AXPONA 2019 was busy show from many who attended. Press and attendees were divided by 190+ rooms and a personal audio hall called EGX to cut up the time between a Friday morning and Sunday afternoon.
One of the highlights for me was visiting the Fern and Roby room who had two new loudspeakers on display. Lined up for most of Friday and Saturday was the Raven Floorstander ($9,500/pair) firmly attached to LTA’s MZ3 pre ($3,700) and ZOTL40 Power Amp ($6,800). At a special showing on Saturday evening however, the setup was paired down to an even more interesting proposition. A 12 watt do-it-all Z10e ($6.950) was thrown into the mix and provided more than enough to power the 96dB efficient full range driver of the Raven. The Z10e is capable of both electrostatic headphone amplification, dynamic headphones and the previously mentioned 12w (into 8 ohms).
Fern and Roby founder Christopher Hildebrand (who we interviewed on the Occasional Podcast), also busted out a new pair of Raven II bookshelves ($5,750) on Sunday for attendees to sample. Using the same driver assembly as the floor stander, the smaller brother is actually a sealed design. This closed off approach to the low end just might lean towards a higher capability of actually being fitted into a bookshelf during use – more so than most other audiophile attempts at the same compact size at least.
The sound from the Raven Floorstander + Z10e was rich. The single driver-with-a-wizzer-cone surprised me with this depth and robust character, one that really made its tonal intent known on complex sounds like the ones found on Brian Eno’s Sky Saw. According to Christopher, the fine tuning in the device comes from the damping material and box, which totals in at just over 2 cubic feet. He went on to explain that the range of the papyrus cone is actually capable of dips down to 42 Hz and ends somewhere at the low 30s. Listening in the mid size room didn’t leave much to long for in the bass section, and was married well to both mid tone elasticity and a smooth treble presence. Lots of “meat on the bone”, as they say.
LTA had a significant presence at the show, appearing in both the F&R room and in the Ear Gear Expo hall with their many headphone options. The 4 product headphone range moves from the new flagship Z10e to the MZ2 amp/pre/1-watt speaker amp ($1,235) built around a 6SN7 tube and ZOTL circuit design.
Both companies have a certain aesthetic and sonic charm to them that is almost nostalgic in the way it stands out. It drips of direction, enthusiasm and passion for the trade that can sometimes get lost in a sea of silver & piano black boxes. The combination here was delightful, another great showing for a set of new products just coming to market.