerk and some classical and before he had the opportunity to ask people what they thought, proceeded to tell everybody how the additional gear enhancements unquestionably made the soundstage truly three dimensional and spectacular. “You can all hear that, right”? Uh, no Ted, not really. In fact, what I heard was just the opposite. When he added the Tranquility bass circuits, the Atmosphere device, the Power Cell 12 SE active ground and some other thing I didn’t catch, the sound deteriorated noticeably. There was a degradation in the purity of each instrument such that say, a piano, no longer sounded like a piano (or at least as I know a piano to sound) In return you added either some psycho acoustic resonance, or phase shift or something I can’t adequately describe, that made everything sound somewhat slightly more distorted and stretched, almost like an anamorphic projector. The word that came to mind was “cinemascope” but as it may pertain to sound field. It was certainly different but as Steve always says, when something sounds different, the key question to ask is whether it is different or better? In this case, I was decidedly not better, at least in my book. Why anyone one would go to considerable length to buy great amplification gear to reproduce sound through good speakers and then screw it up with post-processing crapola, is beyond me. Perhaps if you are susceptible to having Ted Denny yell in your ear and jump up and down as he tells you how great his gear is, you’ll like what his stuff does. But make no mistake, this is nothing more than a parlor trick. If you want to reproduce music faithfully, I would stay the hell away. Far away.
 
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marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
1,301
177
63
Far Hills, NJ
#2
Part 2

Here’s what possibly might be the best new wire/cable product coming down the road shortly. Furutech has finally done it. They are introducing a line of NCF AC plugs and IEC receptacles that are, wait for it….silver plated!! It was interesting talking to the Furutech guys. Everyone knows my love of rhodium knows no bounds (a little sarcasm never hurts), but what blew me away was the acknowledgement that Furutech went down the rhodium trail first over silver because they were responding to the marketplace and not because it was the preferred sonic material. I got the distinct impression that they now see a shift and increasing demand for silver plated connectors and feel it may be the superior plated material for AC plugs. Although they were not yet ready to announce that silver XLR’s are on the drawing board quite yet, you can sense that they’re coming. I also asked them why they do not make graphite covers for dual-gang receptacles. The answer, not surprisingly, is that their main market is in Japan, and no home there has dual gang (quad) receptacles. Makes sense. I asked if they would consider making them for the American market. Let’s put it this way, I’m not holding my breath.

Furutech silver.jpeg

The most affordable product that caught my eye was made by a small company called Vanatoo. It was a small wireless powered speaker system that comes in two models; $399 and $599 respectively. The technology that they each have is too long to mention so I’ll invite you to look up the details on their web site. https://vanatoo.com/ The connectivity is nearly limitless and the sound was pretty darned nice, particularly the top end, which usually has me running from the room for products like this. How they make money is beyond me, but it looks and sounds like a heck of a product.

That's a wrap for now. I look forward to hearing other reports from the show.
Marty
 
Apr 20, 2018
44
10
8
OKC,USA
#4
dialing in external subs is an exercise in patience, frustration, and more patience that often has an unsatisfactory (or at least a compromised) outcome except for bragging rights for the ridiculous amount for money spent.
Excellent and informative summary on AXPONA - Thanks.
As I am leaning to adding subs your above quote put me 'back on the fence'.
Do you run subs and are satisfied with that move if done?
NOT TO DETRACT FROM POST AXPONA.
Again, thanks
 

KeithR

VIP/Donor
May 7, 2010
3,529
405
83
Marina del Rey, CA
#5
"post-processing crapola" - hahaha. I love that phrase, Marty (and fully agree on the rigged SR demos)

Glad you had a good trip - heard the weather frustrated some people getting out of Ohare
 

Bruce B

WBF Founding Member, Pro Audio Production Member
Apr 26, 2010
6,732
122
63
Seattle, WA
www.pugetsoundstudios.com
#6
Now for a change of pace, let’s talk about the most disappointing room at the show. I went into the Synergistic Research Room where I stumbled into a demo where Ted Denney tried to convince a room full of people that four of his system enhancement devices were ones that you could not live without. He played mainly Kraftwerk and some classical and before he had the opportunity to ask people what they thought, proceeded to tell everybody how the additional gear enhancements unquestionably made the soundstage truly three dimensional and spectacular. “You can all hear that, right”? Uh, no Ted, not really. In fact, what I heard was just the opposite. When he added the Tranquility bass circuits, the Atmosphere device, the Power Cell 12 SE active ground and some other thing I didn’t catch, the sound deteriorated noticeably. There was a degradation in the purity of each instrument such that say, a piano, no longer sounded like a piano (or at least as I know a piano to sound) In return you added either some psycho acoustic resonance, or phase shift or something I can’t adequately describe, that made everything sound somewhat slightly more distorted and stretched, almost like an anamorphic projector. The word that came to mind was “cinemascope” but as it may pertain to sound field. It was certainly different but as Steve always says, when something sounds different, the key question to ask is whether it is different or better? In this case, I was decidedly not better, at least in my book. Why anyone one would go to considerable length to buy great amplification gear to reproduce sound through good speakers and then screw it up with post-processing crapola, is beyond me. Perhaps if you are susceptible to having Ted Denny yell in your ear and jump up and down as he tells you how great his gear is, you’ll like what his stuff does. But make no mistake, this is nothing more than a parlor trick. If you want to reproduce music faithfully, I would stay the hell away. Far away.

This was probably the biggest disappointment for me as well.... not for the travelling circus, but for Greg Beron's after hours tape session. The mood was good on Friday night and all had a great time. The room was extremely small and only held maybe a dozen chairs. Far from the mbl rooms of past where there was standing room only and about 50 or so in attendance. Later when Ted came in and started moving around "dots", the wet blanket on the party ended!
Saturday night, Ted was also in attendance and throughout most of the session, there was only a trickling of folks rambling in. they must have gotten word that this was not the place to be. Hopefully for the next show/s, Greg will pair up with someone who will just let us listen to the music and get lost on the moment......
 
May 30, 2010
15,090
480
83
Portugal
#7
Always great to read your impressions, Marty. But you should be very careful with the "intrigue" device - I was also intrigued and now have the Qkore6 boxes and a forest of horrible green wires in my system ... :)
 

Bodhi

Active Member
Apr 20, 2014
694
200
43
Melbourne, Australia
#8
Magico S5 Mk2's with Classe's new Delta series amps at Axpona, 2019. My friend David heard the M2's with CH before walking into this room & simply said "muuuuuch better".

56691265_10161289365050467_8363651731749339136_n.jpg
 

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
1,301
177
63
Far Hills, NJ
#9
Excellent and informative summary on AXPONA - Thanks.
As I am leaning to adding subs your above quote put me 'back on the fence'.
Do you run subs and are satisfied with that move if done?
NOT TO DETRACT FROM POST AXPONA.
Again, thanks
Dbeau
Yes, I use JL Audio Gotham subs with Wilson Alexandria's. But the set-up if any subs is challenging no matter what the system. There are many threads on this on the forum that are full of useful information. One can almost always get good performance if adjusted carefully and prudently. But there are generally always trade-offs. Just don't let that frighten you. Good luck.
Marty
 

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
1,301
177
63
Far Hills, NJ
#10
Always great to read your impressions, Marty. But you should be very careful with the "intrigue" device - I was also intrigued and now have the Qkore6 boxes and a forest of horrible green wires in my system ... :)
Not sure if the forest of green cables is a good thing or a bad thing? Are you saying you like the QKore stuff?
 

asiufy

Member Sponsor
Jul 8, 2011
3,157
247
63
San Diego, CA
almaaudio.com
#11
Marty,

Thanks a lot for the kind words.
I can say that I was pleased with the sound we got out of our setup, particularly on analog.
In another forum, I read a comment that a guy heard Led Zeppelin being blasted in one of the large rooms, and then another guy said "I wanna see them do this in a small hotel room"... Well, we not only did Zeppelin, we did Sabbath, Pink Floyd, and why not, "Dafos" :)
After a Sabbath track, a gentlemen, very frustrated, told me that he's bought that album when it came out, back in 70-something, and still has it, and he's never heard it sound that good! And I was playing a run-of-the-mill reissue...
Johnnie Bergmann was also quite impressed with the speakers/setup, and he's now working on getting a pair of Hailey 2.2 for his system :)
For a first year/first try at Axpona, as I said, i was pretty happy with the results overall.


cheers,
Alex
 

Folsom

VIP/Donor
Oct 26, 2015
3,376
227
63
Eastern WA
#12
I feel like I am waiting on a report from someone with more similar appreciations as my own. What’s interesting here is how polar it is from say NewRecordDay’s coverage and others I’ve seen starting to pop up.

Nice to see YG using a TT. I need to figure out how to narrow down an LP I could bring to shows... Digital is easy, USB thumb drive maybe a couple CD’s, not hard to carry.
 
May 30, 2010
15,090
480
83
Portugal
#13
Not sure if the forest of green cables is a good thing or a bad thing? Are you saying you like the QKore stuff?
Currently every time I take them out of the system (a one minute affair) I almost immediately miss the extra bass definition and decrease of grain that they bring to my system. So now I have two Qkore6's - the Vivaldi stack takes four ground wires ... I have tried copper wire, braided wire, silver and thick copper ground bars before but they did not bring anything similar to the system.

a1.jpg
 

dminches

Active Member
Oct 22, 2011
801
69
28
#14
Instead of bringing LPs I make a 7” 2 track 15 ips mix reel every year and it gets played in just about every room that has a tape deck. There aren’t many but this year it sounded great where there were decks including the Nagra room and the Joseph Audio room.
 

Bruce B

WBF Founding Member, Pro Audio Production Member
Apr 26, 2010
6,732
122
63
Seattle, WA
www.pugetsoundstudios.com
#15
Instead of bringing LPs I make a 7” 2 track 15 ips mix reel every year and it gets played in just about every room that has a tape deck. There aren’t many but this year it sounded great where there were decks including the Nagra room and the Joseph Audio room.
I don't think I saw but maybe 4 or 5 decks this year?

Synergistic Research room
Jeff Joseph's room
Nagra room
Jonathan T's room

there was one in the open room downstairs with headphones... were there any more?
 
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dminches

Active Member
Oct 22, 2011
801
69
28
#16
I don't think I saw but maybe 4 or 5 decks this year?

Synergistic Research room
Jeff Joseph's room
Nagra room
Jonathan T's room

there was one in the open room downstairs with headphones... were there any more?
There was a Technics RS-1500 with a King Cello tape pre in one room. I can’t remember the other equipment but he was playing a Stravinsky reel.
 
May 25, 2010
510
13
18
Jersey Shore- waterside
#17
I very much respect Marty's ears and knowledge and had similar assessments, especially with the Bergmann, which has always peeked my interest because I love straight arms. However, where Marty and I disagree a bit is the sound of VSA Ultra 11's and Ultra 9's driven by VAC, connected and powered by MasterBuilt and sourced by Tech DAS and Esoteric. I am thrilled that he is liking the sound, but it takes a while for the sound to settle in with periods of blot until adjusted out with the suite of controls on the back. The sound fluctuated with time and especially after someone repeatedly played with the VTA of the Graham arms on both systems. But for me the sound on the 11's on Saturday night was the best of show, with the 9's just behind and in some ways ahead of the 11's. Unfortunately,, Marty could not make that because I think I know his preferences and then he could have heard more of their potential.

On Saturday night Greg Weaver spun some disks for VSA in the Ultra 11 room just after the Leif reset the VTA for probably at least the 5th time, not because there was something wrong with the arm or cartridge, but because someone kept changing it verified by pictures. The listening session lasted 6 hours (No typo) because people wanted more, including me. Greg played a number of different types of music on many different labels, ,but several MoFi new Ultradisc 45 RPM that were nothing short of amazing. Never heard MoFiAbraxis, ELP, Dire Straits,,, Steve Ray Vaughn sound so good, not to mention 45 RPM David Bowie Cat People sound so good.

BTW Mike Fremer's listening sessions on the VSA Ultra 11's were amazing as well as Marty described. I even heard Fremer say "it just keeps getting better-referring to the VSA/VAC/TechDas/Esoteric/The Audio Company. Fremer clearly demonstrated the differences of every recording engineer, label and artist he played, even with $1 copies from the grab box.
 
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Vienna

Active Member
Oct 14, 2018
113
45
28
43
Athens Greece
#18
Nice reports thank you
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
6,359
824
113
Beverly Hills, CA
#19
Thank you, Marty, for this wonderful report! You made me feel like I was accompanying you to the exhibits!

And I am glad you liked the Opus 1 on the Odin!
 

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