AXPONA 2012: AIX, B&W, Bryston

I guess I’m a 2-channel guy.

This didn’t happen on purpose or by any sort of plan, but there you go. When I think of “audiophile”, I think of 2-channel stereo. When I think of “surround sound”, I think of home theater.

Well, AXPONA changed that for me, at least a bit.

I got to sit through a fun demo put on by the AIX Records folks. They ran an all B&W speaker system powered by big Bryston amps, and plopped us right down in the middle of a recording session. “Once we’d set up all the microphones, running video wasn’t any more trouble and seemed like a good idea”. I agree! But it definitely took the “listening to the stereo” experience and transformed it into a “listening to a concert” experience. Adding 3-D to the mix was entertaining and made it much more, well, experiential. It’s impossible to let music fade into the background when you’re wearing 3-D glasses and watching musicians create it in front of you on a giant screen. It was, for lack of a better word, cool.

The biggest problems, for me, with such an approach is that there’s a significant investment over and above a 2-channel rig. Obviously. I mean, you need at least 3 more speakers. And no, you can’t skimp either. At least in the AIX mixes, those rear channels might be where the kick drum sits or where the piano is, while we’re watching the trumpeter blow his brains out of his horn. Putting a tiny monitor back there, which is usually more than adequate on a DTS playback of aKung Fu Panda is most definitely not okay when you’re sitting in the middle of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra while they’re playing Beethoven’s Symphony #6.

Another thing is image size. When the venue is pretty intimate, instruments sorted out to the sides of the viewing angle will not be proportionate. This is disconcerting, but that said, it’s not unpleasant. Not at all. I think with the addition of the video channel added to the music channels, again, the whole experience is different, or rather, different enough, that I don’t care. It’s just awesome sitting in with the band! AIX does a really convincing demo, and one I highly recommend for anyone who either has a great surround-sound system or is curious about pulling one together.

And on a side note, I wanted to mention that I thought the B&W/Bryston amp combo was just superb and may be the best I’ve heard either component. For me, B&W 802d speakers have never been more than interesting. At this demo, they were very good. An auspicious mating to the Bryston amps, perhaps? Who knows. But I was struck that this would be a fantastic system to capture on a Smyth Realizer.

Anyway, this was a fun room to visit. If you have the gear to play back the music, AIX is definitely worth a listen.