As consumer audio shows go, Axpona Jacksonville was small scale in terms of scope (at least compared with Newport or RMAF) but big-hearted in its hospitality, and accommodations courtesy of the Omni Hotel in downtown Jacksonville. Exhibitors were liberally spread among twenty or so rooms on the 4th and 5th floors and in the downstairs ballrooms of the accommodating Omni. By leaving adjoining rooms empty wherever possible there was little sonic bleed-through and exhibitors didn’t have to compete in order to be heard. And this allowed attendees to get what they came for–a good earful of high end audio. Here is my first look;
MBL showcased the redoubtable mbl101E ($70,500) driven by what else, Reference line monoblocks and front end and Wireworld's Platinum cabling. An impeccable setup courtesy of the ministrations of its North American President/CEO Jeremy Bryan these speakers both small (mbl126) and large(mbl101E) achieved a level of performance rare at an audio show. They were at their most grand recreating acoustic landscapes in the symphonic venue. The more natural , the more vast the recording, the better for these speakers to express their full potential. The sound was as expected, one of the most wide ranging mixes of bone-tingling dynamics and output with some of the most delicate details and ambience. And virtually zero localization artifacts. There's the obligatory three-dimensional depth which is a large part of MBL’s claim to fame. This system remains as one of the most complete packages in the high-end.
Revisiting the room later in the day I had a chance to hear the smallest Radialstrahler in the line the mbl126 ($11,800) driven by the company’s soon to be released Corona Line electronics (which is on my review slate). Mind you this was a large room fully capable of accommodating the 101E but normally far too big for the unpretentious 126. Incredibly, and I mean incredibly, the 126 particularly on smaller scale passages nearly passed itself off as a 101E. The vast soundstage, the attention to low level details, the openness–all there. Obviously when the big dynamic bear came a calling all bets were off and the 101E resumed its place in the pecking order but for a few minutes there, damn it was close.
In the Avatar Acoustics room I encountered Rosso Fiorentino’s latest floorstander the Sienna ($25k), a three-way, closed-box design that also reflects some luscious cosmetic changes over at Rosso. The modular leather-clad Italiano with the aluminum cone woofers and aluminum front baffle is flat-out sexy but in only the way the Italians can do sexy. Ferraristas, you know what I mean. True to Rosso tradition, the Sienna retains the supertweeter of smaller models like the Volterra ($13k) but it’s now a tiny ribbon transducer (rather than the out of production Murata) and is capable of ambient-fill extending to 100kHz. Powered by AMR electronics and the gorgeous Dr. Feickert Firebird table, Feickert DFA12.0 with Lyra Clios cartridge the sound featured beautiful grain-free highs, smooth mids, good but not overwhelming bass extension and a relaxing sense of musical authority and unpretentious ease and openness. In short, my kind of system.