By Rafe Arnott
This year’s show kicked off with tidal wave of humanity as show goers flooded the Westin O’hare Friday morning, and you would have needed to be Moses to part the sea of audiophiles to make your way to the Starbucks in the lobby.
I took this as good sign since historically if a Friday at an audio show is that busy, the Saturday is usually more so, which puts AXPONA 2017 on track to be the largest audio event in North America this year.
I started off on the 12th floor, because as anyone who’s hit more than one of these shows knows, the elevators become hopelessly clogged and the stairs are the only sensible mode of getting floor-to-floor: So start at the top and let gravity work for you.
Quintessence Audio was dominating the top floor at the Westin with four big rooms all powered up with an impressive array of electronics that soothed many of the savage audiophile beasts I had seen angrily roaming the halls, who when seated in front of the Pass Labs, Audio Research, or Moon by Sim Audio stacks suddenly seemed content, and docile.
These were exquisitely-curated systems with an obvious nod to power, dynamics, and musicality. The AMG V12 Turbo turntable, and Aurender N100H digital-music server that was sourcing the “Large System” in O’Hare 1 featured enough Audio Research gear to power a small community. The kit consisted of the AR Reference 6 stereo preamplifier, Reference 3 phono, Reference 250 SE mono block (x2), and Reference CD9 transport/DAC. Sonus Faber II Cremonese loudspeakers were pushing enough air around to flap even veteran audiophiles’ hair. The Kubal-Sosna cabling was snaking everywhere, and the Critical Mass racks kept everything in neat, and tidy packages. This was a big aural statement with refinement, and power – hallmarks of Audio Research in my opinion – with the massive Cremonese seemingly unmovable as launching pads for the wall of sound projecting into the room. An outstanding demo by Quintessence that impressed as much with its sound capabilities as its dominating visual factor.