<![CDATA[Ayllon Media - Blog and News]]>Sat, 07 Oct 2017 14:04:42 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Mio Acoustic Weave Paperform Tiles — Good Diffusion or Just Designer Egg Carton?]]>Sat, 07 Oct 2017 18:11:01 GMThttp://ayllonmedia.com/blog-and-news/mio-acoustic-weave-paperform-tiles-good-diffusion-or-just-designer-egg-cartonBy Juan C. Ayllon
CHICAGO, IL — His brow furrowed, he clapped his hands together, producing a harsh, ringing slap echo. “You need some room treatments,” Chris announced.  An executive at Foster Electric USA (they make Fostex speakers and OEM drivers for major audio, car and theater applications) he knew.  “You have some nice equipment,” my friend noted, glancing at the drivers in my vintage, mahogany Von Schweikert speakers, “but you’ve got to do something with this room.”

Several weeks later, he showed me his acoustic treatments in the custom home theater room that he’d built in his house, and following his suggestions, I planned, purchased fabric, Dacron Fiberfill batting and other supplies, made and placed acoustic absorption panels about my listening (AKA man cave) room.  The sound improved, but some sibilance issues still remained.


​Reasoning that my wife’s curved glass curio cabinet reflected high frequencies at the right rear corner of the room, I felt that I should balance it with diffusion at the rear left.



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Photo courtesy of www.mioculture.com
Mio My!

That’s when I discovered the Mio Culture Acoustic Weave Paperform Tiles. At $54 a pack of 12 one foot by one foot tiles, they were attractive, inexpensive and easy to mount on a temporary basis with double sided tape or permanently with a stronger adhesive.  Their PDF brochure said “they diffuse sound and improve a room’s acoustic performance in the high frequency range.”  And they are green as well; they are manufactured from 100 percent recycled paper.  

Examining them after arrival, I realized that they were no thicker than egg carton, which was maligned in the audiophile world as being ineffectual for acoustic treatment. I wondered if they would really work. Guess we’ll find out, I thought.

I taped up an array of six on the left rear corner of the room and turned up the music.  It didn’t sound right.  My wife confirmed my observations:  where previously the music enveloped us, now the music was pushed forward and away from us a good ten feet into the left half of the room.  Whoa.  The tiles came down pronto.  

​Weeks went by and, as I posted photos of my listening space in audiophile pages on Facebook, members began chiding me to cover the TV in my entertainment center with a blanket.  “Why?” I asked.  The large glass surface on the flatscreen monitor sent back harsh, high frequency reflections, they claimed.  I tried their idea, which helped, but looked ugly.  Man cave or not, I didn’t want it looking like a hovel.


Mama Mio!

Then it dawned on me:  why not place the Mio Acoustic Weave Paperform tiles on a piece of foam core board in front of the TV?  In addition to diffusing higher frequency sound, they might push the soundstage closer to us, I reasoned.  

I was right.  To our delight, my wife and I discovered that the soundstage was more intimate, clearer and less sibilant.  Eventually, I mounted the tiles onto a leftover fiberboard panel from my wall panels project and painted it.  Later, I added fluted door casing, decorative moulding and five inch thick recycled denim insulation on the backside to absorb lower frequency signals passing through the panel.  My room never sounded better!
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Chris listens to an Uber expensive, high performance set of horn loudspeakers in my man cave.
Affirmed by Professionals

About a month later, I invited my friend, Dan, who oversees media and sound at a large church in the western suburbs of Chicago over for dinner and music.  

“Great job!” he said.  He had heard my room a year earlier prior to treatment.  “The slap echo was the first thing I noticed before,” he effused.  “But, you’ve improved the sound of the room by a good 60 to 70 percent!”

When I had a friend from the high end audio industry come over to demo his preamplifier in my system, We listened to it first without the Mio Acoustic Weave diffuser on.  He asked me to replace it.  Listening carefully, he said, “That’s good!”  I later ended up demoing his  huge, world class horn loudspeakers out of my home for four months.  

​Then, my friend, Chris, from Foster Electric came over to listen to these robust horns.  He was impressed.  However, in addition to expressing admiration for the speakers, he remarked how much better my room sounded.  “You’ve done a great job,” he congratulated.


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That's my acoustic diffuser panel over the TV set (before I added the fluted casing and decorative moulding) when I listened to my friend's high end preamplifier in my system.
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My friend and my wife listen intently to the wall of sound enveloping them.
Concluding Remarks

I felt vindicated.  After months of research and hard work, I had succeeded in putting together a great sounding listening room.  And Mio Acoustic Weave Paperform tiles played a central role in making it happen.  
​They are very effective in diffusing high frequencies and diminishing slap echo.  Combined with other acoustic treatments, they can enable you to set up a formidable listening and media room.  At $54 a pack of 12 one foot by one foot tiles, they are a bargain.  I highly recommend them.

Thanks, Mio!


For more information on Mio Culture products, go to ​mioculture.com/
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My view from my listening seat nowadays -- with the Mio Acoustic Weave Paperform tile diffuser performing admirably front and center!
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<![CDATA[Mike Lee Blitzes Quattrocchi in 1, Looks forward to Facing Elite Opposition!]]>Mon, 18 Sep 2017 22:29:55 GMThttp://ayllonmedia.com/blog-and-news/mike-lee-blitzes-quattrocchi-in-1-looks-forward-to-facing-elite-oppositionBy Rich Sacks

Photos by Tom Barnes/TOMBA-Images
tom@tomba-images.com
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Lee, at right, goes for the knockout.
ROSEMONT, IL -- On Friday night at The Dome at the Ballpark in Rosemont, IL, undefeated light heavyweight contender and hometown favorite Mike Lee ( 20-0, 11 KO, Chicago) stopped Aaron Quattrocchi (10-2-1, 5 KO, Follansbee, WV) with a decisive quick TKO at 2:32 of Round 1. Lee knocked down Quattrocchi twice in the round. Right after the second knockdown, Mike Lee made quick work of it, pummeling Quattrocchi against the ropes when the referee stopped the fight.
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Lee drops Quattrocchi.
After the fight, acclaimed veteran sportscaster Al Bernstein, who was celebrating his 67th birthday, interviewed Mike Lee in the ring and asked him if he was ready at age 30 to fight the top guys. Lee responded “yes” and that it was very important to him to fight a higher ranked fighter. Hopefully, Mike Lee will have the opportunity soon. The fight was aired live on CBS Sports Network and marks the second fight card held at The Dome at the Ballpark.
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Latoria, at left, attacks Fulton.
In the earlier undercard which were all 4 round bouts, local Rosemont police officer David Latoria (13-1, 6 KO, Chicago) coming off a previous unexpected TKO loss, led off with a unanimous 40-36 decision over veteran boxer Travis Fulton (25-46-2, 23 KO, Cedar Falls, IA).

Nick Brindise (2-0, 0 KO, Chicago,IL) won a unanimous decision over Matt Murphy (2-16-3, 2 KO, East St. Louis, IL) 39-37, 39-37, 39-38

Sarah Curran (2-1, 0 KO, McHenry, IL) scored a unanimous decision over Jenna Johlin (1-1, 0 KO, Toledo, OH) 40-36.

In the first TKO of the evening, Taylor Duerr (5-0-1, 5 KO, Detroit, MI) ended the fight at 1:38 in Round 2 against Matt Cameron (1-1-1, 0 KO, Niles, IL). Cameron was hit by a hard body shot in Round 2 that he never recovered from. Then he was repeatedly hit hard against the ropes before the referee stopped the fight.

In the rescheduled Co-Main Event Tommy Hughes (4-0, 3 KO, Chicago) completely dominated Joshua Kuhn (1-2-1, 1 KO, Welch, WV) ending with a TKO at 30 seconds of Round 4. Kuhn showed great heart and resiliency absorbing repeated hard clean shots from Hughes without going down and continuing to come forward and fight. The fight was safely stopped by the referee in Round 4 with Kuhn on still on his feet in the middle of the ring but with no defense, having just absorbed a crushing combination.

Hometown favorite Tommy Hughes admitted to being a bit in awe of interviewer Al Bernstein in the ring after the fight. Hughes credited Kuhn saying, “they don’t come any tougher” in a fight Hughes completely dominated.

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Slaveski, at left, attacks Sanchez.
Finally, there was a swing bout after the main event between Gorjan Slaveski (3-0, 1 KO, Chicago, IL) and Emmanuel Sanchez (7-6, 1 KO, Laredo, TX). Slaveski’s lunging style and Sanchez’s holding (he was deducted a point) led to an erratic fight, but a decisive 40-35 unanimous decision for Slaveski.


Promoter:  Hitz Boxing

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<![CDATA[Heavyweight Contender Fres Oquendo's Asking for Help with the Passing of His Late Nephew, Henry Oquendo Jr.]]>Fri, 01 Sep 2017 21:36:40 GMThttp://ayllonmedia.com/blog-and-news/heavyweight-contender-fres-oquendos-asking-for-help-with-the-passing-of-his-late-nephew-henry-oquendo-jr
It is our deepest regret for the loss of my nephew Henry Oquendo Jr.  We have been hit with this tragic and unfortunate news of his passing.  He was a wonderful son and older brother, very protective over his sibilings. His angelic voice and warm personality touched many. He loved music, skate boarding, art, boxing, and his family.  He envisioned going back to school and beginning his career. This news has hit home very hard. We Thank You for your kind support during this difficult time.  All proceeds go to fund Henry's funeral expenses. #teamoquendo  

Click here to help 
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<![CDATA[Ferguson scores first round KO in Hays, Montana]]>Mon, 31 Jul 2017 15:22:18 GMThttp://ayllonmedia.com/blog-and-news/ferguson-scores-first-round-ko-in-hays-montanaText and photos by Ricardo Ibarra
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Ferguson, at left, presses matters.
A series of unfortunate events almost led to the cancellation of Thursday’s pro/am card at the Boxing and Bulls Outdoor Grounds in Hays, Montana, with three fighters not showing up for the weigh-ins, two pulling out the day of the fight, and intermittent rain storms sending the Silver Wolf Fight Promotions crew scrambling to salvage the show. In the end, a few last-minute replacements held most of the pro portion together and, after a three-hour delay allowed for the rain to pass, the show went ahead.

In the main event Spokane, Washington’s Patrick Ferguson (8-0, 8 KOs) scored a knockout of Ruben Roundstone (0-2) in the first round. Ferguson was originally scheduled to face former European champion Zoltan Petranyi, but after a dispute erupted between the two camps over the weights and weigh-in time, Petranyi pulled out, leading to Roundstone stepping in to fill the spot hours before the fight.
Ferguson quickly went to work behind his jab as the fight got underway, stepping in aggressively and finding his mark with crisp shots to the temple. The first hard right hand that landed sent Roundstone down for a count. Ferguson pressed as the action was allowed to resume, clearly looking to finish the fight early. Roundstone tried to cover up as the assault continued, but Ferguson simply shifted his target area downstairs, digging with hard shots to the body. A series of debilitating hooks to the mid-section sent Roundstone down for a final time. Referee Ford Jones hit the count of ten at :46 of the first round. 

Ferguson claimed his eight consecutive knockout win, although not against the opponent he had hoped it would be against. 

“I was really disappointed,” said Ferguson of the situation with Petranyi. “I thought it was a great opportunity for me to showcase my skills and go a couple rounds. I was really disappointed when it didn’t happen.”

“I was a little upset, I guess I took it out on my opponent,” Ferguson continued. “I’m happy with the win. I’d like to fight more often against guys that box a little better. Better opponents is what I need. Hopefully we get back in there soon”

The bout took place in the heavyweight division. A total of six fights made up the entire card with three of the five scheduled pro bouts remaining intact. 

In a Jr. middleweight bout, Burlington, Washington’s Steve Villalobos (5-0, 4 KOs) was forced to the go the distance for the first time as he scored a four round unanimous decision win over tough Montana journeyman Daniel Gonzalez (12-42-2, 4 KOs), who took the fight on a few hours’ notice after Villalobos’ original opponent pulled out the morning of for still unclear reasons. Villalobos dominated the fight from the start, going to work behind his jab and unloading with precision. Villalobos rocked Gonzalez late in the first round with a right cross and stepped up his output in the second, seemingly looking to score the knockout. The game Gonzalez took everything that was thrown his way and continued to try and make a fight of it, pressing forward but not throwing enough to make it competitive. The durability of Gonzalez forced Villalobos to slow his all-out aggression and show different facets of his boxing abilities. As Gonzalez refused to give, Villalobos began to snap his jab more and use the ring to set up power shots and catch his opponent as he moved forward instead of aggressively pressing into the pocket. Villalobos thoroughly dominated the remainder of the fight, leaving Gonzalez a swollen and battered fighter at the end of it. All three judges scored the bout for Villalobos with scores of 40-36, 40-36, and 40-34. 

Billings, Montana’s Melvin Weaselboy (2-0, 2 KOs) scored a second round stoppage win over Casper, Wyoming’s Billy Martin (0-2) in an entertaining heavyweight match-up. Both fighters opened up from the start, unloading with wild, heavy shots in close. Weaselboy seemed to be getting the better of the exchanges and building some momentum in the middle of the first round, but a hard left hook-right hand combo in the pocket caught him on the chin and sent him down for a count. Weaselboy returned the favor moments later, cornering Martin and dropping him with a left hook. Towards the end of the round Martin found himself on the canvas again, this time courtesy of a right hook. 

The two traded on even terms early in the second round, with Martin appearing to regain his bearings and find a target for his right hand as Weaselboy pressed the fight. A frustrated Weaselboy lost a point for a blatant intentional headbutt half-way through the round and drew a stern admonishment from referee Ford Jones. As the action resumed, Weaselboy settled down a bit and again cornered Martin, snapping his head back with a right uppercut and dropping him for a count. Weaselboy pounced as the fight was allowed to continue, administering a sustained volley as Martin covered up. Martin was dropped again as the round neared the end, prompting the referee call a stop to the fight, saving Martin from any further damage. Martin was upset with the stoppage, but he was taking a lot of punches and not defending himself. The end came at 2:46. 

In a three round tough man type amateur bout, Michael Birthmark  defeated Spur Roundstone by unanimous decision. The fight got off to a fast start with both guys stepping to each other and unloading. Birthmark showed the more polished boxing skills and used them to his advantage, landing at a higher rate throughout the fight. The judges’ tallies read 30-27, 30-27, and 30-24.

The last amateur fight of the card saw Ramon Chavez defeat Hawken Haakanson by second round TKO after Haakanson retired. The fight was fairly even in the first round, but in the second Chavez used his longer reach and quicker legs to jab from range and land right hands. Nearing the end of the second, Chavez was landing solid shots repeatedly on his opponent. In between rounds, Haakeson’s corner stopped the fight. 

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<![CDATA[Oregon boxers score wins in Medford Boxing/MMA card]]>Tue, 11 Jul 2017 21:58:22 GMThttp://ayllonmedia.com/blog-and-news/oregon-boxers-score-wins-in-medford-boxingmma-cardText and photos by Ricardo Ibarra
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Whosky, at right, and Crow trade blows.
In one of two pro boxing contests featured on Saturday night’s mixed combat sports card at the EdenVale Winery in Medford, Oregon, local welterweight Troy Wohosky (2-2, 1 KO) broke a four year stretch of inactivity with an entertaining five round unanimous decision win over Redding, California’s Brennon Crow (0-1). The bout was part of an all day mixed combat sports event presented by Rogue Promotions
Wohosky worked well from range in the first two rounds, using his superior boxing skills to set the distance and maneuver in and out of the pocket, smashing Crow with leaping left hooks upstairs and solid digs to the mid-section. Crow, an MMA fighter who was making his pro boxing debut, proved to be a game competitor, pressing forward trying to cut down the distance on his elusive opponent even while taking some hellacious shots. Late in the second round Crow’s vigilance paid off as he was able to corner Wohosky and unloaded with a barrage, forcing Wohosky into a closed quarters fight. The two fighters closed out the round trading heavily to the cheers of an appreciative crowd.


In the third, Wohosky came out much more aggressively, moving forward with hard right hands, looking to trade more than had been the case earlier. The change in strategy gave Crow more opportunities to land, and he did, making the round a close one, but Wohosky was more effective landing at a higher rate. The trend continued in the fourth round, with both fighters engaging in some intense back and forth action, with Wohosky landing the more effective shots.
In the fifth and final round Wohosky went back to using his movement, stepping in with big shots before moving out of the way of what was being thrown back, controlling the majority of the round. All three judges saw the bout for Wohosky with scores of 50-45, 50-45, and 50-44. 
With the victory Wohosky adds a second fight to his win column after sitting out the last four years due to a knee injury. 


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Martin, at left, digs to the body.
n the other boxing contest on the card (and the one featured in our lead photo), light heavyweight Abraham Martin (1-0, 1 KO), of Tallinn, Oregon, made a successful debut as a professional prize fighter, stopping Medford’s Travis Cavalli (0-1) in the second round. The fight got off to a fast pace with both fighters stepping in close and unloading on each other from the start, winging away with heavy power shots. Martin began to use his longer reach and more refined boxing skills as the round progressed, setting the distance and landing effectively with a consistent attack. 

In the second round Cavalli, an MMA fighter who stepped in on one day’s notice to make his pro boxing debut, began to visibly tire and slowed his output. Martin, meanwhile, upped his aggression, digging with precise hooks to the body. Mid-way through the round a right-cross to the chin sent Cavalli reeling back to the ropes, which kept him from falling, prompting referee Steve Newport to rightly call a knockdown and issue a count. Martin pounced after the action was allowed to resume, firing away with a sustained assault on his tiring opponent. As the referee stepped in to break up a clinch, he took a look at Cavalli and made the decision to stop the fight. The end came at 2:43 of the second round.

A third scheduled boxing match-up between Medford’s Enrique Gallegos and California’s Shawn Hardwood was canceled at the weigh-in after Hardwood failed to submit all of the required paperwork to the Oregon state athletic commission. 
Ten MMA bouts filled the remainder of the evening portion of the card. In the main event, professional mixed martial artist Austin Vanderford (2-0), of Portland, Oregon, took a three round unanimous decision win over Eugene’s Adam Fugitt (2-1) in a 170 lbs. fight. The match-up was an action filled scrap with both fighters spending lot of the time on their feet. Vanderford had an effective stand-up game and found his mark with some solid shots throughout, working both his hands and his feet. The skilled Fuggit put up a solid effort, but Vanderford was the more effective fighter, taking the decision by scores of 30-29, 30-26, and 29-28.

In the co-main event of the night, Medford’s Derrick Rottenberg defeated Brandon Miller by tap out in the first round of an amateur MMA fight at 185 lbs. Rottenberg took the fight to the ground and swarmed with a barrage of punches. Miller tapped at 1:12 as he was taking a lot of flush shots.
Medford’s Richard Carranza defeated Lionel Lim by submission in the second round of an amateur 135 lbs. contest. Carranza ended matters with a rear naked choke at 1:36 of the round.

In an exciting pro 135 lbs. fight, Eugene’s Christopher San Jose scored a third round submission win over local fighter Tristin Lindi. The fight was close going into the third with Lindi appearing to have some momentum going his way when San Jose turned the tables on him, securing the guillotine to get the tap at 4:18 of the round.

In a women’s amateur match, Eugene’s Jordan Kanewa scored a first round TKO over Maria Schlienger, of Spokane. Kanewa took quick control of the fight, dominating it from the start. After a lengthy barrage form Kanewa went unanswered, referee Steve Newport stepped in and called it at 2:26.
Christian Agosta, of Grants Pass, defeated Reno’s Kyle Moya by unanimous decision in an amateur featherweight fight. Scores were 30-26 twice, and 30-27.

Heavyweight Damon Ramos, of Reno, claimed a first round TKO over Portland’s Doug Francis in an amateur contest. Ramos cornered his opponent and unloaded a flurry of unanswered punches, forcing referee Steve Newport to step in at 1:39 of the opening round.

And in the opening MMA match, Curtis Fields took a first round submission win over Asa Carlyle. Fields got the win by rear naked choke at 1:03.

A series of EBI rules submission only grappling matches took place during an early day session of the show.

The results are as follows:


-Juan Rasmussen W Josiah Iwamizu
-Joaquin Holmes W Jack Smash
-Chris Williams W Haven Kukkee
-Alec Sachs W Nate Roberson
-Kevin Boehm W Austin Rose
-Reed Wallace W Aaron Campbell
-Tyler Rivera W David Pimentel
-Michael Richwald W Nathaniel Lee
-Evan Peterson W Michael Humphries
-Nathaniel Rucker W Dustin Keasling
-Maria Rose W Leslie Pariam
-Austin Rodgers W Kevin Roberts
-Derrick Byrum W Grant Roberts

Promoter Matthew Phillips spoke about the success of the event after the fights. “This was a great event. A lot to it, but it was a fricking good one. When everyone is cheering and you see the whole facility packed and everyone’s laughing and having a good time, and just being entertained by great athletes, that’s when it’s all worth it, all that hard work.”

A long time MMA promoter, Phillips was pleased with his first try at staging pro boxing. “They were great fights. Maybe a premature stoppage in the first one, but great fights overall. I definitely want to do more boxing and tap into the boxing crowd. We definitely had a great draw with it and I think combining it with the MMA crowd is probably good because it classes up the event. We can cross section it and we can teach the boxing fans that MMA’s cool and teach the MMA fans that boxers put on good fights.”

​Rogue Promotions will stage another card featuring both boxing and MMA September 16th at the Fairgrounds Pavilion in Salem, Oregon.

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<![CDATA[Roon Labs – Ultramodern Power and Convenience or Just Another Expensive Gadget for Home Audio Playback?]]>Sat, 10 Jun 2017 18:36:59 GMThttp://ayllonmedia.com/blog-and-news/roon-labs-ultramodern-power-and-convenience-or-just-another-expensive-gadget-for-home-audio-playbackText and photos by Juan C. Ayllon


CHICAGO -- “That definitely sounds better!” my wife effused after hearing a few bars of Steely Dan’s "Aja" with the newly installed Roon Labs’ music player.  

 She had no idea how good it would get.  

Following my review and subsequent purchase of LampizatOr’s DSD Komputer music server in 2016, Roon became its go-to software, so the principals installed it pro bono for me.
 

“Most people prefer it to Daphile,” Lukasz Fikus, owner of LampizatOr, had emailed.  “And it sounds better, too.”  He was right.  

A Roon with a Magnificent View

Roon is a five star concierge that not only arranges to get you there in style, but provides you with all the information and accommodations for a memorable journey.  The slick, superior graphics and presentation, the links, the plethora of information on artists and albums, the superb sound and a slew of other user-friendly features makes it indispensable. 
 
Its layout more hip magazine than database, with a series of clicks, it allows you to explore your digital music library based on an artist’s name, album title, genres, credits, artist relationships, lyrics and more.  Roon organizes, manages and cleans up your collection, updating metadata on the various drives and network storage.  You can use it to manage multiple devices for playback.  It runs on a wide variety of platforms, including Windows, Macs, and Linux devices and plays music from your collection, internet radio and -- optionally -- the paid subscription music streaming service, TIDAL.  (“What Is Roon”) 
 
Roon has an excellent online user’s guide and online community forum to address questions or problems (incidentally, I found a handful of good Internet radio stations to link up with Roon there).   Annual Membership runs $119 a year, while their “Lifetime” plan costs $499.  
 
At once, I prefer it to players like JRiver and others I’ve used that for all their utility, when compared with Roon, are like flying coach as opposed to first class.  As Fikus said, the sound quality is excellent and I listen to it play for hours daily as I get the hang of Roon on my system.
 

Growing Pains

Then in February 2017, Roon came out with version 1.3.  As is often with new rollouts, some bugs and glitches had to be fixed  -- which happened in the days following the new release.  However, I had an ongoing issue with RAM filling up, causing eventual slowdown, skipping and cessation of playback after 35 minutes or so. 

Accessing my Komputer with TeamViewer, LampizatOr’s IT specialist, Antoni, discovered that I had caused the problem by loading multiple pathways to the same music file folders under storage settings after installing Roon 1.3. 

Oops.

I still hit a few hiccups after that --- especially with upsampling.


A Word on Upsampling

Now, for the uninitiated, sample rate is “the number of samples of a sound that are taken per second to represent the event digitally.”  (Rouse)  Examples of sampling rates are standard CD 44 kHz, 96 kHz and 192 KHz.  And then there’s DSD  ((Direct Stream Digital, or DSD, is a high resolution technology created for mastering Super Audio CDs), with  DSD 64, 128 and higher.

 Upsampling is essentially a process of inserting  “zero-valued” samples to the ranks of original samples to boost the sampling rate of a recorded signal to approximate sampling the signal at a higher rate.  Unfortunately, “undesired spectral images” may be a byproduct, but can be eliminated by filtering them out in a digital process called interpolation. (“Interpolation”).  


Bugs Turn to Butterflies

 The glitches go away when Antoni removes HQPlayer (which has amazing logarhythms for upsampling, but intimidates me with its learning curve) from my server.  With the new and excellent upsampling features in Roon is no longer necessary -- or supported at LampizatOr.  I am elated!
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Wlodek "Sam" Wisniewski, owner of Destination Audio, seen here with my wife, Belle, at AXPONA 2017.
Then, several weeks after Audio Expo North America (AXPONA) 2017, Destination Audio’s Wlodek "Sam" Wisniewski sets up his award-winning, 540 lb. Horn Loudspeakers, preamp and monoblock amps in my man cave (shipping them back to his factory in Poland costs a fortune and I am delighted to keep them here for my friend and demo them for the occasional customer -- earning a commission, to boot, if they sell).  Overnight, my wife, Belle, and I go from listening to a system worth maybe $16,000 in total to one in which the speakers alone cost $85,000!  

We dance, we swoon and drink deep the intoxicating melodies swirling about and washing over us.  

 “Isn’t it amazing that we get to listen to THIS in our home?” Belle gushes as we savor luscious textures and timbre of vocals and acoustic guitars on the Eagles’ song, “Love will Keep Us Alive” from their album, Hell Freezes Over.

 “Mmm-hmmm,” I say, noting her bedroom eyes as I cue up the next selection with my iPhone.  Experiencing Roon’s full potential on this Destination Audio system is downright seductive!  The synergy is undeniable.  

Uplifted by Upsampling

Up until now, my home system listening has generally been limited to native playing (i.e., no upsampling) which, although excellent, raises the question, “What if?”  

But now with my server sorted out, I am awed by the newfound organic, spacious and natural timbre of Frank Vignola and Vinnie Raniolo’s acoustic guitars on “September Song” playing over TheJazzGroove.org (an excellent non-compressed sounding internet radio station) upsampled to DSD 128. Then, there’s the John Basile Quartet’s rendition of “Desmond Blue”: the electric guitar, the brushes on cymbals, the resonant upright acoustic bass are vivid and amazing.  I never knew you could upsample internet radio!  Playing over the Destination Audio Horn Loudspeakers, it sounds soooo right!
Ditto for hammers striking piano wire and the decay of notes on a flac recording of Keith Jarrett’s The Kohn Concert.  It’s enchanting and true.  Using the vaunted DSD engine on the LampizatOr Lite 7 DAC for upsampled playback is a cool drink from a chilled glass bottle of “Mexican Coke” after years of drinking Coca-Cola made in America.  Imported from Mexico, “Mexi-Coke” uses cane sugar and is described by fans as “a lot more natural tasting” and “a little less harsh" than its U.S. counterpart, which uses high fructose corn syrup. (Walker)   Natural tasting Coke comment aside, it really is that good.


​Thrilled to my Core

 As their website says, “Roon consists of a single core and as many controls and outputs as you need. This means you get the same Roon experience whether you're running on a single PC or on devices around your home.”  (“How Roon Works”) I use the LampizatOr DSD Komputer music server as my core, which outputs to my main system, and control it with my iPhone 7 for convenience or my MacBook Air for more refined control features (like easier upsampling or alphabetically browsing my library for artists or albums) -- when my wife isn’t online browsing dresses, skincare or health products with it.

I love Roon’s “Radio” feature that, when turned on, plays similar selections to recordings you have selected after they end.  Take last night, For example.  I was grading papers and listening to Francis Cabrel’s Samedi Soir Sure La Terre (European rock).  When the album ends, a catchy chill-out song comes on.  Man, that sounds great, I think.  What album is that?  Seeing it’s from Paris Lounge 2 on my phone’s Roon display, I choose to play the album.  I had forgotten that I had that (easy to do if you have over four terabytes of music).

For similar reasons, I enjoy Roon’s “Discovery” option, which allows you to rifle through scads of album covers in your collection and, again, find misplaced gems.  

Now, favorite albums or themes have a way of turning into playlists.  Some of Belle’s favorites -- like The Eagles, Cliff Richard and Roy Orbison -- comprise one such bundle.  Another dubbed “Drew’s Playlist” features country artists like Eric Church, Brett Eldredge and Thomas Rhett that my stepdaughter, Colleen, and her fiance, Drew, enjoy when they visit.  It’s not my thing, but this way, I don’t have to rack my brain to find music they like.  Alternatively, I can select the genre, Country, and let the kids and Belle get their boot scootin’ groove on.

I generally prefer jazz, blues or rock, searching by album or artist and, when I want to be surprised, there’s the Internet radio option, which I not only enjoy for listening, but also for the occasional newfound artist.
 

 
TIDAL and Regrets

I have tried TIDAL, the premium music streaming service you can use with Roon, and I must admit it fits hand in glove with Roon with its groupings of enticing music across the various genres.  The graphics and music quality are terrific.  However, as an educator and sometime writer who cancelled HBO and Showtime (I miss my boxing!) to save on the cable bill, I cannot justify spending an additional $20 a month to listen to lossless music.  Maybe that will change some day.

This brings me to my bone of contention:  Roon is not currently compatible with other streaming services like Amazon Music (which we through our Amazon Prime membership), Spotify or Pandora. And, quite frankly, it does not look like that is going to change anytime soon.

Another thing:  Roon does not currently play APE format (known also as Monkey Audio) or Windows Audio music files, and WAV (uncompressed music files) are problematic (as in they tend to disappear), because WAV has metadata issues and cannot be tagged in Roon.  Having a lot of APE and WAV files that I used with JRiver media player on my old Toshiba laptop, I had to convert them to FLAC to use them.  Ditto for a few Windows Audio files I had.  It was a hassle, but with digital technology, there are going to be occasional issues like these.  Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of my music was problem-free.  

And last, if you are considering using iPads as a controller, not any old one will do.  At present you will need a 64 bit CPU and can choose from the following:  iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, iPad Mini 4, iPad Pro or the iPad 2017u.  Similarly, compatible iPhones start at the iPhone 5s (see www.roonlabs.com for more information).  The reason I mention this is that several months ago, my wife was considering buying a used iPad for roughly $150 for me to use as a controller for Father’s Day.  Thankfully, I looked into the matter!

 
Concluding Remarks

Bottom line, I love using Roon and with my music library and internet radio options. It’s powerful, the audio quality is superb, and its features are intuitive and easy to use.  Roon is indispensable for decompressing after work, critical listening, spending time with my wife, and entertaining guests.  And, now, I will be using it to demo the Destination Audio Horn Loudspeakers and hi-fi amplification equipment.  In short, you could say that I am “Rooned” when it comes to considering other music player software.  



Serious inquiries about experiencing Destination Audio Horn Loudspeakers, preamplifiers or other products firsthand in the Chicagoland area can be directed to Sam Wisniewski at www.destinationaudio.eu.  We are no longer affiliated with Destination Audio. 
Equipment Used:
 
  • LampizatOr DSD Komputer Music Server
  • LampizatOr Lite 7 DAC
  • Straight Wire USB-Link, Pro Special speaker cables, Pro Thunder and Black Thunder power cords -- as well as several other unknown manufacturers’ cables
  • Destination Audio Preamplifier with separate power source
  • Destination Audio Monoblock amplifiers
  • Destination Audio Horn Loudspeakers
 
 
Work Cited:
 
“How Roon Works.”  RoonLabs.com.  Roon Labs.  N.d. Web. 2 June 2017
 
“Interpolation.”  DSPGuru.com.  Iowegian Corporation International.  N.d. Web.  3 June 2017.
 
Rouse, Margaret.  “Sample Rate.”  Whatis.com.  Tech Target. N.d. Web. 3 Jun3 2017.
 
Walker, Rob.  “Cult Classic.”  NewYorkTimes.com.  New York Times.  8 October 2009.  Web. 3 June 2017
 
“What is Roon?”  RoonLabs.com.  Roon Labs.  N.d. Web. 5 June 2017

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This is one of my all-time favorite albums -- one that plays often with Roon in the man cave!
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<![CDATA[A Look back at Kurt Elling with Marian McPartland on NPR.]]>Fri, 02 Jun 2017 10:45:50 GMThttp://ayllonmedia.com/blog-and-news/a-look-back-at-kurt-elling-with-marian-mcpartland-on-nprBy Juan C. Ayllon


 It is Friday, the end of yet another grueling week.  We've made it!  And in celebration of this monumentous task, I offer the following interview and performance featuring the Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Kurt Elling that I heard on National Public Radio several years back.  If you are anything like me, you will enjoy this candid and insightful visit as presented by the brilliant Marian McPartland.  Enjoy! 
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<![CDATA[Destination Audio's Amazing Horn Speakers Show Sunday, May 21st at the Courtyard by Marriott Chicago Wood Dale/Itasca!]]>Sun, 21 May 2017 12:55:17 GMThttp://ayllonmedia.com/blog-and-news/destination-audios-amazing-horn-speakers-show-sunday-may-21st-at-the-courtyard-by-marriott-chicago-wood-daleitasca

WOOD DALE, IL --  
The graceful curves of the massive black horns -- easily three feet wide -- the gnarled pattern of the Italian walnut veneered cabinets below and their sheer physicality -- six feet tall, 43” wide, 31” deep and 540 lbs. each -- are astounding.  And then, there’s the sound that envelops the room:  the sensitivity, nuance, sense of power, depth, timbre, warmth and overall tone.  

They are the Destination Audio Horn speakers, and this Sunday, May 21st, these award-winning speakers are being presented in collaboration with the Chicago Audio Society by its designer and owner of Destination Audio, Wlodek "Sam" Wisniewski, at the Courtyard by Marriott Chicago Wood Dale/Itasca.  

“They are three way horn speakers," Wisniewski says. "The are all made of wood. The thickest place is over four inches!  On the bottom we have two woofers (which) are custom made just for me.  They have handmade suspension.   It takes me six months -- half a year -- to build them.  That’s my passion."  


Date:        Sunday, May 21, 2017

Time:        1:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Where:    The Courtyard by Marriott Chicago Wood Dale/Itasca, 
900 N Wood Dale Rd., Wood                        Dale, IL 60191

Phone:     (630) 766-7775


The Destination Audio Horn Loudspeakers will be powered by the Destination Audio 1.5 W tube power amplifiers, along with their preamplifier with separate power source.  LampizatOr's flagship DAC, the  Golden Gate will be used, as well as a Mac Mini server.  

Guests are welcome to bring favorite CDs and power sources to test on the speakers.  

Sam Wisniewski can be reached at (630) 414-1001 if you have any questions.  

​Come hear and see these amazing, hand-built speakers that takes six months to build!
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<![CDATA[Destination Audio's Preamp Shines, Enhances Performance of the LampizatOr Lite 7 DAC]]>Sat, 20 May 2017 04:48:08 GMThttp://ayllonmedia.com/blog-and-news/destination-audios-preamp-shines-enhances-performance-of-the-lampizator-lite-7-dacText and photos by Juan C. Ayllon
CHICAGO -- My wife, Belle, and I had enjoyed listening to his Destination Audio Horn Loudspeakers so much at Audio Expo North America (AXPONA) that when I heard that Warsaw, Poland’s Sam Wisniewski (the principal at Destination Audio) was staying in town through May 21st to present his speakers to the Chicago Audio Society, I invited him to join us at our house for a listening session on my home system and dinner.  

He accepts, and a few days later, he arrives with some vacuum tubes, cables and his preamplifier, which he’s curious to hear on my system.  

Some Technical Aspects of his preamplifier

Using custom-built transformers, the power source and preamp tandem is based on the 76 vacuum tube and ACC40.  It has a separate power supply unit from the preamplifier.  Both sections include components by Duelund, WBT Jupiter, and Audyn Interestingly enough, they use vacuum tubes made in the 40s and 50s, such as the RCA 45.  

Tubes used include the 76 and ECC40 5U4G.

Input impedence is 250 k Ohm

Output imedance is 600 Ohm

Preamp dimensions:  390 x 160 x 300 mm 

Power Supply dimensions:  390 x 200 x 300 mm

For more information on pricing, contact Destination Audio click here
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That's my sound system in my listening room.
Equipment Used


We listens to an assortment of jazz, rock, blues and chill out on my system, which consist of the following:
  • LampizatOr DSD Komputer music server
  • Straight Wire USB Link cables
  • LampizatOr Lite 7 DAC
  • Straight Wire power cords and interconnects
  • A boutique, handmade passive preamplifier with a TDK potentiometer and silver wires sheathed in cotton
  • Mark Levinson ML-9 amplifier
  • Straight Wire Pro Special speaker cables in bi-wire configuration
  • Von Schweikert VR-5 Hovland Special Edition speakers
  • Hsu Research ULS-15 Mk II subwoofer
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Sam Wisniewski prepares to swap out some 70 year-old RCA 45 vacuum tubes with the LampizatOr Lite 7 DAC's Emission Labs 45s.
It is a nice, full-bodied presentation, and Sam seems to like it.  However, after about half an hour, he suggests switching out the pair of Emission Lab 45 vacuum tubes for some 70 year-old RCA Radiotrons.  Suddenly, the playback takes on a warmer and more vivid presentation.  

We listen for another half hour before he swaps out my power cord with his custom made, uber expensive cable.  The sound now seemed a little bit weightier and the bass more taught. He points out that the DAC is sensitive to the power cables and, hence, there was some improvement.  

Then, he replaces the LampizatOr DSD Komputer and Straight Wire USB Link cable (which runs about $40) with his Mini Mac server and a $300 cloth covered USB cable. This addition, in contrast with the relatively laidback presentation of the Komputer, is bolder, more aggressive and forward sounding.
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The Destination Audio power source and preamplifier sit atop their respective boxes in front of my entertainment center.
After some 15 minutes of playing, we take a break and carry down two heavy boxes to the listening room -- one holding the separate power supply and the other, the preamp, itself.  They have matt black faceplates and an attractive gold finish on the top.  Ever careful, Sam places them on their boxes in front of my entertainment center -- with the heavier power supply resting on a removable shelf from the center placed atop its box to prevent it from collapsing under its weight.  


The Passive - Aggressive Dilemma

Now, it has been said that the more components that you add to a signal chain, the more you color or distort a signal.  I had also heard with other DACs that unless you use an expensive, high quality preamplifier, the listener is better off simply using a volume control (basically what a passive preamplifier is), lest the signal become colored and altered .  In fact, the owner of LampizatOr, Lukas Fikus had suggested that all I needed with his Lite 7 DAC was a volume control -- which is exactly the route I took with my system, having sold off my Arcam AVP 700 Preamp/Processor some time ago in favor of a passive.

Thus, I am shocked at the transparency and lush detail of what unfolds before me.  The soundstage broadens significantly and suddenly, my vintage Von Schweikert speakers (which sounded quite good before) sound like others I’d heard at AXPONA selling for $20,000 and above!  
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Sam, in the background, listens intently as my wife, Belle, listens with her eyes closed.
My wife sits between us on the couch, closes her eyes and basks in the successive waves of sonic wonder enveloping us.  She smiles as Sam plays successive selections.  It is mesmerizing.

A Celebration of the Senses

​Taking a break, we drive Sam to our favorite lakeside restaurant, Lindy's in Wauconda, Illinois, where we converse, laugh, and soak in the simple joys of good food, ambiance and newfound friendship.
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Sam sits next to Belle at Lindy's Landing in Wauconda, Illinois.
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Belle snapped this photo of Sam, at right, with me at our lakeside table at Lindy's.
We return after a couple hours and listen -- and listen some more.  

​The real crowning moment of revelation for me is when he plays Stevie Ray Vaughan’s ‘Tin Pan Alley.’   I have often admired how it spotlights my system’s performance, making it sound like a world beater.  How little I knew.  

New details emerge in the timbre and tone of his guitar; the growl, whine, the chops and the shimmy as he hits his whammy bar, for example  -- it’s more nuanced now.  The slap of the drumstick on the snare’s rim is more articulated.  I hear new details in the harmonics of Vaughan’s voice.  I am besides myself with praise.  

Turning to me, Sam said, “You could win ‘Best in the Show’ with this system!”  I couldn’t argue with that.

We chat about the paradox of the enhanced clarity, detail and transparency by introducing more into the signal chain with the use of his active preamp versus my passive one.  “I don’t know what it is,” Sam confides.  “I don’t know if it’s the increased dynamics because of the active preamp or what...”

Whatever it is, it works very well.  


Extended Listening

He departs just before 1:00 AM, leaving his preamplifier behind for me to listen to and enjoy for several days.  Over the course of the week, in addition to stellar listening sessions, we find that with it, network television shows like “The Voice”, as well as the occasional movie lose that slight but noticeable digital edge that was present before, resulting in a more analog, natural sound than before.  It’s much like having ones neck stroked with fresh cut fingernails versus first filing them with an emory board before the caressing begins; the pleasure of the first experience is compromised by the irritating micro edges of my nails, whereas the latter is altogether more pleasurable.   


The Right Stuff


That brings us to earlier today, when PS Audio’s president, Paul McGowan wrote in his blog, “Paul’s Posts,” of his experience as a young designer building a phono preamp and comparing it to the legendary Audio Research SP3:

While “our box was clean, dynamic and good sounding,” he writes, “the SP3 was magic.”  Granting that his box was “sparsely populated with only a few ICs, a handful of capacitors and resistors compared to the eight 12AX7 vacuum tubes and support circuitry of the AR,” he concludes that success akin to the SP3’s comes with endless hours of vigorous work and experimentation, listening, tweaking, and noting how circuits, parts and topologies correlate and affect sound.  (McGowan).

Clearly, Sam Wisniewski has done just that.  


Source:

McGowan, Paul.  “Learning the Ropes.” PSAudio.com.  PS Audio.  19 May 2017.  Web. 19 May 2017.

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<![CDATA[AXPONA 2017 — Uber Audio and a Hit with the Wife!]]>Mon, 15 May 2017 22:42:47 GMThttp://ayllonmedia.com/blog-and-news/axpona-2017-uber-audio-and-a-hit-with-the-wifeText and photos by Juan C. Ayllon PictureJazz recording artist Lyn Stanley addresses the crowd in front of the Von Schweikert Audio Ultra 11s in the Dearborn Room.

ROSEMONT, IL, April 22, 2017 — Topping seven and a half feet tall, the shimmery black monoliths sport two sealed and self-powered 1,000 watt 15-inch subwoofers, four nine-inch ceramic mid-bass drivers, two seven-inch ceramic mid-rangers, two beryllium tweeters, and two five-inch aluminum ribbon super tweeters (one rear-firing).  Each.  They are two towering angelic beings standing amongst a series of pillar-like bass traps.  Their voices -- luscious, full, pure, detailed and never sibilant -- caress and envelop the enchanted crowd below.  Other-worldly and sublime — they are the very best in the show by informal consensus.  

At $295,000, the Ultra 11s are the “cost is no object” flagship of Von Schweikert Audio, one of 400 vendors showcasing their best to 6,723 attendees at Audio Expo North America (AXPONA) at the Westin O’Hare from April 21-23.  

And, for the first time, my wife, Belle, is joining me in this annual celebration of all things audio — which is no small thing.  Forget that on our fourth date, I took her to watch boxing live at ringside, when a fighter was knocked unconscious and appeared dead— prompting her to question her choice in men (he woke up and was fine, as were we; several months later, she shot photos for my boxing site gig and married me a year and a half later).  Since 2011, she has watched me save, then spend thousands on hi-fi, and although she loves the sound while listening to music or taking in a show like The Voice, she has reached her limits with my obsession.  Nevertheless, she wants to see why I make the annual pilgrimage to Audio Mecca and agrees to meet me there after work on Saturday.


Endeavoring for a slice of the magic

It is late Saturday morning, now, and Von Schweikert Audio is raffling a pair of their $8,000 Endeavor E-3 speakers, so after checking in, I scurry to find the Dearborn Room where they are accepting tickets — and where the ginormous Ultra 11s are making their North American debut.  

Whoa.

It isn’t just the sheer scale, the low noise floor or the powerful, silky performance of the piano black mammoths that sets them apart, but the synergy between them and the electronics supporting them.  This includes the following: VACs Statement Phono Stage ($80,000), Line Stage preamp ($75,000) and Statement 450 iQ Monoblock amplifiers ($120,000); the Kronos Pro Turntable ($38,000); the YFS Ref 3 Music Server ($13,000); and the LampizatOr Golden Gate Digital to Analog Converter ($15,400).  The digital playback of the buttery jazz selection is clear, just a smidgen on the warm side of neutral and intoxicating in its delivery.
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The Ultra 11s, as viewed from the audience.
Served up next is an evocative, fresh lacquer pressing of jazz recording artist Lyn Stanley’s latest, The Moonlight Sessions Volume One. Stanley, herself, narrates to an appreciative crowd.  An intermittent crackle reminds listeners that this vinyl playing, and not a live performance (during my visit on Sunday, Stanley sings along for a few bars).  
Picture
Damon Von Schweikert, at left, with Lukasz Fikus outside the Dearborn Room.
 
Afterwards, I visit with Damon Von Schweikert, CEO of VSA, looking regal in his spectacles, black suit and tie,  and Lukasz Fikus, 52, owner of LampizatOr, sporting European casual (a dark untucked button down shirt and jeans).

“There’s quite a bit of new proprietary elements to it both in signal path purity, component separation and driver speed,” Von Schweikert, 48, says. “We focus on every aspect of lowering distortion levels -- the drivers, the cabinets, the signal path, the crossovers.  And achievements here and there have led to a significant lump sum performance.”  

I ask what led him to include LampizatOr’s Golden Gate DAC in his flagship system, and he says a friend turned him onto it, adding that as the “final piece” in the system, it has squeezed out that extra bit of realism and magical performance from the Ultra 11 speakers (To read the full interview, click here).

It’s Lukasz’s turn next.  “We just heard for the first time our DAC in Von Schweikert’s factory demonstration room and... it’s an achievement that is unmatched because... it’s one thing to make something... but it’s absolutely another thing to see that somebody else liked it and applied it in a system say ten times bigger and more expensive than we’ve ever imagined.”

Cleary, he is moved.  “In the context of this unbelievable, monumental system, our DAC shows what it can do -- and even me as a maker, I never realized that.”

He suggests that this is the beginning of a beautiful collaboration and, turning to Mr. Von Schweikert, he offers to swap out their flagship with the latest iterations as technology advances.  And by saying that it demoed with the Ultra 11s at AXPONA, he jokes, he could resell their original Golden Gate for many times its price! (Click here to read the full interview).
Picture
Roon Lab's Ron Darling
A Little Market Magic

Patrons rifle through bins fulls of vinyl, try out new gear and chat up vendors as I walk into the large Marketplace room.  I run into Rob Darling, Vice President of Roon Labs, whose powerful and popular interactive music playback and streaming program costs $119 a year or $499 for a lifetime membership.  Sporting a long scarf and jacket, the youngish Darling is demoing it via laptop computer and, donning headphones, I listen to several selections.  He points out the ability of Roon to upsample from standard CD 44 kHz to DSD 64, 128 and higher (Direct Stream Digital, or DSD, is a high resolution technology created for mastering Super Audio CDs).  I hear the subtle differences in sampling rates as I toggle the settings mid-stream in several tracks.  The experience is quite gratifying.    

There are other listening stations showcasing headsets, headphone amps, DACs, preamps, and scads of accessories, including high end audio cables.  A tall gentleman in a suit and tie with a German accent pitches me on his machined metal ball bearing feet to dissipate -- and isolate audio components from -- vibration.  

I work my way through a plethora of listening rooms.  They all sound good, while others sound amazing.

Picture
The Mark Levinson No. 519 Audio Player
Take for instance, the Mark Levinson’s Rooms 502 that I find especially poignant, as I use a re-capped and spec’ed Mark Levinson ML-9 amplifier in my home system. As nice as my vintage gear sounds, the advances from my 1980s/90s piece are obvious and spectacular.   Smooth, powerful and punchy, the Revel Ultimo2 Four-Way speaker ($22,000/pair) shines. It is driven by the Mark Levinson No. 536 Monaural Amplifier ($30,000/pair) and sourced by the Mark Levinson No. 519 Audio Player ($20,000), uses WireWorld Platinum Eclipse 7 Bi-Wire speaker cable ($16,500 for the two meter pair), WireWorld Platinum Eclipse 7 XLR interconnect cable ($3,000 for one meter pair) and WireWorld Platinum Lectra 7 Power Cords ($1,700  per meter).  

​Having recently completed my own Do It Yourself acoustic panel treatments, I find the Michael Green Audio Room Tune Deluxe room intriguing as I compare notes and look closely at their construction.  A large, 30-something African American man sits mesmerized and oblivious in a comfy chair, surrounded on three sides by their RTDFS floorstander diffuser/absorption panels (starting at $150 each) while a respectable system featuring an Audolici Audio A 25 M tube integrated amplifier ($5,100) and Audio Note AN-E SPx Alnico speakers ($25,000) playing selections at the front wall, with various wall treatments placed strategically in corners and other key places to optimize the listening experience.  



Picture
LampizatOr North America partners Fred Ainsley, top, and Robert Reich.
I walk up to the LampizatOr North America Room 634, where partner Robert Reich is manning the remote.  They are debuting the Golden Atlantic DAC (beginning at 8,000 Euro or $8,747), which fronts a pair of Spatial M3 Triode Master Turbo open baffle speakers ($3,995 per pair) and is sourced by the LampizatOr DSD Komputer music server (starting at 3,900 Euro or $4,264).  Glowing orange in the darker room, smaller, less obtrusive vacuum tubes protrude from the top, exuding a shimmery, glowing, enchanting and engaging presentation that exemplifies the best of the tube sound -- especially at this price range.

​LampizatOr North America co-partner, Fred Ainsley, points out that options on the Golden Atlantic include balanced connections, volume control and DSD 512.

“We believe (the Golden Atlantic) is the best ‘bang for buck’ you can have,” LampizatOr owner Lukasz Fikus chimes in, citing the R2R technology that it uses.  

“This is the chipless discrete resistor ladder conversion technology, combined with the old type of DAC with heated triodes and a very simple circuit -- and the best materials, best capacitors -- gives us the sound that is impossible to achieve any other way, in our opinion.”  

Turning in an impressive vinyl presentation, the lovely VPI Rosewood Prime Signature turntable ($6,500) fronts a series of Modwright’s electronics, coupled with Daedelus electronics, Skogrand cables and Daedelus Audio’s flagship, the Poseidon Speakers, rendering a very refined, smooth and solid-sounding analog presentation.

It’s like “400 Flavors of Audio” -- there’s simply so much to see! The lunch hour has long passed, my head feels like mush and I’m starving, so I pour a Diet Coke from a half-empty two liter bottle and snag several slices of pizza from picked-over delivery boxes in the pressroom, where I meet AXPONA publicist Sophia Lapat, who’s just leaving, and an affable Mr. Jim Buchanan, who chats at length about the latest developments in Audio/Visual and the Journal of the Boston Audio Society.  

Like cleansing one’s palate with small bites of food between servings at a wine tasting, after Buchanan departs, I soak in the silence of the empty pressroom.  Just breathe.  

And check my emails and Facebook on my iPhone.  My thoughts collected, I head out again.   

Picture
Belle is all smiles in the KEF Room.
Liaising with my wife

It’s nearly 3:00 PM when my wife arrives.  Her hearing is unusually acute, and I am curious to observe her impressions.  I fill out her raffle ticket for the E-3 speakers and she teases that this is the real reason I invited her as we snake our way through crowded corridors to the Dearborn Room.  She is astonished at size of the Ultima 11s and the thick, velvety wall of sound that envelops us when we arrive.  They are playing the lacquer pressing of Lyn Stanley again.  My wife smiles and nods when I ask, “Isn’t this amazing?”   But jazz isn’t her thing, so after a few minutes, we head off.

We wind our way through the rooms when, on the lower level, we are hailed into the Planter Speakers room.  
“Come on in!” proprietor Madison Fielding entreats, and proceeds to show off the features of his prized equipment.  

Doubling as indoor/outdoor planters with special semi-permeable pouches to hold plants and soil, they are attractive and have built-in drainage and hidden speakers.  Their sound is rich, detailed and full bodied, but ranging from $2,595 to $6,595,  Belle says, “They sound great, but they’re expensive!”

I remind her that they are made in Connecticut, a bastion for the wealthy, that just about everything is expensive here and compared to other wares being showcased, they aren’t all that pricey by comparison.  

We work our way down the corridor, stopping off and listening to various speaker and electronics configurations.  

Signing up for two other raffles, we walk into the KEF display room and listen to a system showcasing the sleek and futuristic looking KEF Blade speakers.  My wife’s shoulders relax as she sits back and takes in several selections.  Theirs is a very smooth and balanced presentation.  

“Do you like it?”  I ask.  

Smiling, she says, “Yes.”  

“They’re the KEF Blade,” I tell her, “and they run about $15,000 a pair.” Stepping out, we visit with Straight Wire’s CEO, Steven Hill, whose high end cables are used throughout the KEF room, for several minutes.  

“You brought her along just to show her off,” he teases as we depart.  
Picture
The Destination Audio loudspeakers.
A Horn-u-copia at Destination Audio

I tell her that she has to witness the Destination Audio horn speakers that I’d heard earlier at Fred Ainsley’s insistence, so we catch a crowded elevator to the sixth floor, peek in a few rooms en route, and slide into our seats in Room 636.  

Lightning strikes.  


The graceful curves of the massive black horns -- easily three feet wide -- the gnarled pattern of the Italian walnut veneered cabinets below and their sheer physicality -- six feet tall, 43” wide, 31” deep and 540 lbs. each -- are astounding.  And then, there’s the sound that envelops the room:  the sensitivity, nuance, sense of power, depth, timbre, warmth and overall tone. She is transfixed.  Her eyes closing, she takes in this slice of heaven.  


A Mac Mini music server feeds into a LampizatOr Golden Gate DAC, then a Destination Audio preamplifier (with a separate power supply sprouting an oversized Duelund capacitor and vacuum tubes) and amplifier feed into the behemoths.   


“These are my favorites!” she enthuses, turning to me.  They are amazing, in fact one of the standouts of AXPONA.  “What kind of wood is that?” she asks.


It’s Italian walnut, Wlodek (pronounced, “Woe-jee-mish”) “Sam” Wisniewski, designer and owner of Destination Audio, informs.  We talk at some length in a nearby foyer.  


“They are three way horn speakers. The are all made of wood. The thickest place is over four inches!  On the bottom we have two woofers (which) are custom made just for me.  They have handmade suspension.   It takes me six months -- half a year -- to build them.  That’s my passion.  


“This is going to sound strange, but they’re like babies for me.  It’s hard to get rid of them!  I just love them.  All the people who own them, they are my friends right now.  I see them all the time.  We party together, eat together -- like a family, right?  And that’s important to me not to sell to just somebody who just want a nice toy because that’s so personal for me.  I’m looking for somebody who’s just going to love it!  

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Destination Audio's Sam Wisniewski with Belle.
Lost, then found

“I used to be a very rich person.  I had an alcohol problem and I lost everything.  I used to have a beautiful house, everything -- stereos for lots of money,” Wisniewski sighs.  “And then after that, I stopped drinking, okay, I got sober, and I couldn’t afford to have all this high end, expensive stuff.  And I thought, ‘why not do it?’  So, I started doing this and I took off with it.”

“I have another business,” He continues.  “It’s the best rehab center in Poland -- I call it ‘Ranch Rehab Center.’”   

That pays the bills, he maintains, while Destination Audio is his passionate avocation. It has to be like this, he says, adding, “That way I can put in all my heart and I don’t have to look for a sale so I can make money.”  

With life being as unpredictable as it is, you need to cherish the opportunities as they come.  

“You don’t know what’s going to happen. Look at me:  I’m at AXPONA in Chicago!  They are happy; they say that it’s a good sound,” Wisniewski says.  “That’s making me happy.  That’s most important.  I am three days in a year where I’m very, very happy.  This is priceless.  You can’t buy that even for a million dollars.”  
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Kwan and his son meet us in a hallway on the sixth floor.
The Afterglow and Let Down

“That Italian wood was amazing -- I’ve never seen such lovely wood,” Belle says later.  “Even though they were big and unusual looking, there was something very attractive about them.  And going to other rooms after that was disappointing; even though they were high end, it was like getting to ride in a Bentley and, afterwards, having to ride in a Kia.”   

True enough.  We pop in and out of a score of rooms.  Many sound very, very good, but there is a certain letdown.  

The Magico S3 Mk II speakers, for example, which I typically like a LOT, doesn’t impress so much today.  In all fairness, the emcee has the volume notably lower level than we had been hearing in other rooms, possibly coloring our perception.  

We encounter a Facebook friend, Kwan, and his son who made the trip down from Minnesota and are enjoying the show.  We call it a wrap shortly thereafter, heading off for dinner at Allgauer’s on the Riverfront at the Hilton Chicago/Northbrook some 20 minutes away.  It’s the site of our wedding nearly six years ago and, as Belle was born in Belfast, we have an unexpected treat with a large Irish festival, and live music, being held there that night.  Imagine that!


Sunday Revisit

Belle attends my stepdaughter’s wedding shower the next afternoon, so I head to the Westin O’Hare to catch what I missed -- and see the results of the Von Schweickert E-3 raffle. Perhaps I can drive home with them, I hope.   

It’s not as crowded this afternoon, which is nice, as I’m feeling tired from our late night and the previous day’s proceedings.

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The Elac A-61 monitor
Among the rooms I visit, the Elac AS-61 monitor, Adante ($2,500) really impresses.  It is crisp and fast, surprising me with its tone, large soundstage and high performance.  It includes an internal six inch driver enclosed inside a ported box inside the speaker's chassis that feeds a passive radiator.  The result is quite stunning.  
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Patrons listen intently to the Harbeths.
A friend’s rave reviews of a pair of Harbeths leads me to examine the new Harbeth Super HL5 Plus 40th Anniversary Edition ($7,495 per pair).  Powered by the Lio hybrid amplifier ($11,675), they look like the more traditional speakers that we grew up with, but are well-voiced, laid back and musical.

Jolida/Black Ice Audio Solutions, which features the Von Schweikert E-3 Mk II speakers that are being raffled off a little later this afternoon, are backed by Jolida electronics and sound quite good.  
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VPI's Mat Weisfeld.
Black Belted by VPI’s Matt Weisfeld

Making the rounds downstairs, I run into Matt Weisfeld, President of VPI, the makers of the Rosewood belt-driven turntable that impressed me on Saturday.   At 32, Weisfeld holds a Black Belt in Karate and is the Energizer Bunny running on empty.  

“This is a fantastic show -- not that it wasn’t in previous years -- but essentially this is a year that I’m seeing so much growth and I’ve been so busy that I’m at the point of total exhaustion,” he says.  “The rooms are sounding great, the people are happy, there’s more people each year, We’re excited to come back next year.  
“We do have a new flagship, but we didn’t bring it here because it’s really heavy, but now we do have some new things we brought this year,” he continues, taking a breath, adding that the  VPI Prime in Rosewood, whose production was discontinued due to the loss of rosewood source, is now being rebooted. “We found a supplier that has legal rosewood!’ he gushes.  “It’s gorgeous! I believe we’ll be ready to do it in six weeks.”  

On the launching of their new budget turntable, the VPI Cliffwood, he says, “That’s projected to be at $800 to $900.  It’s plug and play, it has a Grado Three and a Half, a tonearm, an aluminum platter, a 600 RPM motor called the Cliffwood because it’s still made in Cliffwood, New Jersey.”  

And the Winner Is...

I make my way to the Theater/Executive Forum room, where Kemper Holt, Peter and Terry Breuninger of AVS Showrooms share their takes on the highlights of AXPONA.  They will also be announcing the winners of various raffles, including the $8,000 Von Schweikert E-3 Mk II speakers.  The room is perhaps an eighth full as people trickle in.  

Peter Breuninger, who is well-spoken and apparently wealthy, regales us with stories of his uber expensive home system.   At one point, he sniffs that his pair of monoblock amplifiers cost more than four other houses in his posh neighborhood.

Really? I think.  As much as I love sound, I cannot even fathom spending that much on audio equipment -- even if I was as wealthy as a Rockefeller!  That makes me sad.  Are we, as audiophiles, really that self-absorbed that we can spend that much on hi-fi?

The moment passes.  As expected, the Von Schweikert Ultra 11s are a consensus show’s best.  Like others in the theater room, I grow restless, zoning in and out as I wait to hear if I’ll be driving home with new speakers.  

The best of the show awards and honorable mentions are announced and, after that, the winners of the minor raffles.  Nervous, I half hear them, as the sound of my self-talk gets louder.  

“It would be so cool to have the E-3’s in my man cave.  Man, oh man, oh man.  But, they’re not bigger than my old Von Schweikert VR-5 HSE’s that I already have -- in fact, they may be smaller!  Would they really be that much better?  They only have two terminal binding posts; how would they work with bi-wire speaker cable? Belle would kill me if I bought cables!  You don’t need it and, besides, you probably won’t win…”  

The speaker raffle winner is announced, and it’s not me. It’s some schmuck from the Chicagoland area.  A suburb, I think.  Crap.  I’m done.
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Steven Hill, at left, with his friend.
Dejected, I wander downstairs to see Steven Hill, who introduces me to a friend of his.  Chomping on his cigar, he tells me what his friend does for a living, but, shaking his hand and nodding, I hardly hear him.

​I feel sheepish in telling Hill of my disappointment in not winning the E-3 speakers, which I was really, really hoping I’d win.  

“Well, here you go,” he chimes, handing me a Straight Wire, Inc. logo pen.  Last year, Hill had visited my house after AXPONA to see my system firsthand.  I had done an interview and a review on some cables of his and we’d struck up a nice friendship.

“Juan, you have a very good and balanced system, and with the LampizatOr on the front end, you’ve maxed it out,” he says.  “Now, if someone were to go out and buy your system today, they’d spend maybe fifteen, sixteen thousand dollars, right?”  

I do the mental math and nod yes.  

“Even if you were to suddenly run into a bunch of money, for that room, you’re not going to make any real improvement unless you spend at least $25,000,” he says.  “Anything less than that will be a lateral move.  It won’t be better, just different.”

He encourages me to enjoy the vicarious thrill of reviewing new equipment now and again but, bottom line, be satisfied with what I have.

We shake hands, he reminds me to say hi to Belle, and we part ways. Until next year.    

I drive home with the radio turned off.  I’m music-ed out.  The gravely whining of tires whir in the background as my mind wanders.  

“If it’s any consolation, I do have a nice system,” I think. “I won’t have to worry about buying new cables and upsetting Belle.  That’s for sure!  Thank God I’m not like one of those ‘cat ladies’, living alone, but with stereo components instead of cats.  And spending more than the cost of four houses on a pair of amplifiers?  That’s nuts!  Think about all the starving people in Africa.  Then, again, next year, AXPONA will be held at the Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg. That will be closer to home!  Nice.  And maybe I can have Steven and the guys over afterwards...”

I feel a smile coming and turn the radio back on.  

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