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    JoeWhip

    Axpona 2024 Lasting Impressions

     

     

        

        Audio: Listen to this article.

     

     

     

     

     

    And now for something completely different………..

     

    I have been attending audio shows since the mid 1990’s when I attended my first event, the Stereophile show at the Weston Saint Francis Hotel in San Francisco. I have attended quite a few since including CES, shows in New York, California, Washington DC and even Tampa Florida. I have heard great sounding rooms, horrible sounding rooms and everything in between over the years with all kinds of technology. Tubes, solid state, digital, vinyl, reel to reel, box speakers, giant horns, plasma tweeters, cubes, planars and omni directional speakers. Small hotel rooms, big open spaces, you name it.

     

    After attending Axpona for the first time since Covid, I have been thinking about writing an article describing my experiences at that event. For years I have been reading show reports focusing on “best of show” reports. It seems everyone does that. Interestingly, we never read worst of show reports. I wonder why? 😎 But I digress. I am frequently told that I am a different kind of cat so I thought it best to write something that was a bit different, focusing on rooms, technology and experiences that made a lasting impression on me, things that I think move the needle in terms of sound reproduction vs. tinkering around the edges. So here goes…..

     

     

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    1. BACCH SP Theortica Applied Physics

     

    I have heard a bit about this technology over the last couple of years from a friend, Andy Quint, who is a writer for The Absolute Sound and fellow member of the Philadelphia Area Audio Group, who at times, wearing a flack suit, chimes in here at AS. These conversations have been had during discussions about Dolby Atmos and immersive audio in general. Andy has told me that the BAACH SP system that he has in his room greatly increases the spacial characteristics of recorded music using only two channels and is something I really need to experience. As I was too busy with Atmos and getting some new equipment for my two channel system, I hadn’t yet heard it. It was therefore on the top of my of rooms to seek out at Axpona.

     

    I was luckily to experience the tech on Thursday night at the show when helping the mastermind behind the tech, Edgar Choueiri, a physicist at Princeton, set up the system. Edgar placed microphones in my ears and ran 20 to 20,000 hertz sweeps using the system consisting of a laptop, BACCH SP device and Janszen powered speakers. Edgar ran the sweeps first with my head still looking forward and then with my head tilted to the right and then the left. When the measurements were finished, Edgar expressed satisfaction with the results and it was time to do some listening. We started with binaural recordings which were astonishing with sounds floating to the left and right of my head as if I was listening on headphones. When listing to regular recordings, there was an incredible sense of space and separation of instruments and voices within that space with recordings I was familiar with. Controlling the system with an iPad, you can bypass the effect. In doing so, that sense of space and separation simply collapsed into what you would expect with stereo systems. I was simply blown away by this presentation. It did not sound gimmicky at all. But very natural sounding, like real musicians in real space.

     

    Following Axpona I had the opportunity to experience the BACCH SP system at Andy’s place with non powered Janszen speakers and Tidal electronics. Edgar used powered Janszen speakers at Axpona whereas Andy’s were non powered but otherwise identical. The effect at Andy’s was even better than at Axpona. Andy played a Bonnie Raitt track first. With the system engaged, the soundstage expanded beyond the speakers, her vocal moved a tad forward in front of the musical accompaniment and moved up in the sound field. The background vocals behind her had better separation behind her extending further to her left and right. I heard similar benefits with every recording we listened to. With each recording, the effects were different but similar in terms of greater separation, depth and spacial realism. Listening to the BACCH SP system was a game changer for me, taking stereo reproduction to a level I didn’t know was possible. The full BACCH SP system is pricey to be sure at around $25k. The box does include a pre amp and DAC which would certainly simplify one’s system. I have been told that the BACCH for Mac Audiophile system at around $5k gets you 80% of the way there. Hopefully, one day, I will get to hear that system in my room.

     

    If there is a drawback to this tech it is that it is essentially limited to one seating position. If you sit behind that person you hear a little of the effect but not much. You hear none of the effect sitting to the side. However, as most listening by audiophiles is a solitary experience, that is not a deal breaker, at least not to me. The benefits clearly outweigh that drawback, by a mile.

     

     

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    2. Wadax Digital and Goebel Speakers

     

    At the show I heard rooms with systems featuring huge speakers and very expensive electronics. Frankly, most were underwhelming to me. They were played an insanely loud levels, featured excessive bass and unrealistic imaging. I have never heard a 10 foot tall vocalist before in real life but heard a few at Axpona. There was one exception to this and that was at the lounge on the 15th floor put together by Bending Wave USA that featured Wadax Digital feeding Goebel Divin Marquis speakers. I do not recall the name of the monoblock amps. This is an insanely expensive system, the Wadax digital rig alone is $350k and the speakers clock in north of $200k. I am sure the mono locks aren’t cheap either. But the sound was amazing. This is the best sound I have ever heard from any two channel system anywhere at any time.

     

    The presentation bordered on the beautiful with rich natural but not soft or syrupy tone. Imaging was damn near perfect. No 10 foot vocalists here. Excellent but not exaggerated bass. A highly detailed utterly natural sounding presentation. Wonderful mind blowing stuff. This is well beyond what I can afford but changed my views as to what can be achieved with modern tech. It would be very interesting to incorporate BACCH into a system of this quality.

     

     

    3. Vandersteen Kento Loudspeakers

     

    I have been an owner of Vandersteen speakers since the late 1980’s and have always loved what they do. My current speakers are the 3A Signatures which I am still very happy with. I have heard great things about the more expensive line of speakers from the minds behind the Vandersteen lines. I have heard the Sevens and Kentos at shows before but those presentations didn’t sound this good. Perhaps it was the new Vandersteen pre amp that was being deemed for the first time or the Audio Research electronics or Audioquest cables. In any event, is was quite the experience to hear Vandersteens perform at this level in a cramped hotel room. It was also great to chat with the man himself again. I would love to get my hands on at least the Quattros in my room one day, but will have a devil of a time getting even that pair past the finance committee let alone the Kentos.

     

     

     

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    4. Live Music


    It was great to hear live music at Axpona. The highlight for me was the performance of the Bobby Broom trio featuring Chicago native Bobby Broom on guitar, Kobie Watkins on drums and the phenomenal Ben Paterson on organ. This trio performed a raucous set of blues and jazz tunes full of dynamics, rhythm and above all, fun. While I have written about Ben Paterson on this site, I had never heard of Bobby Broom before but was smitten with his playing. I look forward to the next time I get to experience his musicianship live, hopefully a bit closer to home.

     

     

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    5. Jerome Sabbagh

     

    @Jerome Sabbagh is at fine tenor player originally from France who is now based in Brooklyn. I first had the pleasure to hear Jerome play live last year at a venue in Ardmore, PA backing the fine jazz vocalist, Michelle Lordi. Jerome is a wonderful player with great tone. His saxophone from the 1920’s is a joy to hear. I love the tone he is able to get out of that horn. Jerome is an audiophile as well, one of several jazz musicians I have gotten to know a bit that are true audiophiles and who really care about the sound of their recordings. You can hear that attention to detail and audiophile quality in Jerome’s latest record, Vintage. Vintage was recorded on analog tape with tube electronics and features two great accompanists, Philly’s own Kenny Barron on piano and Jonathan Blake on drums. Vintage is a great recording both musically and sonically and is well worth a purchase.

     

    Given that Jerome is an audiophile, Axpona was the perfect venue for him to appear and perform. He brought Vintage with him to purchase on vinyl and reel to reel tape. Even better, he performed twice each day in the Dartzeel room. Along with his current band, Jerome cut a few tracks live before Axpona. They stripped out the sax part and Jerome performed live with that backing of his band with a live feel. His playing was flawless and captivating even though the sound in that room was too loud. One thing was clear from that room and that is what is lost in a recording. The sax was big, bold and dynamic live but when his vinyl was played back though that same system it suffered in comparison to the live thing. Maybe some day if we can ever get our hands on the cool recording equipment recovered at Roswell we will achieve true perfection.😎

     

    In summary, it was great although exhausting to attend Axpona after a few years. Even better than the sound was the opportunity to meet up again with Chris Connaker and other folks here at AudiophileStyle.com along with some acquaintances in the high end industry. I really enjoyed my four days at Axpona and look forward to attending the next Capital Audio Fest later in 2024.

     

    Joe Whip




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    Guten Morgan from München High End 2024! 

     

    Thanks for this article Joe, I really like it.  A different perspective. I love that you spent time with @Edgar Choueiri and his BACCH technology and really enjoyed it. I hope we can look forward to some follow up articles on it. 

     

    Also, it was really cool to see @Jerome Sabbagh at the show! Really cool you got to sit in on his performance. 

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    I look forward to getting ears on Bacch in my room one day. Will Edgar be in Munchen?

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    1 hour ago, JoeWhip said:

    I look forward to getting ears on Bacch in my room one day. Will Edgar be in Munchen?

    He usually is here. I will seek out another demo.

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    Hi Joe,

     

    I have heard the Bacch system at CAF twice and at AXPONA last year and I agree it is an amazing product.  Each time I made note of the recordings that Edgar used, and when I got home I listened on my system.  To my ear, what I have accomplished acoustically with some unconventional Magnepan speaker placement and room treatment seems to result in a very similar spatial effect.  I'm in the Philadelphia area and if you'd like to have a listen and give me your impressions you are welcome to come over any time.

     

    Marc

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    I was really hoping to go and get a listen to the Avant Garde Duo GT with the ITRON amplification. Sadly, other things came up but I still want to get a listen to them.

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    As an owner of Gobel and friend of the distributer, Bending Wave, USA, that amp (and preamp) is made by Riviera.  I believe the pre is at the $45K range and the dual mono amp at the 85K range.

     

    My system isn't the big Noblesse (and believe it or not there is a bigger more expensive model, the Majestic) but the Gobel Marquis, their (until now) entry level speakers, at a price more competitive with Wilson Alexia V at the 90K mark. They are releasing a smaller and "cheaper" entry level speaker at MOC as I write this, called the Comtesse, which can be heard now at MOC: Göbel High End At MOC 2024 – M & S | Ultimate High-Fidelity (monoandstereo.com).

     

    I am not using the uber expensive WADAX and at this time, using a CH Precision C1.2 DAC along with CH L10 and CH M10.  

     

    My prior Gobel Epoque Fine, a true bending wave speaker, which I loved, "blew up" and I am still not sure how.  I have my suspicions, but it is what it is.  Gobel was nice enough to take them back and help me toward the purchase of their newer line, so I got the Marquis, which given the size of my new room (smaller than my prior room), was the perfect match. 

     

    Bending Wave, USA has recently taken on the line of Riviera, and while I have no desire or capability to buy a WADAX, the CH 1.2 is my "interim" DAC until I see (and hear) what is being released by CH, WADAX and few others at this MOC.  I am also toying with hearing the Riviera on my system to compare it to the CH as my friend now swears by this line with the Gobel.  

     

    I haven't posted about my system, until I saw this but can say, these speakers are wonderful and should be heard if you are in the market.  I moved into a new home two years ago and have been getting my dedicated room up to snuff to enjoy, initially just speakers, a C1.2 (acting as pre/DAC) and M10 amp.  Unfortunately, it took more than a year (for a multitude of reasons) to get the room properly treated in order to get the best out of the system.  It is pretty amazing, that all the $ in equipment didn't equate into a "great experience" and only when the room was finally properly treated and set up did the magic come alive; another example that $ doesn't necessarily add up to a good/great system and no matter what one spends, until the setup/room is properly setup don't expect.  As good as my experience was after full treatment and setup, adding the pre L10 took the system to another level.  I know there are those who believe a good DAC with digital volume should be better, but that has not been my experience with either the MSB Select or the CH 1.2.

     

    Just a disclosure.  I am an end user and while friends with the distributor, got no special deal relative to others and just a person who enjoys music. I have had a lot of different speakers and equipment over the years since the early 80s and am truly enjoying my current system more than any. 

     

     

     

     

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    I know a couple of people who own BACCH. It's not a gimmick.   It can be somewhat affordable.  It's more like $8 to $10k for entry level.  It has a new ORC software that is room correction.  

     

    As with any device, you want a friend/expert to guide you.  Its close to plug and play, but you can end up wanting to shut your stereo off after 20 minutes.  The adjustments to bring.it back to natural and engaging might seem small and elusive.   A skilled user can help you find it again.

     

    The units in the $25k up have what is believe to be MSB DAC parts.  I have heard of people selling their Select DAC as they hear no difference between a BACCH direct.or through the Select.  That is a lot of saved money.  And you.got the Binural software as well as ORC room correction.  All in one box. 

     

    Edgar is a top notch person. 

     

    Find a dealer that has expertise and time to help guide you as you learn the system.  Too many want to sell you a unit then walk away and let your struggle.   Its a time soak for dealers.  Dealers like to make money.  Not assist in creating great sound.   There is not enough online content or teaching material to support the product fully yet.  There is some.  

     

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    2 hours ago, KingRex said:

    I know a couple of people who own BACCH. It's not a gimmick.   It can be somewhat affordable.  It's more like $8 to $10k for entry level.  It has a new ORC software that is room correction.  

     

    As with any device, you want a friend/expert to guide you.  Its close to plug and play, but you can end up wanting to shut your stereo off after 20 minutes.  The adjustments to bring.it back to natural and engaging might seem small and elusive.   A skilled user can help you find it again.

     

    The units in the $25k up have what is believe to be MSB DAC parts.  I have heard of people selling their Select DAC as they hear no difference between a BACCH direct.or through the Select.  That is a lot of saved money.  And you.got the Binural software as well as ORC room correction.  All in one box. 

     

    Edgar is a top notch person. 

     

    Find a dealer that has expertise and time to help guide you as you learn the system.  Too many want to sell you a unit then walk away and let your struggle.   Its a time soak for dealers.  Dealers like to make money.  Not assist in creating great sound.   There is not enough online content or teaching material to support the product fully yet.  There is some.  

     

     

    8 to 10K is ENTRY LEVEL? I guess I am below entry level then.

     

    Don't forget this is in the Apple Universe only. It really doesn't exist outside of there.

     

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    On 5/8/2024 at 11:02 AM, The Computer Audiophile said:

    He usually is here. I will seek out another demo.

     

    JS Bach or PDQ?

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    When my friends bought the Mac Mini version they paid $6750 for the complete unit.  Included the  Babyface Pro that is a hub for cables.  At that time the ORC room correction software was included for free.  That software is an additional charge  now.  You want the ORC software.  I don't know the price of the complete package now.  And I hear rumors the Mac Mini version may go away?????  Not sure.  I'm not on the inside loop anymore.  The insane pressure in Audiophile Junkies private Whatsapp was distrubing.  You were basically considered an Idiot if you didn't abandon the idea of analog and troom treatments for embracement of digital and room corrextion.  It's a cult of digital worship in that group.  

     

    That should not be a reflection on Edgar and the product.  There are many outlets to purchase it.  You can configure it a few ways.  You don't have to digitize your analog. 

     

    Being a Mac Mini, you can load Roon on it and ditch the server.  This is part of what confused me.  Audiophile Junkie would beat on people that servers are a waste of money.  They are worse than a decent computer with decent software.  The hardware does not matter.  I honestly don't know if he is right or not.  I have personally experienced software having a massive impact, yet hardware has a very small one.  IE, use a desktop with Roon and a good JCat USB card with updated clock and would you hear the gain from spending $22,000 on a Aurender or other.  I just don't know.  

    So, the point is, can you just get the Mac Mini BACCH/ORC and load Roon and have a world class digital for under $10k.  Not sure.  But you might.  

    FWIW.  I know about 4 people that returned it.  But I would also say they did not take the time and effort to dial it in. They threw it on a table, had it configured the first time, heard a small change and returned it.  Its going to take many many hours to figure out all it can do and dial it in.  With the personal effort put forward, its a solid product. 

     

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    33 minutes ago, KingRex said:

    The insane pressure in Audiophile Junkies private Whatsapp was distrubing.  You were basically considered an Idiot if you didn't abandon the idea of analog and troom treatments for embracement of digital and room corrextion.  It's a cult of digital worship in that group.  

    Wow, that' surely how you turn people onto the wonders of the hobby. NOT!

     

     

    34 minutes ago, KingRex said:

    I honestly don't know if he is right or not.

     

    I tend not to believe anyone who acts that way. 

     

     

    34 minutes ago, KingRex said:

    FWIW.  I know about 4 people that returned it.  But I would also say they did not take the time and effort to dial it in. They threw it on a table, had it configured the first time, heard a small change and returned it.  Its going to take many many hours to figure out all it can do and dial it in.  With the personal effort put forward, its a solid product. 

     

    This is key. If people don't work with an expert or put in the time themselves to dial anything in, it'll remain unsatisfying. The same goes for turntables, digital room correction, speakers, etc... I'm unsure why so many people are willing to spend big money on hardware, but less on software, and even less on a professional who can get the most out of both. 

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    I like Jason but this hobby can get way too culty, when or if I get my hands on some version of BACCH, I fully expect to spend quite a few hours dialing it in, with help of course, I ain’t that smart,

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    I like Jason as a person.  Nice guy.  Heart is in the right place.  But he's pretty dogmatic in his views.  I believe in a more middle ground.   Being a hobby,  people should do what they have a passion for.  If you enjoy computers and software, then room correction can create very good playback.  I personally don't like computers that much.  I would rather work with the physical room and treatments to tune it.  That is the main reason I don't have a BACCH at this time.  

     

    I am also confident I would benefit to a far greater level by spending $ on subs at this time.  My bass falls like a  brick at 50 herts.  But, I just bought a new house.   We move on June 12th.  I will be setting up a new room.  Once I have a handle on that, I will consider my options.  

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