Who's attending the 2018 Axpona Show audio expo in (suburban)* Chicago?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Shawn, Apr 3, 2018.

  1. recstar24

    recstar24 Forum Resident

    Glen Ellyn, IL
    Came for a few hours both Friday and Saturday and really didn't do too much listening, but was fun to walk around, hang with my buddy, and talk to people. And record shop :)

    Highlights for me were the technics room and talking shop with Geoff Poor (thanks @avanti1960 he's a great dude) about my GR, tips and tweaks (showed me a cool record weight from mofi designed by HRS) and clarified the antiskating value for me and my ortofon 2m blue.

    My favorite speakers were the ATC's that were like 25k lol but I can see why so many mastering engineers like Kevin gray use them. They just sound real and natural. So many of the speakers there are so bright! Would have loved to have heard the harbeths or the JBL L100's in the PS audio room but alas you can't get to everything.

    Finally, loved the emotiva room and talking to the crew. Their home theater thing was cool but loved the T2's in their two channel area. Got a free shirt too!
    mike catucci and avanti1960 like this.
  2. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    Geoff is one of the nicest people in the industry and it was a pleasant surprise to see him there !
  3. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    i've been watching paul mcgowan's channel also. we are such nerds. :)
    Kristofa likes this.
  4. Shawn

    Shawn Forum Resident Thread Starter

    One is sold by a company called Isonic and the other Kirmuss Audio. Both ultrasonic baths appeared to be from the same manufacturer, with the difference between the two 'brands' being how they held the vinyl - the Isonic holds five 12" LPs on a spindle (with covers for the labels), which is connected to a motor that rotates them, the Kirmuss has slots for 12", 10" and 7" and the records rotate on a pair of small wheels. I'd guess both would give similar results but I ended up ordering the Kirmuss as I have quite a number of 7" singles. I spent a good amount of time with speaking with each company and feel confident both offer a solid product. The Isonic was $630 + tax, the Kirmuss $700 and no tax (plus some good freebies). Both brands seemed a bargain, choosing one would just depend on your preference as to how they physically hold the albums.

    I too was very impressed with the Harbeth P3ESRs. I'd be hard-pressed to find something more pleasing to my ears at its price point of $2,890/pr. I quite liked the 30.2s and felt they opened up a bit more than the P3ESRs. I was sitting off-axis though - the Harbeth/Vinnie Rossi room seemed perpetually busy and was hard to get a good seat.

    I find it challenging to make a solid evaluation at these types of shows because while I might go in to a room to listen to, say, a pair of speakers, I'm usually too unfamiliar with the brand(s) in the rest of the system so any advantages/disadvantages could be coming from any component in the chain. Kudos for the Accuphase reps in being extremely welcoming/friendly and taking the time to answer my multiple questions and to play the discs I requested. Same with Bel Canto. I was a little off-put in the Technics room which is especially odd as I mentioned I just purchased the 1200G two weeks ago. The Technics rep didn't seem to care, didn't ask my thoughts / impressions and seemed a bit miffed I bought it from an authorized Technics dealer in WI instead of from the dealer in Illinois (who was in the room, and with whom I had a nice conversation with). And there were no other attendees in the room except myself. Maybe he was just having a bad day. I also spent a good amount of time with Dave from Raven Audio - as always, an absolute pleasure to speak with and to hear their products.

    Some of the listening rooms were small but some were more spacious. There were at least four floor plans for the hotel rooms so it really depended on what size room the vendors sprang for. Plus luck of the draw on walking in to a room that was full/empty. The waits for elevators could be long but that's to be expected at a show of this size.

    I attended several panels and got something out of each of them. The Master Class sessions were a bit odd as they were held in the general convention dealer area so you needed to wear headphones to hear the guest speakers. And as many of those sessions were popular they often ran out of headphones, seats and standing room space (unless you didn't mind getting bumped in to by people heading down the aisles). This needs to be given its own conference room.

    While parking was free, getting a parking spot in the afternoon was tough (lots of driving around searching for a parking spot / waiting). In addition to AXPONA there was another event being held at the hotel - one of those extremely creepy child pageant/dance shows - so I'm guessing that caused the parking issues. The weather certainly wasn't ideal, but no sense blaming Mother Nature.

    The overall vibe was positive, the show was well-organized and I had quite a number of pleasant conversations with vendors as well as fellow attendees. I'll be back next year.
  5. mike catucci

    mike catucci Forum Resident

    How was the bass in the smaller Harbeth P3ESRs? Could you get by without a sub in a small room say 9 x 14?
  6. Shawn

    Shawn Forum Resident Thread Starter

    This is a really tough question as it depends a great deal on personal preference. It if I had limited space and these were within budget I could be happy with them without a sub. When I was in the listening room I asked the rep to play symphonic music through them. He was somewhat taken aback and a bit hesitant saying that genre would sound better through the other two pairs/models, but I mentioned you can really tell the character of a speaker by pushing its limits. He happily obliged. I was surprised how well they handled the music, with only a bit of congestion in the more challenging moments with the full orchestra playing. I didn’t notice bass deficiencies much at all, but keeping this in the frame of reference of bookshelfs.

    When I listened, the music seemed to ‘float’ outside of the speaker cabinet. Pretty amazing for a speaker of this size and it was a very pleasant listen. And again, I was sitting way off axis.
    mike catucci likes this.
  7. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    Bass was very good for this size room- but it takes a very good amp with above average power. vinnie was running his new mono blocks and i'm sure they are at least 100 watts / each.
    mike catucci likes this.
  8. kevinsinnott

    kevinsinnott Forum Coffeeologist

    Chicago, IL USA
    I visited yesterday. I was most impressed with the Elac 2.0. It wasn't subtle. We entered the room and two things immediately jumped out: The bass was full; not too much but deep. I kept looking for a subwoofer, but none was being used. The other was size; the Elac speakers were medium size bookshelf speakers. I was shocked when I was told the entire system I was listening to was priced at under $1,000.

    The second most impressive demo I heard was the Vantoo Transparent Zero; Two tiny loudspeakers I could pack in a suitcase and set up to play music or use as monitors for editing just about anywhere. I'm not sure I can justify them right now, but I was impressed with their sound and stunning imaging. They're about $360 shipped. Reminded me of hearing the Monsoons for the first time.

    Overall, the other rooms I liked best had Harbeths, which reminded me of my own Spendors, and which pleased me as the most balanced speakers I heard. Most loudspeakers being demoed were too loud, too bright and too much bass.

    As far as headphones, I heard some nice ones, but nothing that made me want to give up my various AKG models nor my Wheatfield HA-1 tube amp.

    The best show moment (after walking into the Elac room) was in the Tidal room listening to a vinyl copy of Nat King Cole's Love is the Thing album, mastered by Steve Hoffman. No surprise, but truly a relaxing moment and their system was great. One note: it sounded even better when the presenter turned the volume down so he could start conversing with us.

    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
    mike catucci, Shawn, hhjack and 3 others like this.
  9. Bathory

    Bathory 30 yr Single Malt, not just for breakfast anymore

    never been to an audio show . would love to find the time to go one day.
  10. bean_counter

    bean_counter Well-Known Member

    The ELAC 2.0 room was a shocker - it wasn’t GREAT sound, but it was good sound - and $1k for a complete system! (Assuming a separate PC or other music server.)

    I have millennials ask me how to get into the hobby on the cheap, and unless they have time to research and dig for used bargain gear and do some DIY they just retreat to headphones, or they buy crap and drop out. The ELAC is an easy entry to recommend.
    recstar24 and kevinsinnott like this.
  11. gudnoyez

    gudnoyez Forum Resident

    I went yesterday man great time one day is not enough, 2 or 3 days are my plans next year. The JL Audio room was nice, across from them was Audio Thesis they had the Mastersound D Box, nice tube Integrated I might be considering in the future. The Legacy room, was where I spent a lot of time. The Focal room what can I say the new focals did nothing for me the plastic fronts, the guady colors meh, the Big focals behind the seating area those are nice, and woth the asking price. One room can't remember which one had a nice Luxman integrated. I can't wait to go again next year.
  12. SuperT55

    SuperT55 New Member

    St Louis
    Funny 2 different sets of ears 2 different impressions. Loved the Stereo Haven/Falcon LS35a/Line Magnetic/ Well Tempered TTable Room.
    Real music Lp's was played not audiophile nonsense/ sound effects and the same old female vocal stuff. Just fun. Ok maybe the Falcons aren't for everyone
    but at least they weren't overloading the room like a number of exhibitors. The Falcons get to the heart of the music for me and I'm not a big minimonitor guy
    Like Harbeths fine but thought @ AXPONA they sounded sleepy and choice of music lame for me. Yes the Harbeth P3R's are "improved" in some ways but they lose something musically for me.
    Thought the Well Tempered Simplex table@ $2k in the Stereo Haven Room kicked butt on many of the $25-30K Turntables I Heard.
    enjoyed the Tannoy room with Rogue Cronus and Rega P6 table. May have to change my mind about Rogue amps as I thought they were
    mediocre in the past. Overall lots of lame over priced stuff IMO. Another bright spot the Vandersteen room with Quatros an ARC pre his new mono blocks and AMG table. I always dig Highwater Sounds rooms with TW Acoustics table and Horning speakers plus Jeff Catalano plays great music. Rega/Sound org did a enjoyable demo of P1,P3.P6 tables although wished they'd used Rega speakers. The revived Acoustic Energy speakers they used were just ok to me. Thought the Rega p6 table was better than many of the $$$ TTables I heard. I always enjoy the Volti/Border Patrol/ Triode Labs Rooms just wish they played music I like more at times,

    GoldprintAudio and avanti1960 like this.
  13. art

    art Forum Resident

    We went two full days. Loved the Graham ls5/8 speakers of course. Matched with Nagra... drop dead perfect. Best I heard there. Lots of great sounding things, lots of shock and awe, things that sound good for sale but likely wouldn’t go the long haul. The Thrax speakers were godhead. Just real and persuasive and consuming. The Nigel Head Sacd turned heads in the Luxman/Triangle room. I could go on and on. I will say we compared lots of Mqa to the same 24/96 files in various rooms. People who trumpeted MQA need theirs ears tested. Audible artifacts masquerading as detail. Yuck. Obvious to lots of people. Mobile fidelity played some of their forthcoming ‘What’s Going On’ ultradisc one-step album. Crazy good.
    showtaper likes this.
  14. Matt Richardson

    Matt Richardson Forum Resident

    Looks like Michael Fremer just posted a 73 minute video tour of the show on his YouTube channel. More AXPONA videos also to come, according to Michael.
  15. Black Elk

    Black Elk Music Lover

    Bay Area, U.S.A.
    If you haven't already, you should post that in one of the Intervention threads in Music -- Shane is a Forum member, and very active in the threads. Praise can help drive sales which translates to more titles!
    art likes this.
  16. -=Rudy=-

    -=Rudy=- ♪♫♪♫♫♪♪♫♪♪ Staff

    He was running around Sunday afternoon when I ran into him--he mentioned to me that it was such a large show this year that he was really pressed for time trying to cover it all. Saw many others in the audiophile press poking around the Renaissance--John Atkinson, Steve Gutenberg, Myles Astor, etc.

    The good news is, AXPONA signed into the Renaissance for three years, so it will be here for two more years at least.

    I met quite a few in the biz again this year. I thanked Kevin Deal for the tubes, and the help in choosing what I needed when I retubed a C-J last year. Got more swag from Cardas. Met many dealers I had spoken to in the prior years I've attended. Hung with Rob LoVerde for a few minutes with my Chicago pals, and crossed paths with Bes Niveira (Music Direct) several times. Two other highlights for me were hanging around the PS Audio suite a few times and speaking with Paul and his son Scott (whose Sprout and Sprout 100 were his project), and the rest of their crew (and yes, the free beer Saturday evening after show hours), and speaking to Gayle Sanders about his new Eikon speakers (which are incredibly good and quite different from what he did at Martin Logan...although the principles are remarkably similar in terms of a speaker's output). Totally missed Andrew Jones this time out, though--ELAC's Debut 2.0 room was packed, but I did get a chance to sneak next door and see their Miracord turntable and hear the Adante system.

    I'll post highlights tomorrow. Tax night... :mad: (I owe, dang it, and they're not getting a penny until 11:59pm. :D )

    The only disappointment was the "master class" presentation I attended, which was more like a live infomercial....through headphones, yet. Very awkward. They should devote a meeting room to this, as it felt like an afterthought. But that's just a minor thing.

    Well...there was also the expensive lunch food. It was either that or lose my close(r) parking spot in that gawdawful weather...
  17. kevinsinnott

    kevinsinnott Forum Coffeeologist

    Chicago, IL USA
    Rudy, a quick question regarding the headphones presentation. I've never attended a class like this, but I've seen them. Since I produce an event (on coffee, not audio) I wondered what it was like. I'm sure it's more intelligible than loudspeakers in a noisy large room, but I wonder how it feels as well as sounds. It's been recommended to me by audio guys at some of our venues. I apologize for slightly off-topic interjection.
  18. Shawn

    Shawn Forum Resident Thread Starter

    In a way it’s kind of gross, with the same headphones being used over and over during the course of three days and I didn’t see them being cleaned between uses.
    kevinsinnott likes this.
  19. -=Rudy=-

    -=Rudy=- ♪♫♪♫♫♪♪♫♪♪ Staff

    Kevin, did you get a chance to see where they held the Master Classes? It was kind of chaotic IMHO. So the headphones were almost a necessity there, as opposed to speakers (which they would have had to play fairly loud to overcome the din of the entire marketplace). They did make sense in that context. One problem was that some of the headsets were already dead by mid-day (mine half pooped out after 30 minutes), and another is also what @Shawn says--do we really want to be putting on dirty headsets? They used wireless Sennheisers, so they were lightweight and comfortable, and sounded clear enough for the presentation.

    I think overall they make sense if someone is trying to do a presentation in a noisy space, but in a dedicated meeting room or hall with minimal noise, speakers would be a better bet.
    kevinsinnott and Shawn like this.
  20. kevinsinnott

    kevinsinnott Forum Coffeeologist

    Chicago, IL USA
    Yes, Rudy, that describes most of our event venues perfectly. We strive to find ones with separate and acoustically ideal breakout spaces, but most of the venues are just giant rooms. We've tried sound curtains, but while they help somewhat, they are not idea. I mostly wondered if the audience would feel less interactive while wearing with these. I understand the concern about cleaning, Shawn.
  21. Garthb

    Garthb Well-Known Member

    Did anyone meet Pat Hickman from Whammerdyne Heavy Industries at the show? Hear the Whammerdyne amp?
  22. bean_counter

    bean_counter Well-Known Member

    I visited their room briefly on Friday, they were still working on dialing in the room set-up, but the sound was very good indeed. Wish I had spent more time there.
  23. Metralla

    Metralla Joined Jan 13, 2002

    San Jose, CA
    Did anyone listen to the Lampi Pacific with the Daedalus Apollo 11 speakers?
  24. Manimal

    Manimal Forum Resident

    Southern US
    Again I’m reading good things about the Tekton Impact monitors, driven by Parasound. Anyone hear these? Herb is reviewing these now.
  25. Tony Plachy

    Tony Plachy Forum Resident

    Pleasantville, NY
    I made it from NY to Chicago (River Forest, a suburb of Chicago) by car in 2 days, spent 3 days at AXPONA (while my wife visited with her sister) and took 2 days to return to NY (the weather was miserable the last 4 days of our 7 day round trip). AXPONA was a breath of fresh air for me after enduring the pathetic NYC audio shows over the last seven to nine years. ( NYC audio shows in the distant past where great. 2002 and 2001 where the last two really great NYC audio shows. Since then they have grown smaller with fewer and fewer brands and dealers and smaller attendance to the point where they are no longer worth the time or money.) AXPONA was huge with lots of gear, seminars, and demonstrations. Both dealers and brands showed up. In spite of bad weather people from neighboring states came to the show. It was exhausting at times, but worth it.

    I attended many of the seminars and a few of the master classes, I though they were interesting and in some cases very instructive (see below).

    High points of the show for me were as follows:

    The PS Audio rooms. I talk with Paul McGowan in depth about the impact of the Oppo Digital production stop on their DMP (the SACD transport which I use). There is concern that production beyond the next year or two could be impacted if I understood Paul correctly. PSA was covered by Oppo's SACD license and if that stops an SACD license cost something like $5M and that would be difficult for PSA to handle. On a brighter note Paul said that they will have a music server that will pair with the DMP and DS DAC by the end of this year.:) I also had a chance to get an up close look at their new P20 power plant.

    I had a chance to meet and talk with Mat Weisfeld of VPI and talk to him about their new Fat Boy tonearm. I have been eyeing it as an upgrade to my VPI Classic Direct TT. It is now available as both a gimbal or uni-pivot tonearm. Both will work with existing VPI tone arm mounts. There will be a 70% trade-in allowance (for the remainder of this year) on existing tonearms when purchasing a Fat Boy arm (I am not sure if that applies to only to VPI tonearms, but I think that is probably the only brand of arm that could be replaced by the Fat Boy).

    I heard the new Magico A3 "entry level" (if you call $9800 entry level) which sounded amazing for their size and design. I also talked with Alon Wolf (see below regarding CAT amps). Alon seems like a great guy, although he is a little more reserved than Mat or Paul.

    I spent time at the ATC room which sounded very good as I expected it would (I use an earlier version of the ATC SCM19's in my video system so I might be biased when it comes to ATC).

    I saw and heard the Playback Design SACD transport and DAC and spoke with Andreas Koch (I believe he and Ed Meitner were the two principle designers of the first SACD players for Sony). The case work on the gear was very good looking and elegant. They were playing in a two channel system and I did not hear anything to differentiate them from the kind of playback I get from my PS Audio SACD two box system. I learned form Andreas that his two box system is capable of handling multi-channel SACD playback which is more than the PSA system can do with only a single DAC, however, the basic DAC design is done as firmware to be run on a Xilinx FPGA the same as PSA does. This is NOT to imply that Andreas Koch and Ted Smith (for PSA) have designed identical firmware, however, I heard no appreciable difference in the SACD sound of the PD system from the SACD sound I get from the PSA two box system for stereo playback.

    One of the principle reasons for going to the show was to hear high powered tube amps that I might upgrade to from my present c-j amps. Since getting my Magico S7 speakers last year I have wondered if I need bigger power amps to truly get the most out of the S7's. Since several reviews have mentioned that Convergent Audio Technology (CAT) amps work very well with Magico speakers I listened to the CAT amps driving a pair of Magico S5 speakers. I thought the sound was very good, however, as soon as I mentioned that I was considering getting new amps to drive my S7's I got the very hard sell. The CAT representative told me that Alon Wolf uses CAT amps himself and that I should call him and talk to him about the amps. Since I knew that Alon was one floor above the CAT floor I simple went up one floor and asked Alon if had time to talk to me about the CAT amps with respect to the S7's. He was very kind and a complete gentleman about talking to me about the amps. He confirmed that he uses and likes the CAT amps, however, he also said that even though he has never heard the c-j amps drive Magicos he felt strongly that if I enjoy the sound I get with c-j amp and the S7's there was no reason why I should not continue to do so. I later saw Myles Astor ( Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback) on the elevator at the show. Myles had reviewed Magico S5's using TOTL c-j amps a couple of years ago. I talked with him about the two brands of amps and he thought the c-j amps did an excellent job with the S5's. I clearly still have to do some more homework on which amps to use with the S7's.

    I listened to a prototype version on the sealed HD 800 headphones at the Sennheiser booth. I thought they were noticeably better sounding (more clarity and sharper bass) then my pair of open back HD 800's. I wonder if Sennheiser will offer a trade-in allowance when the sealed version is in production? :D

    I went to Micheal Fremer's TT setup seminar even though I had seen it two or three times in the past. While MF does a great job teaching how to do TT setup I am always amazed at how hard some of the setup procedures are (e.g. VTA) and how uncertain the results can be. Later that day I went to a Master Class demonstration of a new software tool called "Analog Magik". It is software for you PC that analyzes the harmonic distortion (HD) or the intermodulation distortion (IMD) from a disc that you play on your TT. The package consists of the software, two 33.3 RPM disc and two 45 RPM disc. Before you use the software you have to setup the stylus overhang correctly using either the overhang gauge that came with your TT or and aftermarket gauge. You also have to setup the vertical tracking force (VTF), the azimuth, and the anti-skating close to the recommended values. If your tone arm allows for vertical tracking angle (VTA) adjustment set it so the arm is close to parallel to the platter when playing a disc. The software is mostly for tonearm adjustment; however, it can also analyze your TT's speed. wow. and flutter so if your TT has speed adjustment you can set it properly with this software. At this point I should also make it clear that you need a phono preamp that has a ADC and a USB port that can send the digitized raw phone preamp data to you PC (if you phono preamp does not have a ADC there are very inexpensive ones that can be found online and used with this software). Once you have this preliminary setup done, you play various tracks on the disc and tweak VTF, VTA, azimuth, anti-skate and stylus in groove parallelism until you get the lowest possible distortion from each track while maintaining equal output from each channel. The demonstrator was very careful to point out that using this software was not going to make TT, tonearm and cartridge setup quicker. In fact, it will probably make it longer because most of these parameters are interactive with other parameter. So if you first setup VTF for optimal results and then adjust VTA for optimal results you will probably find that the VTF results have shifted and you nedd to reset VTF and the check and perhaps reset VTA and maybe repeat again to get both and the optimal results at the same time. The important point here is not how long it takes, but that when completed you will know that you TT, tonearm, cartridge system is set optimally setup. I was so impressed that I bought the software and disc package at a show discount. I plan to try it this weekend and will post a thread on my results.

    I attend the keynote talk by John Aikinson, Editor-in-Chief, Stereophile "A Life in Audio". I was a wonderful talk that I thoroughly enjoyed. I estimate 250 people attended.

    As you may guess Music Direct (Chicago based) as well as Elusive Disc and Acoustic Sounds all had large booths selling vinyl, SACD's, accessories and in some of them headphones and RTR tapes. There were also some smaller music labels selling vinyl and CD's. I bought some Chicago blues albums I had not seen before.

    All in all it was a great show! :righton:

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