The Audio Expo North America (Axpona) 2018 high-end extravaganza was held last weekend, April 13, 14, and 15 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center near Chicago, and it was a really big show. The sprawling event hosted 165 rooms packed with the world's best audio. Indeed, a feast for the eyes and ears. I had nowhere near enough time to check out everything, but here's a sampler of the high points.
Avantgarde Acoustic's room-filling speaker system and subwoofers were much too large for the small hotel room, but the message came through loud and clear, the Trio Classico XD can deliver dynamics with startling power, and still sound natural with solo acoustic guitar.
The Woo Audio 3ES amplifier isn't for "normal" headphones, Woo makes a bunch of amps that do that, the 3ES amp makes the magic happen with electrostatic headphones. The 3ES is pictured here with a Stax SR009 electrostatic headphone, the amp is made in New York City and retails for $8,999.
These slender towers made a huge impression on me, review to come. $9,800 per pair.
Dan D'Agostino is an American designer who made a big splash in the 1980s with his high-end audio company Krell, and he's upped the ante with his current namesake amps. The Progression Stereo amp sells for $22,000.
This little two-way maintained a remarkable amount of the larger Harbeth 40.2's sound character. The P3ESR has a near cult following among audiophiles for a good reason, it's simply one of the most listenable little speakers on the planet. They retail for $2,890 per pair.
This headphone looks and sounds like no other, and since the drivers are in front, not facing in towards the ear the MySphere 3.2 sounds more open and spacious than nearly any other headphone, regardless of price. This one's $4,000.
This 71 inch tall but less than 2 inches thick panel speaker is hyper transparent, and they easily projected a massive stereo sound stage. The 3.7i is made in the USA, and they sell for $5,995 per pair.
Lo and behold, this little bookshelf speaker may look understated, but the sound was anything but. Lo has a 2-inch ribbon tweeter, and a 7-inch woofer mounted in a substantially constructed rosewood cabinet. $3,495 per pair.
The Obsidian is a turntable like a Lamborghini Aventador S is a car. I watched as the Obsidian was uncrated and setup, and the sheer quality of the base, platter, and Viper tonearm were beyond reproach. As ultra high-end turntables go the Obsidian is surprisingly compact, it retails for $35,000, the Viper tonearm adds an extra $10,000.
The Stenheim Alumine Five loudspeakers checked all the boxes for audiophiles with deep pockets, stunning build quality, sound was delicious, highly refined, vivid, and above all musical. They're $59,750 per pair.
Bricasti Design caters to the pro market and audiophiles, their Platinum Series M21 digital converter is for the latter group. It's unusually versatile and can switch between a delta sigma or ladder DAC for PCM conversion, and direct DSD.
The classic 1970s audiophile turntable has remained in production and revised again and again over the years. Plenty of audiophiles still swear by the LP12, prices start at $4,600.
I've long been a fan of Gamut's smaller RS3i stand mount speaker, but this RS7i tower's combination of power, dynamics, focused imaging, and sweet tonality made for some of the very best sound at Axpona. Gamut products are all made in Denmark, these speakers retail for $39,990 per pair.