Welcome back to Headphone.Guru’s coverage of AXPONA 2023 thanks to the generous sponsorship provided by our good friends at xsa-labs and Vera-Fi Audio LLC.
Introducing XSA-Labs and Vera-Fi Audio LLC
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PS Audio was proudly showing their new PS Audio aspen FR30 Loudspeaker ($29,999/pr) and PS Audio aspen FR20 Loudspeaker ($18,999/pr) perfectly matched with their PerfectWave series of products including a pair of their new PS Audio BHK Mono 600 Power Amplifiers ($32,498/pr), a PS Audio BHK Signature Preamplifier ($6,999), a PS Audio PerfectWave SACD Transport ($6,999), a PS Audio DirectStream DAC MK2 ($7,999), two PS Audio PowerPlant 20s ($9,999/ea), and a PS Audio PowerPlant 15 ($7,999).
Magnapan had a secret by-invitation-only proof-of-concept room in which Wendell Diller was delivering a variation on the presentation of his 16 6.5″ driver Dipolar Subwoofer I experienced last July at the Texas Audio Roundup (Here). This time, instead of pairing the subs with a pair of Magnapan LSRs, he used a pair of MartinLogan Ethos electrostatic loudspeakers with the woofers removed to show that dipole subwoofers better blend with any planar dipole speaker. The speed of the subwoofer does indeed keep up with the electrostatics as well as it did with the Maggies and produced one of the best sounds at the show.
Bricasti Design / Tidal Audio
Bricasti Design is extremely popular among the personal audio crowd for their dual-mono DACs so it was a treat to see that they indeed produce a full line of high-performance electronics. Matched up with a pair of Tidal Audio Piano G2 Loudspeakers (discontinued, $64,000/pr for Piano G3) was a pair of Bricasti Design M28 Monoblocks ($30,000/pr), a Bricasti Design Platinum Edition M21 DAC ($19,000), a Bricasti Design M20 Preamplifier ($12,500), a Bricasti Design M1 Series II DAC ($12,000), and a Bricasti Design M3 DAC ($5,500).
Astell&Kern were showing a host of new products, of special interest was the Astell&Kern A&ultima SP3000 DAP in Copper ($3,700), the new Astell&Kern A&norma SR35 DAP ($800), and my favorite the Astell&Kern ACRO CA1000T All-In-One Head-Fi Audio System ($2,300) which I believe is the first A&K product to offer tube amplification.
Bowers&Wilkins and McIntosh seemed an obvious pairing of two ancient giants of the audio industry. Their main system included a pair of Bowers&Wilkins 801 D4 Loudspeakers ($38,000/pr), a pair of McIntosh MC451 Dual Mono Power Amplifiers ($14,000/pr), a McIntosh C2700 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier ($8,000), and a McIntosh MPC1500 Power Controller ($5,500). Also on display were Bowers&Wilkins’ Px8 Wireless Headphones ($699), Bowers&Wilkins’ Px7 S2 Wireless Headphones ($399), Bowers&Wilkins’ Pi7 S2 True Wireless Earbuds ($399), and Bowers&Wilkins’ Pi5 S2 True Wireless Earbuds ($299)
American Sound paired up the Rethm MAARGA Passive Loudspeakers ($9,750/pr) with the exquisite Phasemation MA-2000 Monaural Power Amplifiers ($51,5000/pair) which says quite a lot about their faith in the sound of that speaker. On static display were the Rethm AARKA Active Loudspeakers ($6,000/pr) that impressed me so last year with their built-in tube amps.
American Sound / Avantgarde Acoustic / Phasemation / dCS / Transparent Cable
While the Avantgarde Duo GT Horn Loudspeakers ($85,000) made for a smaller presentation than last year’s Avantgarde Active Trio G3 Loudspeakers ($129,000 USD/pair) and dual-driver SpaceHorn ($88,000 USD), I think the sound benefited from the smaller speakers given the size of the room. The active speakers were connected to a Phasemation stack consisting of the Phasemation CM-2200 Control Meister ($51,500) and the six-piece Phasemation EA-2000 Tube Phono Amplifier ($54,000) which was sourced via an Esoteric Grandioso T1 turntable ($85,000) with a Phasemation PP 5000 Cartridge ($20,000). For digital there was a dCS Vivaldi Apex DAC ($46,500), Vivaldi Upsampler Plus ($25,500), and Vivaldi Master Clock ($19,500).
One speaker that certainly caught my eye was the Phillips Design OH-16 Omnidirectional 3-way Loudspeaker ($4,500/pr) which appeared to be based on the classic Tannoy Orbitus (of which I own a pair). True to form, they gave exceptional sound with fantastic imaging for these less-than-ideal sound rooms.
Another unique looking and sounding speaker was the Linkwitz LX521.4 with its Linkwitz PowerBox 6pro Ncore Five Channel Cascaded Active Crossover/Amplifier ($23,900).
Von Gaylord Audio
One of the few rooms to play classical music without prompting, Von Gaylord Audio is a complete top down manufacturer from DAC to Speaker including Cables. For demonstration were the Von Gaylord Audio Legend Reference Speakers ($11,900/pr) being driven by a pair of Von Gaylord Audio Nirvana Mono Amplifiers ($8,500/pr) out of a Von Gaylord Audio Harmony Pre-Amplifier ($5,000) with a Von Gaylord Audio Sweet DAC ($4,500).
Okay, one cannot but be impressed with the Treehaus Audiolab National Treasure Field Coil Loudspeakers ($19,000/pr), their size and appearance simply take your breath away. These were matched up with a Treehaus Audiolab Preamplifier ($16,000), a Treehaus Audiolab Amplifier ($17,500), and a Treehaus MC Step-Up Transformer ($3,000). The front end was a Microseiki BL91 Turntable with a custom “moon” plater, Fidelity Research FR645S Tonearm, and a Hana Umami Red cartridge mounted to a Yamamoto HS-4 headshell.
That concludes Part 5 of my coverage of AXPONA 2023, stay tuned for Part 6. I would like to once again thank our sponsors xsa-labs and Vera-Fi Audio LLC for making this possible.
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