When visiting the Black Ice room at audio shows there is always the anticipation of something new and better. So far I haven’t been disappointed. The AVShowrooms’ Video will show you Jerred Dunkerson doing a compare and contrast on two new Black Ice Audio integrated amplifiers, the Black Ice Fusion F11 Vacuum Tube Stereo Integrated Amplifier, 18 watts per channel and the Black Ice Fusion F35 Vacuum Tube Stereo Integrated Amplifier, 50 watts per channel. We played the same two tracks with each amplifier in the system on the Black Ice Audio Fusion DAC/Transport now featuring DSD. One track was a drum and percussion recording and the other was a vocal track by artist Michel Jonasz.
The 50 watt amplifier did everything I expected it to do, delivering a full, detailed sound with layering and great separation in the instruments. However, the real surprise in the Black Ice exhibit room, hey, maybe at the entire Capital Audiofest 2018, was the little 18 watt with the giant sound driving the Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Concert Grand loudspeakers, 87db efficient. The sound was around the room, folks. Effortlessly punching through whatever challenges these recordings present. It was awe inspiring to know such great, not good, but great sound can be had at $1400! And, if that is not enough, the amplifier includes a headphone jack. All electronics in the room were Black Ice Audio.
Brian Zolner of Bricasti Audio introduces to our viewers his new M25 power amplifiers, a dual mono version. The M25’s fall between the M28 and M15 models for power, current and performance. And, a powerful performance it was. We played a track with Chinese drummers that literally exploded in the room. Outstanding bass, a multi-dimensional and layered presentation. At one point I actually jumped in my seat due to the transient attack of a drum thwack! The Bricasti system was fast, accurate and mind-blowing in its emotional involvement.
Cube Audio/Refined Audio:
It’s almost impossible for me to describe what the Cube Nenuphar 10” cone full-range single driver loudspeaker delivered at The Capital Audiofest 2018, but I’ll try. We played two tracks, one by the Frederic Alarie Trio and the other from Michel Jonasz. The realism of the bass was astounding; the overall sound, holographic with both superb tonality and tonal quality. Every instrument was in it proper place . Jon with Refined Audio talked into the AVShowrooms’ video camera and told us about the new technology that makes the Nenuphar stand out. Not to be missed. Driving the loudspeakers was the Pass Lab’s latest amplifier, the SIT-3. The preamplifier was the Pass XP-20. In use were the QLS music server and the Metrum DAC.
A beautiful and rich sound enveloped me even though I was sitting off axis. The new 2.5 way Larson 9 loudspeakers sit against the wall and pressurize the room, turning the space into the sound. Michael Vamos of Audio Skies walks us through the system and explains in more detail on the AVShowrooms’ video the number of improvements in the new Larsons. Indeed, the proof was in the sound and the bass was astounding; the overall sound, coherent. We played the track “Nublado” from the MA Recordings album Sera Una Noche on the new Thrax turntable with the Hana cartridge and Schroeder tonearm with the new Sutherland “Phono Loco” phonostage. Amplifiers were the VAC Phi 170 separates with the VAC Renaissance Mark V preamplifier with cabling by EnKlein.
GT Audio Works & Sound Insight:
This room was certainly getting the buzz during CAF 2018 and for very good reason. Possibly one of the best sounding rooms at the show, if not the best. Greg Takesh, owner of GT Audio Works talks all about his design of the GTA3r loudspeakers, an open baffle, full range, 2-way planar magnetic loudspeaker with a ribbon tweeter and proprietary driver. Now, include Steve Rabitz of Sound Insight’s open baffle powered 6/channel stereo sub woofers that go down to 16 Hz and you’ve got an uber-fast, chest-pounding sound with no sacrifice to delicacy and detail.
I describe this as a masculine sound in the AVShowrooms’ “Reviewers View” Video that most certainly mesmerized and beguiled this female listener! The system was powered by the Pass Labs XA 60.8 power amps and the Pass Labs XS pre amp, a perfect combination for this system. However, tube lovers should take note that the GTA3r’s are 92 db efficient. All wiring was by Triode Wire Labs, both the Synergistic Research Powercell 12 UEF SE and Tranquility Base were in place and the CD was played on the Esoteric K01xs SACD player using the Vu Jade Audio 101DHT DAC.
Legacy Audio with Leesburg Listening Room:
This is probably one of the most product-filled AVShowrooms’ videos produced for the Capital Audiofest 2018. Bryce of Legacy Audio expertly walks us through each system being exhibited leading up to the flagship Legacy Audio loudspeaker, the Legacy Valor, in its debut on the east coast of the United States. The speakers were powered by the Raven Audio Silhouette monoblock amplifiers and the Legacy Wavelet pre amplifier and DAC.
Peter Breuninger played a vocal track on this system by Michel Jonasz and mentions in the video that it is the best sounding Legacy Audio room he’s experienced in all of the years of visiting the owner and founder Bill Dudelston’s exhibit rooms. The vocal was floating in the middle of the room and the system showed off what the Legacy Audio Wavelet preamp/DAC could do by separating the instruments and allowing for perfect imaging. Many thanks to both Dennis of Leesburg Listening Room of Leesburg, Virginia and Bryce of Legacy Audio for delivering one of the best sounding rooms at The Capital Audiofest 2018.
Old Forge Studio:
Dave Cope of Old Forge Studio joined forces with Nellie Davis of Audio Federation to deliver sound that was both organic and detailed at the same time. In its United States debut, Nellie talks in the video about the Acapella La Campanella 2-way loudspeaker, the largest of the Acapella loudspeakers that do not have the plasma tweeter. Also, debuting in North America, were the Pure Audio monoblock amplifier’s, Class A with 70 watts per channel and the Control 2 preamplifier.
Dave talks about the new Wand turntable in detail that plays 33’s, 45’s and, get this, 78’s! The phono preamp was the PureAudio Vinyl. Spinning up a track from Audio Note Music’s “Pure Cello” was a reminder that Vincent Belanger, the cellist on the recording, was in this very exhibit room at a past CAF show. There was his signature sound, no doubt, unobstructed, in a quiet and serene environment thanks to Dave and Nellie. Embracingly beautiful.
The Audio Company/VAC/Von Schweikert Audio:
Without a doubt, The Audio Company of Marietta, Georgia has found its Mojo in the Potomac room at the Hilton Hotel in Rockville, Maryland. After an entire year of anticipation based on my experience at The Capital Audiofest 2017, I have come away with a head-shaking, nobody does it better conclusion. The Von Schweikert Audio ULTRA 11 loudspeakers and the VAC (Valve Amplification Company) bi-amped 450 IQ monoblocks with Masterbuilt cabling gave this listener that enveloping and involving concert-like sound that I’ve come to expect. On Sunday we played a CD and recorded it for the AVShowrooms’ video, a drum and percussive track on the Esoteric Grandioso P1 CD Transport with the G1 Atomic Clock and Esoteric power supply.
The system pressurized the room and the music exploded around us. It was the same track we played at the Saturday night listening session and everyone in the room was pulled into the explosive sonic experience. Tone, tonality, imaging and a palpable gut-wrenching response by the listener is only at this level (I thought) when attending a live event and sitting in the best seats at the venue. This is not supposed to happen with reproduced sound. One vinyl track I was most anxious to play on the Kronos turntable with SCPS was a track from The Franklin Mint Country Music Collection with Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton. The voices were real and the raw presentation of Haggard’s voice combined with the effortless flow of Dolly’s vocals was so apparent it felt as if I could ride the music like a surfer rides a wave. Associated equipment included Critical Mass stands.
The Wilson Benesch “Resolution” loudspeakers with the carbon fiber Infrasonic Generator were one of the stars of the show. Aside from the beautiful fit and finish, their performance, along with the Ypsilon electronics, achieved one of the best sounding rooms at RMAF 2018. Brian Ackerman, proprietor of Audio Imports, introduces the U.S. debut of the Ypsilon DAC 1000 and in the upcoming video he talks about the features of this new accomplishment from Ypsilon. Playing a track from Dead Can Dance, Brendan Perry’s voice was in the middle of the room. This sound was coherent and musical with pinpoint imaging and excellent detail. Cabling was Stage III Concepts.
Alsyvox, Omega Audio Concepts:
The Alsyvox 3-way Botticelli full range ribbon loudspeakers were accompanied by electronics from Omega Audio Concepts combining beauty with function. Playing MA Recording’s “Nublado” early in the day on Friday, day 1, drives home the fact that great sound can be achieved early in the show with the right equipment and set-up. Music filled the room and music filled me with emotion. The sound was natural, realistic, fast and tight. The Botticelli’s are also beautiful to behold. I’d love to spend more time with these babies.
Proprietor, Gideon Schwartz showcased the Zellaton’s Legacy stand-mount loudspeakers, a two-way speaker with an 8” proprietary woofer on the back augmenting the 5” Zellaton driver. These little guys filled the room with the larger Zellaton Statement sonic signature; extremely dynamic, with the same speed and liquidity. Other components in the room were the very impressive Ensemble Massimo Fuoco integrated, hybrid amplifier; the Thoress phono stage powering the Thales turntable with their top-of-the-line Statement tonearm and a Fuuga MC cartridge. I encourage our viewers to watch this video with these incredible products brought together to achieve one of the best sounding rooms at RMAF 2018.
Audio Logic Online with Sigma Acoustics:
North American Distributor, Kaveh Saffari, introduces the Sigma Acoustics Orchestra 2.3 loudspeakers for the first time in the United States. The designer, Aldo Zaninello, impressed us with his beautiful Italian design of the speaker, but more importantly with the design of the ribbon tweeter giving the high frequencies room to breathe across the top opening up the soundstage. 90.5 dB, easy to drive – tube amplifier friendly. We played percussive, a human voice track and a vocal track. The sound was open and enveloping at the same time. The instruments had proper space between them and the system brought out the detail and vocals perfectly. Associated equipment; the AAvik U300 amplifier, Ansuz cabling, stands by Music Tools from Italy and an Esoteric Cd player.
Bending Wave USA:
Elliot Goldman, importer and distributor of some of the top brands in high-performance audio, introduced the Goebel Aeon Reference Bending Wave loudspeakers from the Epoque line in its U.S debut. The room featured a vast array of CH Precision electronics including the mono preamplifier, the mono DAC, external power supplies and 2 M1 amplifiers. This system threw a holographic, three dimensional soundstage putting the singer, Michel Jonaz, in the middle of the room. Especially apparent was how the sound of the electric piano popped in the track “Terre”emphasizing its tonality in this already multi-layered sound.
High End by Oz with Audio Solutions Figaro XL:
It gives me much pleasure to introduce Audio Solutions’ Figaro series loudspeakers from Lithuania, debuted and distributed by Ozan Turan in the United States. One of the unique features of these loudspeakers is that the plywood cabinets are not glued; instead, there’s a self-locking mechanism employed to enhance the bass response.
We listened to a track from “Dead Can Dance” and we were both floored that a $15,000 speaker, retail, of this scale, is now available in North America. A more than satisfying low frequency presence and an organic sound in the purist sense with musical involvement that I found to be off-the-charts. As said in the upcoming video, this rave is not to diminish the performance the smaller, Figaro M at $7500, but the added bass response won the AVShowrooms’ Gold Show award for the XL model. This was my take-home, folks, and this at a show I thought had great sound in so many rooms. The Figaro XL rivaled loudspeakers at the show 10X the price on most every level. The speakers were powered by the Vitus class A integrated amplifier and cabling was by Ansuz.
We were fortunate enough to be introduced to the new HD DAC X. In the upcoming show video, Rene Laflamme will explain how much work was done to achieve the end product with optimal results. Our first round of listening was a female vocalist and honestly, I looked twice because I thought Rene was playing tape. The sound was about as close to analogue I’ve heard a CD sound at an audio show. After the song was over, Peter Breuninger commented the same. Quite an accomplishment. Next, Rene played us a jazz piece on tape that was sonically satisfying but the standout was the new DAC. Overall, the sound was effortless with very good tonal quality. Loudspeakers were Rockport’s Cygnus and cabling was Argento Audio. Of course, all of the electronics were Nagra.
Next Level Hi-Fi with Borreson, Aavik and Ansuz:
A debut in the United States by Next Level Hi-Fi in Wayne, Illinois. The Borreson 03 loudspeakers have arrived and meet the exacting standards of their designer, Michael Borreson. Michael painstakingly walks us through his journey to his end creation. The AVShowrooms’ video will delight Borreson fans when he explains in detail the new drivers, the new ribbon tweeter and the new magnet system, along with his concept of the project from beginning to end. We played two male vocal tracks with the C150 Ansuz amplifier powering the speakers. The system was extremely quiet. There was no noise floor. It was organic and detailed without any harshness and delivered music with emotional involvement. The system included the Ansuz DT-C, top-of-the-line cabling with the Mainz 8 Power Distributor, the Ansuz equipment rack and new P150 stereo amplifier.
Michael Vamos, Sales Representative for both Raidho and Scansonic loudspeakers, treated us to one of the biggest surprises at RMAF 2018. Just as I was wrapping up my notes for Reviewers’ View I settled back for a listen. We played Roger Waters “It’s a Miracle” on the Scansonic MB5B and the bass and imaging were that of speakers three times the size. “Giant Killers” was what Michael called them. These slim, little 2.5 way floorstanders will disappear in any size room and they are front-ported giving the listener the ability to move them closer to the wall. The Raidho DNA was apparent, but for a fraction of the price. How about $7500? Anyway, how could I resist adding the Scansonic to my list for the show wrap-up?
We were introduced to new SR products at RMAF 2018 including the Galileo SX Cables. These new cables were developed incorporating the technology from the Synergistic Research program that resulted in the all-silver 25th Anniversary SR power cord. The AVShowrooms’ video will have Ted Denny talking about the components in the system. We played a beautiful version of the “Intermezzo from Carmen” by The All Star Orchestra and were treated to Ted Denney’s demo with the SR technology turned on and off. As promised, with the SR technology turned on, the sound had more clarity and musicality, better resolution and superior imaging. With the SR technology turned off, the sound collapsed and fell into itself. Ever raising the bar, the Synergistic Research team had one of the best sounding rooms at RMAF 2018. Look for the voluntary third-party endorsement by a show attendee in the AVShowrooms’ video.
VAC/Von Schweickert – The Audio Company:
Once again, it is difficult to find words to properly describe the concert-like experience both Valve Amplification Company and Von Schweikert Audio bring to the listener. The new Ultra 9 loudspeakers incorporating their technology from their development of the Ultra 11’s will be the focus of an upcoming AVShowrooms’ video interview with both Damon Von Schweikert and Leif Swanson of Von Schweikert Audio explaining their journey, and the technology that resulted in the end product. Kevin Hayes, in his own video, does an outstanding job of showcasing his new Statement 450i IQ Integrated amplifier and explaining to the viewers how it took three years to bring the Statement technology to an integrated amplifier.
The new integrated is so fast and quiet, unlike any tube integrated I’ve come across at any audio show. Truly a masterpiece in its category. And, speaking of masterpieces, the Ultra 9’s are the perfect loudspeakers to be paired with the Statement 450i IQ integrated. The sound of the “Song of the Stars” track from Dead Can Dance had imaging, tone, impact, micro dynamics and macro dynamics far superior than any other room I heard at the show, or any show for that matter. Peter Breuninger mentions in the video that it is the best; however, only to possibly be exceeded in performance in the exhibit room at The Capital Audiofest 2017 with the Ultra 11’s, Von Schweikert’s flagship, and the bi-amped 450 IQ monoblocks. We played vinyl on the Kronos Audio turntable with the SCPS. Cabling by MasterBuilt Audio ULTRA and stands were Critical Mass. The Digital stack included the transport and DAC by Esoteric.
Paul Manos of High Fidelity Services and Julian Pelchat of Verity Audio astounded and delighted us with a system worth over 1 million U.S. dollars. The loudspeakers showing were the Monsalvat’s accompanied by two woofer towers using the walls as a horn. The vinyl played was Dead Can Dance’s “Song of the Stars” and the sound came at you and around you in a phase coherent, radiating pattern. The Verity woofer tower and the main tower were perfectly time aligned and the power amplifiers from Verity were a surprising 60 watts per channel. “Power doesn’t mean much” said Julian (more about this on the upcoming video), had me scratching my head, but the truth was in the listen. Easily, one of the best sounding systems at the show. Associated equipment included Verity DAC/Preamp, TW Acoustics turntable with an Ortofon cartridge, Signal Projects cabling and Vibex power conditioning.
I looked forward to going into the Audionet room for listening fully aware that the Audionet Stern, preamp and Heisenberg power amplifiers were in place. No surprise, the sound delivered in the room was that big and effortless sound I now come to expect from these top-of-the-line electronics. We played a track from a “Yello” CD and a track from our Michel Jonasz CD. The music wrapped itself around the listener and the bass on both tracks was deep and well integrated. I don’t know of a finer solid state line. The source was the Audionet Planck with the Art G3 D/A Converter. The outstanding Dynaudio Evidence Temptation Platinum speakers were a perfect match for the Heisenbergs.
This year, Oliver Goebel surprised many of us with a completely new line of loudspeakers called the “Divin Series”. The Divin Series “Majestic”, the largest loudspeaker in the line, debuted at the High End 2018. The new line is offered to the most discerning listener who is looking for high efficiency in a large space. Tube lovers take note! Although the new series is seemingly more of a conventional design, Oliver mentions in the AVShowrooms video that his bending wave circuit technology is applied to the Devin series.
The source, again this year, is the Kronos Pro turntable with the SCPS and the Kronos phonostage and power supply. There has been an evolution with The Kronos Analogue Solution and the phonostage is now a suspended unit using the SCPS as the base. Louis Dejardins explains in the AVShowrooms’ video what he strived for and what he has achieved; that is, a more realistic and larger soundstage with more stability. The tonearm was the Black Beauty.
Having listened to a number of tracks in this room over the weekend, I can say with conviction this was one of the best sounds at the High End 2018. The Sound was big, warm and enveloping. It was multi-layered and what I would call a romantic sound. Cabling was the Goebel Lacorde Statement Series and electronics were by CH Precision.
This year at the MOC, Nuno Vitorino, Director at Innuos walks us through a static display of the new Zen MK.III music servers. The display includes the ZENMINI MK.III with more storage options than the MK.II version and an optional linear power supply, the ZEN which now benefits from a double linear power supply, and the ZENITH. Nuno explains in detail the upgrades and improvements developed for the MK.III series.
Also in the video, is the listening session and an in depth description of the new ZENITH STATEMENT with a separate box for A/C to D/C conversion. Innuos’ unique approach to design for optimal sound is what I found most interesting in this presentation and I encourage viewers to check out the AVShowrooms’ video to learn what I have about the new ZENITH STATEMENT.
In conjunction with the new KII Three BXT System, the sound produced, on a track from the Michel Jonasz CD, was extremely fast, quiet, clean and accurate, and at the same time, musical and emotionally involving. Truly, the best sounding Cabin I visited at the MOC and one of the best sounding rooms at High End Munich 2018.
The iconic Kharma brand brought its usual big, majestic and concert-like sound to their exhibit room at the MOC. What immediately struck me was how quiet the room was relative to every other room I’d visited. This, of course, is attributed to the acoustic treatment the “Second Wave” and the wall fabrics. Charles van Oosterum, founder of Kharma International, talks about these treatments in the AVShowrooms’ video along with the equipment in the room.
Kharma was exhibiting with the new Enigma Vyron EV 4D loudspeakers with diamond tweeter and midrange. The monoblock amplifiers were also from the Vyron line as were the cables. I’ll add that the new cables are very impressive; the outside is a leather jacket with the Kharma pattern contributing to the overall beauty of the room. Electronics were also Kharma and we played track “Song of the Stars” from the LP “Spirit Chaser” on the Clearaudio Statement turntable.
The sound and beauty of the Kharma room was so immersive, I wanted to hang around for the rest of the day! Timbre and fine detail were on point along with natural decay.
This year at High End Munich, Rene Laflamme introduces the new Nagra DSD 4 HD DAC. Another beautiful looking piece in the Nagra lineup. We played a track by Holly Cole and were impressed with the very quiet analogue-like sound. Holly’s voice was clear and the spatiality of the instruments were spot-on. No doubt, another great sounding room assembled by the Nagra team. Don’t miss the upcoming AVShowrooms’ video with Rene explaining the new DAC in detail followed by a walk around the Nagra Museum.
The loudspeakers were the Wilson Alexia 2’s with the Nagra HD amplifiers and pre-amp and the Nagra T tapedeck. On the front end the DSD4 and the Kronos Pro turntable with power supply, Black Beauty tonearm and an EMT 75 cartridge. Cabling by Kubala-Sosna.
Purist Audio Design:
One of the audio industry’s luminaries, Jim Aud of Purist Audio Design talked about the new USB Diamond Revision, a new AC box with six outlets and for MAC users a USB C to A. A Vitus amplifier requiring 3 AC power chords, dominated the center of the room and the loudspeakers were the Goebel Epoque Aeon Reference. “Song of the Stars”, one of our reference recordings at the shows, this year, was sounding detailed without any harshness, perfectly integrated and most importantly, emotionally engaging. All cabling was the top-of-the-line from Purist, of course.
Showing at the High End 2018 were the new TD-4.8 loudspeakers with the Raidho Tantalum-Diamond cone. The new technology is a thin overlay of the heavy alloy, tantalum, applied to the ceramic cones before the diamond layer. We played a track from the “Frederic Alarie Trio” CD and the system produced a natural, realistic sound with zero distortion. And, wasn’t there a touch of that gamuT-sound in the mids? Whatever the case, the new technology was evident combining accuracy with emotionally engaging musicality.
One of the best sounding rooms at the MOC, this year. The sound was three dimensional and hauntingly beautiful. All electronics were Chord and the cabling was the Nordost Vahalla 2 line.
VAC/Von Schweikert/Acoustic Signature:
Kevin Hayes of Valve Amplification Company (VAC), Leif Swanson of Von Schweikert and Gordon Waters of The Audio Company walked us through the exhibit room and, as you will see on the upcoming video, there is a great deal to show, explain and discuss. Leif talks about the redesign and re-engineering of the Ultra 11 flagship loudspeakers bringing the already incomparable to another level. Kevin proudly shows us the brilliant VAC Statement 450 iQ monoblocks, bi-amped for optimal performance. There is so much to know about the VAC Statement series and we’ve captured it on video.
Again using our reference LP, “Dead Can Dance” album Spiritchaser we played “Song of the Stars”. The instruments and voices were layered in the room giving us the best frequency response from top to bottom we’d experienced at the show. Realistic and spatial with both macro and micro dynamics, it’s difficult to believe that what we heard at The Capital Audiofest and AXPONA could be improved upon, but it was. All flourish aside, a cost-no-object system like no other I’ve heard, ever, anywhere. I left the room recharged with reaffirmation as to why I do what I do.
The turntable was the Acoustic Signature Invictus with a VAC phonostage; digital source, Esoteric. The cables were the MasterBuilt Ultra line. Artesenia racks from Spain combined beauty with function, as Gordon and Kevin detail on camera.
It was a very exciting time for us and the Voxativ team this year at High End Munich. Voxativ was celebrating its 10 years with the new Ampeggio X loudspeaker powered with a field coil driver and a power supply with 10 rectifier tubes fully adjustable from 10 to 20 volts. The new integrated amplifier introduced was the T805, single-ended with 30 watts per channel. The AVShowrooms’ video shows Holger Adler, owner and designer, explaining his new products, including a new rack system, in detail.
Of course, the sound is what matters most and Voxativ is a hands-down AVShowrooms’ Gold Show Award winner. We played a beautiful track introduced to us by Holger and we’ll share that listening session with our viewers. The sound was very realistic and pure with breathtaking impact. We look forward to listening to these loudspeakers in our home environment this year.
YG Acoustics/Playback Design/Nagra/Kubala-Sosna:
Tucked away in one of the cabins at the High End Munich 2018 were the YG Hailey’s with Nagra HD amplifiers. The source was Playback Design’s MPS 8 Player, Streamer with a PD DAC. We played our Michel Jonasz CD and the sound was believable, realistic and without any bass overhang. This was a combination that really worked well together and prevailed over the noise in the Halles at the Munich Order Center. Cabling by Kubala-Sosna.
The Zellaton 3-way loudspeaker delivered “Song of the Stars” effortlessly, filling the room with one of the best playbacks at the Munich High End 2018. The lateral imaging, with pinpoint precision, was everywhere in the room with instruments and vocals properly placed and separated. The YS Sound amplifiers and preamplifier were such a perfect pairing with the Zellaton’s I’d probably look no further than this room of exceptional components if I was in the market to purchase these extraordinary speakers.
The turntable was a Reed Muse 3C with the new Reed 5 T tonearm, cabling was from Schnerzinger and the beautiful and functional racks from Artesania. Pure music for the most discerning listener
Aavik Acoustics Ansuz Acoustics:
Michael Borrenson, chief engineer and designer of the Aavik electronics and Ansuz cables introduces two new products at hifideluxe, this year. First, Michael explains in detail the new Mainz8 D2 power distributor that utilizes the D-TC technology to eliminate noise in the main system. The AVShowrooms’ video gives Michael the floor to elaborate on the new product for those who are interested in the line and for the already fans of these cutting edge brands.
The second product is an equipment rack with an aluminum sub-frame and titanium uprights, again explained in full by MB, himself. The system set-up in the room included the U-150 integrated amplifier with phonostage and DAC, the D2 cables introduced this year, the Mainz8 D-TC power distributor and the, cult-favorite, 2-way standmount speakers, the Raidho D1.1’s. Listening to Fink’s “Wheels Turn Beneath My Feet” the sound was lightning-fast, dead quiet and emotionally involving – racks do make a difference.
Alysvox, Omega Audio Concepts:
The room featured the Alsyvox SL planar loudspeakers and Timeless electronics. Not only do I think this was the very best sound at hifdeluxe 2018, it was the most beautifully designed exhibit room thanks to Daniel Cohen of Alsyvox’s talented wife. The CD transport, DAC and power supply brought to mind a cauldron (don’t miss the AVShowrooms’ video!). The cabling is Omega Audio Concepts very own patented design shown in a fire engine red taking center stage arranged in a creative sculpture.
The Alsyvox Botticelli loudspeaker, the midsize of the line, is a 3-way, full ribbon speaker featuring a unique woofer concept with push-pull magnets. The CD we chose for the listening session is the track “Terre” from the Michel Jonasz Trio. An articulate sound that was enveloping and warm with no sacrifice to detail. Organic and full.
Audio Note UK:
Featured in the Audio Note UK room at hifideluxe 2018, were the AN-E/SPe loudspeakers in an attractive slate veneer, the Meishu Phono Silver 300B Single Ended Phono Integrated Amplifier and the new TT-3 turntable with the external power supply, now in production. Mario Binner guided us through the system and Vincent Belanger, the Audio Note Music brand ambassador introduced us to the remaster of the album “La”, now on vinyl, originally recorded by Fidelio in 2011. One of the tracks we played from “La” was track one on Side B called “Scene 1 de l’opera Nelligan (A Gagnon).
The Audio Note system beautifully reproduced this melancholic piece pulling at my road-weary heartstrings. The sound in the Audio Note room, sponsored annually by the AN distributor, Germany, Alexander Voigt, was room-filling; detailed, yet warm and my uber-emotional response to the system was my usual to that signature Audio Note sound.
Audioplan, a German dealer/distributor of Jadis electronics and turntables showcased their Concert III 2- way loudspeaker, Jadis amplification and a new Jadis turntable described by the room operator as the “little sister” of the Thalie with an Ultimate Omega cartridge, for the source. Watch the AVShowrooms’ video and check out how you change speeds on little sister! Spinning up “Nublado” from the album “Sera Una Noche” was proof again that the Audioplan room and its fine products produced one of the best sounding rooms at hifideluxe 2018. The sound was musical, detailed with a marked separation of instruments and not a smidge of compression.
The representative of Cube Audio, Grzergorz Rulka, walked us through the Cube Audio/Tektron room. Cube Audio, located in Poland, manufactures full range drivers and loudspeakers. The Cube Nenphar loudspeaker which translates to Cube Water Lilly in English debuted at hifideluxe 2018 with the new 10 inch Cube driver, the F10 neo. Grzergorz talks about the flower design of the drivers, with four cones, on the AVShowrooms Video. The speakers, driven by the Tektron tube electronics, went way down and deep on a track from the Fidelio recording, “Les Sept Paroles Du Christ”. The sound was big, bold, fast and accurate.
Giuseppe Gabbarini walked us through his exhibit which included the Diesis horn open-baffle loudspeakers the Number One Limited Edition, a model designed to work with Kondo triode amplification. Giuseppe played a Flamenco recording on the Vyger turntable that shook the room, then moved on to “Nublado” from the album “Sera Una Noche” recorded by MA Recordings. The sound was realistic with transient speed expected from a world class horn loudspeaker. One of the best sounds at the show.
Dieter Mallach’s room is consistently one of the best sounding rooms at the hifideluxe. Featured with Malvalve’s usual large array of electronics was the MalStat Four loudspeaker with a magneticstatic midrange and woofer and an electrostatic tweeter. The power amplifier driving the system includes the control unit, power supply and the unique outboard, output transformer. Dieter also showcased his new Head Amp Five that can also drive loudspeakers. There’s lots to show in the Malvalve room and we’ll walk you through everything on the AVShowrooms’ video.
We played a track from the Michel Jonasz CD “Où Vont Les Rêves” and the singer’s voice rolled forward in the room. The sound was detailed and musical with the Malvalve signature organic quality.
All the rooms had great sound, these rooms just stood out!
Hermann Winters talks to AVShowrooms about his elegant looking and beautiful sounding horn loudspeakers, the High Cellini’s. I remain a fan of Acapella speakers with their detailed and delicate sound along with a midrange that could well be the agent for a romantic interlude. The sound of these beauties truly stir my emotions.
Next, Neli Davis of AF takes the floor to tell us about the Level Five Audio Note CDT5 Transport, the Fifth Element DAC with the Fifth Force power supply. Cold, out of the box, the signature of Audio Note was apparent. There was that deep and layered heartbeat of a sound that can make even a mediocre Redbook CD engaging. We decided on a track from the well recorded Michel Jonasz CD, Où Vont Les Rêves and the artist’s voice filled the room. The integrated amp in the system was by La Musica.
David Michael Audio Room:
The Dohmann turntable with the Frank Schroeder arm played “Nublado” from the album Sera Una Noche recorded by MA Recordings as Peter B. videoed the David Michael Audio exhibit room. Included in the room were the Nagra electronics driving the British made BBC licensed Graham 5.8 loudspeakers with ease. Cabling by Kubala-Sosna. Like my experience at home with Nagra, the sound was organic, delicate and detailed.
Eikon – Gayle Sander’s Eikon:
Gayle’s back to introduce his new loudspeaker, the Image1. The full system, all digital loudspeakers, uses DSP throughout for time alignment, crossover alignment, individually driven drivers and monoblocks inside the cabinets. Gayle had two rooms and we listened in the second room. The sound was clean, clear and emotionally involving when listening to Celestial Echo. This system proves that DSP and active loudspeakers can compete with the big boys. Stunning sound.
GTT Audio & Video:
It comes as no surprise to me that the GTT Audio & Video room was a star at the show. However, I was surprised that such harmonious and finely detailed sonics could be had in an untreated hotel room. The loudspeakers were the YG Acoustics’ XV Jr.’s, a four-way system. Simply, the Jr.’s are the XV speakers less the bottom woofer on each tower. The woofer unit is identical to the YG Acoustic’s XV Flagship Loudspeaker from 65 hertz and above. Driving the loudspeakers were the majestic and incomparable solid state amplifiers, the Heisenbergs, brought to us from Audionet. And, Audionet’s pre-amplifier, The Stern, a pure analog preamp combined with modern technology as so eloquently explained and introduced to our viewers and the consumers at the AXPONA 2018 by Audionet’s Managing Partner, Robert Hagemann. German engineering at its finest.
Cabling by Kubala-Sosna, the “Realization” is their top-of-line and, no exaggeration guys, a major contributor to the high-quality sound in the room. The “Realization” cables are not bigger and better, they are a breakthrough. This latest innovation by Kubala-Sosna demands attention from those who have the interest and the funds to qualify for an audition. Truly, a peer to all other components in the system.
I conclude with the source, the Kronos Pro turntable with the SCPS (super capacitor power supply) with carbon fiber armboard, the Black Beauty tonearm and Opus 1 cartridge. The Kronos effortlessly delivered music engaging the listener, viscerally. We spun the track “Song of the Stars” from Dead Can Dance; the layering of instruments and vocals filled the space.
Sound in the GTT Audio & Video room was big, revealing, musical and emotionally involving. Peter B. and I agreed that it was the best sounding GTT exhibit room we’ve heard at any of the audio shows over the years.
High Fidelity Cables:
Anyone who is a lifelong true grit audiophile attending an audio show where Rick Schultz has an exhibit should put the High Fidelity Cables rooms on their must-attend list. Also, don’t miss the upcoming video, this is going to be probably Rick’s best work. Three rooms, one I call the mad scientist room which includes a demo with a Tesla coil! The second room was wine and refreshments attended by two lovely ladies with products displayed throughout the room. The third room was the listening. Rick’s speakers are now coming to market and that’s an important piece of information as Peter B. and I have been raving about Rick’s sound and design for years. To say the room was challenging is an understatement, but the sound reproduced was stupendous. A big wide enveloping sound with detail I’ve not heard before on Anne Bisson and Vincent Belanger’s CD track, “Le vent souffle encore (The Wind Still Blows)” from the album Conversations. A sleeper exhibit? Maybe for the usual show attendees, but the three rooms were packed when we arrived for video shooting on Sunday proving to me High Fidelity Cables has earned a sizeable fan base and for good reason.
Bill Dudleston, owner of Legacy Audio gives us a walk-through of his room chock full of loudspeakers and electronics. This year the Valor loudspeakers driven by the impressive Raven tube electronics (watch the upcoming video when Bill talks about the amazing driver technology), produced an unabashed, commanding ambience when playing a track from the Michel Jonasz CD. One of the best sounding systems at the show.
Next Level Audio & Video:
Stop complaining about no women or young people interested in high-performance audio when you have Dana and Tyler Mueller, owners of Next Level Audio & Video. Passionate, knowledgeable and focused entrepeneurs with top-brand audio products, these guys put together a system at AXPONA 2018 giving us one of the best sounding rooms I heard at the show. Lars Kristensen of Ansuz/Aavik products manufactured in Denmark along with Tyler walked us through the system that included the Mainz8 DTC power Distribution Bar employing their new technology called “Ditter” to reduce noise. Also, the new and scalable Aavik U150 integrated amplifier, the DTC Power Box and Ansuz D-2 cabling and a NAIM CDX2 used only as a transport in this particular installation. Loudspeakers were Raidho D1.1, 2-way standmounts that threw a soundstage that should not be possible with a 4 ½ driver and ribbon tweeter. The sound on two tracks, a Norwegian female vocalist and male vocalist, Michel Jonasz was enormous and gripping with bass so natural, apparent and well-integrated it defies logic. I love a two-way loudspeaker and the Raidho D1.1’s are at the top of the food chain.
Rune Skov, Ambassador Extraordinaire, for Dantax Radio of Pandrup, Demark, talks into the camera about the Raidho D4.1 concept and design in detail. Again, we listened to the Michel Jonasz track “Terre” and the sound was room-filling and accurate with perfectly integrated bass and midrange. Aside from being probably one of the best loudspeakers I’ve heard and experienced in my home, Rune and Peter B. talk about the versatility of the Raidho’s and the ability to use a wide variety of amplification with great success. Components in the room included the SME turntable and tonearm with a Chord phonostage and the Chord Blu MKII Scaler Technology transport with the Chord Dave DAC. The amplifier was the Chord CPM 3350 Integrated. Cabling by Nordost.
Again, Ted Denney, Chief Designer and owner of Synergistic Research delivers one of the best sounds at an audio show. This time Ted introduces SR’s new Atmosphere X Series interconnects and speaker cables and the new Wide Angle HFT. The video shows Ted playing the All-Star Orchestra’s Intermezzo from Carmen, from his server, with the Wide Angle HFT’s placed strategically around the room to compare to the sound when they are removed. This beautiful piece of music was reduced to ashes when the HFT’s were not in the system. The soundstage collapsed and what rendered so beautifully in the mid to high frequencies became scratchy sounding and downright annoying. Conversely, when the Wide Angle HFT technology was applied the soundstage exploded with pinpoint imaging. Accurate and musical at the same time. The loudspeakers were Magico S5 MII and amplification was Constelation Audio. Analog source in the room was the United Home Audio tape deck.
The Audio Company:
Leda Schubert’s “The Ballet of the Elephants” comes to mind whenever I enter The Audio Company’s room. I wish I could include an image of this because the Von Schweikert Ultra 11 flagship loudspeakers driven by four VAC Statement 450 IQ power amplifiers in all of its physical size and mass delivers music with effortless grace and athletic virtuosity. The sound owned the room. No matter how much equipment was present, how many chairs or how many people were roaming about, the sonics prevailed.
These guys from The Audio Company, along with Damon Von Schweikert, Leif Swanson and VAC’s Kevin Hayes have brought these already iconic brands to a new level. The reproduced concert experience and sound has never been closer to the real thing. I did not do the amount of listening I would have liked, but even when sitting off to the side, the sound was the best I’d heard at the show. Listening to “Song of the Stars” from the Dead Can Dance album “Spiritchaser” caught everyone’s attention. The scale and the scope of the music – every instrument was in its proper place in the room, the sound around me was multi-layered, kaleidoscopic and my mind’s eye visualized colors.
The source for our vinyl spin was the Kronos Pro turntable with the SCPS, VAC Statement phono preamplifier and the VAC Statement Line Stage. I don’t know of another front end combo that excels to meet the level of excellence this room commands.
Equipment racks were the Critical Mass Maxxum racks. The cabling was MasterBuilt Audio. Also, in the room were Esoteric, Aurender and ASC tube traps.
The Voice That Is:
Doug White, owner/proprietor of The Voice That Is walked us through one of the best sounding systems at the show. AVShowrooms’ Kemper Holt declared it his “take home” system at our “Reviewers View” wrap-up at the end of the show. We played the track “Nublado” from the LP Sera Una Noche and the music filled the room with a fast, articulate sound with just enough warmth and layering to render it organic and emotionally involving. Included in the room were the Tidal Piano G2 loudspeakers with the TIDAL Preos-D Reference Phono / Line Level Preamplifier with Integrated DAC and the TIDAL Impulse LPX Reference Dual Mono amplifier. For the source, the digital was the Antipodes DX3 server and for analog, a TW Acustics Raven AC1 with a TW Acustics Raven 10.5 tonearm. The cartridge was the transfiguration Proteus. Cabling by Tidal and Dynamic Design.
AXPONA! How you’ve grown! I remember when you were just a baby tagging along the tail end of the CEA show at a questionable hotel in the garment district in New York City. Now, you are the big majestic professional North American trade show run by a crackerjack team of experts from JD Events. You have a venue at the Renaissance Schaumburg,IL worthy of a luxury product consumer show.
Weather? Pah! The hearty and tenacious Midwestern stock who inhabit America’s heartland push on, no matter what the elements. Small rooms too small for good sound? Nope. Many if not most of the smaller rooms Peter B. and I were fortunate enough to visit sounded good to very good. The credenza in the room, folks, is real life stuff and those who have the set-up chops will overcome sonic problems to a high degree. AXPONA, the new CES in its beautiful new venue is North America’s largest and most important show. Attend in 2019 to enjoy an endless amount of new audio innovations in over 160 exhibit rooms along with good food, concerts and comradery.