Dr. AIX's POSTS — 23 April 2015


AXPONA Setting Up State-of-the-Art

The sky is pure blue as I look out from the 6th floor hotel room. My wife and I and 200 pounds of luggage have arrived at the site of the AXPONA show. After we picked up the rental car, we headed to the Westin O’Hare Hotel to drop off the bags and check out the Lakeshore B ballroom. I’ll share some photos of the raw space later but the room should work out pretty well. Thankfully, it’s not clustered near other rooms or separated from a neighbor through a temporary divider. But it is near the Grand Ballroom where lots of content vendors will be selling vinyl LPs, expensive cables, and other audiophile accessories.

It’s going to take a sizeable effort to get everything set up, tested, and tweaked but that’s why I’m here a day ahead of opening day. I’ll catch up with my friends from Benchmark and JVC shortly and begin the process of unpacking.

I feel compelled to continue the conversation on the system that my partners and I have assembled for the AXPONA show. The comments that I’ve received posed some serious questions. Here’s a couple worth posting:

“Why and When did Listening to Music become complicated and expensive???”

“I fear this whole business is more revealing of your personal and business relationships with Benchmark, John Siau, and Oppo, both major advertisers here, than any real audio weakness in the Bryston SP3 or any other compatible high end component combos that you could have used instead of custom modified units. The end result now tells the listeners nothing about the hardware they’re hearing since the chain has a nonstandard component at the very front end.”

Here’s a little perspective on the AXPONA setup. Listening to music can be casual or complicated. The experience that each of desire can be delivered through a simple playback device or complex setup requiring exacting calibration and expensive equipment. It’s not unlike the Burger King slogan; we can have our music our way.

In the current AXPONA model, Benchmark and I decided to up the bar. Assembling another high-end system wasn’t the goal. Our goal was to present a room capable of delivering a level of fidelity that accepts no compromise. The bar we wanted to top was set by the JAS (Japan Audio Society). And the system that we’ve put together does that…from the fidelity of the source recordings through the electronics to the speakers.

It is complicated and expensive…and it should be. We’re living at the bleeding edge of audio fidelity. The wrench that I threw into the mix is surround sound. Getting state-of-the-art 2-channel stereo is a walk in the park in comparison. Lots of rooms will do a reasonable job at reproducing standard definition stereo. But if AXPONA attendees want to hear something unique and uncompromising, they can come to the Lakeshore B Ballroom and experience REAL High-Resolution audio in full 5.1 surround sound with HD-Video.

As for with Benchmark and Oppo, I would like to clarify the nature of my association with these companies and the people that operate them. I believe in their products. As a result, I post banner ads on my site without charge. These companies and all of the other partners in the AIX Records room at AXPONA share the expense of the room and pay their own way.

Benchmark and Oppo design and produce amazing products. I feel very fortunate to have them as partners for this trade show as well as Dolby Labs, DH Labs, and JVC. It’s the first time that Benchmark has been involved in one of my demo rooms and I know that their very high standards for sound quality will help establish our room as among the best at the show.

I’m also a big fan of Bryston and have welcomed them as a partner in the past. The SP-3 is a state-of-the-art preamp and multichannel DAC. However, the signal path that we are using is a notch better…and more challenging.

Got to go setup.

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About Author


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

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