Publisher Profile

2011 AXPONA Coverage V

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The ever gracious Robert Lee of Acoustic Zen had a very sweet sounding room featuring their Crescendo speaker system mated with a Tri Pure Class A 20 watt per channel amplifier, upsampled tube CD player, and of course all Acoustic Zen interconnects.

The Quad and Merrill-Williams gear set-up in one of the rooms hosted by local retailer kemela, had the unmistakably inviting combination of tube electronics, full range electrostatic speakers, and vinyl reproduction. Indeed, the all-new turntable designed from the ground-up from George Merrill of Merrill-Williams, was really strutting its stuff in this room. Dubbed the R.E.A.L. 101, it certainly sounded like it has quite a bit to offer in a rather crowded field of turntables. You will certainly be reading much more about this turntable in the coming months as I will be receiving one shortly for a full review.

Darren Censullo of Avatar Acoustics and his better half Bonnie were brimming with enthusiasm in their 2-story Suite, as they showed their impressive line-up featuring several debut items such as the sexy Italian Rosso-Fiorentino Sienna Speakers, Dr. Feickert Blackbird turntable and all-new 12” tonearm, the German-made Monk Audio solid state Phono Preamplifier, and the AMR DP-777 tube DAC. I expect to have the Monk Audio phono stage and the Rosso Fiorentino speakers visiting my home in the coming months for full review.

On a subsequent visit, I had a chance to sit with Darren and listen to some vinyl under less crowded conditions. I mentioned to Darren that the system seemed to be exhibiting a high frequency ringing that really was uncharacteristic of the Rosso Fiorentino speakers. Darren agreed and non-chalantly walked over to the rack and noticed he had left a Feickert alignment tool lying on the turntable’s plinth. The moment he removed the tool, it became obvious that the simple piece of flat aluminum was mucking up the works just by sitting there. The system as a whole indeed was sounding quite impressive irrespective of source, digital or analog.

The Linkwitz Lab room was sounding particularly good. Mr. Siegfried Linkwitz was showing his Orion 4 design built by Wood Artistry of Madera, California.The speakers were shown teamed up with Bryston amplification, the extremely capable Pass Labs XP-10 preamplifier, and Marantz SA-15S2. While playing disc jockey, to my delight, Siegfried played one of his personal CD’s and said it was a personal favorite. From the first few notes or so, I knew I was about to hear one of my personal favorites as well, the debut album by The Roches. The broad smile on my face was a dead giveaway that it was great fun to hear their tunes on that system.

Ron May, of Carnegie Acoustics, had a very large room and was enthusiastically showing his moderately-priced CST-2 speakers accompanied by VAC Signature II preamplifier and VAC 200 monoblocks. The heavily, acoustically-treated room proved to be a perfect venue for what was to become something of an audiophile “happening” late in the show, when Henry Chew, co-designer of the impressive Davinci DAC was persuaded to bring his DAC to the much larger venue afforded by the Carnegie Room.

Speaking of the Light Harmonic Da Vinci DAC, indeed their small room seemed to always be jam packed with eager listeners. When I finally got a listen in the sweet spot I immediately understood what all the fuss was about. This room proved to be one of the best sounding of the show. It featured the Davinci DAC, Class A amplification and XP-10 preamplifier by Pass Labs (yes, yet another great sounding room using Pass equipment), and the Wilson Sophia speakers. I have heard the Sophia’s in several environments and this was the first time that I can honestly say that they really floated my boat.

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