VPI Industries was lending a hand to Luminous Audio Technology and PureAudioProject, by handling the analog section of the demonstration. Outfitted with a Grado cartridge (that I didn’t spend enough time listening to) and a Soundsmith Zephyr MIMC Star moving iron cartridge (which I spent too much time listening to) that sounds as good as anything pushing $5k, though it’s street price is well under $2k. The Zephyr MIMC Star is considered and entry point into the high-end sound of Soundsmith, but I still consider it high-end in performance. There just doesn’t really seem anything entry-level about it. Handling phono-preamplification was a Mike Bettinger designed VPI Voyager Phono Preamp. All of the audible goodness from this combination, was being passed directly to the Mike Bettinger designed mono-block amplifiers. Well… that’s what Tim Stinson of Luminous Audio Technology would have you believe as they make passive preamps.
The philosophy behind Luminous’ passive preamps is to neither add or take away from the incoming or outgoing signal. This could be said about every passive preamp on the market, but I question how many of those examples still left in the market are living up to that philosophical promise. The Axiom II platform is no toy. Though starting at near toy prices ($195 USD) and extending options for (in/out)puts in either RCA or XLR, Walker mod attenuation, and remote — the Axiom II when fully decked-out can climb to ($1,249 USD). Luminous was also proudly displaying their newest Prestige III speaker cable. So new in fact, the pair used in the system were only three days old when brought to the show. Each is comprised of 4/9’s solid core copper, and arranged in an isolated helical array with polyurethane ins for only $8 USD a foot.
Following the idea of getting out of the way of the music, the acoustically open sounding and literally open-baffle speakers from PureAudioProject. I say “speakers” because of the bi-polar identity of the Trio15’s. Yes, they are di-polar in how they load a room with the backwave, but also bi-polar (here at Capital Audiofest) in personality as we changed out the center component of the Trio15 to hold either of the two available high frequency modules; the Horn1 or Voxativ (AC-X Field Coil). Outfitted on Friday as the Trio15 w/Horn1 module ($7,990 USD) and on Saturday and Sunday as the Trio15 w/Voxativ module ($15,990). Not on display at the show were three other model variants of the Trio15; the Trio15TB which features a Tang Band full range driver, the Trio15 Beyma which features a TPL150H driver, and Trio15 HeilAMT which features an ESS Heil AMT driver.
What makes Luminous Audio Technology’s Axiom II with the Walker mod sound so good is that it’s perfect. Can I say that? Probably not. But it sounds that way. It is the philosophy of freedom, being that freedom from restriction and freedom from boxing things in. This freedom is not just exemplified by the speakers, it is a parallel narrative formed throughout every component of the system, starting with the Axiom II. Nothing sounds like a passive preamp done right, and that’s because nothing gets in the way, or over-handles the musical signal. What I think Tim Stinson has done with the Axiom II in terms of build quality and sonic submissiveness is to legitimize the passive preamps place in true high-end and even ultra-high-end systems.
Be it the Trio15 with the Horn1 module or the Trio15 with the Voxativ (AC-X Field Coil) module — the picture painted in sound is clear, enveloping, larger than life, and casts a an image with equal depth and width. Some preferred the sound of the Trio15 w/Horn1 module, and some preferred the Trio15 w/Voxativ. I belonged to the latter group, if I were to painfully pick a favourite. Though if I were an owner of the Trio15 open-baffle speakers, I’d probably also own two or more modules. Why box yourself in with just one sound? Dare we say it, and say it loud enough for the people in the back of the room, I am seriously a new convert to the open-baffle sound.
I should explain further though, as I say “convert”, I do not mean that I am now a member of a camp. It would be best defined that I am a connoisseur of sound and that open baffle holds a place of high regard in my stable of preferred musical experiences.
As for the open baffle sound? Well, there isn’t one. Unless you consider “un-boxy” to be a sound characteristic, to which I do not, and only consider “boxy” to be a sound that exists, and one that exclusively applies to boxed enclosure speakers. The open-baffle speakers from PureAudioProject are born free, and ready to utilize room boundaries to their fullest extent in terms of image landscape. Do they work in large rooms? Undoubtedly. Do they work in small? Definitely. The speakers shown here at CAF were originally chosen to play one of the atrium rooms of the main hotel tower, which are nearly one-fifth of the size.
The Award Sighting
The audio show circuit can seem more like an audio show circus at times. However, every so often a standout show-going experience happens in an audio show room and we’re left as journalist wanting to eschew our journalistic duties and set-up camp for the rest of the day. As to what factors in achieving this award — it’s everything.
Everything from the system’s sound, to its synergy, to music choices, to exhibiting creativity, to an individual product blowing us away, to the overall experience and atmosphere of a room engaging the audience (both in system and the hosts), on down to having great literature on what’s new, and complete system breakdown sheets with pricing information available for take home. A great room entertains, engages, and informs. Everything matters.
– Avenger Reference w/ Fatboy tonearms
– Voyager Phono Preamplifier
– ADS Analog Drive System
– Zephyr MIMC Star
Luminous Audio Technology
– Axiom II Preamplifier w/ Walker Mod and Remote
– Prestige III Speaker Cable
– Synch Signature Interconnects
– Monarch II Interconnects (shielded versions)
– Trio15 w/Horn1
– Trio15 w/Voxativ (AC-X Field Coil)
All cabling by Luminous Audio Technology