AXPONA 2015 Show Report

The Westin O’Hare | Chicago, IL

April 24 -26, 2015

CAT statement and JL5 driving Giya G3 at Axpona Saturday Night WBF

Vivid Audio GIYA G3, Luxman D-08u CD/SACD Player, & CAT monoblocks

A glimpse into Kyomi Audio’s room: A customer wanted to hear the big CAT Statement monoblocks compared to the little JL5 stereo amp we had played all day. The JL5 is a stereo amp with triode design using 4 x KT120 per channel, it puts out 25W Class A or 100W Class AB and retails for $13k. The Statements are monoblocks using 16 x KT120 per chassis, with a 200W triode design, Class A and retails for $100k a pair.

The big guys did not disappoint as the micro dynamics were put in the spotlight. The tonal color was more dramatic and the sound-stage became huge and spacious; it sucked the listeners in to the musical event.

It was a packed room of music lovers who were willing to delay dinner to indulge in a religious experience. Feet tapping and lots of comments exchanged over the music played at realistic club levels. It had all the vibes of a happening.

Refreshments (wine, beer & Georgian brandy to be specific) finished but the roomful of audience stuck around for more. What does this tell you about this experience with an exceptional stereo?  Continue reading

Frank Sinatra – September of my Years, best album played at AXPONA 2015

Another music highlight at AXPONA 2015 from Kyomi Audio is Frank Sinatra’s September of my Years on vinyl. It was such a great album that we kept playing it repeatedly at AXPONA and no one got tired of it.

It was 1965 when the British Invasion was in full swing. Rock music was exploding in many different directions. Yet, in the midst of it all, came this beautiful, reflective album from the Chairman of the Board. September of my Years was a perfectly arranged (by Gordon Jenkins) selection of songs recorded as Sinatra approached his 50th birthday.

“It was a Very Good Year” is the standout track, and the kind of magic even Sinatra could not have recorded when he was starting out in the late 1930’s. Here it is evocative, heartfelt and very moving. There is a maturity in his delivery that comes with experience and his voice is a finely honed instrument at this stage.

At AXPONA we played the title track, a gorgeous harp accompanies the Nelson Riddle orchestra as Sinatra delivers his lonely liturgy and of course the effects of aging. An experience that we all share but one which had not been touched upon up until then by popular singers. String tone is superb, lots of air and a rich dense tonal texture. It is Sinatra’s greatest achievement with Reprise, and held up as one of his top five albums by the critics.

We listened to a Reprise reissue, though original LPs are readily available. This was a very popular album track in 1965, when it won a Grammy for “Album of the Year”. Clean Mint- copies are readily available. Also on CD or TIDAL. 

Oliver Nelson – The Blues And The Abstract Truth at AXPONA 2015

Oliver Nelson The Blues and the Abstract Truth

I bought the DSD download of the Blues and the Abstract Truth album a couple of years ago and have been mesmerized by the all-time classic, “Stolen Moments”. Recorded over fifty years ago in 1961, this piece is a timeless beauty. Its indisputable beauty shines through in a three-part horn harmony fronting Freddie Hubbard’s lead trumpet melody.

At AXPONA, George Vatchnadze, Kyomi Audio, whipped out the 45RPM LP and spun “Hoedown” – which is quite different from the rest of the album in that it has a joyful, country flavour; I love the barking of the horns from the different speakers in a call & response. The music is infectious and makes the listener sit up & pay attention.

Blues and the Abstract Truth is Oliver Nelson’s triumph as a musician & composer for not only defining the sound of an era but also for assembling one of the most potent modern jazz sextets ever. Oliver Nelson, while a fine tenor sax player in his own right, is surrounded by extraordinary talent of Bill Evans (piano), Roy Haynes (drums), Eric Dolphy (flute & alto sax), Paul Chambers (bass) & Freddie Hubbard (trumpet).

Like Brubeck’s Time Out, Adderley’s Somethin’ Else and a handful of other jazz albums, Blues and the Abstract Truth will stand the test of time as one of the top dozen jazz albums from the fifties & sixties. Sound & Music quality – 10/10. Available on CD, SACD, LP or DSD download.

Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus at AXPONA 2015

Saxophone Colossus Sonny RollinsRevisiting Sonny Rollins’ “St. Thomas” from Saxophone Colossus on SACD at AXPONA was one of my personal highlights of the show. I first heard this when Paul Stubblebine from the Tape Project lent us (for CES one year) a Studer A80 with Dan Schmalle’s wonderful tube tape head preamp. We played the 1/4″ master tape at 15IPS. That is the yardstick that I hold dear as to how amazing this cut can be.

I LOVE Max Roach’s drum solo, two and a half minutes into the song. We could clearly hear how tight the drum skin is. When the music is so exciting, we quickly forget that we were listening to a mono recording.

The Luxman D-08u CD/SACD player’s performance (that we were using as the source at AXPONA) did not disappoint, none of the bloom that LP playback gives us, but probably closer to what the actual tape sounds like. Nonetheless it’s terrific music, however you get to play it. My only regret was that there weren’t enough hours on the Luxman D-08u as it was exhibiting signs of not being fully broken in. Wish we had more hours on it before the show.