What an incredible first day in Chicago at the AXPONA show. By the time, Mona and I got to the Lakeshore B Ballroom following a breakfast stop at a local iHOP, John had everything spiffed up and the room was ready for action. I spent the first 30 minutes getting the sales tables set up and the alternate OPPO-95 connected through another Benchmark DAC2 and a pair of OPPO PM-1 headphones. By 10 am visitors were circled around the table and making their way into the ballroom.
Because of the layout, anyone wanting to check out our room had to come in and walk down a short ramp to see what was going on. The sound drew them at least in the doorway. But I found it curious that many times attendees would make it this far and turn around and head back up the ramp. I think it’s the use of video. Having a large HD-Video projection system in the room shouts “home theater” to many audiophiles. They can’t imagine a room with a video screen and 5.1 surround sound system producing state-of-the-art sound so they head for the exit. I didn’t make it out of the room all day but I’m pretty sure that the other demonstration systems were comprised of 2-channel stereo setups with either turntables or music servers as sources. One person did tell me that they saw another room playing video but the content was a movie soundtrack.
For those that entered the darkened room and found their way to one of the 25ish seats positioned in the middle of the 30-foot diameter circle of speakers, the payoff was sublime audio. I mean it. My friend Kevin at Harman that was so sure that the Revel Salon 2 speakers would knock me out that he made them appear in Chicago for us. They did. These speakers have the specifications to match the JAS “high-resolution audio” standards and the musicality to bring forth the clarity and intimacy of my crystal clear recordings. Last year, I struggled with the setup. We had speakers that weren’t identical and my partner inserted low fidelity DBX processor (converting the audio to 48 kHz to do room alignment) between the output of the Bryston SP-3 processor and the amplifiers. Bad idea.
Believe it or not, the system in the Lakeshore B Ballroom was delivering amazing sound without any intervening room adjustment processing. I didn’t have any equalizers (analog or digital) between the outputs of the Benchmark DAC2s and the inputs to their AHB2 amplifiers…and things sounded better than any room I’ve ever put together.
Early in the morning, a young man sat near the center position as I played a variety of my tracks. He sat quietly and was obviously enjoying the sound and the music. And then he left. He returned in the middle of the afternoon and once again sat down for another 15-20 minutes. A discussion opened up between a few of the attendees about sound and high-resolution etc. The young man said, “I was here earlier this morning and have spent the last three hours visiting a bunch of the other rooms. I can tell you that no other room comes close to delivering sound as good as this room. I just had to come back and experience it again!”
He wasn’t alone in his praise of the AIX Records room. I had more than a few others come up to me privately and say pretty much the same thing. Obviously, that’s the goal…to demonstrate something unique and compelling. And hearing the very positive feedback is very gratifying. I was disappointed that none of the audiophile press stopped by. Maybe today.
After the show ended at 6 pm, I held a 90-minute version of my “High-Resolution Audio Demystified” session in the room. I expected a few curious attendees to fill the seats prior to the 8 pm Patricia Barber show, but was knocked out when we packed the room with over 50 people. John and Gary had to keep pulling chairs from the adjacent VIP room. Readers of this blog will know what I talked about…that we need to be vigilant about provenance and insist that providers of music honestly relate what they are selling. And I played a number of demos…including the Beatles “Love” DVD-A and Tom Petty’s “Hypnotic Eye”.
Figure 1 – The view from the back of the Patricia Barber concert.
The session ended at around 7:30 pm. Everyone flooded the sales table, purchased some discs, and then headed down the hall to the concert venue. Patricia Barber and her band were quite good. However, the sound system was not great and there were no seats in the room. After 10 hours of standing, I had to sit down.
The evening ended with dinner at the Benchmark restaurant (inside the Westin) with Bob Hodas (room tuning guru), Gary from JVC and John. It was a long but very satisfying day.
Today’s another day.