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.
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Holm Audio / DALI / NAD / SOTA / Rega / ADD-Powr / Sutherland / Torus Power / Sony / Gold Note / Nordost / Triangle
Holm Audio had a couple of rooms that caught my attention, the first thing I noticed was a beautiful SOTA Escape Turntable with a Rega 220 Tonearm and Ortofon 2M Cartridge ($2,139 complete) fronting a budget audiophile system consisting of a Sutherland 20/20 MK2 Dual Mono Phono Stage with a Sutherland LPS Linear Power Supply ($2,650 as a bundle) fed into a NAD C658 BluOS Streaming DAC/Preamp ($1,999) controlling a NAD 298 Stereo Power Amplifier ($2,399) driving a pair of DALI OPTICON 8 MK2 Loudspeakers ($4999/pr) with a Sony HAP-Z1ES Hi-Res Music Player ($1,999) on standby and a Torus Power RM 15 ($2,800) providing AC with Nordost Cables throughout. The second system began with a SOTA Sapphire VI Turntable ($4,550) with a full stack of Gold Note electronics including a Gold Note PH1000 Phono Stage ($11,999), Gold Note PSU-1250 ($6,599), Gold Note DS-10 Plus DAC, Gold Note PSU-10 ($1,199), Gold Note P-1000 MKII Deluxe Preamplifier ($8,999), and a Gold Note PA-1175 Power Amplifier ($8,199) driving a pair of Triangle Quatuor Magellan 40th Loudspeakers ($20,000/pr).
Gershman Acoustics / VAC / exaSound Audio Design / Cardas
Three of my favorite manufacturers came together to produce quite pleasant sound, Cardas, VAC, and Gershman Acoustics (who I discovered at FLAX) with a system composed of an exaSound s82 Mark II Streaming DAC and Roon Server ($7,599), exaSound s88 Mark II 8-Channel Streaming DAC and Roon Server ($7,599), a VAC Master preamplifier ($38,000), a VAC Master 300 amplifier ($42,000), Gershman Acoustics 30th Anniversary Grand Avant Garde Loudspeakers ($17,000) and of course Cardas cables.
Orchestalls / KMD Engineering / Vincent
One of the more unique looking and fantastic sounding speakers was the Orchestalls KMD 700R ($49,000) which they had paired up with a Vincent SV-237MKII Class-A Hybrid Integrated Amplifier ($2,999.95) and a humble Yamaha BD-S681 Blu-Ray Player. Visitors were completely entranced by this speaker’s ability to reproduce and orchestra.
LUMIN / Matthew Bond Audio / DeVore Fidelity / Puritan Audio Laboratories / Magico
I’ll admit that what drew me into the LUMIN room was the name Matthew Bond on the door, who I had met back in the 1980s when I worked with the first distributor to import his TARA Labs cable. They had two systems running in two rooms. One matching up a host of their Network Music Players and Network Music Players with the LUMIN AMP ($13,990) and Magico A3 Loudspeakers ($15,400), the other employing DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/baby Loudspeakers ($5,700) and of course, both systems used Matthew Bond Audio Cables and Puritan Audio Power Treatments. Highlighted products were the new LUMIN U2 Network Music Transport ($5000), the new LUMIN U2 MINI Network Music Transport ($2,400), the new LUMIN T3 Streamer/DAC ($4990), the LUMIN U1X Network Music Transport ($9,200), and the LUMIN P1 Preamp/DAC/Streamer ($10,000).
Alex Sound Technology / Blumenhofer Acoustics / Sforzato / Takatsuki / Fidata / Pachanko Labs / Plixir / True Power Lab / ATL Power / LeGO
Alex Sound Technology was showing their full representation of their products including Blumenhofer Acoustics Genuin FS 2 Mk 2 Loudspeakers in a beautiful Makassar premium finish ($22,850/pr), a Sforzato DST-050EX Hi-End Network Transport ($4,800), a Sforzato DCS-030EX Zero Link DAC ($9,990), a Sforzato PMC-015EX Master Clock ($4,990), a Takatsuki TA-S01 Tube Amplifier, a Fidata HFAS1-XS20U Network Audio Server ($7,995), a Pachanko Labs Constellation Mini-SE Music Server ($3,600), a Plixir BDC Linear Power Supply, a Plixir BAC-400 Balanced Power Conditioner, and True Power Lab Cables throughout. There was also a static display of ATL Power and LeGO connectors.
Von Schweikert / WestminsterLab / LampizatOr / Small Green Computer
Von Schweikert Audio and LampizatOr drew me into the room, though I was by now familiar with WestminsterLab. The system comprised of Von Schweikert Audio Endeavor SE Loudspeakers ($27,000/pr), Critical Mass Systems Footers ($5,200), a LampizatOr Horizon DAC ($50,000) with a Small Green Computer i9 ($3,499), and Sonore Ultra Rendu reclocker ($5,499), WestminsterLab Quest Balanced Preamplifier ($25,100), and WestminsterLab Rei Monoblocks ($32,900/pr).
Alta Audio / Acoustic Signature / Esoteric Audio / Plinius
Plinius treated us to an Acoustic Signature Typhoon Turntable ($17,995) with an Acoustic Signature TA 500 Tonearm ($7895), and a Grado Aeon 3 Phono Cartridge ($6000) playing through Alta Audio Adam Loudspeakers ($18,000/pr) powered by Plinius RA 150 Class-A Monoblocks ($29,990/pr), via a Plinius RM 10 Preamplifier ($19,250), and Plinius Koru phono stage ($4,620) and an Esoteric Audio K-01XD CD Player ($24,000) provided a digital source. Puritan Audio PSM 156 Studio Master Mains Purifier ($2,300) and Puritan Audio PSM 136 Studio Master Mains Purifier ($1,800) were employed as well as IKIGAI Audio Cables.
AXISS / Air Tight / Franco Serblin / Reed
AXISS Audio demonstrated some very unique looking loudspeakers along with some tasty tube amps and a turntable with an unusual tonearm. The Reed Muse 1C turntable ($15,500) was fitted with a Reed 5T Laser Tracking Tonearm ($21,500) sporting an Air-Tight Opus One MC Cartridge ($17,500) which was connected to an Air-Tight ATE-3011 Phonostage ($35,300) running through the new Air-Tight ATC-7 Line control Preamp ($34,800) driving the new Air-Tight ATM-2211 SET Monoblocks ($42,100/pr) which fed Franco Serblin Ktema loudspeakers ($40,000/pair). Also on display were a pair of Air-Tight ATM-3211 SET Monoblocks ($80,000), an Accuphase PS-1250 Clean Power Supply, and an Accuphase E-280 Integrated Amplifier.
VANA Distribution / Kyomi Audio / Grimm Audio / Atlas Cables / EAT / Ferrum / Jadis / Marten / Rekkord
The VANA Distribution room was quite spectacular with an EAT Fortissimo S turntable with an EAT F-Note tonearm fitted with an EAT Jo No. 8 MC cartridge ($13,799 w/o cartridge), an EAT E-Glo phono stage ($8,999), a Grimm MU1 Streamer ($12,500, Roon Core and Roon End Point integrated), a Ferrum Audio Wandla DAC ($2,795) with Ferrum Audio Hypsos Universal Power Supply ($1,195), a dual-chassis Jadis JPS2 line preamplifier ($17,700) into a pair of 160Wpc Jadis J200 M ii monoblocks ($41,900/pr) driving a pair of Marten Mingus Quintet 2 loudspeakers($74,995/pr). On static display were a Rekkord F300 Turntable ($599), a Rekkord M500 Turntable ($1,299), and an EAT C-DUR Turntable ($3,799).
Nagra / Stenheim / De Baer
My last stop was Nagra who was showing off a De Baer Saphir Turntable ($57,000) and their Nagra CLASSIC TUBE DAC with a Nagra CLASSIC PSU ($48,500 DAC+PSU) running through their Nagra CLASSIC PHONO ($21,500) into a Nagra CLASSIC INT Integrated Amplifier ($22,500) to a pair of STENHEIM Alumine 3SE special edition Loudspeakers ($44,700/pr).
That concludes my coverage of AXPONA 2023, it was a wonderful show and I only wish I had more time to experience more of it. While I covered the rooms that impressed me most as I entered them, I learned after the show that there were rooms I missed completely that had products right up my alley, so I look forward to next year when I can give it another go. I would like to once again thank our sponsors xsa-labs and Vera-Fi Audio LLC for making this possible.