AXPONA 2012: Soundfield Audio, Power Modules and WyWires

Biggest surprise at AXPONA? Soundfield Audio!

Being the total tool that I am, I completely missed their debut at the Capital Audiofest last summer. Since then, I’ve been lambasted, ridiculed, mocked and pitied by all and sundry about the opportunity missed.

To all of you, that have kindly gone out of your way to show me the errors in mine, I have this to say:


And …

“Fine, you’re right, this guy is awesome.”

I feel almost nervous giving AJ a rave on his room here at AXPONA for fear that he’ll be forced to quit his day job, hire staff, and actually start filling a tsunami of orders once the word finally gets out.

As if I had any impact on the audiophile readership at large. Yeah.

But if I did, I’d seek out those cost-conscious, price sensitive, 99%’ers, and say to them, “I have a secret that I’d like to share with you …”

That secret is the Soundfield Audio Monitor 1. At $1300 (!!!), it evokes a solid metric ton of audiophile cliches. It boxes above its weight class. It bats above the average. It’s more awesome than a monkey wearing a tuxedo made out of bacon riding a cyborg unicorn with a light saber for the horn on the tip of a Space Shuttle closing in on Mars while engulfed in flames. And in case you didn’t know, that’s pretty dang sweet.

Here’s what’s different about the Monitor 1. It’s 17″ tall in that little cabinet, you’ll find a passive 2-way with a powered subwoofer. So, what you get is a compact speaker that doesn’t require the mid range driver to make excursions that force it to distort, yet can still reach down into “real bass”. Yes, sir, that’s pretty dang sweet indeed.

The top driver is a coaxial from KEF, one of the Uni-Q, so you can see the tweeter jammed up in the middle there. AJ apparently went with the KEF for its wide dispersion and good on-axis performance. It sounded pretty even wherever I was standing or sitting.

And then there’s bass. AJ specs the Monitor 1 to 38Hz, but check out the in room response he was getting at AXPONA! He measured seven different seats in two rows to generate the average responses and graphed ’em all for us. What’s the bottom line (as it were)? It’s 10dB down at 20Hz and flat to 30dB. Yee-hah!

The amp on the back of the cabinet used to be the rather common BASH amp. Here, the demo unit had one that AJ calls “generic”, but come late April, he’ll be standardizing on Yung. Still pushing several hundred watts back there to move that big 8″ carbon fiber driver forwards and back. Cabinets are sealed, too, to optimize the evenness of the response.

Oh, and by the way. The fit and finish is entirely up to the customer. AJ brought along a pair of monitors with a pretty neutral and non-reflective fascia that could be easily worked into an existing home theater system, but the ultimate design is a conversation that can end up with a tailor-made, totally custom, look.

Components on display today were from Power Modules by David Belles. The gear for the Monitor 1 speakers sat on the bottom shelf, all but hidden, and included the $1149 Soloist amp and $939 preamp combo. WyWires Blue cabling was used on these.

Signals all came from a tiny $130 NuForce uDAC-2.

The power conditioner in the middle, bottom, was a MajikBUSS from Pi Audio Group.

Now, about the big speakers. Standing by as “System 2”, AJ had a pair of prototype speakers he’s calling the 1812 Overture. Pricing is set for $7500. He also a whole different set of gear to run them, which included the top row of gear on the shelf. This was a $4,700 Power Modules VT 01 preamp paired with the matching $7k Power Modules MB 200 (200wpc) mono block amps. WyWires Silver cabling was used on these.

This speaker is, essentially, the same design as his Monitor 1. That is, there’s a coaxial up top and a powered sub down below. This coax is a 12″ passive that handles the mid-bass through the high-end, from 150Hz-22KHz. Sensitivity in the sealed enclosure is a very high 97dB with a flat 8ohm impedance.

The bass cabinet, which is open in the back, houses an 18″ powered (300 watts) subwoofer. This sub throws a cardioid sound field (sides and front, nothing to the rear), so placement will be (relatively) unproblematic.

The upper cabinet sits on a stand that sits on the bottom cabinet. Note that the upper cabinet is actually tilted — this is to optimize the response, which is best just a touch off of on-axis. With the up-tilt, the sound field is cast up, which gives me a bigger image and helps to ensure proper fill-in wherever the listener is sitting. Rather clever, if you ask me.

All in all, this was extremely impressive. I thought the prototype 1812 Overture had some of the best sound at the show and I still cannot get over how awesome the Monitor 1 is. If this is his freshmen offering, I think AJ may need to reconsider going full-time. This is some seriously awesome sounding gear from an extraordinarily knowledgeable and passionate guy.

This room is why this hobby is pretty dang sweet. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next, and in the meantime, I have no problem recommending his lineup to anyone. Very well done.