AXPONA 2016 Show Report

The best AXPONA yet!


The Stromtank

A big thank you to Johan Coorg, Dipin Sehdev and the good folks at KEF for hosting the Friday pre show media breakfast! This was followed by a terrific demonstration of several lust worthy KEF speakers including the KEF Blade Two Snow White: $24,999.99, KEF Reference 1 Piano Black: $7,999.99, KEF LS50 Racing Red: $1,499.99, KEF M100: $149.99, KEF M400: $249.99, KEF M500: $299.99, KEF Muo: $349.99, KEF Egg: $499.99 all powered by the Parasound JC2 pre-amp: $4500, Parasound JC1 Mono Blocks x 2: $4500.00/ea and sourced by the Chord Mojo Dac: $600 connected with Various Straightwire Cable. All prices in USD. I was unable to fit the LS50’s in my suitcase. Next time I need a bigger bag! The racing red with black drivers was a hit on the visual scale as were the incredible Blade 2’s.

Stan Ahn and CEO Warren Chi of Cavalli Audio at the Ear Gear Expo

The Ear Gear Expo is now at the capacity of the large room it has been occupying for the last three years. Several new to Axpona vendors were in attendance including the extraordinary Cavalli Audio from Austin Texas. Cavalli is one of the premier Headphone amplifier companies in the world. Founded by head engineer Alex Cavalli, they were showing their entire lineup from the Liquid Carbon ($799 USD) up to their prototype EL34 based Liquid Tungston ($5999 estimated) A variety of class leading headphones were on hand for your demoing pleasure. If you are a headphone fan or considering them along-side your two channel rig, Cavalli is one of the top companies to consider.

MrSpeakers is becoming one of the top high end headphone companies in the world. Dan Clark’s current lineup of the Ether (open $1,499 USD) and Ether C (Closed $1,499 USD) Planar Magnetic headphones are exceptional. Dan was showing the prototypes of his new Ether Electrostatic headphones (Price TBD) paired with Cavalli Audio’s Solid State and Tube based Electrostatic headphone amps the Liquid Lightning SS and Liquid Lightning Tube. DAC’s on hand included the Schiit Yggdrasil and Questyle CAS192D as well as the full Questyle rack with the CMA800R reviewed recently in HiFi+ by Alan Sircom. Exceptional sound at what is now a mid-range price for high-end headphones.

Ken Ball from ALO Audio and Campfire Audio

Ken Ball brought a wide array of top flight headphone gear. On hand was his new flagship Universal In-Ear Monitor, the Andromeda ($1099 USD) and new Nova ($499 USD) along with the entire lineup of his Campfire Audio IEM’s. Also in the booth was the Mountaintop headphone amp, the Studio Six SET headphone amp. ($3900 USD and my personal tube headphone reference amplifier) The Studio Six is an heirloom quality build utilizing one 6SN7, two 6V6’s, two OB2’s and a 5U4G. it is a tube rollers delight and a sonic triumph. Ken also had on hand his excellent Continental Dual Mono portable DAC/Amp featuring 6111 tubes, a Wolfson 4791 DAC. If you are an on the go audiophile this is one of the best of its genre.

ModWright, Triangle Arts, Eggleston Works and Skogrand Cables

I kept coming back to this room as the sound was just “Right” Dan Wright of ModWright had a pair of his KWA 150SE Solid State power amps in mono mode ($8995 USD Each) hooked up to his flagship LS 36.5 DM Linestage and separate power supply ($9995 USD) Sourced from his Elyse All tube transformer coupled including a tube rectified power supply DAC ($6,900 USD). Discs were being played on an Oppo Digital 105D with the ModWright modification ($1,200 for the 105D + $2,495 for mods). Triangle Arts Tom Vu brought his show stopping Signature Turntable ($15,995 USD) with an Osiris 12” tonearm ($5,800 USD) and an Apollo moving coil cartridge ($8,000 USD). The Eggleston Works Andra III speakers ($28,000) were a perfect complement to room. Skogrand Beethoven Cables were the icing on this sonic cake with everything placed upon Massif Audio Design’s rack, amp platforms and risers ($2800, $500 and $300 USD) This room is one of my Best of show sound rooms.

Brian Zolner and Damon Gramont with their new Bricasti M12 Linestage

Bricasti was showing off their TOTL M1 SE DAC ($10,000 USD) and their M28 solid state mono block amps ($15,000 each USD) along with a new Limited Edition gold version of the M1 SE ($15,000 USD). The surprise was a new Digital/Analog DAC/Linestage the M12 ($15,995) that allows for Digital to always stay digital and analog stay analog within a single machined aluminium chassis. Tidal Audio Piano Diacera Speakers, Oyaide Cables and StillPoints Ultra isolators completed a system that was immediately engaging. The sense of detail without edginess and precision placement was exceptionally tuneful. The Tidal speakers paired very well with the Bricasti electronics. The new M12 when released, will be a strong contender in the competitive high end linestage space.

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