Axpona reviewers perceptions and reality

Just read the Absolute Sounds' review of speakers $20k and many of  the speakers and systems singled out by Mr. Vallin were in our opinion were mostly subpar and many of these systems were extremely expensive to the tune of $500k and above price levels. 

Many critics love the big Von Schweikert/Vac rooms we felt that in both recent shows: Cap and at Axpona these rooms were way too massive for even these large and expensive speakers and these systems did not have the room lock effect where the speakers are actually presurizing the room and therefore producing the realistic size and scope of a live performance.

Other disappointments that critics liked

The High Water Sound room was just dismbodied, soft sounding and utterly uninvolving,.

The CH Precision room not that good especially for the insane price tag of $500k for this room at least.

The YG acoustics/Audionet was an extremely expensive rig that failed to impress.

The Hanawi  speakers first sounded great on an old recording totally disapeared and then sounded aweful on a modern record dead, no dynamics, limited top end no bottom.

We do agree that the YG Linenberg setup was very good and way less expensive then some of the other rigs.

Both Magico systems were horrible, the gigantic Magico dual sub system was impressive in the way it filled the space with scale and  image size and bass output,  but was lifeless and dead sounding, and the CH Precison Magico setup was also boring and uninvolving with an insane cost of probably another $500k level room.

We also agree that the Wilson/Arc room was magical

We also thought the MBL's sounded very good

We also thought the Avante Garde room was also extremely good. 

The point is Mr. Vallin hailed many systems as being best in show that in our opinion didn't deliver the goods at all

The Piega room was not anything special, the German Physics again not bad not that good either, most omni's don't sound right to us,. the Eikons were good for an all in one and the Haniwa's were just aweful other than a 1950's record they were playing which sounded great.

Best Sound of Show (price notwithstanding): This is a tough one, given that most of the contenders competed on a fairly even footing. So I’m going to declare a tie among the Stenheim Alumine Five, (We didnt hear these no comment)

the YG Hailey 2.2,   the MBL 101 E, the Goebel Divin Noblesse, the Magico M2, the Magico M6, the Avantgarde Duo Mezzo XD, the German Physiks Borderlands, and the Piega Coax 711.

Best Sound of Show (for the money): I didn’t get to hear the new $695 Maggies (that’s how busy I was), which reputedly were terrific, but in my category the Eikon and the Haniwa were pretty darn appealing.

Our best in show for expensive speakers and systems was very, different then Mr. Vallen's just currious what others tought of his listings:

Our best in show no particular order


Gryphon Room

T+A Solitare 

Vimberg (best bang for the buck reference speaker at show at $36k sounded amazing)


Grande Utopia EM/Naim Statement Our pick for best in show 

Avante Garde

Worst in show for very expensive setups

Both Magico rooms


Piega/Air Tight

What do you guys think of our list and comments on Mr. Vallens opinions.

Dave and Troy

Audio Doctor NJ

Didn’t you already give us your expert commentary on Axpona in both a thread you started, as well as just about any other that someone commented in?

Heck, you posted so many times you changed your opinion on the Persona 3f room and went from a shred of honesty in saying it was mediocre due to set-up to having it as one of your better rooms by the time you posted on it several times.

Also, when you refer to "us"... is that you and someone you attended with, or "us" as in me and my giant all-knowing audio ego?

It seems you love to use "us" and "we" to give the illusion that it’s not simply you, or "I" or "mine" to globalize your own heavily biased opinion.

That said, didn’t make the show this year. But - I do agree with you on Magico. Overrated, sterile boring speakers.

But a good omipolar, set-up in a good room, awfully fun.
There were 8 rooms with MAGICO the M3s and the M2s were sounding great the A3s sounded good as well.Many people love to bad rap MAGICO thats why they sold over 750 pairs of A3s people love that sterile sound!!
Trudat, this post was about the reviewer in question his opinions and how they differ from ours, and perhaps many others who heard the same systems at the show and came up with very different opinions.

We are wondering how many people agree with Mr. Vallen? In our opinion he is way off with most of his pronoucements about which rooms really sounded good.

EBM didn’t hear the A3 or if we did they didn’t stand out which room was using the A3?

The 2 big Magico demos with Magico in one and the other by F1 audio neither system sounded that good especially for the gigantic price tag, the CH Precision  Room was good sounding, not great either  but not $500k plus good enough to say sure we would purchase that setup if we were going to spend that kind of money.

We never said the Persona 3F and Anthem setup was anything other than amazing for both the sound produced and the price the combination of electronics plus louspeakers were $14,500.00 and that little system was producing a much more magical sound than many systems that cost tens of thousands of dollars.

What we said is with a few changes we could have made that system so much better, the choice of server and cabling is not what we would have used, the AQ cables tend to be clean, we did a demo of the current Water, Wind, series vs the comparable priced Wireworld series 7 which is not as good as the new series 8 and the Wireworld cabling was warmer and more full bodied sounding with an equal amount of resolution.

The Aurender servers are very good sounding but the addition of an Innous server and upconverting to 384k or above can produce a bit more air and clarity with the Anthem STR, also we would have added Isoacoustics Ghia footers as well, and different power conditioning, all of these changes would have made that little setup sound signfigantly better.

Last point us is Dave the owner, and Troy our part time help, friend, and additional set of ears.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
By the way -- it's Jonathan Valin .. not "Vallin", not "Vallen"

You know, politeness, attention to detail ...
Individual percerptions are individual reality. Everyone hears a bit different. Some even hear voices that aren't there.

The reality is that your opinion is about as valid as that of any other who walked the rooms of Axpona.  
Sorry Folkfreak not being impolite will write his name correctly  from now on.

Where you at the show?
I attended a T.H.E. Show in 'Vegas years ago. Wilson had a massive room at, what is now, the Hooters hotel. Day-1: Thin, bright, stringy sound -really bad. Day-2: Not as bad as day-1 but still sub-par. Day-3: Hallelujah! Sweet, pure, extremely REALISTIC music pouring out of those big Wilsons! The better the system, the longer it takes to warm up and settle in. Maybe exhibitors should arrive a week early so their systems sound good on show days. No? I didn't think so...
Well, whaddya expect? They come to the show with new electronics, new speakers, new cables. They best anyone ever did I saw was play music all night the first two nights and useca burn in device on cables. I’ve been calling for static displays at shows for years. What a waste of time.
So then who constantly posts here on A-Gon?

Dave or Troy, or both of you.  Sure reads as it is the same person....
You might have missed the best Magico room. The new Classe electronics driving the S5 2 I believe. Great room. Eikons were great! Your Personas were great. Atohm speakers were the best I heard at a medium price point. I had never heard of them. Kii was excellent. So many good rooms. Salk....   
I would never trust a reviewer whose system is totally comprised of long term loaned equipment!
Everyone does hear differently but if you are in this hobby you should be able to tell a dud from a gem regardless of your preferences.  Same for professional reviewers.  Stereophile was overtly polite in their comments and simply were not being objective or critical where they should have been.  Business and political objectives ruled the day and as such they failed the audiophile public.   At least The Absolute Sound had the decency to just list the equipment they listened to without making obligatory comments.   
Dave, Troy......., whatever. I find it hard to believe both of them would have such poor grammar skills (then and than are NOT interchangeable) and inattention to detail. I say it is one person, and awfully egotisical to use "we" EVERY single time. That’s just creepy.......


Would love to hear your comments on the Salk room (assuming you heard it). I read their room got a award from Positive Feedback.


I believe I saw your similar comment on the Stereophile site.

I generally agree with the response you received from Stereophile.

Many readers take Stereophile reviewers opinions to have some weight and influence (in fact, obviously they have influence - great reviews can make or break a company's product).

It makes sense to me that a reviewer would therefore be wise to understand the influence they wield, and act wisely and cautiously in doing so.

If a company is introducing a new speaker or whatever, and simply from hearing it briefly at a show a stereophile reviewer utterly pans it, that can have very serious effects on the future of that product or company.

Given how difficult it can be to work within show conditions - many hotel rooms are just HORRIBLE for acoustics - they wouldn't be doing a "favor" to anyone by panning a product based on such an encounter.That actually isn't what a responsible person would do.

If a set up seems to sound bad in a hotel room, there's every chance it's due to the challenges of setting up for a show (which most of us have no experience doubt even more of a challenge than we imagine all things considered).   So it makes sense to withhold some judgement.

But if a system produces GOOD sound at a show, well, hey that's worth commenting on.  Why not?  It's not like the reverse where a decent speaker can be made to sound bad under bad conditions.  A speaker generally isn't going to be made to sound "great" under bad conditions, so it makes sense to report "this system sounded excellent."

All that said, I do find that Jason S of stereophile tends to hold the least punches and seems to "tell it like he hears it," pointing out aspects of the sound he liked, or didn't quite like.  Though he is careful to qualify the tentative nature, could-be-due-to-any-number-of-show-condition-factors, of his experience.

Ozzy i write most of the posts, Dave the owner. We share the account and Troy writes occasionaly.

Bubba you are correct the Magicos on the Classe was indeed very good. 

Heard the Salks nothing special. 

Dave and Troy
Audlo Doctor NJ
I head about a dozen rooms. My expectations were very high. Odyssey audio, who I went to see specifically, was the best sounding room. Also had the cheapest set up of the rooms I saw.

My thought is any audio company (magazine, dealer, brand) has an agenda when reviewing a show. My second thought is, everyone hears differently and is probably the biggest factor at any show. Best sound of show (I've won a few) is kind of childish.

And another huge factor besides showrooms only sound good on the third day rule is how much people standing or sitting in these rooms affect the sound. No way can true reviewing be done at these shows and I feel bad when people say certain rooms sound bad when there are truly so many variables involved. Trade shows being use to make sonic judgements is like someone walking into a store with the rooms crammed full of products and speakers not having dedicated rooms setup.

Michael Green

"I head about a dozen rooms. My expectations were very high. Odyssey audio, who I went to see specifically, was the best sounding room. Also had the cheapest set up of the rooms I saw."

Klaus "rocks" !!!


I spent 4 days at a 3 day show. Snow. Friday night I tried to encourage an online dialogue for attendees to post their idea of the great rooms. They all came too late. I missed Odyssey, $695 Maggies, and some others I hear were great. Darn! Many rooms were a walk in and turn around at the first opportunity. Some had bad sound, same chose bad music and way too many played a Db level that did not work in the room.
Best I heard: SandersSound, Magnepan 3.7 room, ML Renaissance 
Room, Vimberg. Big Von Schweikert at $300k/pr. Borresson  Bookshelves.
Salks sounded very good to me and they played at a reasonable level. Jim is quite a gentlemen and just looking at his craftsmanship for a few minutes is a second pleasure. Not computer generated boxes. 
Disappointing -Vandersteen, Magico and plenty of other brands.
I know I missed many rooms but I was in all the above mentioned rooms.

+1 on the Odyssey room, +2 if you consider the price of the system.
Wish I had heard the new Maggie LRS and the Buchardt S400s.
Did anyone else hear the Atohm speakers? I went 3 different times to see if it was as good as I thought. Yes it was. Atoll electronics. Really good. 

The Atohms were my favorite reasonably priced speakers at the show. I went to that room 3 times as well. GT1’s or GT2’s will be my next speakers.
I wanted to hear the Buchardts but somehow got turned around and never found the room.

s400’s or Spatial M3’s are top contenders to be my next speakers. I never made it to the Spatial room and have never heard them.
The first sentence of the first post in this thread was almost magnificently incoherent. It went downhill from there.
I always take all comments by anyone, including well known reviewers and those with 40 years plus experience, with a big grain of salt.
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For me two systems held my attention in part because I knew they were small, affordable and simple: the parasound with buchardt 400 and the wharfedale linton/quad. The buchardt was playing some unfamiliar jazz and to my ears it just seemed coherent, satisfying and big considering the little boxes. The lintons were playing an electronic track that had a thick bassline and sounded again engaging and satisfying. At those moments the combination of the tracks played and the relative low cost of the systems kept me interested.

The Harbeth P3 was also a (very) small affordable speaker and with the technics behind them sounded competent however at the time they sounded like they were being pushed too hard (clipping amp? or their physical limit?) they are a tiny speaker and definitely have their limits from their intended design. I'd leave the P3 as a specialized tiny monitor for close listening or tiny room whereas the (larger) buchardt and linton could easily fill a large space with sound.

@geoffkait -  Weren't you advised to cut down on your sodium ? LOL 
( sorry ..had to put that in there and I agree with your comment  ! )  

@Bubba12 - The Atohm's were being displayed/demo'd by some of my STL homies ( Music for Pleasure ) and I went to their room unprepared to be blown away by GT1's and GT2's.  I have put the GT2 ( possible GT3)  on my wish list . 

I always take comments from people who are in the business of trying to sell me something with a big grain of salt.  This is particularly true when their posts are incoherent (as others have mentioned) and full of grammatical errors (like others have also mentioned).

Dave & Troy are famous for the above.

Now, does this post have to be removed, too?
Really Liamowen, what are we trying to "sell" you? 

As per incoherent or full of grammatical errors, really who cares?

Either the post is interesting or relevant or it is not. You mistake the ability to type and see what you are writing with relevant or insightful commentary and unfortunately there is no real spell check along with this program also some of us our eyes aren't what they used to be.

Personally your post should be removed as it is "derailing" the thread which is not about us, per se, nor grammar or syntax.

The post is about a particular reviewer's opinions and to see if people agreed with him or not.

We thought some of this choices were questionable and are contradictory, for example the reviewer tends to like Rahido and Bortessen speakers which tend to present a lot of high frequency detail yet he is also praising speakers which in our opinion sound distinctly rolled off like the High Water Sound speakers and the Hawaii speakers.

As a retailor you need to have different loudspeakers based on the consumers tastes, which include physical looks, speaker size, type of cabinet finish some people like wood others like painted finishes, amount of bass, and of course price range.

A reviewer doesn't have to have that luxury, which is why we wrote the post. Do you have comments on our observations?

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
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Post removed 
Dave and Troy:

I missed your point about perceptions and reality. The perceptions were what? The reality was what?

Thanks in advance... 
Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately it really hit home at AXPONA this year just how poorly Stereophile reports on the sound of a room. I went to many of the same rooms and was reporting live on what I heard- no filtering- just stream of conscious opinions- and they were real.
I understand that Stereophile’s opinions count- which is exactly why they should tell the truth or don’t say anything at all. We would understand the poor acoustics, etc could contribute to the lack of sound quality.
The bottom line is that it is an AUDIO show and how the systems Sound is the main reason for its existence. Report on what you hear. The good with the bad.
If you are consciously leaving out critical opinions (for whatever reason) then you are not reporting the truth- and in fact deceiving by omission.
Tell the truth or just list the components of the system and show pretty pictures like TAS does.

For anyone interested here was my stream of conscious, unfiltered as it happened AXPONA reporting as posted to Steve Hoffman Audio Forums.
Thanks for the PMs. Unfortunately I don't know how to respond to them. And my post here was deleted so I'll bow out of this thread. Hard to make heads or tails of it anyway.
instlouis56 posts04-28-2019 1:39pm@geoffkait - Weren't you advised to cut down on your sodium?

You’re very close. It was lithium. 

Do you Geoffkait or Twinkle or Liamowen do you have opinions on the post about specifically what the reviewer heard and what you guys heard if you went to the show? 

Did all three of you go to the show? Discuss this topic and this  topic only
@instlouis     If i was in the market I would be going with the big floor standers. Atohm GT3. I believe they will be more well known soon. I liked the guys that ran that room also.
I’m glad you posted this because your impressions were so much like mine. And I’ve been shaking my head over show reports that tout speakers that I thought were performing poorly, e.g., the Magicos. The big system in particular sounded awful when I heard it, as how could it not in the space it was in?

The truth is I didn’t hear much good sound at the show, and what I did hear was often in unexpected places.

Interestingly, the Wilsons were sounding good and I’m not a big Wilson fan. I suspect it’s because Wilsons have a response suckout precisely where those rooms are too bright -- what JV referred to as a megaphone-like effect.

Jonathan did say, ’Oh, next to nothing sounded spine-tinglingly realistic at the Chicago show, so if you were an “absolute sound” kind of listener you might’ve been slightly let down. On the other hand, if the drama, detail, and color of music were your first priorities (i.e., if you were an “as you like it” or “musicality-first” kind of listener) AXPONA would have proved a consistent delight.’

For me, fidelity is the primary goal and when ranked on that basis, your impressions are closer to mine than his were.

It’s unrealistic of course to expect systems to perform at their best under show conditions, but still, it was a bit disillusioning to come home and hear better sound from my own system than I heard from any of the megapriced systems at the show.

For me, the highlight of the show was the little Magnepan LRS. Of course, that’s taking into account their $650 price, but it’s kind of scary that $650 speakers had the best imaging and some of the best sound at the show! I’ve never heard anything close for that kind of money. I think they’ll become the go-to speakers for starter and second systems.
My old boss at NASA told me never get behind anyone 100%. I think that’s very good advice, especially in the audio game. I did not fall off the turnip truck yesterday.
Atohm's bookshelf speaker, GT1, is so small and yet sounds like a floor stander. I was amazed at AXPONA 2017. That brand remains a sleeper in the US.
There are far too many variables at a show like Axpona to compare one’s judgement to another’s. The source of course being the largest variable. The seating arrangement another. I don’t know if there was a Press Day but if so that would have had far fewer attendees than on Saturday which was when I was there. That would affect the listening environment. 
I agree with the comments about the Magnepan LRS at $650. I heard them. Front row in the small seating area. Yes. Hands down the best bang for the buck. I am not sure they even need a bass panel or subwoofer. I would be interested in what Grant VanderMye can do with these for stands. 

Yes. The Classé and Magico Room was also great. Very involving and lots of realism and dynamics. I am familiar with Magico and own a pair of A3, but it really got me to pay attention to what Classé is doing. 

I will also say regarding the negative comments of some the Magico rooms. A lot of their rooms are crowded and not good acoustically, as were a lot of other rooms. F1 audio didn’t even have a room but a big space. That is not optimal to properly judge equipment. If you were to actually go to F1 Audio and listen to Magicos in one of their proper rooms, I believe all would be very impressed.