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AXPONA 2017: Karan Acoustics, Goldmund, Penaudio, Zensati and a parlour trick

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Believe it… or not? The Penaudio Serenade Signature.

Magic shows.

Who doesn’t like magic shows?

As a child I was always impressed with anybody who could pull-off something even remotely magical: Pulling a quarter out of my ear? Check. Naming the card I chose out of a shuffled deck? Check.  I guess technically these weren’t magic, but illusions (to quote Gob from Arrested Development), but they still had the intended effect: To  make me believe something very special was happening, that I was in on a secret, or part of a cool club. But in reality it was merely a honed skill that was being shared with me. To me this is what happened in Wynn Wong’s main room at the Westin O’Hare in Chicago during AXPONA: a honed skill at work, some could say magic of a sort – or sleight of hand, if you will – as it tricked a number of people I witnessed into believing something was there when it really wasn’t. The trick? Just about everyone I saw thought there was a subwoofer hidden somewhere in the room because they couldn’t believe the diminutive little Penaudio Serenade Signature was plumbing such stygian bass depths.

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Subwoofer? Not here.

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AXPONA 2017 coverage proudly brought to you by Noble Audio.

Grown men would come in, and sit down, listen attentively for several minutes, and then proceed to look around the room with curiosity. They would then get up, walk around the speakers, looking carefully, then turn their attention to the area behind the Critical Mass Systems Olympus equipment rack (North American premier, price TBA), and look up at Wong asking “where’s the subwoofer?”

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L Reference preamplifier, and S600 stereo power amplifier from Karan Acoustics.

Magic? Skill? A bit of both on Wong’s part I think: Magic in the sound of this system, skill in executing its set-up. Any system that can fool the brain into thinking something is going on that really isn’t, is actually doing its job in my book. Don’t many of us as audiophiles want to be fooled into believing a recorded event is being recreated in our presence? The fact that not only did the Karan Acoustics/Goldmund-fronted system feeding the Serenades sound spectacularly realistic, dynamic, and musical, but that it was so effortlessly, and consistently punching above its weight with its ability to pressurize the room, and that the Penaudios sounded far larger than speakers their size had any right to, only added to the jump factor the gear possessed.

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Wynn Wong, of Wynn Audio.

Wong has previously caught many eyes, and ears at numerous shows with his massive, curated systems with stratospheric price tags that wowed crowds, and reviewers alike. But here in Chicago he dialled it back a bit, and gave us a glimpse at what other alchemy he’s capable of with a budget in a lower orbit.

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Goldmund Eidos 36U+ Universal Player.

A parlour trick indeed.

–Rafe Arnott

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3 Comments on AXPONA 2017: Karan Acoustics, Goldmund, Penaudio, Zensati and a parlour trick

  1. john hewitt // May 29, 2017 at 6:08 PM //

    10000 USD should be enough to buy an excellent full range usb audio system provided you have the computer as a source. All the superfluous veneers and opulent finishes are just masking the fact many of these high end companies don’t focus on affordable real world technology to move the game ahead. It’s all cloaking tactics to fleece the wealthy.. as they obviously have too much money to spend.. might as well steal it.

  2. With a budget in a lower orbit. Just 100 000 Bucks. Are you kidding? Have you lost your idea of monthly salary for workers or people just having an office job? I’m insulted by such a remark and likewise insulted by people who think if something is not above 50 k in price, its not wortwhile to be noticed. And I have much more respect for companies like Chario, who showed my recently that you can make real music out of your Macbook with speakers AND amp for under 1000.- !!! Checkout their Reflex seconda and Quadro Amp and you will know what im talking about. And just tell us if your blog is for oligarchs or us regular hifi and Music lovers.

    • Rafe Arnott // May 5, 2017 at 1:32 PM //

      My remark was specifically referencing his previous outings at shows where Wong has always curated systems in the $500,000+ USD category. I’m glad you respect other audio manufacturers who can offer equipment at sub-$1,000 USD price points, perhaps you could extend that respect to those who do not target that market.

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