It was a genuine joy to watch Klipsch get a little Esoteric at AXPONA 2023. As an audiophile it is sometimes easy to forget that we all started out as music lovers, or at least we should have. There are systems, obviously, that are extremely detailed and revealing but can quickly fatigue the listener.
Jumping from room to room to review at a big show like AXPONA can highlight this fact for reviewers. We move down the halls of the Renaissance Schaumburg, critically listening for hours. Every now and again we walk into a room that blows us away for one reason or another, and the Esoteric, Klipsch, AudioQuest room was just one of those rooms for me. It was not the most detailed or revealing sound, but gosh darn it was one of the most fun and pleasing rooms I sat in all weekend.
Words and Photos by Marc Smazik
The Esoteric, Klipsch and AudioQuest room was only streaming while I was hanging around, but this joyful experience was brought to me by a fantastic stack of Esoteric electronics–starting with the $11,000 N-05XD. This little streamer/DAC/linestage/headphone amp is just a killer little combo. There is no big fancy color screen nor tubes sticking out the top of this unit, but there is serious attention to detail in both the electronics and sound.
Esoteric DACs are pretty much my favorite sounding converters already, and this one did not change that opinion. The N-05XD just sounds so analogue, and anybody looking for a new DAC that can achieve this should give it a serious listen. (There was also a $12,000 K-05XD SACD player/DAC in the system, and a $9,500 E-02 phono pre, but unfortunately they were not playing while I was in the room.)
The analogue spinner was a very pretty TEAC TN5BB. In addition to the wonderful streaming digital source from Esoteric, there was a $12,500 S-05 Class A stereo power amp that drove a commanding pair of $16,499 Klipschorn AK6s. To say these merely had a big presence in the room would not be doing them justice. They dominated the space, almost touching each side of the rack like a big pair of bouncers keeping the electronics safe. These were not the most refined sounding speakers at the show, but they were so much fun.
It’s really nice to sit down and just hear a system that’s not doing anything wrong. Could it do some things better? Sure, but it was very much in a first-do-no-harm mode. It’s also fun to be in a room where the speakers are not struggling to keep up with the rest of the system. It was so apparent from the relaxed sound that these behemoths were almost bored with what they were being asked to do. Yes, these speakers sounded unbothered, but that means they were the most refined big Klipschorn I’ve heard. They were so well behaved and just an absolute joy to experience along with the Esoteric gear.
All of these thoughtfully chosen components were joined with AudioQuest cables, which were dutifully moving those electrons around so we could all just sit back and enjoy. Rooms like this are such a breath of fresh air at these shows, thoughtfully built and pleasant to be in. Thanks, Esoteric and Klipsch, for the refreshing listen.