Intro

I’ll be covering High-End Munich next month so took it a bit easier at AXPONA 2019. There were over 180 (!!) listening rooms – therefore impossible to cover everything. Foot traffic felt a little bit tamer from last year – supposedly due to a Star Wars Celebration in the city. As always we had such a great time enjoying the concerts, grabbing drinks, and making some new friends.

Fortunately, some of the listening rooms had similar components as AXPONA 2018 – so we made an effort to see if we could uncover a few new gems. There were a few standout rooms I’ll cover soon in the Show Awards (hopefully before Munich).

AXPONA 2019 ain’t a show without some thick-cut bacon…

One fun experiment I did was go back-to-back from a sub-$5,000 system to a $50,000 system, to a $100,000 system. Obviously, there’s no way to properly evaluate gear at these shows – that could only be done in isolation. My goal was to find out if there were any general subjective commonalities.

What I learned:

  • Pricier systems tend to have more naturalistic resolution and an “adhesive” quality to them. All acoustic elements are weighted and gripped to the soundstage. This manifests in far more cohesion, articulation, and convincing realism. They all have undeniable ease to the sound. Cheaper systems tend to be more “messy” but could still be quite musically engaging.
  • What draws one audiophile into a sound vs another is independent of price point. I preferred a few $5,000 systems over $50,000 ones. I would dismiss a system that sounds incredibly resolving but has an unnatural tone or timbre. There are exceptions but those qualities are what draws me in. A few of my buddies prefer to have transparency and soundstage – and are willing to sacrifice a richer tone for that.
  • If you’ve heard a speaker enough times, you start to pick out certain characteristics about them. So in some ways, you could figure out what the other components are doing. For example, I’ve heard the Wilson Audio Alexia 2s at dozens of locations (shows, dealers, etc). Even if they were to swap out the electronics, that signature is there if you pay attention.
  • The pricier systems tend to have more textural nuances in the sound. Cheaper systems use larger and broader strokes.

Anyway, just quick observations on my part. Nothing is ever so black and white in audio – or in life.

Big thanks go out to our guest reviewer, Steve J, for taking the photos. I’ll be posting 4K videos soon. If you haven’t done so already, subscribe to our channel. I’ll be shifting to more video-based reviews.

I’ll be flying out to Taiwan in a few days and flying back out of LAX again for High-End Munich. If you know any good HiFi spots in Taipei, let me know in the comments.

Canceled flight anyone?