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Since I usually cover affordable or budget audiophile gear on a daily basis, I tried to keep an eye out for some of the low-cost, high-performance gear at the show. There was quite a bit of it mixed in throughout the rooms in the huge Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center complex, but a lot of it wasn’t hooked up to listen to.
I understand that companies want to show off the best they have to offer, but someone needs to come up with a separate showcase allowing people to listen to some of the more affordable audiophile gear, helping people that don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to spend. That being said, it was still cool to put my eyes on and touch some of the stuff.
Pro-Ject Audio Systems has made a name for themselves for making compact and reasonably priced hi-fi equipment, and their booth at AXPONA was a good way to see what they have to offer. The highlight of their display was the $850 Juke Box S2 turntable, which is an all-in-one product incorporating a turntable, pre-amp and 50W per channel amplifier in a single chassis. It looks like a great product for a vinyl lover with a tight space.
Emotiva had their usual big room at the show and their budget BAS-X line was on full display. Their BAS-X components offer high-end build quality for a low price, and I’m happy to say I finally got their $399 TA-100 Tuner/Preamp/Integrated Amp in for review! Stay Tuned!
PS Audio had an expanded space at the show this year and while they mainly focused on their new high-end speakers, they also had their $599 Sprout 100 Integrated Amp out to look at. I wish they had it out to listen to as they had it last year, but the way their fancy new digs were set up, I can understand why it wasn’t a priority. By the way, I’m also supposed to be getting that in for review soon as well. Can’t wait to hear it here at the crib!
Budget Active Speakers were also well represented with several offerings from Edifier, Vanatoo, and Audioengine. Edifier had a whole room full of nice looking active speakers, and their $1100 Airpulse A300 blew me away with both looks and sound. Audioengine had their HD6 speaker system playing in their room and it sounded great as well. Vanatoo amazed me with their active bookshelf speakers last year, and I was wowed again by their new Transparent Zero Encore. The best thing about their speakers is that they automatically engage a low pass filter when a subwoofer is connected, perfectly blending in the low end. That’s a great feature.
Scotland’s Fyne Audio also made an appearance at the show with Cary Audio which shocked me since they currently don’t sell their speakers here. But it looks like that will change soon, and I can’t wait. Their F300 and F500 series speakers sell for the equivalent of $250 to $1500 in the UK, and they’re supposed to be really good! Unfortunately, they only had their F700 series (I believe) playing, but they were impressive and definitely make me want to hear more!
SVS had their new $899 Prime Pinnacle Towers set up in a Dolby Atmos Home Theater demo, one of the few I saw at AXPONA, and their room was packed! I could barely get in there. Who says home theatre is dead? The Prime Pinnacle Tower is designed to get a big sound out of a family room friendly sized speaker, and I really want to hear them in a two channel setup.
ELAC had Andrew Jones’ new $1200 Carina BS-243.4 speakers playing with $4000 of ELAC Alchemy Series Electronics, and it was a great sounding room. The Carina Series which was introduced at CES 2019, is Jones’ first ELAC design with a ribbon tweeter, and they sounded really smooth.