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2018-04-25T20:15:29.472Z
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The enormous, palatial Schaumberg Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center played host to this year’s fully resurrected Audio eXPO North America. Boasting over 165 listening rooms, with another 125 exhibits on site, and with attendance up 21% from 2017 (5718 unique visitors and 8134 tickets sold), this show has clearly announced its intent to be both the biggest and most important high-end audio show on the North American continent. Located in Schaumburg, Illinois, at I-90 and Meacham Rd., just a 15-minute commute from O’Hare International, this 500-room hotel has vast, sweeping entryways and enormous open spaces, including an atrium through the ...

Editor's Note: This list only contains new entries for the 2018 list update. Watch for the full list here coming soon, or pick up a print issue of TAS 283, where the list appears in full. Of the many articles and reviews that Harry Pearson wrote for The Absolute Sound, his annual Super LP List (aka SuperDisc List) may have been the most eagerly anticipated. The issue in which it was published was the one that everyone had to buy, borrow, or copy. Why? Because whether you were rich or poor, active in the high-end audio market or just kicking ...

AXPONA 2018 starts out with a new location and a new attitude. The new location is the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center in Schaumburg, Illinois, which is a 15–20 minute ride from O'Hare International Airport. The new attitude is one of success from an improved experience for show attendees. There were lots of upbeat exhibitors and attendees and plenty of variety among product offerings for all types of listeners and/or their preferred equipment types. With a bag of vinyl, I set out to explore the reported 160+ rooms to find new analog products at the show. Given the size ...

These days you might know singer and songwriter Kate St. John as a film-music supervisor (Far from the Madding Crowd), orchestral arranger (Laura Marling, Hal Wilner), or session player (Van Morrison, Tom Waits). But 20 years ago the former member of Dream Academy released a trio of critically acclaimed solo albums. Her 1997 sophomore solo effort, Second Sight, is now available on 180-gram vinyl and hi-def FLAC. It finds St. John immersed in passionate art songs influenced by French chanson and clad in tasteful chamber pop. At times her voice, barely above a whisper, blends seamlessly with her oboe, cor ...

Here’s an unanticipated finding: TAS’ Jonathan Valin, assigned the impossible task of covering all loudspeakers at the vast High End Munich show last year, observed that most were priced above $20,000 per pair. At AXPONA 2018, with the charge of finding new products under $20k, I found that all but two in that class were under $10,000. In his show report, JV concluded that “Munich High End is the black-tie event of the season for manufacturers worldwide, and no one wants to show up in less than his finest.” While there were plenty of six-figure loudspeakers for the multitudes to ...

As I learned on my Japanese audio excursion (Issue 279), purity is the country’s overriding sonic goal. But how to achieve it? The answer, of course, varies by price point. With its cost-no-object Grandioso series, Esoteric has sought to eradicate distortions and colorations in two ways: 1) by taking a fresh look at entrenched norms, and 2) by scrutinizing every last design detail—no matter how minute. The result: Even in the rarified uppermost tier of the high end, the Grandioso stack stands out. Consider the Grandioso D1 DAC—or I should say DACs (plural) because the D1 is actually a pair ...

Launched just two years ago, Newvelle Records has already found its niche in both the jazz and audiophile worlds. The high production standards of this subscription-based vinyl-only outfit are manifested in album covers with gorgeous photography, stylish box sets that enclose the LPs, noise-free vinyl, and natural- and open-sounding recordings that do an excellent of capturing both ambiance and detail. There’s something special about each album, with provocative combinations of both veteran and younger players as well as some one-of-a-kind projects. (A highlight of Season One, for example, was a first-ever Jack DeJohnette solo piano record.) All-acoustic sessions are the ...

This year’s Axpona was full of surprises. First there was the new venue, the Renaissance Shaumberg Convention Center, which was designed specifically for trade shows and other gatherings of like-minded folk. It was large, clean, and I had a TV in my bathroom’s mirror (which turned on automatically every time I turned on the lights in the bathroom). But the “downside” of this big hotel was this was a HUGE show in terms of both exhibitors and rooms. And while some companies held off new product introductions until the High End Munich show in May, there were more than enough ...

With the recent critical and commercial successes of relatively youthful Swiss high-end-audio companies like Soulution, CH Precision, Dartzeel, and others, electronics from the heart of Europe have never been held in higher esteem. The problem is that their (well-deserved) success has pushed certain other companies, with longer, no less distinguished pedigrees, a bit into the shadows. I’m thinking particularly of the Zurich-based firm FM Acoustics, which was founded in the early 1970s, when company owner and chief engineer Manuel Huber introduced his highly esteemed FM 800A amplifier (followed not long after by the standard-setting FM 212 phonostage). Widely embraced by ...

The following is a press release issued by KEF and Home Theater Technologies. April 17, 2018 - Home Theater Technologies is a custom electronics integrator, specializing in residential solutions. Since our inception in 2000, our staff has prided ourselves on offering cutting edge technologies, while providing old fashioned customer service. Our passion for quality sound led us to our long time partnership with KEF as an Elite Dealer. Although it’s not our only offering, 2 channel audio is our favorite, as evidenced by our listening room in our Colleyville design center. We will be showcasing the Kef LS50, LS50W, and ...

The following is a press release issued by Sumiko. Berkeley, CA | April 16, 2018 – SUMIKO is proud to announce six new phono cartridges, the outcome of a 3-year development effort. The new line will be premiered at the Munich High End Show, May 10-13, 2018. Sumiko is introducing 4 new moving magnet cartridges, the Rainier, Olympia, Moonstone and Amethyst which join the existing Oyster product lineup; and 2 new moving coil cartridges, the Songbird and Starling which will be part of the Reference Series product line. The four new additions to the acclaimed Oyster series are the most ...

This is the world I grew up in: iPods, ear buds, tinny laptop speakers. Most people my age don’t think twice about their equipment, so long as it makes sound. Your average iTunes aficionado isn’t going to shell out big sums of cash on stereo equipment, especially when everything seems to have speakers built in these days. Why bother? But there is good sound at approachable prices, fantastic sound really, the sort of sound that people obsess about. It’s not a mystical thing; it’s a visceral one; and younger people are finally starting to figure it out. Vinyl’s comeback is ...

Manfred Honeck explains his interpretive approach in this SACD’s program notes. The opening bars and following principal theme of the first movement of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 reflect rage, then sadness. Mahler’s influence is present throughout, but especially in the second movement, which Honeck describes as a “vigorous and rustic Ländler.” The third movement is the emotional core, reflecting Shosakovich’s personal feelings in a “pure and musical manner,” devoid of any subtext. The fourth movement returns to Shostakovich’s “world of ambiguity, irony, and sarcasm.” The triumph at the end is skeletal in that it “does not depict the victory of ...

Constellation electronics really need no introduction in these pages. With lofty innovative standards, exemplary construction quality, and unimpeachable sonic results, Constellation exemplifies audio at its finest. So, the idea of producing a component of modest means such as an integrated amplifier might strike many as being akin to nobility slumming with the commoners. But to its credit, Constellation stood firm and took up the single-chassis challenge with the Inspiration Series Integrated 1.0, and the high-end audio world is all the better for it. And so says this commoner. The third entry in Constellation’s Inspiration Series, the Integrated 1.0 represents the ...

Music Matters, ListenUp’s annual seminar featuring the latest and greatest in home entertainment, will take place April 25 and 26 at the ListenUp Denver showroom. This eagerly anticipated event will offer compelling demonstrations of cutting-edge speakers and electronics, as well as tips on how to get the most out of streaming audio, hi-def audio files, and more. The keynote presenter will be Robert Harley, Editor-in-Chief of The Absolute Sound. Robert will sign copies of his books The Complete Guide to High-End Audio (fifth edition) and The Absolute Sound’s Illustrated History of High-End Audio. He will also be available to talk ...

The following is a press release issued by Muraudio. OTTAWA, ON | April 9, 2018 - Muraudio is pleased to announce the launch of the all new SP1. Based on the award winning Domain Omni series loudspeakers and Muraudio's patented high output continuous curve electrostatic technology, the SP1 incorporates many of the same components in a smaller, lighter, contemporary design with luxurious finishing. Each SP1 integrates Muraudio's Continuous Curve ESL panel with four custom designed six-inch aluminum cone drivers to create a beautiful, immersive, panoramic sound stage. With a full fidelity 120 degree horizontal listening window, and projected point source ...

Several issues ago, I told you about Stein Music’s Harmonizer H2 room treatments—little black cubes with battery-powered crystal circuits inside them, which emit an electromagnetic signal that reduces ambient noise and broadens and deepens the soundstage, better disappearing your loudspeakers. According to the H2’s inventor, Holger Stein, this disappearing act is the result of a physical change in the distribution of air molecules in your listening room. How a set of vibrating crystals could bring about such a change—and why that change would result in a seeming expansion of the soundspace, as if the walls of your listening room had ...

MrSpeakers Aeon $799 This closed-back planar-magnetic headphone offers far more sophisticated performance than its price suggests. These headphones are outstanding in every way, from the ergonomic design to the sound. The midrange is particularly articulate, transparent, resolved, and emotionally communicative. In this last quality, the Aeon sounds like much more expensive offerings. Stax SR-L300/SRS-3100 System $999 Stax headphones hold a special place in the heart of music lovers, and for good reason. The SR-L300/SRS-3100 system extends the brand’s reputation, bringing its famed electrostatic sound to a more moderate price. The SR-L300 is based on the venerable Lambda design, and driven ...

The following is a press release issued by Gold Note. April 5, 2018 - Gold Note is attending the Axpona for the very first time this year, bringing the “Italian Music Experience” to the USA (Schaumburg Convention Center, room 658). All the way from Italy, the name won’t sound new to experienced audiophiles since Gold Note has been designing a complete line of audio equipment for more than 20 years now, including turntables, cartridges and electronics. The company is located on the hills surrounding Firenze - in the heart of Tuscany - and chances are you drove right past it ...

Quad Artera Play $2199 Past Quad preamplifiers have included phonostages, balance and tone controls, and high and low filters. The Play discards all these in favor of an orientation that is effectively all digital (despite two pairs of analog inputs for outboard analog sources, such as a phonostage or tuner), beginning with a CD player and a built-in DAC. Sonically, as a linestage, the Play is fractionally on the yang side of the yin/yang continuum, with a presentation detailed, transparent, dynamic—in other words, very much like the Quad Stereo amp and just as highly recommended. Modwright-Oppo BDP-105 $2495 (with Modwright ...