House of Stereo
House of Stereo was showing in one of the large rooms on the first floor, running a full Ayre system for the Kef's Blade speaker. Despite top-tier electronics, I sadly wasn't very impressed with how the Blades sounded. They were flat and uninvolving to my ears in that room. I was much more impressed with the Kef R700 at almost a tenth of the price. The R700s gave surprising bass for such inexpensive speakers ($3,250) and were livelier each time I heard them. Make a note: to go hear them at your local dealer if they are demonstrating the R700s, as they are pretty special.
YG Acoustics was showing both their Carmel and Anat 3 Signature speakers, powered by a pair of Krell Evo 402es in vertical bi-amp mode. The sound was excellent, thanks to the DCS stack and Veloce battery-powered tube preamp, all wired with Kubala-Sosna cables. The Carmels lacked the bass to play rock at any decent level and the room had far too much bass with the Anat 3s but, overall, it was one of the best demos that I've heard from these speakers at a show. The little Carmels played with amazing imaging and surprising depth of bass on more typical audiophile tracks, while the Anat 3 Signatures threw a giant soundstage in the fairly small room. Compared to the noisy YG demos on the bottom floor at the Venetian at past CES shows, the YGs sounded better in Jacksonville than Vegas.
Another interesting find at Axpona was Soundfield Audio. Hailing from my home town of Tampa, Florida, this audiophile speaker system is based on German pro series drivers, a 12-inch main/tweeter housed in a single box and an 18-inch subwoofer in another box with a short stand between the two. This system had some solid and accurate bass, as well as very good coherence. I made it back to this room a number of times, but never heard the smaller speakers. I suspect I will soon when I get back to Tampa, as they are worth the time to seek out a demo.
The single coolest thing at the Axpona 2012 show was being shown by Smyth Research, a German company that had a little $2,910 box, which is somewhat tough to describe. The box first calibrates to whatever system you want to use it on with in-ear microphones. It then can output the sound almost exactly as you hear it through headphones of your choice. I tried the demo and was rather impressed how well it could recreate the different speakers, both in sonics and in placement. A head-positioning attachment can be used, so that when you turn your head, the speakers seem to stay in place. This is tough to imagine, but for the demo, they were using a pair of Stax SR-507 ear speakers that allow you to hear what is going on in the room, as well as what is run through the headphones. When they first played back the speakers in succession, I was floored how well they positioned them and how, when I turned my head, they stayed in place. This system can remember several settings and can upload others from a flash memory card, allowing you to virtually hear almost any system. This was truly amazing.
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