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My Audio Oasis! Awards for AXPONA 2023:  Chunklet the First

06-06-2023 | By David W. Robinson | Issue 127

E-in-C Robinson enjoying cigars rooftop-style near the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret). Tiberias, Israel, 2022. (Photograph by John Robinson; image processing by the elder Robinson.)

As I have been doing for many years now at audio shows, my response to the good stuff is to issue my Positive Feedback Audio Oasis! Awards. What are they?

In 2017, I put it like this:

"'As always, my Audio Oasis! Awards are intended to recognize rooms at audio shows that are well above the run of the mill. Yes, we all know that shows are tough environments for fine audio…yes, we all know that it takes special skill and knowledge to put together synergistic matches in those settings. Some folks hit upon a really good combination by serendipity…but others get great results year in and year out.'

Very true, that. Some Audio Oasis! rooms are newcomers, but some others are highly experienced and expert campaigners, who know how to do an audio show room at a high level of quality. I strongly suggest that you pay attention to the AO! Rooms that show up, year in and year out…you can count on these vendors/manufacturers to know what's what, and to do the right thing for you and your listening room at home.

I've been doing the AO! awards for quite a while now. All the way back in PF issue 23, January/February of 2006 (HERE), in the aftermath of CES 2006, I put it this way:

'The result of this approach is a new [Positive Feedback] show honor, which I'm dubbing the 'Audio Oasis!' awards. This is my personal recognition of the rooms that, even under show conditions, really connected with me, and refreshed me in the midst of the tyrannous urgency of CES. If these systems can connect emotionally at CES, I reckon that you can count on them doing great things in your listening room at home. That's a good thing to know if you're looking for guideposts on your audio quest.

A word of warning for my readers: the "Audio Oasis!" awards should not be viewed as a variant of the nearly worn-out "best of show" recognitions that are all too common in audiodom. I did not see every room at CES and T.H.E. Show, and can have no idea of how what I didn't hear sounded like. Furthermore, there aren't nearly enough days at CES to do that properly in the first place, and its hotel-based environment is marginal, at best. "Best of Show" is only a legitimate designation if the listener: a) heard every room at CES/T.H.E. Show, and b) knows what he or she is talking about. Think of it as the combination of opportunity and sensibility. I don't think that these conditions are met very often; if they were, there would probably be fewer of such pronouncements. Enough said.'

So, that's the solid rock that my show reports and awards stand upon.'"

That's what I wrote, and wrote again these many years ago…and nothing has changed since then.

Now, in no particular order, let's go on to my Audio Oasis! Award winners at AXPONA 2023, chunklet by chunklet. (By the way, the high-resolution of my photographs mandates this approach. Too many of these will bog down load times, and I don't want to compromise my photographic work, so I have to reduce the number of images.)

GTT Audio/Kubala-Sosna/Kronos/Audionet/Vivid Audio/Mola Mola/Grimm/My Sonic Lab/Dejitterit (large room 1627)

Bill Parish of GTT Audio and Ewald Verkerk of Vivid Audio and Mola Mola welcome you!

The Vivid Giya Spirit Loudspeakers, a pair of the Audionet Heisenberg Monoblocks, and Kubala-Sosna Realization cabling hit a grand slam for killer sound!

Years of high-end audio shows have passed under the bow of the good ship Robinson since I started attending them. During that time, I've seen and heard the good, the bad, and the ugly. And actually, given the challenges of putting together a superior listening room in a short period of time with unknown acoustics and last-minute company/product alliances, it's a wonder that we get as many solid rooms as we do.

But some rooms are notable for being truly excellent year in and year out.

Audionet's Stern Preamp

In my experience, I can always rely on the GTT Audio room. This year's room at AXPONA 2023 was no exception. The team of Bill Parish and Dick Diamond at GTT, plus Joe-Kubala of Kubala-Sosna, and Ewald Verkerk of Vivid Audio, made a serious impression with the quality of the music produced.

I've already written extensively about the Audionet reference line…the Stern Preamp, the Heisenberg Monoblocks. Absolutely top o' the heap in my book. Likewise, a few months ago I wrote up the new Vivid Giya Spirit loudspeakers, and placed them in that very rare category of sui generis, together with the Kronos Discovery Turntable System (see HERE, HERE, and HERE) and the Audionet gear mentioned above. To that group, add the ne plus ultra Kubala-Sosna Realization cables, and you have a mountaintop of exceptional fine audio experience.

Louis Desjardin's sui generis Discovery RS Turntable system was outfitted with a My Sonic Lab Platinum MC. This is a cartridge that I'd like to hear for an extended trial. Ridiculously good.

The Mola Mola Tambuqui DAC and Lupe Phono Amp

I should also mention the presence of Mola Mola with its Tambaqui DAC and the new Lupe Phono Amp. On the Ethernet end of things, Bill added the Dejitterit Ethernet switch to his line card.

The GTT Audio room team:  Left to right, Bill Parish of GTT Audio, Ewald Verkerk of Vivid Audio and Mola Mola, Dick Diamond of GTT Audio, and Joe Kubala of Kubala-Sosna Cables

On and on I could go. Nothing takes the place of personal experience, eh? If you go to a high-end audio show, and GTT Audio has one of its reference-level rooms going, you simply must not miss it. It'll recalibrate your sensibilities as to what is possible in the audio arts these days.

Unless you like ignorance, of course.

This Audio Oasis! Award was way too easy. One of my Positive Feedback Audio Oasis! Awards goes to all of the people and companies in the GTT Audio, etc., room.

Avantegarde/Phasemation/Oracle/Glanz/Transparent Cable (smaller room two)

Randy Forman of Finest Fidelity with Avantgarde, Phasemation, and Transparent

Well now. Here's the Angie and Randy show! Randy Forman is an old audiobud over a number of years, and is a trusted source of quality gear. We talk pretty regularly, and have had some good times. He runs Finest Fidelity out of the Carolinas. Angie Lisi of Angie's Audio Corner/American Sound of Canada is a frequent collaborator with Randy.

Randy I knew well, and for years, but Angie and I had never met before. So I had to make the connection, and get to meet this person that Randy thought so very highly of. What a great person! Angie has very long experience in audio, a terrific sense of humor, and a deep humaneness that I appreciated.

Angie is the real thing.

In the meeting, I found myself hanging out in the smaller of Angie's two rooms...not in their larger room in the Alexander Suite. No, I went to room two, the annex next door. It combined the following:

  • Oracle Delphi $17,890
  • Glanz Tonearm $2899
  • Glanz Headshell $609
  • Phasemation PP 500 Phono Cartridge $4400
  • Phasemation EA 1200 Phono Stage $18,000
  • Avantgarde Uno with passive xver $35,850
  • Phasemation CA1000 Control Amplifier $51,500
  • Phasemation MA 2000 $49,990

I have a Phasemation PP-2000 MC cartridge myself in our reference stereo listening room, but apart from that, and some previous experiences with Phasemation/Avantgarde at other shows, I wasn't sure what to expect with this system. My experience with horn-based systems has been a mixed bag. The good systems are very impressive, startling in their dynamics.

The bad ones are honkey tonks.

But not this room.

The combination of Phasemation and Avantgarde, powered by Oracle and Glanz, was seductive. Instead of the sometimes nasal, dynamics-at-the-cost-of-tonal/harmonic-rightness that some horns produce, the Avantgardes really were sounding musical. Tonally satisfying…and nicely detailed too. Surprisingly good.

The Phasemation cartridge and electronics were particularly delicious. I have the big brother PP 2000 here at PF Central, and have gotten some great results with it in conjunction with the brilliant Gold Note PH-1000 Reference Phono Stage/PSU-1250 dedicated power supply. The PP 500 wasn't the PP 2000, of course, but it mated very well with the Glanz tonearm, and drove some righteous vibes. Though this was the smaller room of Angie's two, I didn't have any sense of audio claustrophobia at all. The synergy in this room was noteworthy.

Enough! One of my PF Audio Oasis! Awards for Angie, Randy, and these companies.

Belated or not, more to come....

Photographs and image processing by David W. Robinson. Drawing by Bruce Walker.