AXPONA 2018: Wilson and friends – 4 rooms, 4 delicious flavours….

Audiophiles can’t always agree on what tastes delicious. Maybe you like tubes, solid state, digital, or pure analog… 31 flavours can’t do it justice, but there is something for everyone.

Chicago based Quintessence Audio and Michigan based Paragon Sight and Sound worked together to put on an a test drive of four different Wilson Audio Speakers in very different setups. From entry to extreme, analog to digital, there was something that tasted delicious for everyone. WE LOVED this idea and hope to see it again at future shows.

Room 1 – Wilson Audio + dCS + Dan D’Agostino + Transparent + HRS

Its been a few years since I’ve listened to the Wilson Audio Alexandria XLF. It brought us to our knees a few years ago at RMAF.   It was the start of a Wilson sound that I’ve been in love with and the reason I originally purchased the Wilson Audio Alexia Series-1.

I had forgotten the potency.  Maybe it was Dan D’Agostino’s Momentum Pre-amplifier and M400 Monoblock amplifiers that have been kicking it up at the gym with lots of muscle to make music. Review pending from Part-Time Audiophile later this summer.

But the real treat, was getting quality time with Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio, as he played his prize recordings on a dCS Vivaldi stack.  If Peter’s recordings don’t make you a classical music lover as he whisks you away, nothing will.

Being shown for the first time was support for MQA on a full dCS Vivaldi stack sitting on top of a beautiful HRS VXR rack. I’ll take one please.  dCS has previously released firmware updates to add MQA support to the dCS Rossini DAC as well as the dCS Vivaldi One.  John Quick of dCS assured us that the dCS Vivaldi DAC & dCS Vivaldi upsampler firmware being demonstrated would be available soon.

Peter played several recordings back to back, starting with an MQA version of some music he had recorded vs. the non MQA version created from the same original master file.  The difference was subtle to significant across the various recordings, but in all cases, my ears preferred the MQA version.

Analog music was provided by a Clear Audio Master Innovation turntable.

All cables and power conditioning were provided by Transparent Audio.

Room 2 – Wilson Audio + Doshi + Transparent + HRS

Paragon Sight and Sound has a history of great sounding rooms that sport Wilson Audio + Doshi Audio.

This year was no different. Doshi Audio was debuting their new Doshi Audio v3.0 Stereo Amplifier ($17,995) driving a pair of Wilson Audio Sasha-2 speakers.  Sure you can spend more on Wilson Alexia or Alexx, but the Doshi room demonstrates the potential of the smaller Sasha-2 loud speaker.

The room sported a huge sound stage and a tube sound that you just couldn’t not enjoy.  Lee Scoggins and I didn’t want to leave.  Nick Doshi of Doshi Audio and Josh Clark of Transparent Audio were playing DJ, rotating through the variety of sources.

On Digital, they used a dCS Rossini DAC + dCS Rossini Master Clock + debut of the dCS Rossini SACD Player.

On Analog, they were sporting a Brinkmann Balance Turntable w 12′ arm and a My Sonic Lab Signature Platinum cartridge.

But the star of the show was reel-to-reel tape. Nick Doshi has a secret weapon, he bypasses all the electronics in the reel to reel deck and drives the signal to his Doshi Audio v3.0 Tape Stage ($16,995 USD).

I’ve been trying to delay any investment in tape in my listening room, but listening to reels with Doshi made me feel like I was missing out on some music. It made me re-think going too crazy with modifying a used reel to reel tape machine and instead double down on a tape stage that can really open up what’s hiding on that magnetic tape!

Room 3 – Wilson Audio + Audio Research + AMG + DS Audio + Kubala Sosna + Critical Mass

Assembled by Quintessence Audio & Musical Surroundings, I was really excited to come by this room since it was sporting the debut of the new Audio Research Ref 160 mono blocks. I had seen a photo of their sweet looking VU meters the day before on Facebook, and needed to see how bad-ass they are in person.

They are even sweeter in person. I can’t believe no one hasn’t done this sooner.

The Audio Research Ref 160’s were driving a pair of Wilson Audio Alexia Series-2 speakers.

Front of the house was brought to you by a Audio Research Ref 6 line stage.

We kicked back in the room for some time with Garth Leerer of Musical Surroundings. He was making music on my favorite AMG Viella V12 turntable with the AMG 12JT Turbo Arm.  At the end of that tonearm was a DS Audio DS W2 Optical cartridge with its matching phono stage.

I’ve had the opportunity to hear DS Audio a few times, but this current system definitely took it a few notches higher.  The sound was similar to experience to what you expect from tape, which was nice having just migrated from hearing Doshi’s tape pre-amplifier. Garth explained that a lot of this can be attributed to the benefits of the optical cart, and less mass, with no need to handle all of the challenges that you have with a magnetic coil.

It definitely left an impression on me, and made me want to spend some time with a DS Audio optical cart on my AMG V12 that currently resides in my listening room.

Garth was also demonstrating the new DS Audio ST-50 Stylus cleaner, which  I managed to take away and will post a review of shortly with my personal results.

Room 4 – Wilson Audio + Simaudio + AMG + Musical Surroundings + Kubala Sosna + Critical Mass

Eric Shook and I closed out the night in Room 4 from Quintessence Audio. It was the smallest and simplest of the rooms sporting Wilson Audio Sabrina loud speakers powered by a Moon 700i integrated amplifier.

As the night wrapped up we cozy upped  with David Weintraub of Quintessence Audio and his killer collection of 80’s new wave LPs.

David is a total gentleman and was very generous to allow us to plow through his personal LPs including hard-to-find Japanese pressings.

The evening progressed, and the AMG Giro table + AMG teatro cartridge sung.

David left, and we continued to play until…  we broke the Moon integrated amp. It was giving us an error and no audio, and turning the unit on / off didn’t clear it. Do we quietly leave? Do we leave a love note from our editor Scot Hull with an apology and suggest they send him the bill? Luckily Garth Leerer came by and a simple reset of the power switch on the back fixed the integrated amp.

Eric and I quietly exited. No trace left. I guess they shouldn’t leave us PTA folks un-attended.