Another Look at Axpona

Another Look at Axpona

Written by Neil Rudish

What did Rudy find interesting at this year’s show? Axpona 2018

The 2018 AXPONA show has come and gone. In its new digs at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center, the show has hosted more exhibitors than ever before. This year’s show featured seven hotel floors of exhibitors, and most of the major ballrooms and meeting rooms on the two lowest floors were occupied by the larger exhibits.

I would like to share a few of my highlights from the show.  AXPONA was crazy large this year, and I missed quite a few rooms despite trying to see as many as I could.  But, I still had a memorable and enjoyable visit to the show this year.  And I am happy to report that the demo music was much improved for me this year, compared to my critique in Copper last year.

The marketplace area was significantly larger, featuring new and used LPs, CDs/SACDs, cables, audio accessories, record cleaning machines, and room treatments.  I emerged relatively unscathed, and only two sets of interconnects and six records came home with me.

 Axpona 2018 One room that was sonically and visually impressive was hosted by The Audio Company (Marietta, GA) featuring Von Schweikert speakers and a row of VAC monoblocks to power them. The speakers feature a pair of internally powered 15-inch drivers on the rear, giving full scale (and palpable bass) to the Poulenc Organ Concerto in G Minor that was playing on the Kronos turntable when I walked in. Very impressive! Axpona 2018 Axpona 2018 If horns are your thing, the show had them in spades. Perhaps the most visually impressive were the Avantgarde Acoustics Trio horns.  They featured two bass horns per side, and perhaps the only horns I’ve heard that could reproduce down to 30 Hz cleanly.  I don’t know how they would sound with the music I normally listen to, but they performed nicely with Pink Floyd, and “Bonzo’s Montreux” by Led Zeppelin.  My buddy Sean provides some scale to this photo. Axpona 2018 Speakers a little more room- (and wife-) friendly were in the adjoining room—the Avantgarde Uno XD.  Bass is handled by internally-powered subwoofers.  These sounded very dynamic with Pat Metheny’s “Rise Up.” Axpona 2018 Fine woodworking is a feature on many of the speakers here.  Sonist Audio once again had a wonderful sounding room. The equipment stands even went for the organic feel with rustic wood.  Like many other rooms this year, VAC amplifiers provided the power. Axpona 2018 

Exotic speakers never cease to amaze me.  It is fascinating to see the different technologies used to convert electrical energy into sound waves.  Dynamic drivers, electrostatics, ribbons, and even Walsh drivers (in a resurrection of the Ohms from years past) were all in attendance. MBL featured these, more reminiscent of flux capacitors:

Axpona 2018 German company Göbel showed their Epoque Aeon Fine loudspeakers which use six 7-inch bass drivers and a midrange/high frequency transducer called a “bending wave driver” which extends out past 30kHz and provides high linearity and accuracy.  The sound was impressive in this room. Axpona 2018

On display in the lobby was a row of Clearaudio turntables. Would they really miss that Innovation Basic (and TT5 arm) if I slipped it into my pocket?

Axpona 2018 ELAC’s rooms at the shows are tremendously popular. Andrew Jones was demonstrating the newly released Debut 2.0 series of speakers in one room, and Peter Madnick was on hand in the other with the ELAC Adante AS-61 speakers, Alchemy amplification, Miracord turntable (gorgeous!), and Discovery Music Server. Axpona 2018 Axpona 2018 Fern & Roby’s products sound superb, and have a handmade artisan quality to them that is evident in their designs. Their Tredegar turntable features a 65 pound cast iron plinth, 35 pound brass platter, and a tonearm partly made from wood. Axpona 2018 One of my favorite rooms from last year made a return appearance. Precision Audio Video brought the Obsidian turntable (with Viper arm) by Continuum Labs, and featured Constellation electronics driving Martin Logan Renaissance 15a speakers. Axpona 2018 Axpona 2018 

A new product introduction that really made an impression on me: Eikon Audio speakers, designed by Martin Logan co-founder Gayle Sanders. They utilize a Wavelet control unit which provides the function of a preamp, DAC, four-way crossover and DSP unit. This unit feeds each speaker via four balanced analog cables, allowing each speaker’s four internal class D amplifiers to power each of the four drivers directly.

The speaker’s response is adjusted automatically through a microphone during setup, and is corrected not only for frequency, but also for events in time (such as a reflection occurring, say, 80ms after the sound leaves the speaker). The idea is to provide a uniform wave launch, and the precise adjustment in DSP allows for very stable imaging and uniform bass response throughout the room. (You can literally walk around the room and the bass response remains evenly balanced.)

Axpona 2018 Axpona 2018

After show hours, Saturday evening’s blues revue featured the Corey Denison Band with special guests Demetria Taylor and Jimmy Johnson.

Axpona 2018 AXPONA outdid themselves this year with their largest show ever, and they are committed to the Renaissance Schaumburg for two more years. I am already looking forward to next year’s show, and I hope more of you reading this will consider attending. You’ll enjoy it!

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