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Welcome to Connoisseur Corner - Luxe Consulting and Executive Services

Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer. Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…

Marty can be contacted at: 916.952.9529 Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

12/9/17

2019 Porsche Cayenne – World’s Best SUV...?



Those car fanatics residing in Stuttgart, Germany, otherwise known as Porsche engineers and designers, have brought forth the third generation of that larger-than-a-sports-car SUV, known as the Cayenne.

The bean counters at Porsche are watching this release closely, as the Cayenne has become the bread and butter of the company.  The SUV sells in comparatively high numbers and pads the bottom line, allowing those giddy engineers to build insanely good sports cars. 

How did they do…?
Visually the new Cayenne is a hit, albeit more evolution than revolution.  Longer, lower and wider, the proportions and silhouette read more “Porsche” to my eye.  Especially the rear of the ute, with subtle Panamera and 911 queues.  The interior has improved as well, echoing the design and technology of the recently updated Panamera.  Interior volume increases for occupants and luggage alike, with another 3 cubic feet of cargo volume. 

What about the go stuff…?
After all, this is a Porsche.  All Cayennes will come with an 8-speed auto box mated to a variety of powerplants.  A single-turbo V-6 with 340 ponies gets the party started, with a twin-turbo V-6 a step up the ladder putting out 440 horsepower.  The edge of insanity arrives one more rung up said ladder with a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 pounding out 550 asphalt-melting horses.  Hybrids will make a showing in the near future, with both V-6 and V-8 versions.  Two diesel engines have been developed, but Porsche appears to be undecided on their release, courtesy of the Audi diesel scandal.

Hmmm…
As is de rigueur for all vehicles Porsche, technology bits are either present or available for a price.  Adjustable suspensions, carbon-ceramic brakes and all-wheel steering can be had if you write the check.  It all boils down to a highly capable sport utility vehicle.  Pricing starts at $65,700.00 and skyrockets from there, with the Turbo V-8 running a cool $124,600.00.

I say a job well done…!
Cheers!



Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

12/3/17

The Rob Roy – A Cocktail from the Golden Age



The year was 1894…

Back in the day, it was commonplace that a cocktail was created to christen the opening of Broadway plays.  Generally, these beverages quickly disappeared from the bar menu, but one in particular has withstood the test of time.

Rob Roy…
One Mr. De Koven (composer) and a Mr. Smith (lyricist) premiered an operetta loosely based on Rob Roy MacGregor.  In honor of the opening, the Rob Roy cocktail was born…!  All these years later, you can still plant yourself at a barstool in Anytown U.S.A. and order one up.  That is some fine staying power…

The adult beverage aficionado among you will quickly realize this is simply a take on the Manhattan, with a switch of spirit.  Manhattans commonly use bourbon, rye or Canadian whisky, and the Rob Roy calls for a blended Scotch whisky. 
And the recipe is…

Rob Roy
·         2 oz blended scotch
·         1 oz sweet vermouth
·         2 dashes Angostura bitters
·         Garnish:  lemon twist or 2 Maraschino cherries

A couple of notes:  It is fairly common to see mixologists go with orange bitters, as opposed to the Angostura, so feel free to experiment and find your preference.  You can even try Peychaud’s bitters, as it pairs well with scotch.  As always, use good ingredients.

The Connoisseur prefers the original Angostura, along with the lemon twist, so I recommend that as your starting point.  Give it a try and let me know what you think…
Cheers…!




Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

12/2/17

Vulcan Innova – Watch Winder for the Car Enthusiast!




What is one to do with a bunch of salvaged BMW M52 straight-six engine blocks?

Make watch winders, of course…!

The folks at Vulcan Innova take these blocks, do a wee bit of cleaning, and then modify each of the pistons, resulting in a watch holder.  Each piston has up to 3 programmable winding modes for the timepiece as needed. Each cylinder is lockable and a key is required to unlock and access the watches. 
Custom finishes?

Ask and ye shall receive.  Engine block color (match your BMW, perhaps?), leather color, LED lighting…  It is truly a bespoke block… er… winder.
This is a unique product with some impressive engineering.  No two winders are exactly alike.  Certainly, the perfect winder for the car geek / watch collecting cognoscenti…  

Vulcan Innova will build yours for $25,000.

Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com


11/26/17

2019 Audi A8 – Techno-Sled Extraordinaire


Whizzbangs and Gizmos...!  If you are a fan of future-tech, you will love Audi’s upcoming A8 flagship sedan. 

If, however, you are someone that loves to drive fine handling cars, you may sink further into depression.  The German manufacturers, once renowned for engineering “soul” into their vehicles, continue on a seemingly inexorable march toward bland autonomy.  All in the name of “my car is smarter than yours!”

Let me start with the upfront specs.  Length is up by 1.5 inches, but weight has been reduced, courtesy of a blend of aluminum, high-tensile steel, a dash of magnesium and a splendid carbon fiber-reinforced polymer.  The result is a chassis 24% more rigid than its predecessor.  Two engines will initially be available, including a 3.0L V-6 with 340 horsepower and a twin-turbo 4.0L V8 with 460 ponies and 487 lb-ft of torque.  The V6 will get waft the sedan to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and I expect the V8 to get there closer to 5 seconds.  Both engines mate with an ultra-smooth and unobtrusive 8-speed automatic. 
Looks...?


The latest Audis continue to read fine in external view, but they have lost that sexy swagger from previous designs.  Sure, the new A8 is stately and classic in proportion, but I fear a bit too restrained in overall design.  The latest take on the Audi hexagonal grille is a bit of a wart as well, as it is too prominent in the front fascia.
The interior does live up to previously tasteful Audi standards, with rich materials and crisp design.  The big change you will notice here is the presentation of Audi’s MMI interface, with a second centrally mounted 8.6-inch touchscreen below the main 10.1-inch navigation/multimedia screen.  The lower screen is dedicated to HVAC and seat functions, replacing myriad buttons, knobs and doohickeys.  It is all very tastefully done and reasonably user-friendly and intuitive. 



Back to some of the crazy tech…
The 2019 A8 is being touted as the first production car capable of Level 3 autonomy.  Christened Traffic Jam Pilot, the system works from all stop up to 37 mph fully controlling steering, speed and brakes in traffic.

Who needs a driver?
On the good side of the ledger, the A8 has an available all-wheel steering option, which makes the sedan feel much smaller and nimbler on the road.  Another option is an electrically controlled active suspension that can literally lift a wheel over 2 inches to aid in traversing bumps.  It works freakishly well…

The overall driving impression is smooth, capable and quiet, with just a hint of that diving soul peeking out every so often.  Will it be enough to make enthusiasts happy?  Will the prodigious tech make luxe car fans happy? 
The Audi A8 is due in the fall of 2018 with a base price in the high $80,000 range.  Cheers...!

9/4/17

Wine Time – Freeman Winery


Remember the year 1985 and a hurricane named Gloria that struck the east coast?  More on that in a bit…

Now journey to Sebastopol, California, smack in the middle of one of the world’s best Pinot Noir growing regions.  This finicky varietal loves these parts, which brings us to…

Owners Ken and Akiko Freeman founded the winery in 2001 after an extensive vineyard search.  They targeted cool hillside properties that would promote the purity of character they were seeking to imbue in their wines.  The hillside property at the western edge of the Russian River Valley AVA fit the bill.

Akiko took the winemaking reins under the tutelage of esteemed winemaker Ed Kurtzman and today is crafting the style of wines the Freemans had envisioned from the outset.  Refined and balanced, these are graceful wines that flow wonderfully on the palate.  Current production is in the 4500-case range, which allows the attention to detail that Akiko applies to her craft.
Winemaker Akiko Freeman with the author.
Three vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs are currently made from Keefer Ranch in Green Valley, the Yu-ki Estate vineyard near the coast, and the Gloria Estate vineyard (remember the hurricane?) at the winery.  You will also find a Russian River Valley Pinot, a Sonoma Coast Pinot and the splendid Akiko’s Cuvée. 
Do I have a favorite?  All of the Pinots are certainly finely crafted and represent the terroir of their vineyards.  However, I must confess a leaning to the Gloria Estate bottling.  This 8-acre vineyard, formerly an apple orchard, was planted to Swan, Calera, Martini, Pommard and Dijon115 clones.  A lot of thought and spirit went into the makeup of this vineyard, and it carries over into the glass.  This is Akiko Freeman’s flagship effort...!

For Chardonnay fans, the Ryo-fu (cool breeze) is made with the same style and care as the Pinot lineup.  Sourced primarily from Keefer Ranch and Heintz Ranch vineyards, this is an excellent wine.

 A visit to Freeman Winery yields a relaxed and intimate experience.  The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and the wines are impressive.

As for that hurricane…
Turns out that mother nature introduced Ken and Akiko in 1985.  A chance encounter brought about by the weather, that yielded an excellent winemaking adventure.  Who would have known...?
Grace in a glass – highly recommended…!

Cheers!

Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

9/2/17

Bluesmart – Luggage for the Connected Traveler


Are you a fan of how everything is becoming “connected” these days, or do you long for the old-school analog world?

Cars, thermostats, refrigerators…   Nothing is immune to joining the internet.  Manufacturers are getting a bit carried away, if you ask me.  However, if you happen to be a frequent flier, let me introduce you to a connected item that makes perfect sense…

Connected luggage...!
The clever folks at Bluesmart have created a luggage system that will never be lost.  Mind you, the airline can still misplace it, but courtesy of a built in GPS+3G Global Location Tracker, you will always know where the luggage is, or where it mistakenly ended up. 

What else can it do?
How ‘bout a built-in supercharger, capable of charging all of your devices, including laptops.  You can do away with fighting over chargers in airport terminals.  Simply plug in to the luggage at your side and your tech gear will juice up as needed.

Digital auto-locking is also present.  Use your phone to manually lock or unlock your suitcase, or even higher up the coolness ladder, use proximity to automatically lock and unlock the luggage when you are near. 
The handy phone app will even sync with your itineraries for convenience.  And fear not, all of these technologies are FAA, DOT and TSA compliant. 

Three sizes are available, depending on your travel needs.  A 22” carry-on priced at $325, a 29” check-in at $375, and an over-the-shoulder bag suitable for laptops ($235).  Bluesmart also has an available passport pouch with the GPS location tracking, RFID protection and a phone finder, that will set you back a Benjamin ($100).
Bluesmart is currently running an online special:  Order a full set, one of each item, for $895 delivered…!

You can bet it won’t get lost coming to you!
Cheers…!



Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

8/18/17

BMW Z4 Roadster Concept Stuns...!



At the Pebble Beach car extravaganza this week, BMW has decided to showcase their latest topless 4-wheeler.

The Z4 Roadster Concept was unveiled, and what a stunner it is! 

With design language reminiscent of the recently previewed 8-Series, Senior VP of Design Adrian van Hooydonk and his team have crafted proper retro roadster proportions with thoroughly modern lines that “…generate a sense of power and emotion.”  I tend to agree…  The one feature that comes across a bit un-Bimmer is the vertically-stacked headlights, although they do fit nicely into the overall form.
Due for production next year as a 2019 model, there will likely be minor aesthetic changes from this Concept version, with some front and rear cleanup and a more restrained use of interior materials in the cockpit. 

Strictly rear-wheel drive, the Z4 goes back to a fabric top, as opposed to the previous gen folding hard structure.  Available engines for the States will likely start with the 4-cylinder found in other models producing just under 250 horsepower.  A step up to the Z4 M40i model will include the inline six-cylinder powerplant benching 320 horses with 340 lb-ft of torque.  It will get up and go, as the Z4 is expected to weigh in at just under 3,200 pounds.
Both a six-speed manual gearbox and an eight-speed auto box from manufacturer ZF should be available for specification, depending on your preference.  Wheel sizes will likely top out at 19” for that aggressively sporting look.  I love the wheels on the Concept and hope they make it to production.

The interior is being touted as substantially roomier than the current Z4, and bristles with the latest in BMW tech.  iDrive is present in its sixth-generation version, and an “augmented-reality” head-up display will be available as well.  The overall feel is very modern, but it appears to be laid out in a very driver-centric manner, which appropriately harkens back to BMW’s roots.
When available next year, pricing will likely start at a tick above $50,000 and can be optioned up from there.  I look forward to the production version, provided the bean counters don’t remove too much of the style from the Concept.

Well done, BMW..!
Cheers!


Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

7/8/17

The Ritz-Carlton Goes Yachting...!



Marriott International’s luxury hotelier The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, has decided to float an idea…

Why not take the Ritz-Carlton amenities, service and style and put it on the water…?

In the form of a yacht…!
Available in 2019, the first of three bespoke yachts will be roaming the seas, dripping with luxury.  At 190-meters, these floating palaces will be small enough to get to locations the full-size cruise ships can only dream about.  Accommodations number 149 suites, each with the requisite balcony, as well as a selection of top-shelf duplex penthouses.  The Ritz-Carlton partnered with Swedish design house Tillberg Design to assure the proper vibe was achieved. 

Shipboard amenities include The Ritz-Carlton Spa, in case you have trouble relaxing, and for those hunger-pangs, head to Michelin-Starred chef Sven Elverfeld’s restaurant, or maybe the Panorama Lounge for a more casual bite and some musical entertainment. 


Voyages will range from 7 to 10 days and will include a variety of destinations from the Mediterranean and Northern Europe to the Caribbean and Latin America, depending on the season.  Private charter reservations will be available as well, just be sure to bring your rather large checkbook…
Per Herve Humler, President and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, “The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will have a distinctive personality and the vessels are sure to be true stand outs in some of the most glamorous ports around the world.  This unique combination of yachting and cruising will usher in a new way of luxury travel for guests seeking to discover the world in a relaxed, casually elegant and comfortable atmosphere with the highest level of personalized service.”

Sounds like a plan…  Reservations will open May 2018, so start planning now!

Cheers…!

Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

6/26/17

New BMW X3 Gen 3 – G01 Madness...!



BMW’s mid-size SUV… er… they call it SAV for “Sports Activity Vehicle” (semantics) is now available for public consumption. 

The “G01” in BMW geek-speak (a factory production code) is the third generation of the X3, which first debuted in 2003.  The first generation was frankly a bit of an ugly duckling both inside and out, but sold well regardless.  Gen 2 represented a substantial improvement aesthetically as well as a notch above in engineering quality.  Gen 3 appears to be fairly evolutionary on the exterior design changes, but further develops interior design and build quality in good ways!

Slightly larger in size (no third-row seating here) but lighter in weight, the X3 will initially come with two gas-fed motors in the States.  The base X3 is propelled by BMWs ubiquitous 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged powerplant, exuding 248 horsepower and scooting to 60 mph in about 6 seconds.  A step up the performance ladder takes you to the X3 M40i specification and adds 2 more cylinders.  Power climbs to 335 ponies and yields a 60 mph sprint in 4.6 seconds...!
Zippy…!

An eyeball scan of the exterior reveals a substantially larger rendition of BMW’s trademark twin kidney grill, which will likely be the remodel’s most polarizing feature.  Headlight and aero treatments are evolutionary, and the side profile and rear design notes are a touch more athletic in appearance. 
The interior is where my retina is most impressed.  Cleaner and more current in flow and appearance, the design manages to include all of the latest tech gizmodery that BMW saw fit to include.  This includes the newest iteration of iDrive, complete with a 10.25-inch touchscreen and the usual wheel and button controls, not to mention available gesture-control. 

Woohoo..!
You also can opt for the latest safety nannies, including adaptive cruise control, cross-traffic alert, collision mitigation, coffee spill assistance…   (kidding on that last one!) 

Overall, I give a thumbs up to this 3rd generation 3 of the X variety.  If it drives as well as it looks, BMW will have a straight hit on its hands…!  This buggy should compete well with Benz’s GLC, Audi’s Q5 and any other mid-size luxe-ute you care to name.
Prices have not been set, but expect the usual bump over the outgoing model.  The G01 X3 will populate US showrooms in November…



Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com


6/25/17

The Dynaudio Special 40 – Celebrating 40 Years of Speaker Excellence!




Danish speaker company Dynaudio had been around for a minute.  40 years’ worth of minutes, to be exact. 

One can almost think of Dynaudio as an old-guard speaker manufacturer, as they have had great success in the professional audio, car audio and certainly the home audio markets for quite some time.  Over the years the company has continued to refine their craft, known for their top-quality drivers and furniture-grade speaker cabinets.

So now it’s time for a birthday celebration!
Marking this auspicious occasion, the Danes have released the Special Forty, a two-way stand-mounted monitor with several technical advancements on an already impressive audio pedigree.

The configuration basics...?  This is a two-say stand mounted speaker, consisting of a 28mm tweeter and 17cm woofer.  The cabinet measures 7.8" wide by 14.2" tall and 12.7" deep, and weights in at just under 18 lbs.

And now for the special sauce...!

Let’s start with the new Esotar Forty tweeter.  This precision-coated soft-dome driver sports improvements to the neodymium magnet, reflection-absorbing materials and speaker airflow.  The result is a robust design producing in Dynaudio’s words a “tighter, more controlled and more honest performance”.  The engineers were also able to lower the tweeter’s frequency response, which improves the sonic pairing with the woofer.
Oh, and about that woofer…

Dynaudio exalts this as their best-ever 17cm woofer.  Strong words coming from these guys!  Improvements to construction and materials provide optimized control of the driver’s excursion-symmetry – the control of the speaker. 
Better sound…!

The crossover between the two drivers is a first-order design, which Dynaudio has used and refined for many years.  The speaker improvements allowed for a high level of optimization in the crossover circuit design.
Again…   better sound!

Top everything off with two Special 40 exclusive finishes available for purchase; high-gloss lacquered Grey Birch or Red Birch in cross-cut sandwiched veneers.  Stunning, of course…
Available this fall and priced at $2,999.00/pair, these Danish delights will please your ears for years to come.  I can’t wait to see what they do on their 50th...!

Cheers...!


Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com



6/4/17

The Kimpton Gray - Chicago’s New Jewel


The hustle and bustle of Chicago’s Financial District.  Can one actually rest, relax and recharge in such a place?

The answer is yes…!  The reason is Kimpton’s newest Windy City property, the Gray! 

As with many things “Chicago”, there is history here…
History and hotels?


Indeed, I say!  In 1894, one William Le Baron Jenney built the New York Life Insurance Building in downtown Chicago.  Mr. Le Baron Jenney happens to be known as the “Father of the American Skyscraper”, due to pioneering use of metal-framed construction.  In 2006 the building was named a Chicago Historic Landmark.  2014 arrived, and the Kimpton folks acquired the building, launching a 2 ½ year project to restore much of the marble walls and flooring, exterior terracotta surfacing and the historic windows.  Oh, and they converted the building to a hotel along the way. 
293 rooms and 14,000 sq/ft of meeting space later, you have one special hotel…!  You feel the history dripping from the architecture when you arrive.   Combined with tasteful, contemporary styling, the overall vibe has a casual energy, perfect for the Chicago Loop. 

Hunger and thirst pangs are covered by three excellent venues.  15 floors up is Boleo, home to South American inspired bites and a top-notch bar.  Don’t forget the retractable roof – they don’t open this in December!  Ground level has Steadfast, a restaurant with a plush vibe serving highly-crafted seasonal American cuisine.  The third locale, and my personal favorite is Vol. 39.  A dark, high-ceilinged room on the 2nd floor provides a great place to relax with your favorite craft beverage and snack.  The highlight here is the use of several hundred original law books that were found on the premises and restored to pristine condition. 

Amenities on premises also include a fitness center, and Petrosino’s Parlor, home of a pampering Spa and Salon.  No relaxation problems here...!  Even the guest rooms are well thought out, bringing a bit of swank teamed with abundant comfort and convenience. 

Let’s top this off with a courteous, energetic staff – no stuffiness here – and the Kimpton Gray is truly remarkable! 
What’s with that “Gray” name anyway?

All of that beautiful and painstakingly restored marble happens to be of the Georgia Gray variety, thus the applied moniker.  Kudos to Kimpton for the excellent restoration…
If you’re headed to the Windy City and are looking to camp in the Loop, I highly recommend a stop at the Kimpton Gray.  Chicago’s new jewel…! 

Cheers!

Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

5/26/17

AXPONA 2017 Recap – Music City?




AXPONA…    Audio Expo North America…  Could there be a new nickname brewing for the Windy City? 

The 2017 edition of this gathering of all things good in the world of audio was a rousing success.  Great music was everywhere, and the event was well organized and extremely consumer friendly.  But I do have a nit to pick…

The problem?

Too little time and far too many rooms for this one audio connoisseur to cover…  A good problem to have!  However, this condition forces my apology for those rooms left unattended, and for any left out of this recap…
Of the rooms I visited, sound quality was pretty darn good overall, although one must work around some of the room induced acoustics at times.  Kudos to all involved for working to get the best sound possible, regardless of the environment.  Here are a few highlights…


Talk about audiophile jewelry...!  The stunning Italian-made Sonus Faber Venere S speakers (5K/pr) paired with the retro-cool McIntosh C-2600 preamp and MC-452 amp provided… what else… beautiful music!  Excellent musicality, tone and a bit of perceived warmth, but not in an overly-honeyed manner. 





Equipment vendor Music Direct had a triple threat room, with three price levels of systems.  The starter was a sub-$1,500 system with Marantz electronics and Wharfedale's Diamond 225 stand mounted speakers.  Next up was the floorstanding ELAC Uni-Fi UF5 speakers (999/pr) sourced from a McIntosh MCT450 disc transport (4K) and McIntosh MAC6700 receiver (6,500).  Both sounded excellent for the money, but the cream of this crop was the bluer-than-blue Focal Sopra No.3 speakers and Balanced Audio Technology electronics providing excellent scale and texture.  A great comparison of three fine systems…



Quintessence Audio’s room showcasing the new Dynaudio Contour 60 speakers (10K/pr), paired to great synergistic effect with the always excellent Simaudio electronics, provided top-notch audio.  I have heard the new Contour line several times now and have been impressed at each listening.  Possessing Excellent dynamics and surprising low-end power paired with a refined top end, these Dynaudios are impressive indeed!




GTT Audio & Video had a dandy sounding room with the excellent YG Acoustics Sonja 1.2 (72,800/pr) and electronics from Audionet, featuring their PRE G2 preamp (23,350), Max mono amplifiers (30,500/pr) and Planck CD player (18,800).  The turntable was a Kronos Pro with Black Beauty tonearm and Air Tight Opus 1 cartidge (63K-ish in total) and cabling was a full suite of Kubala-Sosna’s new Realization! line.  Excellent detail in the music here…


In the “pleasant surprise” category was the CH Precision room.  In the past I have not had opportunity to spend much quality time with gear from this Swiss manufacturer, but they are highly thought of in the industry.  With some sonic exposure, I can now say their reputation is well-earned.  Playing through the excellent Magico S1 MkII speakers (16,500/pr), the electronics consisted of the D1 CD/SACD player (38K) and the new I1 Universal integrated amplifier (38K) with optional Ethernet streaming board and phono input board added in.  I believe the turntable was a Kronos Sparta with a Helena tonearm and Kuboteck cartridge.  Open and naturally detailed, this was an impressive rig…!



Certainly in the running for Best-of-Show was the room from Doug White at The Voice That Is featuring Tidal speakers and electronics.  The Tidal Audio Akira speakers (215,000/pr) were debuting to spectacular results, powered by Tidal’s 3-piece Presencio preamp (77,900) and Impulse monoblock amps (64,900/pr).  Digital was provided by an Aurender N10 server (7,999) through the excellent Bricasti M1se DAC (10,000) and analog was provided by a TW-Acoustic Raven AC-3 turntable with a 10.5 tonearm and Transfiguration Proteus D cartridge, totaling a bit over 35K.  I DID… NOT… WANT… TO… LEAVE… THIS… ROOM…!




                         

Another room that invited longer listening sessions was presented by Chicago’s Kyomi Audio and paired the striking Vivid Audio Giya G1 Series II speakers (68K/pr) with Jadis tube-based electronics, specifically the JA200 MKII mono amps (33,900/pr) and JP200MC preamp (32,900).  Sourcing was provided by a Merging Technologies NADAC (14K) and an MBL 1621A CD transport.  I believe the turntable was a TechDas.  I have never heard the Vivid Audio speakers paired with Jadis gear, but the synergy was obvious, and impressive!


                                    

Brian Zolner and the folks at Bricasti were up to their usual level of sonic excellence.  Debuting their new M5 Network Player (2K) running through the new M12 source controller (DAC / preamp - 16K) and a pair of M28 monoblock amplifiers (30K/pr) feeding Tidal’s Piano Diacera speakers (40K), the Mahler sounded simply beautiful…!



                                      
Desmond Harrington from Pass Labs providing me with details of their new XA25 class-A stereo amplifier (4,900) shown here on static display.  This gem provides 25wpc into 8 ohms and doubles that rating into 4 ohms.  A great entry product into the world of Pass Labs amplification, this is well priced and I expect typically superb sound…!



California manufacturer Magico had their new S3 Mk II speakers (38K/pr) on hand, paired with more of the impressive CH Precision electronics, namely the L1 linestage (34,500), P1 phone stage (31,000) and the M1 monoblock amplifiers (102K/pr).  A Kronos Pro turntable handled the vinyl duties and a Berkely Alpha Reference Series 2 DAC provided the digital sourcing.  Open, impactful and effortless all came to mind here.  A superb showing...!


Luke Zitterkopf from Aluminous Audio waxing poetic on updates to the Gravitas speaker system.  Paired with BAT electronics, the sound was even a bit more open and airy than I recalled from RMAF.  This is good stuff..!


The Benchmark folks had a triple stack of their new and very special DAC3 (2,195/ea) running a multi-channel audio rig, powered by their AHB2 mono amplifiers.  With accompanying video, this was one cool and fine sounding demo, despite a bit of an acoustically unfriendly room.  You can find my review of the DAC3 DAC here.



Yet another fine sounding room paired audiophile fave Wilson Audio’s Yvette speakers (25,500) with electronics from lesser-known Doshi Audio.  Owner-engineer Nick Doshi ran his v3.0 Jhor monoblock amps (29,995/pr) along with the v3.0 preamp (16,995) and v3.0 phone stage (16,995).  A dCS Rossini DAC (24K) and Master Clock (7,499) provided the digital conversion, and a reel-to-reel tape deck from Mara Machines was playing analog.  Great jump-factor and life in this room!



Relaxed, clean and lifelike described this system featuring the Wilson Benesch Discovery II stand-mounted speakers (26,800) mated to their Torus subwoofer (12,500).  Ypsilon electronics provided the juice with a Phaethon integrated amplifier and VPS-100 phonostage.  The vinyl rig was a Thales TTT Compact II turntable, Simplicity II tonearm and Ikeda KAI MC cartridge. 



Lars Christensen and the folks at Raidho Acoustics had their Danish-made, stand-mounted D-1.1 Black speakers (23K/pr) on hand with electronics from Aavik Acoustics, namely the C-300 preamp (42K) and M-300 mono amps (48K/pr).  The sound was typical of Raidho speakers, meaning toe-tapping quick and transparent.  The soundstage was far larger than expected from these smaller speakers. 


Another of those rooms with surprisingly top-notch sonics was prepped by the affable Wynn Wong and utilized Penaudio Seranade Signature floorstanding speakers (12K/pr) along with the excellent Goldmund Eidos 36U+ universal player and Karan Acoustics’ L Ref preamp (17K) and S600 stereo power amp (30K).  Extremely musical and with bass that belied the Penaudio speakers' size, this was one sweet-sounding room… 


I will close with one of my most anticipated demos of the show.  Famed speaker manufacturer Paradigm’s new Persona line of speakers has been burning up the audio press machine, and rightly so.  A listen to the top of the line Persona 9H (35K), paired with an Anthem integrated amplifier proved a happy-ear event!  Quick and open, the sound struck me as very even with excellent pace and groove.  The high-tech engineering in the beryllium midrange and tweeter drivers, along with active electronics in the woofers really paid off.  I could live with these speakers for the long haul..!

A special thanks to all the folks doing the work behind the scenes at AXPONA.  If you have a Jones for fine music, put a visit to next year’s show on your to-do list...!  A toe-tapping good time, Chicago may truly be "Music City"…


Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…

Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com