Ear Gear Expo, Part 2 | AXPONA 2023

ear gear

Just inside the door to this-year’s Ear Gear Expo (or, as I overheard one show-goer call it, the “Eargasm Explosion”), was fan-favorite Moon Audio.

I have to admit, their tables are a kind of madness. I personally would not own every single piece of gear that they bring to a show like the Ear Gear Expo, but I kinda want to. More, I kinda want to completely take over my living room (and dining room) with tables overflowing with gear. It was a tipped-over cornucopia of the very best that headphone-based hi-fi has to offer the “serious” listener today. An aspirational place.

Words and Photos by Scot Hull

Me? I approached it like a library. I learned me some stuff.

axpona 2023

(I also tried to take some photos, but apparently, I fat-fingered the ISO so everything I got that morning is grainy and color-screwed. Mea culpa.)

ear gear

I was really curious about the new dCS stack of head-fi specific gear, the Lina. We’ve been trying for months to get dCS to send us some or all of this system, but no luck so far. Anyway, I got hours on this stuff here at the Ear Gear Expo. As you already know, the Lina is actually set of 3 units (amp, DAC/streamer, and clock), and as such, it screams “cutting edge” at passers-by even while it sneers at your ability to afford it.

Next to it sat the single-unit Bartok, which we’ve reviewed here and here. And that set up some lightning-round listening from to the new-ish dynamic headphones from Dan Clark Audio, the Expanse, alongside my old fav the Fostex TH900mk2 and the (Aluminum) Elite from Meze Audio. I was treated to not only to a master-class of what is possible, but also what particularly tickles my fancy. Me? Apparently, I am a DCA guy. Even above the impressive sound quality, the “caliper pressure” of these headphones is effective but still light, which tells me that prolonged listening is an exciting (or relaxing) possibility. Good stuff and time very well spent in Moon Audio at the Ear Gear Expo — and I will offer that for those on the hunt, the Bartok is an exceptional in-brand value.

ear gear

Here at Moon, I also got some time on the Bricasti M3, with the balanced headphone socket. I’ve been a fan of Bricasti for a while (see the love here), but it’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to love on the neutral and transparent sound that this brand is known for. I can imagine owners of more modern headphones — think “easier to drive” — will find this combo to be end-game single-box stop, and they’ll be dead right.

I floated around the rest of the table before landing on the RAAL Requisite and spent some time with the new-ish CA-1A headphones and their flagship VM-1A. This was an apples-to-oranges comparison to the dynamic headphones I’d been listening to, but it was a nice bridge to the electrostatic headphones in the booths down the lane. I’ve always been an electrostatic headphone enthusiast, owning Stax headphones from the very beginning of this site, and this was a very familiar, very comfortable sound at the Ear Gear Expo. While the aesthetic on the RAAL wasn’t my cuppa tea, these new cans fit well and sounded great.

This booth at the Ear Gear Expo, once again, confirmed for me exactly how important an audio show can be for the prospective buyer. There really is a shed-load of words written on various forums, and even some few here on this very site, but none of that is worth a hill of beans if the system they’re about doesn’t suit you, specifically. And just to be clear — there are a lot of options out there, and not all of them will suit you, specifically. To discover that truth out first-hand, most of us buy, sell, trade, and hope for the best — and Moon can certainly help with most of that — but spending an hour or so here, at AXPONA, would have saved you both time and money. Normal, regular, well-heeled audio enthusiasts could and did walk away with an ideal-for-them system after a rather minor investment of time and curiosity.

Consider this, next time you’re on the hunt for something new.

axpona 2023

ear gear

If you would like to hear even more coverage from AXPONA 2023, you can listen our recap report and highlights from our audiophile-oriented show The Occasional Podcast. You can stream the episode direct from the embed below, or from your favorite podcast platform including iTunesAndroidGoogle, Deezer, SpotifyiHeartRadio and more.

Also don’t forget to check out our collaboration to commemorate the event with our solid bronze record weight available only for a limited run. This 800 grams of solid bronze features the PTA roundel on the top with also acts as a 45 adapter. You can purchase direct from the PTA Approved Store here on the site.

About Scot Hull 1057 Articles
Scot started all this back in 2009. He is currently the Publisher here at PTA, the Publisher at The Occasional Magazine, and the Executive Producer at The Occasional Podcast. There are way too many words about him over on the Contributors page.

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