Quintessence Audio was prevalent at the show, commandeering several rooms next to the escalators on the first floor. In a dedicated Audio Research area, the very popular ARC i50 integrated amp was displayed in a myriad of colors. The i50 seems to be a successful design at a reasonable price. I’ve heard it a few times now and it sounds pretty good in my opinion.
Words and Photos by Graig Neville
Moving just around the corner, I discovered Audio Research amplification Wilson Alexia Vs, while Hana was showing off their new Umami Blue cartridge on a Clearaudio table. As I mentioned in a previous article, the green finish of the Wilson was really sharp and the sonics were just as good. I’ve heard Wilsons sound great, but I know they are a very finicky speaker and to make the magic happen is tough, so kudos to the Quintessence Audio team for a bang up job! The Umami Blue ($2,500), by the way, slots in between the highly acclaimed Umami Red and the ML, our reviewer Mohammed Samji really liked this room and I can see why.
Wilson was also present in the second Quintessence Audio room, with the Alexx V in burgundy matched with D’Agostino amplification and preamps. Turntable was the Clearaudio Jubilee which was running the new DS Audio Grand Master EX cartridge. D’Agostino’s Momentum line has a steam punk vibe which is aesthetically pleasing if you are into that kind of thing.
The sound was traditional Wilson and Quintessence did a commendable job with the room, but I liked the Alexia room better. I think that room size for the Alexia was perfect for what those speakers could do and the Quintessence Audio team could put them exactly where they needed to be. The Alexx room seemed a bit too narrow for the speakers to really open up and show off what they are capable of, but still the sonics were still very good.
Quintessence Audio had two more rooms in addition to the displays in the atrium area. One open area had a full McIntosh system including their speakers, but the flagship room, at least from a price standpoint, was the Connection Room. I walked into what sounded like a DJ House show at 4am in downtown Chicago with the MC curating the pounding and driving tunes–this room was hip and fun.
Our DJ maestro’s equipment started with the star of the show: a Clearaudio Statement turntable that is about the size of a washing machine and has to be seen to be believed. Price tag? $300,000. Clearaudio added their $17,500 Goldfinger Statement MC cart. The Sonus Faber Aida Mk II moved a ton of air while being driven by Boulder electronics including preamp, phono stage, and power amps. dCS performed digital duties with the Vivaldi Apex, Clock, and Upsampler. Transparent Opus cables connected everything and the Olympus equipment rack held it all together. Total price tag of this Quintessence Audio system was well over $1 million.
The final Quintessence room was the Bowers & Wilkins flagship 801 D4 on McIntosh electronics. I’ve been seeing this pairing a lot more lately, and I think the slightly warm McIntosh amplifiers with the high energy B&W speakers can have great synergy. Quintessence pulled out all the stops and perhaps had an even better show this year than compared to 2022. If you are in the Chicago area they are a high-end audio dealer working checking out.
If you would like to hear even more coverage from AXPONA 2023, check out 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 iTunes, Android, Google, Deezer, Spotify, iHeartRadio 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.