AXPONA 2016 Show Report

The best AXPONA yet!


Alon Wolf was demonstrating his newly upgraded S5 MII speakers ($42,750 USD with upgraded paint) They were running off an impressive pair of CAT Black Path Statement tube monoblock amps ($120,000 USD) and CAT SL-1 Legend tube Preamplifier with Phono ($30,000) the CAT Black Path Statement Monoblocks each sported 16 KT150’s! The room also was using a Sony KPR  5003 Reel to Reel tape player with external power supply, something that was found all over Axpona for source material. Chad Kassem with Acoustics Sounds was in evidence throughout the show supplying those master tapes. I love Magico speakers. They image like crazy and their tech is incredible. Graphene and Nanotech for speaker cones! Nobel Prize to living room in a little over a decade. A couple of friends have the new S5 MK II’s and they swear by them. For me, a full room (Packed actually!) and unfamiliar music make it hard to form a reasonable opinion. Here’s to getting another more solitary opportunity soon. My thanks to Alon for a cordial conversation and gracious hospitality. The gear looked amazing.

GamuT's RS7s head up an excellent system

There are many companies that create the entire sonic chain in house. GamuT is one of my favorites. In spite of a room that had walls acting as huge bass loading devices Benno and Michael Vamos of Audio Skies, the US Distributor, were able to bring most of the room under heel and present a spectacular soundstage using their RS7 speakers ($39,000 USD) set up with their M250i monoblock amps ($26,000 USD per pair) the D3i Dual Mono Preamp ($8995 USD) and their CD3 Compact Disc player. Turntable was a Pear Audio Blue Kid Thomas with their Cornet 2 tonearm. Big speakers are not fans of small rooms or lots of glass. However, in spite of these challenges this was a terrific sounding room. Once again GamuT brought the quality.

Questyle Audio is now distributing the incredible Meze 99 Classic headphones

A final run down to the Ear Gear Expo uncovered a couple of last minute gems. First, Bruce Ball from Questyle Audio mentioned they are now the US distributor for Meze 99 headphones. At $290 USD from your local dealer they are a steal. BTW, they are $349 USD on line. You get a better price from brick and mortar!

Zach Mehrbach of ZMF Headphones

Zach Mehrbach from Chicago’s own has built a terrific headphone business with his special modifications to the venerable Fostex headphone driver.  His exceptionally well made custom wood cup headphones run from $479 to $899 USD. ZMF is also releasing a new headphone amp. Stay tuned to ZMF for further details!

I know I have left out some terrific gear. It is hard to cover a show this large as a one-man band. However, the rooms I was able to get time in were a delight. This is the best sounding show overall I have been to and the upbeat mood of both the attendees and the manufacturers made the show a true highlight of the year. And while the ultra-high end continues to amaze by raising the sonic bar every year most of us can sleep well knowing we can get significant value as demonstrated from my final room.

Andrew Jones probably needs no introduction to HiFi+ readers. His career at KEF and TAD over nearly 40 years is legend. Now at ELAC he is bringing his incredible resume and skill set to everyone. Speakers that were outstanding and room filling for under $499 USD a pair. Even under $200 USD a pair! I heard his speakers with Peachtree’s Nova 150 and with Audio Alchemy’s incredible stack. Fantastic. So while I am thrilled with the gear we all dream about, I am also satisfied that we do not have to ascend those heights after our friends go home and we are left to ourselves with a cold one and the music.

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