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Axpona 2010 - 3/5-3/7/10


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As I'm doing a mega-whirlwind tour of Florida this weekend (Jacksonville yesterday & today for Axpona, then scampering down to Tampa tomorrow morning for the Beerfest and then back up Sunday morning), I'll have essentially no time to post either impressions or pics anytime until Monday night.

Axpona was pretty cool today. It was fun listening to a wide variety of speakers. :) The hotel venue was smaller than expected, but inside the hotel was fairly well decked out with the audio stuff in lots of rooms. Compared to RMAF, I'd say the event is maybe around 20-25% the scale - and even then I still didn't get to see everything today, let alone listen to everything. If I was continuing tomorrow I'm sure I could've covered the rounds completely. But it's ok, I heard plenty of stuff anyway and I also took some pics too.

Both Music Direct and May Audio Marketing were there (May Audio supplies Elusive Disc, Acoustic Sounds, & Music Direct with their audiophile recordings, like the XRCDs, AF Gold CDs, MFSLs, etc) and I was glad to hear they were selling music at discount prices (unlike at RMAF, which I'm still miffed about). So I picked up a handful of CDs and actually saved a nice amount not only from the discounts but no shipping either: Amanda McBroom - Midnight Matinee XRCD, Dire Straits - Brothers In Arms XRCD, Horace Parlan - Speakin' My Piece XRCD, Linda Ronstadt - Hasten Down The Wind MFSL, Santana - Santana MFSL, and Tina Brooks - True Blue XRCD.

My Axpona experience is over now and Beerfest is next. Looking forward to what will surely be a smashing time. :D

Next installment to come Monday night.

Uh....any chance we could make the Meets & Meets Impressions forums invisible unless you log in? I've been noticing lots of guests/lurkers in this area with our recent meet impressions....

Edited by grawk
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If a moderator could remove the "Florida Brewers Guild Beerfest 2010" from the thread title I'd appreciate it, as I'm going to post only Axpona-related stuff in this thread now, since I posted in the other Beerfest thread (and will post there again later).

Axpona show impressions

The best word I can think of to describe Axpona is: lackluster. When I saw the venue hotel, the first thing I thought was: it was small. It was practically right on the riverwalk and not too far away were several far more imposing hotels which made it look especially shabby. On the inside though, things looked better actually - there was lots of interior space, roomy conference rooms on the main floor with lots of spacious halls, and 2 additional floors occupied by vendors (the floors weren't fully occupied though). I was there only Friday (afternoon & evening) and foot traffic wasn't very high. If I wanted to, I'm sure I could've listened to more than 1 track at each vendor system but I didn't for time reasons. It was overall a slower feel than the chaos of RMAF, which was nice, but I'm sure the vendors were disappointed.

I was glad to discover some new music from Diana Panton (really nice female vocals) and Terry Cade (also female vocals) while making the rounds. However, as I've discovered at this kind of audio show before, I found it routine for vendors to be playing music that was in no way challenging for the speakers. Hence, most speakers sounded great playing the pedestrian jazz, classic rock, or female vocals. Once I sat down to swap with a CD of my own though, wow! It's like instantly losing respect for the speakers and what sounded good before was just a cover-up for the flaws! :P

Speaker impressions (not in any particular order) (pics to come later)

- Haniwa HSP1C07 (mini-size - in-wall?) ($12K) (forgot to note source & amp) (photo not taken)

Bad-sounding speakers. These did not reproduce the scale of Julia Fischer's Bach Concertos very well and were also very tinny-sounding. It was almost like listening to tinker-toy speakers.

- Penaudio Charisma ($4K) (bookshelf) > Chapter Precis 250S int amp > Chapter Sonnet S CDP

These were pretty good. They were initially playing some music I haven't heard before (Diana Panton) which sounded pretty good, and then I played Alison Krauss' New Favorite which went surprisingly well. The soundstage wasn't very large but bass went deep enough to hear the bass notes. Its price seems kinda high though.

- Horning Aristoteles (floorstander) ($15K in show configuration) (source: TW Acustic Black Knight turntable | amps: Thoress phono stage, pre-amp, & 300B monoblocks)

I requested the vinyl copy of Robert Plant & Alison Krauss' Raising Sand for this turntable-based system (it was the only music on LP they had that I was familiar with). I've never really listened to vinyl before and it sounded pretty dang good. However, I couldn't really discern a major difference between the CD and the LP (track used was "Trampled Rose"). The speakers sounded fine but nothing grabbed me about them. There was a slight bass sinkhole and Alison's voice wasn't pushed forward that much. There was really good instrument separation though and the soundstage was pretty wide too.

There was also a CD player in this system so I also played Porcupine Tree's Deadwing. It went ok but didn't have too much thrash and/or power and I wanted a lot more grunt to the mid-bass.

- Koetsu Rosso Fiorentino Volterra (floorstander) ($11.95K) > Goldenote Demidoff Silver Plus int amp > Blacknote CDP 300

These speakers were pretty impressive and had extremely physical bass. There was initially some type of percussion music playing on them that had some really highlighted drums and every impact felt like a physical attack. So I requested Massive Attack's "Inertia Creeps" to hear what it would do and it did not disappoint. The bass was powerful and the belly drums were whacked really well. I suspect the results would've been even better if positioning were more ideal (they were kinda far from each other and the listening chairs were also kinda far away).

- System Audio Explorer (floorstander) > Cary 211 Thunder monoblocks > Cary SLP-05 pre-amp > Cary 306 SACD Pro

I played the Bach Concertos track #8 but these speakers effectively crashed and burned. Ok they weren't terrible but they didn't really gel the orchestra together that well and the solo violin lacked intensity and power.

- Napa Acoustic SAG-350 ($3.7K) & BOW-A6 II ($2K) (floorstanders) > Napa NA-208A amp > Mistral DT-307CD CDP

These two pairs of speakers were both ok, but the SAG-350 clearly beat the BOW-A6 II. I started listening to the BOW-A6 II which was ok but felt kinda "small" in its presentation and a little bit thin, and insta-switching to the SAG-350 resulted in a wider soundstage and more body to the sound. It was enough body that I listened to "Inertia Creeps" here too, and the SAG-350 did a good job but not as good as the Volterra above. Granted, it did nothing wrong but it didn't sound very fast and didn't whack the belly drums that well, and the male vocals weren't very deep.

- Acoustic Zen Crescendo (floorstander) (forgot to note source & amp)

These did a good job with Alison Krauss' New Favorite track #2 - good clarity throughout and decently fast. However, they didn't exude too much power at the bottom of the rhythmic double-bass and they weren't very dynamic-sounding. Not bad though and I'm pretty sure the positioning was less than ideal.

- Axis Voicebox S (bookshelf) (forgot to note source & amp)

These were ok for bookshelf speakers. With the Alison Krauss, treble detail and speed were good. Not a whole lot of dynamic range though.

- Nightingale Concentus CTR 2 > Nightingale Onda 50 monoblocks > Nightingale PTS 03 pre-amp > Raysonic CD168

These speakers instilled awe. The room was pretty big and they more than filled it and were able to play at very loud volume (apparently the rep didn't mind the volume regardless of music) with no audible distortion. I was inspired to try Bach Concertos track #8 and was blown away - these speakers almost perfectly matched one quality that I routinely get with my Plinius CD-101/BHSE/Stax OII system, which is a heart-racing, pulse-pounding sensation on the solo violin as it modulates in intensity and volume. I thought it was amazing that I found speakers that were able to do this as well as the OII does, because honestly it blew me away and the pulse-pounding factor practically left me dizzy, it was that surreal. I really could not pay attention to any other aspect of the music, it was that awesome. Oh and they did have pretty nice bass too, as I found out next when the vendor rep switched the music to something else.

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I thought the Thoress/Horning room was the best overall in a weak group. I heard it with both the 300b amps and the 845 amps and the 845s were alot more to my liking. The phono preamp was TW Acoustic. Cartridge was Dynavector XV-1t. The VAC room was pretty good too.

The Thiel/Boulder 5.1 channel room was playing some killer recordings, and the best surround sound I've heard & seen.


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Chapter Sonnet S CDP > Chapter Precis 250S int amp > Penaudio Charisma ($4K)


Chapter Sonnet S CDP (Diana Canton CD on top)


April Music Stello CDA 500


Audes Blues floorstanders


Mastersound Evolution 845 int amp


April Music Eximus CD5


Triode TRV-CD4SE CDP & unknown amps > Acoustic Zen Crescendo




Triode int amp (model not noted)


AXIS Voicebox S


Mistral DT-307CD CDP > Napa NA-208A int amp > Napa NA-208S bookshelves


Oracle Delphi MKV turntable w/ SME tonearm and Thalia cartridge


Raysonic CD168 CDP > Nightingale PTS 03 pre-amp > Nightingale Onda 50 monoblocks > Nightingale Concentus CTR2


Nightingale Onda 50


TW Acustic Black Knight turntable > Thoress phono stage, line stage, & 300B monoblocks > Horning Aristoteles


TW Acustic Black Knight


Cary Audio 306 SACD Pro > SLP-05 pre-amp > CAD 211 Thunder monoblocks > System Audio Explorer ($5.8K)


Ayon Audio electronics > Legacy Audio Focus SE floorstanders


Ayon Audio electronics > Lumen White Artisan floorstanders


DH Labs w/ Greg Hovsepian (Sales & Marketing) (guy wearing glasses)


May Audio Marketing's supply of audiophile CDs - Audio Fidelity Gold corner (Redbook CDs, XRCDs, & DVD-As on other tables)


Blacknote CDP 300 > Goldenote Demidoff Silver Plus int amp > Rosso Fiorentino Fiesole (mini-monitors) & Volterra (floorstanders)


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