2016 AXPONA  CHICAGO AUDIO SHOW

SHOW REPORT

Part 4

 

HIGH VALUE SYSTEMS

SPATIAL IS SPECIAL

 

This was one of the simplest, most pure systems at the show.

It's also one of the most affordable.

It's also one of the best sounding for the money. So that IS special, right?

 

Speakers are the new Spatial Audio M3 MkII Turbo-S

The moniker might be getting long, but so is the value.

High-end legend Clayton Shaw's latest update of the M3 changes the previous Turbo version

by employing a titanium nitride M25 horn. You also get upgraded film and foil capacitors

 

All speaker guys are always looking for ways to stiffin their diaphragms for better accuracy when forming the sound waves.

Diaphragm distortion = music distortion.

The titanium nitride does that. Stiffin I mean. Like Viagra for speakers, huh?

 

What you need to know

 

Made in USA

PRICE: (get this) $2595 pair

 

Type: 2-way, point source, open-baffle, dynamic driver, controlled directivity

Remember what I said about open baffle speakers?

 

Driver compliment: Two 15 inch mid/woofers, one wide bandwidth compression driver

Frequency Response: 32Hz - 20kHz +/- 3dB in room response

Sensitivity: 94dB - averaged across 200Hz to 5kHz at 1M - on axis (VERY amp friendly)

Impedance: 4Ω nominal, 3 Ω minimum, low phase angle.

20 year limited warranty - 60 day trial period

So how did they sound? They are not called the HOLOGARM series for nothin'.

Very 3D with instruments well defined but not etched

Low, low well defined bass

Excellent dynamics, but maybe lacking a bit in ultimate speed

 

Clayton promised an early review pair as soon as customer orders are filled.

Customers (you guys) always come first for us

 

 

 

 

The Spatials were being driven by this tiny amp

 

 

The RED DRAGON S500 Stereo Amplifier
$1,899.00

 

• 2 x 250 watts at 8Ω
• 2 x 500 watts at 4Ω

• Proprietary Input Buffer Stage with XLR and RCA Inputs
• 12-Volt DC Trigger Input and Output via 3.5mm connections
• Pascal Amplifier Architecture
• Dynamic Range: 121dB (S/N)
• Nominal Voltage Gain: 26/32 dB (Stereo/BTL)
• Minimum Load: 2Ω (stereo Mode) 4Ω(BTL mode)
• Short circuit, Thermal & Over-current protection
• RoHS compliant
• Solid Aircraft Grade Extruded Aluminum Chassis rejects EMI/RFI 
• WBT NextGen Pure Copper Binding Posts with Pure Gold coating
• 5-Year warranty to original owner.

 

Ryan Tew, Mr. Red Dragon is sending us one for review. Can't wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEST VALUE AT THE SHOW?

 

 

Anyone who has been around high-end as long as long as I knows the names

Peter Madnick and Audio Alchemy. Everyone had the Dac-in-the-Box in the late 80's.

 

Peter and his company are back, again designing some of the best

bang-for-the-buck separates in the world - at VERY affordable prices.

 

 

DDP-1 $1,995

The DDP-1 is a three-in-one powerful all-analog preamplifier, DSD-compatible DAC with dual digital signal processors and a headphone amp, all housed in one compact machined-aluminum chassis for under $1,995.

It would require some serious shopping to find each of the three for under $1,995 EACH - at this quality.

 

DDP-1 Features

 

The digital section uses dual 32/216 PCM/DSD AKM DACs with seven digital inputs. Internal DSPs provide four output filter profiles and user-selectable output resolution. A proprietary DAC configuration raises dynamic range of digital signals by approximately 8 bits, and a multistage phase-locked loop reduces jitter to the picosecond level. The analog section provides discrete FET driver and output stages, a high-precision Alps volume control and XLR and RCA inputs and outputs.

Key Features
· 3-in-1 Analog preamp, DAC with dual digital signal processors and headphone amp
· Resolution enhancement from 16 to 24-bit and 24 to 32-bit digital signals
· 7 digital inputs supporting a myriad of music players, PC’sand media devices
· 3 analog inputs to ensure your entire music collection stays on heavy rotation
· Optional balanced power supply to boost overall performance
· Small highly attractive design equally at home in tabletop or desktop use in smaller rooms or offices or high end system rack
· A USB connector allows easy firmware updates
· Control is easy, thanks to an IR remote and illuminated front LCD

 

DPA-1  $1,995.00


Stereo Hybrid Digital Power Amplifier


Audio Alchemy created the DPA-1 Digital Power Amplifier to perform not just in today’s stereo systems, but in tomorrow’s systems, too. The core of the DPA-1 is a wizardly circuit topology that combines the musicality of traditional Class A and Class AB amps with the power, dynamics and efficiency of the latest Class D designs. From a chassis just 10.5 inches wide, the DPA-1 delivers 125 watts per channel into 8 ohms and 200 watts per channel into 4 ohms, plenty enough power even for the largest tower speakers.

 

Key Features
· 125 WPC into 8Ω, 200 WPC into 4Ω
· Class A discrete FET input stage
· Cool-running Class D output stage
· XLR and RCA inputs
· Switchable gain and mute
· Upgradeable to dual mono power supply

 

DPA-1M  $1,995.00 each


325 WPC MONOBLOCKS

Same features as the stereo amp above with more power

 

 

DMP-1  $1,795

 

DIGITAL MUSIC PLAYER

 

Auto finds music on your network

WAV< FLAC< AIFF up to 24/192 and DSD

Can be used with the DDP-1 or any DAC

 

 

 

 

Got turntable?

PPA-1 PHONO PREAMP $1,795

MM or MC

 

So, with the $2,000 DDP Preamp/DAC/Headphone Amp

and the $2,000 DPA-1 125 wpc amp

add the $600 Ps-5 Power station power supply

and for $4,600 you have a genuine high-end front end

that will compete with and surpass others up to $20,000 at least

 

 

 

The AA system was driving the $8,000/pr Endeavor E-3 Mucky

 

Frequency Range: 20 Hz-30 kHz
I.E.C. rating: 29Hz-22kHz, +/-2dB
Impedance Rating: 4 ohms (flat)
Sensitivity: 90dB@ 2.83 V/ meter
Woofers: 2- 175mm anodized aluminum coned woofers. Double-stacked magnets provide fast transient response and great dynamics.
Midrange: 165mm Caviler coned high performance midrange unit
Midrange Loading: Tapered transmission line

 

 

This system had an overall musicality that was stunning at this price point

and was more "real sounding" than than some $50k- 100,000k we've already mentioned.

No artificial zing, coloration or wow factor, but real honest-to-goodness full-range music in your room.

There was little sense of even listening to a "system".

 

This system vies for best value system at the show.

You'll have to wait to the end of our report for the actual winners.

 

 

 

I've known Vinnie Rossi since he started out modding early CD players over a decade ago.

My has he come up in the high-end world.

 

This is his new LIO with a DHT PRE with SV811 tubes. Probably won't want to stack anything on top of this...

 

But Vinnie's LIO is unique in the industry in that every LIO is handcrafted to order, sold directly to you,

and backed by their industry leading 10-year warranty and customer service.

By eliminating multiple boxes, cables and complexity, you get higher performance at a lower cost.

Not only that, but they feature a power supply that employs ultracapacitor banks in place of conventional AC power or batteries.

While one bank of ultracapacitors are feeding pure DC current to the audio circuits the other bank is charging.

 

In other words, you are OFF THE GRID.

 

This approach provides dramatic performance and durability advantages over every other power supply technology whether AC or battery. That eliminates the need for expensive power filters, power cords, or conditioner – saving you even more.

 

And we LOVE to save our readers MONEY.

 

 

No wonder the room was always packed. I snuck into that one empty chair after waiting in line...

 

What's in the box? Depends on how you order it, but you start with the Lio integrated amp for $4,895.

That alone is a steal. But you can add what you want from there.

Let's take the DAC module alone. For only $895 you get

 

Converts both PCM and DSD digital audio streams to pristine analog
Bit-perfect playback at sampling rates from 44.1kHz to 384kHz

Sample rates are viewable from front panel display
Dual-mono design, with one premium AKM AK4399 d/a chip per channel
Asynchronous, integer-mode USB functionality
Select between 0 and 180 degree PHASE settings via remote handset (and the LIO app – coming soon)
Toggle between linear-phase and minimal-phase digital filters via remote handset (and the LIO app – coming soon)
On-board re-clocking circuitry considerably reduces jitter
Galvanic isolation used for oscillator and re-clocking circuitry
Ultra-low noise, linear voltage regulators used throughout
Inputs: 1 USB and 2 SPDIF (75 Ohm coaxial and optical) input jacks
Connect up to three devices and switch between them via the remote handset
Swappable daughter board that contains the d/a converter chips and analog output stage – so you can

easily upgrade performance as new technologies become available in the future.

 

Go ahead. TRY to find a DSD DAC of this quality for under $900.

 

The same goes for a headphone amp, phono preamp and other upgrades.

 

With everything, including the new DHT PRE with SV811 tubes,

you top out right around $10,000, but then you have a near state-of-the art front end

to which you just add speakers.

 

 

Vinnie was playing the LIO through Harbeth M40.2 Reference loudspeakers at $14,795/pair, Acoustic Signature Thunder turntable ($10,995) with Acoustic Signature 12" TA-5000 tonearm ($6495), and Dynavector Te Katora Rua cartridge ($3000).

 

While Harbeths have never been my favorite speaker, here the system sounded deliciously on the warmish side but with

clean, clear highs, mids and surprisingly powerful bass.

 

The LIO is certainly in the running for best value...something!

 

 

 

Here's another room that always had a line and standing room only.

Why? DAVID SOLOMON is back at Peachtree!!

 

 

 

Since he left 2 years ago, things just haven't been the same.

But now we have Peachtree 2.0 and the excitement is back.

 

David was evangelizing the new NOVA300 at $2,199.

 

 

 

 

Highlights
ESS Reference 9018K2M Sabre DAC
32-Bit/384kHz PCM and 5.6MHz DSD (double-DSD) compatibility
New generation ICEPower amplification - 150 watts per channel
Extensive internal grounding
Designed by a world-class engineering team
Asynchronous USB, Coax and (2) Optical inputs
Asynchronous iOS input for direct digital input from Apple Lightning devices
Phono (MM) input
Home Theater Bypass
Loop feature to add an external tube buffer, EQ or other processor into the signal path
Discrete, custom-designed headphone amplifier
Optional Wi-Fi module to be announced
Available in Gloss Ebony Mocha and Piano Black
Made in North America

 

Surprising many, David chose big Martin Logan Summit X electrostats ($14,999)

to show off the new Nova. But the 300wpc Nova just drove the fire out of 'em.

 Again, one of the better sounds in Chicago.

 

 

For years we got emails from people looking to get into high-end audio

or people looking to downsize their systems from multi-boxes to one.

 

I almost always recommended they go to the Peachtree website.

They had simply the best available products on the market. Simple, easy to use, very reliable

and extremely high value. I got many more emails thanking me for the recommendation with

testimonials about how much they loved the ease of use but especially the sound. Many said

the sound was better than their older separates.

 

Many guys said their wives loved it, too, for a change.

 

To us, that's what it's all about.

 

 

David was also showing the new Nova150, same as the 300 but with 150 wpc.

 

With the Martin Logans, David showed how the Nova sounded driving difficult loads and very detailed speakers.

 

With the 150 he took the opposite strategy by driving a pair of tiny

$279 a pair Elac B6s. Genius.

 

The Nova 150 goes for only $1,499, so with the baby Elacs, you have a very credible system for under two grand.

Value, baby. But, we'd go with the new model UB5 Elacs ($500/pr) we featured on page 1 for even better value.

 

 

 

But David wasn't done!

 

This is the new Peachtree Shift DAC/Headphone amp.

For only $299 you get

 

USB DAC and HEADPHONE AMP
32bit/384kHz USB input
PCM & DSD decoding
USB-A input
USB-B input
Variable/Fixed output
Hi/Lo gain switch
4100 mAh battery pack
8 hours playback

 

Without asking, David loaned me his personal SHIFT

so I could use it on the flight home.

 

It is said that a picture is word a thousand words,

so how much is a video worth?

 

This is me firing up the Shift once we could "now roam around the cabin"...

 

 

 

David said I had to send back his personal Shift,

but I'll be buying one of these for my own.

 

I'd say Peachtree is definitely back, wouldn't you?

 

 

It would be impossible to write anything about high value without including

 

ODYSSEY AUDIO

 

 

 

Klaus Bungie and Alex Gonzalez make everything you see here in Indiana except the turntable

and maybe the plants....

 

While you can certainly order any of their products individually,

Odyssey offers this complete system, including fine German Groneberg cables,

for the astoundingly low price of $9,995.

 

Speakers are the Lorelei:

2-way Ported
32-22,000 Hz frequency range
6 Ohm impedance
89 dB sensitivity
Scanspeak D2905-970000 tweeter:
1" dome, low compression design, non resonant chamber
Scanspeak 18W/8545-00 midwoofer:
6.8", carbonfiber/graphite composite
High quality parts:
Alpha-Core, Mundorf, WBT, Groneberg cable
Ultra stiff and craftwork grade cabinet Made in USA

 

Separate Candela tube preamp

 

Current Source Loaded Grounded Cathode Amplifier" based design
Vacuum Tube single ended stages
Class-A single ended configuration
Zero feedback
Low output impedance
Low current design
Relay-controlled input selector
Power supply rectification using ultra fast-soft recovery “Stealth” Diodes
(2) ECC82/12AU7 tubes
RCA type inputs & output
4 line inputs
1 input can be configured for HT bypass
1 pair preamplifier output
2nd pair of pre outs optional *
High quality Alps potentiometer

 

1 pair of Kismet Monoblock amplifiers

 

Ultra fast and ultra expensive Symphonic Line Caps
Stereo version 2 x 160W / 8 Ω
Mono version 1 x 200W + 1 x 200W / 8 Ω
Ultra high current designs

 

 

Again, all this for under $10,000

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps the first and last high value leader

for decades has been the legendary

FRANK VAN ALSTINE

 

Frank introduced THREE new products

 

Transcendence Ten RB (Real Basic) affordable vacuum tube preamplifier $899

 

New mother board has separate and isolated ground panels for each section; the high voltage power supply, the low voltage power supply, and the audio circuits. Produces the quietest ever vacuum tube preamplifier they have yet designed.

The high voltage power supply has four active regulators, taking supply noise and interaction down to nearly zero. In addition, there are separate regulated power supplies for the high voltage, the tube heaters, the headphone section, and the optional phono section.

The T10 RB is all tube, using 6DJ8/E88CC tubes in the gain stages.

Provision for Vision split passive EQ optional phono section with its own isolated regulated power supplies

The Transcendence 10 RB has a precision volume control, a removable IEC power cord, gold plated input and output jacks and a double anodized face plate. Also available is an optional remote control for those wanting to control the volume level from their ideal listening position.

It has four sets of line level inputs (Line 1 used for the optional phono section if specified). It has two sets of audio outputs.

The T10 RB preamplifier also includes, as a standard feature, an exquisite headphone amplifier.

 

DVA 850 MONOBLOCK AMPLIFIER - $3,699

 

The DVA 850 is a high power monoblock amplifier based on their patented Fet Valve amplifier technology. The DVA 850 produces in excess of 850 Watts of dynamic sound for those wanting the best possible performance from their audio system. It has a 'delicate' Triode input, full complementary power MOSFET output, and multiple regulated power supplies. Inputs are switchable XLR balanced and RCA unbalanced.

 

AVA DAC

 

The new AVA DAC is the first showing of a pre-production of a new AVA Digital to Analog Converter. The new DAC plays all file formats seamlessly, including wav, flac, and DSD files. The AVA DAC will come standard with USB, coax, and optical inputs.  Price TBA.

 

 

Handmade With Quality and Care in the U.S.A.

 

SALK SOUNDSCAPE 8 SPEAKERS - $8,995/PR

 

THE STORY

 

When working on the SoundScape M7 design, we decided to build a pair of floor-standing speakers with dual 7” drivers. Since we were designing speakers primarily for surround duty, bass extension was not critical (they would typically be used with a subwoofer). So we ported the cabinets and tuned them to an F3 of 45Hz.

 

As details of the project leaked out, people began to ask about the possibility of using these speakers as left and right mains. Of course that would be possible. But they would be somewhat expensive and would only play to 45Hz. We thought that anyone spending that kind of money would want a speaker that played deeper. So we decided to develop a new, less expensive SoundScape model using dual 8” woofers.

 

In order to keep costs lower, we developed a cabinet design that incorporated the same basic ideas used in the development of the SoundScape 10’s and 12’s, but in a more normal rectangular format. The SoundScape 8’s would use the same RAAL ribbon tweeter, the same Accuton midrange and the same 12” passive radiators. The midrange would be an open-backed design similar to other SoundScape speakers. The only difference would be that we would use two 8” drivers rather than a single 10” or 12”.

 

Using a pair of 8” woofers resulted in two basic differences between this model and the larger SoundScape models. The SoundScape 8’s are more sensitive - about 87db, so they require less power. And they play down to an F3 of 25Hz. And, of course, the SoundScape 8’s are less costly than the SoundScape 10’s or 12’s

 

The sound of the Van Alstine/Salk system was mesmerizing. Powerful yet delicate with details

throughout the frequency range that took no effort to discern. Lots of music, no hifi signature.

Eminently immersive and true.

 

But Jim Salk told us another story. One that brought him to tears as he relayed it.

It is safe to say that Jim makes the most beautiful, hand crafted wood cabinets in the world

Exotic veneers with book-matched patterns that are just stunning to see.

In a Salk room, I always find myself just gazing at his speakers as if watching flames in an old, European fireplace.

 

 

Jim had met a destitute, struggling immigrant who needed a job badly.

Jim and Mary took him in, Jim taking a few hours one morning to teach him the art and science

of woodworking and veneer matching.

 

When Jim came in the next day, the man who had no education, experience and scant training

had completed a new pair of speaker cabinets that surpassed Jim's own work.

The man had actually invented a new technique that made the tiny seams

between the sheets of exotic wood even more invisible.

 

That man is now working full time as an artisan for Salk speakers.

 

Salk also premiered their StreamPlayer Gen 3

 

$1,495

 

Now ROON ready version 1.2

 

Fanless design
To make sure you have a pristine, silent music source. After all, it is the music you want to listen to.


Headless design
No need for a monitor, keyboard or mouse. Control it remotely with an iPad, iPhone, Android phone, Android tablet or another computer.


File resolution
From regular Redbook CD 16/44 resolution up to 24/96, 24/192, DSD and everything in between...the StreamPlayer can handle them all.

 

Connectivity
Compatible with Apple Airplay and DLNA. Stream music to it with Airplay (Rev. 2). Stream music from it to any DLNA-capable device.

 

ALSO...the StreamPlayer Gen 2 MINI - same but in a smaller case and less powerful processor.

$1,195

 

 

In addition

 

Salk PowerPlay Monitor

Self powered - $2,229/pr

 

100 watts of class D power per speaker (50 watts per driver)

Hiquphon OW1 ¾” tweeter • Seas 6” woofer with curvelinear cone

•Powerful digital signal processing (DSP) for active crossovers

Touch sensor panel control

•Remote control

•Stereo analog input

•S/PDIF coaxial input

•USB audio input

•Subwoofer output

•Input sample rates up to 192kHz

 

The PowerPlay Monitors feature near ruler-flat response…With three available inputs, you can control multiple sources.The analog input can be used for any analog device. Examples include a CD player, TV, outboard preamp or phono stage to name a few.The coaxial S/PDIF inputs can be used with any digital source such as the digital output from a CD or Bluray player.

It can handle resolutions up to 24/192.

You can use the supplied remote control to select the input and control the volume.

Preamp or DAC required

 

 

This shows the monitor's frequency response

You've heard descriptions of "ruler flat" response?

THIS is what it looks like.

 

 

 

At the Show, we announced our pick for

2016 BEST VALUE POWER AMP

 

 

MERRILL AUDIO TARANIS

 

400 watts per channel
Outstanding transparency
Ultra detail and musicality
Only $2,500

 

YOU CAN READ OUR NEW REVIEW HERE

 

 

We have much more coming

More high-value systems and components.

More speakers, turntables, DACs, Amps and music servers.

Complete report on the Headphone Expo.

Best of Show Awards

More inside the biz stories.

 

So far, you have to admit that we give you more

info you can actually use than anywhere else. Right?

Find a better Axpona report? Email us.

Know of something you want us to review? Email us that, too.

 

In the meantime, email a link to your friends.

Post a link on your favorite forum.

We're trying to help you out..please help us out, too.

 

We appreciate you immensely. Thanks!

 

Take me to PART 5 now!!

 

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