Michael Vamos of Audio Skies Distribution, invited me to visit his AXPONA 2022 exhibit room in the swanky Aster Presidential Suite, mostly because I reviewed Ideon Audio just a few months ago. This was a chance to hear the magnificent Ideon Absolute stack: the Absolute Epsilon DAC ($47,000), which Dave McNair is currently reviewing, the Absolute Stream ($19,900) and the Absolute Time ($9,900). I knew this was a big whompin’ dollop of cutting-edge digital, and as I get more into DACs I need to have seat time with a big rig like this so that I can form a proper reference in my mind as I review.
First of all, I walked into the Audio Skies room–which was partnered with Chicago dealer Kyomi Audio–and instantly saw a big pair of deep red Vivid Audio Giya G1S loudspeakers ($86,000/pair). I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I always dig the sound of Vivid Audio speakers–despite their polarizing looks. (I say it depends upon the color more than anything else.) Mixed in with this impressive gear from Ideon and Vivid was a set of amplifiers from JMF Audio from France. I didn’t know anything about JMF before this encounter, but the main purpose of the room was Audio Skies introduction to this company to the US–even though it has been around since the late ’80s.
The JMF gear is understated, but with the obvious high level of fit and finish you’d expect amplification at this level. The inner workings of these amps were almost on a bespoke level, with incredible care given to every single part. We’re talking “proprietary PGP gold substrate handcrafted analog printed circuit boards.” Everything is handmade and tested continuously and even burned in before it reaches the customer. The Audio Skies system included the JMF HQS 6002 dual-mono power amp ($39,000), PRS 1.5 dual-mono preamplifier ($34,000) and the PCD 102 power line filter ($16,000), which is also used by my beloved 2L Recordings in their studio.
One more piece of the Audio Skies puzzle: Michael brought in Stealth Audio Cables to connect it all. The crazy/beautiful Stealth Dream V-18-T KE loudspeaker cables ($15,500 1m/pair) left a lasting impression. I’ve never seen anything like them.
The verdict on the Audio Skies room? In my notes, I wrote “sweet and refined.” When I use the word sweet, it doesn’t mean sugary or syrupy. It means that despite incredible extension in the high frequencies, there isn’t a trace of brightness. It’s warmth, matched with seemingly limitless amount of detail. This wonderful system excelled with classical music in particular–I could have listened to Brahms all day long.
On Saturday night, after hours, a couple of fellow hi-fi journalists and I met with Michael in the Audio Skies suite where we drank fine spirits and talked about the industry. While the conversation was certainly engrossing, I still couldn’t tear myself away from that incredible smooth sound–even at relatively low listening levels. This was a show system I’ll always remember.
If you would like to hear even more coverage from AXPONA 2022, check out our recap report and highlights from our audiophile-oriented show The Occasional Podcast. You can stream the show direct from the embed below, or from your favorite podcast platform including iTunes, Android, Google, Deezer, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more.
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