Welcome 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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AXPONA has grown into the largest audio show in the U.S. catering to the High-end Two-channel Loudspeaker community as well as the High-end of Personal Audio, with a smattering of Multi-channel and Home Theater. Quite the crowd formed at the registration desks in anticipation of the opening of doors on Friday morning.
Ear Gear Experience
The main showroom of their Ear Gear Experience, as AXPONA called their Personal Audio section, was quite impressive competing with many dedicated headphone shows I have attended, though some manufacturers chose to have private rooms in the tower.
My first stop of the day was Moon Audio who in usual style commandeered a full corner of the floor to display a sampling of their extensive wares including the amazing three piece (DAC, Master Clock, and Headphone Amplifier) dCS Lina System ($31,150) which was driving a pair of HIFIMAN SUSVARA Planar Magnetic Headphones ($6,000) and the fantastic new dCS Bartók Apex DAC/Headphone Amplifier ($22,950) which was paired up with the spectacular Focal Utopia 2022 ($4,999). Of special interest for me was the luscious Cayin HA-3A Tube Headphone Amplifier ($1,599) which is the subject of my upcoming review.
Once again Qobuz was the official streaming service for the show providing 24-bit/192kHz audio for everyone’s listening pleasure. David Solomon was especially excited about and insistent I listen to the new Black Ice Audio ARIES Headphone Amplifier (TBA) designed in collaboration with Jim Fosgate which was being used to drive Dan Clark Audio Stealth Closed-Back Planar Magnetic Headphones ($3,999.99).
Bob Carver Corporation
Back in the early dark ages known as the 1970s, my first preamp was a Phase Linear 4000 designed by Bob Carver. When the Carver M400 came out, the first unit I purchased was so early in the production run that it came with a Xeroxed manual (my second M400 had a professionally printed one). I swapped that M400 for an M400t (I gave my second M400 to my brother when I switched to two-channel since I didn’t really need 800 Watts per channel) which I still have to this day as it remains the heart of my home theater system (it says something about the quality of this amp that I was able to drive the speakers I use it for with the 3 Watts of power from the ampsandsound Mogwai during my review several years ago). So when I heard that Bob Carver Corporation would be showing at AXPONA I had to rush to the tower and see what they had on offer, nor was I disappointed. The beautiful soon-to-be-released Bob Carver Corporation RAM 285 Tube Amp ($4,995) was handily driving a pair of ELAC Adante AF-61 Loudspeakers ($5,000/pr) and ELAC Adante SUB3070 Subwoofer ($2,500) to musical perfection. Of note was a Pre-Order special of $3,995 for those lucky few to get one off the first production run. Controlling the RAM 285 was their exciting new soon-to-be-released Bob Carver Corporation RPM V12 tube Preamplifier/Headphone ($4,995) amplifier featuring 12 12AX7 tubes. On display was a small photographic tribute to Bob showing him evaluating the sonics of the RAM 285 and RPM V12. ArgentPur Audio cables were used throughout.
Having placed their cable in at least 15 rooms around the show, Cardas Audio decided to have a little fun and set up a ’70s/’80s-themed hospitality room dedicated to the love of music.
I first discovered Geshelli Labs last year at AXPONA 2022, a true family owned and operated business out of Florida, with everything from design to circuit boards to cases to marketing, shipping, and receiving being performed by the various family members, all of whom turned out to support the brand at AXPONA 2023. Though they only produce five different products, actually seven since then they have introduced two new products, the Geshelli Labs Archel 3 PRO Headphone Amplifier ($599) featuring discreet opamps from Sparkos Labs and the Geshelli Labs Zoofa Integrated Amplifier (TBA) marking their entry into the world of stereo loudspeaker amplification, they offer a huge selection of customization options including a choice of DAC chips, and acrylic, aluminum, or wood cases. I really liked the sculpted wood cases they were using in their loudspeaker room. I see really great things in their future.