Bigger and better than ever, this years Expo Hall at AXPONA was alone worth the cost of admission. Vendors were pulling all the stops with their displays and demo exhibits. Traffic was consistent throughout the weekend, and I imagine the Expo Hall will be a popular destination for both attendee and exhibitor next year.
On with the show!
Wynn Audio had six displays featuring Thales Turntable, Kalista Digital Playback System, Karan Acoustics Amplifier, Entreq Groundbox (recently reviewed by Rafe), Penaudio Speakers, and ZenSati Cables. The main booth was a pop-up listening room where attendees peek their heads inside and listen to the audio system, which consisted of Kalista DreamPlay STREAM music streamer ($25,000 USD), Karan Acoustics L Ref preamp ($16,995 USD), S 600 power amp ($29.995 USD), and Kiso Acoustic HB-X1 loudspeakers ($16,000 USD). The Kiso Acoustic speakers were the highlight of the booth. Small in size but still managing to reproduce a big sound due to its use of highly resonant cabinet.
U-Turn founders Bob Hertig, Salt Maltzan, and Ben Carter were showing three turntables. Made to order, made in the USA, without frills, includes everything you need to get closer to the music. Along with the models on display at the show, U-Turn also has a custom builder interface on their website. Options include painted plinth colors or wood species, cartridge upgrades, acrylic platter, tonearm lifter, and phono-preamps both built-in and outboard. Be sure to visit the accessories page as well, but not because you need to, most everything you will ever need comes included.
Orbit Basic ($179 USD), Orbit Plus ($289 USD), Orbit Special ($459 USD)
A-T was demonstrating every single turntable in its lineup, along with their new headphones. Their newest state-of-the-art AT-LP7 belt drive turntable was the star of the show. It is the culmination of more than 50 years of Audio-Technica’s vinyl-playback design expertise. The AT-LP7 ($799 USD) features an anti-resonance platter and chassis, VM520EBphono cartridge, built-in moving magnet/moving coil phono preamp. Audio-Technica’s flagship over-the-ear headphone the ATH-ADX5000 are the new statement in their long heralded history of headphone design. The ATH-ADX5000 ($1,999 USD) features the company’s patent-pending Core Mount Technology(CMT) and other refinements for truly expressive audio reproduction.
Showing at AXPONA for the first time was Auris. What easily could have been a two room system display in the main tower was still a lively and eye catching display on the expo floor. The main Auris system consisted of: Poison 8 loudspeakers ($11,244 USD), Fortissimo integrated amplifier ($12,852), D2D high end DAC ($2,853 USD). What could have been an exhibit on it’s own was their best selling headphone amplifier, the HA2 SE which retails for ($2,435 USD) and their Headonia premium single-ended headphone amplifier ($8,821 USD), with D1D DAC ($2,411 USD).
HIFIMAN showed off a wide range of products, but the highlights were the Sundara ($499 USD) over-ear planar magnetic headphone, and the Shangri-La Jr.electrostatic headphone and tube-driven amplifier system. ($8,000 USD). The Shangri-La Jr.is centered by four 300B tubes that are custom-designed and custom-made in-house by HIFIMAN. The tubes work as the direct driving stage, with neither capacitors nor transformers inserted between the 300B tubes and the headphones. (The Shangri-La Jr.’s page is not yet online at the time of writing this article)
AR is back and they are serious about sound. Their booth featured two new Hi-Res in-ear monitors, the AR-E10 and AR-E100. The AR-E100 ($149 USD) utilizes a 10mm Beryllium dynamic driver, and the step-up AR-E10 ($249 USD) employs a hybrid-acoustic module made up of an 8mm Beryllium dynamic driver and a proprietary balanced armature driver. As a horn player, I know armatures, so when I hear they are now being used in headphones, I perk up. Both of the new IEMs come complete with essential accessories: a 1.2m unbalanced audio cable (3.5mm 3-pole), a Bluetooth AptX neckband, replaceable earphone sleeves, and a portable carry pouch. The step-up AR-E10 includes a 1.2m balanced audio cable (4.4mm 5-pole). Also on hand was the AR-M200 ($399 USD), AR HiFi’s new headphone amp/DAC/bi-directional BT/Hi-Res player. It’s capable of receiving and streaming Bluetooth audio with AptX HD decoding. It supports a wide range of HD music formats, and drives high-end full-size headphones with ease via its 3.5mm and 4.4mm JEITA balanced headphone outputs. Definitely something to be excited about.
Were showcasing a handful of IEMs, namely the Layla, Roxanne, Lola, JH16v2 and JH13v2. The main piece of technology that was to the forefront of all models is Freqphase. It’s what makes the JH Audio IEMs the most phase accurate monitors out there. Here is a video where Jerry breaks down how it works.
Linear Tube Audio was showing the updated MZ2. It is a preamplifier, integrated, and headphone amplifier, hand made in Washington DC. The MZ2 sounds about as reference as reference gets when tethered to a robust set of cans. If you have very efficient speakers, and sober listening habits it could even be the centerpiece of a great sounding stereo system. LTAwas also featured in the Daedalus, Fern & Roby and Spatial Audio rooms.