What does it really take to bring big sound to an audio show? It is certainly more than just dropping high price tags into a room and slapping it together with some cable. The industry is undoubtedly a business, and people need to turn a profit to just be able to keep producing and marketing their products, but I do think that if you have some real passion and love for good sound, it manages to find its way into the final result in your listening room.
It certainly appeared this was the case in the ampsandsound room at AXPONA 2023 this year. Although hardly a big player, ampsandsound proprietor and “Chief Mensch” Justin Weber has turned one of his favorite hobbies into a business with the intent of bringing as much of that love to his sonic output as possible. At the Chicago show, paired with Acora Acoustics QRC-1 speakers ($28k), that love was tactically apparent. Showcasing his new Arch Monos ($50k) the sound quality was not only top-tier audiophile, but managed to bring a pretty sweet tone along with it that was ultimately detailed with a hint of analog romance – just the way I like it. Weather it was a dedication to fine tuning the apparatus all weekend, or a solid combination of gear resulting it maximum “synergy”, the room was one of my favorites of the show and hereby designated as my pick for “best of show”.
Pre amp responsibilities firmly landed on a VAC Master Pre with Phono Stage ($26.5k) and digital duties from SW1X DAC IV Special ($40k). Turntable source was a TW Acustic Raven LS-3 ($50k) and a super cool record weight from PTA Approves.
The ampsandsound room was severely damped by black draping over most of the room’s surfaces. This resulted in perhaps a less lively room than some might prefer, but for my curated listening tastes, it was very goldilocks for the moment (a.k.a. just right). Whether it was taking in a selection of modern tunes, Chocolate Trip (Marc Phillips favorite) or imported Japanese pressings of Jazz, everything sang with a song that felt like true HiFi to my ears. Bass control was that beautiful texture and responsiveness that is somewhat rare (even in the best of settings) and the mid-tone tapestry was robust and information dense. Maximum effort across the board.
Now, is this the best budget room for the money? Probably not. But it was the best overall sound to me from the show, and that might just be my preference as those things go. The combination of 100 watts of pure class A from 12BY7A tubes and the stellar Acora floor standers of course didn’t hurt the situation much either. The true magic is bring all the firepower together in a cohesive sound, and for AXPONA 2023, I think Justin and Co. managed to do just that.