Feedback from AXPONA 2022

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Triode Pete

Feedback from AXPONA 2022
« on: 28 Apr 2022, 06:06 pm »
Some feedback starting with The Sound Advocate by Doug Moore...

THE First Day at Axpona 2022- UPDATE!

Gary Dews (Border Patrol)

And so far, one of my favorite rooms was the Border Patrol, Volti Audio, TWL room. (The Sound Advocate will be reviewing their latest DAC in a few weeks!) Gary Dews of Border Patrol was exhibiting Volti Audio, showing off their newest Razz speaker with a smaller footprint than their other speakers. This system had what I call a very honest portrayal of what real instruments sounded like. The soundstage and imaging were great knowing that these rooms were put together very quickly for the show and not much room treatment.

Thanks, Doug!


Triode Pete

Re: Feedback from AXPONA 2022
« Reply #1 on: 29 Apr 2022, 12:26 pm »
More feedback from Stereophile's Ken Micallef...

BorderPatrol, Triode Wire Labs, Volti Audio

If you're a regular attendee to audio shows you'll notice one constant, and that's a lack of consistency. At one show, Acme Turntables represents with Manny, Moe, & Jack's speakers. The next show, Acme has taken up with Beverly's speakers, and MM&J is now with Mr. Big's turntables. It's downright incestuous.
Into this audio polygamy come the good men of Volti Audio (Greg Roberts), BorderPatrol DACs and amplification (Gary Dews), and Triode Wire Labs cabling (Pete Grzybowski). These gentlemen have been hosting hi-fi rooms as a single organism since 2005! And it's audible. Roberts, Dewes, and Grzybowski unfailingly assemble one of the finest-sounding rooms at each show, year in, year out.

At AXPONA, Greg, Gary, and Pete debuted Triode Pete's new Passion USB cable ($399) and Roberts's revised, CNC-machined, horn-loaded Volti Rival loudspeaker ($14,000–$18,500/pair; one of my top five "speakers to dream of," reviewed in the June 2017 issue of Stereophile). The guys further assembled: a BorderPatrol DAC S/SE-I with power supply ($1225–$1675, depending on version), BorderPatrol S20EXD 300B SET integrated amplifier with power supply ($23,000), Innuos Zenith music server ($4249) and Innuos Phoenix USB reclocker ($3149). Triode Pete's cables included Digital American power cords ($499/each), Spirit II interconnects ($399/pair), and American Speaker Cables ($699/pair).

I know this sound. It's earthy, warm, natural, textured, human, butt-kicking. Midday, Boz Scaggs' slow-grooving "Thanks To You" melted the assembled listeners, standing room only, via the Volti/BorderPatrol/Innuos collection. The sound was viscous, gutsy. Soundstage was immense, depth impressive. Yello's "Big Dada" changed the mood: pinpoint imaging, pulsing electronic drums, and screaming synths followed by the all-acoustic goodness of Nickel Creek, as natural sounding as honey.

If you're looking for a final system, just hear this.

A big thanks, Ken!!!

Triode Pete

Re: Feedback from AXPONA 2022
« Reply #2 on: 29 Apr 2022, 11:36 pm »
More Feedback, this time from Scot Hull, chief at Part Time Audiophile...

Magic with Triode Wire Labs, BorderPatrol, Volti Audio, Innuos | AXPONA 2022

One sure-fire way to make a great room better? Make things more affordable — which is not something you see every day. Yet that is precisely what the Volti Audio Razz (reviewed here and here) tries to do — same Volti sound, smaller and more affordable package. Starting at $5,900/pair, the Razz is $8,000 less expensive than the next-up-the-line loudspeaker, the Rival. Full disclosure: I own a pair of Rivals and really like them (reviewed here). So the Jazz has been a curious outlier for me — can they do that magical thing their big brother Rivals do?

The answer is, at least for me, was a surprise. There seem to be more dynamics with the Rival, more resolution, and consequently, a bigger and more detailed sound stage. But offering so close a sound for less than half the money? You have got to be kidding me. I have long thought that Greg Roberts, owner, and designer for the Volti Audio brand, was completely nuts, but I’m wondering if his audio pals really ought to just lock him up. (More details on the Razz are here.)

Of course, my experience had to take into account the unfamiliar room … but not the unfamiliar gear. Maybe I ought to just say, right here, that I am a totally biased fanboy of this room, these brands, and this sound. Like a good Pokémon collector, I am quite content to say that I’ve now collected the entire set.

Shown here at AXPONA were the BorderPatrol P21 EXD and the S20 EXD. The ‘EXD’ part of the name refers to the monster power supplies lurking under the Volti-made audio rack — these dual-mono PSUs are a substantial upgrade over the “stock” power supplies. Specifically, what transforms a BP PSU into an ‘EXD’ is the “use of copper chassis parts and inter-stage and output transformers that have undergone deep cryogenic treatment” (more details are here). It’s worth noting that this isn’t the only PSU upgrade available. Because, yes, these EXD supplies are the modest versions of the power supply made available for the weak. For the Asgardians living among us, there are even bigger ones that have apparently been forged in the heart of a dying star — the EXS. As designer Gary Dews had to explain it to me, “EXS” = “excess”. Get it? And now we both do.

Okay, so more amp details: the difference between the ‘S’ and the ‘P’ product lines with the BorderPatrol amplifiers has to do with the amp technology/circuit topology; the P-series is a push-pull — think: “linear muscularity” — and the S-series is single-ended — think: “sexy midrange”. I say that, but now need to immediately follow that up with the following caveat: you’ll be surprised that the S20 shown at AXPONA has a startling dose of “linear muscularity” just as the P21 (on the room list, but didn’t actually make it out of the box into the demo) has oodles of “sexy mids”. For me, the most obvious sonic difference between the two approaches has to do with the bass — the push-pull has more grunt. And yes, I know, we’re only talking (at most) 16-20 watts — but, as we’ve said before, these amps sound much more powerful than those numbers would seem to indicate. Quite seriously, these are the best-sounding amps I’ve ever heard, and that is why I own them. Check out a team review here.

Shown here with a quartet of the brand-new new-production 300b tubes from Western Electric ($1,500/pair). A few months back, I grabbed a quartet of these new fellas, and while they are clearly different from my NOS Western Electric 300b tubes from 20+ years ago, I am delighted to report that these new tubes are not good, they are excellent. My bet? let them age 20 years, and these new kids will be every bit as competitive as those vastly overpriced tubes you can find on eBay. My money says these are the very best new-stock 300b tubes on the market today. Get ’em while you can, folks.

Also shown here was my DAC. And yes, I say “mine” because I love this little thing and I’m more than a little annoyed that you can have one too. Like the amps, the BorderPatrol DAC SE-I (reviewed here and here) is an unapologetically nostalgic design. Here, we have NOS chips, Redbook-only sampling, and a tube choke input filter power supply. There are no filters and no upsampling. And the sound? Like music. Full immersion. Yes, there are more linear chips. Yes, there are DACs that do high-res. Me? Could not care less. Paired (as it was here) with an Innuos ZENith server, and the Innuos PhoenixUSB, you cannot get better sound out of a DAC. Different sound, sure. Better? Nope. Do you disagree? Don’t care! Moving on.

There is a new product in the mix here, and yes, it comes from all-around fan-favorite Pete Grizz of Triode Wire Labs. Seriously, folks, this cable maker’s entire loom is the bee’s knees (check out the review, here). I reviewed TWL a long time back and the brand has only gotten better over time. Shown here was the newly-minted Passion USB cable. According to the sheet, the new cable has a “proprietary power filter, with twice the inductance and 2.5 times the filtering capacitance, with a new innovative method of winding the coils”. Does any of that matter? Do cables matter? Can cables even be said to have a “sound” to them? Lean in so I can smack you. I’ve had the pleasure of playing with the prototypes and I’m a believer. In this system and with this gear, the synergy between speakers, electronics, and cables was undeniable. Believe me — I have denied it. But then I tried it. And I have ever since lamented how long it took me to “get it” and then go get me some. Love this brand!

Also also shown here was a Pi Audio Uberbuss. With regret, I have to tell you that they no longer make these magical little power distribution boxes. I have no idea why these are so effective, but I have to simply confess that they are. So, if you were wise enough to grab one, you lucky dog, you can now feel free to lord it over everyone you meet. In my humble attempt to recreate, at home, the sound of the systems that the Three Amigos have put together now at more audio shows than I can count (AXPONA 2019 AXPONA 2018 AXPONA 2017 CAF 2021 CAF 2019 CAF 2019 again CAF 2018, &c), this was the last piece on my collector’s list. I’m slow, what can I say?

Okay, so back to the room sound. I never did catch the room with the “New Rival” set up and blasting, but I did hear the Razz and it totally lives up to the design goal of the brand — it’s fun. It’s really fun. The team had a ball showing off all manner of truly awful music that show attendees made them play (OMG, what on earth is wrong with you people), and the room was hopping every time I visited. What better endorsement is there than the joy of all involved? To be perfectly honest, I am routinely surprised by how good these BorderPatrol-Triode-Wire-Labs-Volti-Audio rooms sound. It’s almost unfair. But the answer is yes, I had a great time and the room was lively, exciting, and engaging … but I am adamantly not buying any more loudspeakers … If I was, though, I have to say that the Razz is sitting at a very compelling intersection of cost and performance.

Great work, gents. Thanks for continuing your winning streak. Rock on!

Volti Audio Razz: from $5,900/pair (as shown in Rosewood veneer, $6,900/pair)
Volti Audio Rival: from $14,000/pair (as shown in Bubinga veneer ($14,000/pair)
BorderPatrol Audio Electronics S20 EXD amplifier: from $19,500 (volume control adds $500)
BorderPatrol Audio Electronics P21 EXD amplifier: from $14,150
BorderPatrol Audio Electronics DAC SE-I: from $1,225
Innuos ZENith Music Server: starting at $4,699
Innuos PhoenixUSB Reclocker: $3,499
Western Electric 300b vacuum tubes: $1,500/pair
Triode Wire Labs Obession power cables: $1,399 each
Triode Wire Labs Digital American power cables: $499 each
Triode Wire Labs American Speaker Cables: starting at $699/set
Triode Wire Labs Spirit II interconnects: starting at $399/set
Triode Wire Labs Passion USB: starting at $399 each

Pi Audio Uberbuss: no longer available!

Thanks, Scot!


Re: Feedback from AXPONA 2022
« Reply #3 on: 30 Apr 2022, 10:48 am »
That’s awesome Pete! Congrats  :thumb:

Don P

Triode Pete

Re: Feedback from AXPONA 2022
« Reply #4 on: 30 Apr 2022, 01:44 pm »
That’s awesome Pete! Congrats  :thumb:

Don P

Thanks, Don! Much appreciated!



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Re: Feedback from AXPONA 2022
« Reply #5 on: 30 Apr 2022, 02:33 pm »
These gentlemen have been hosting hi-fi rooms as a single organism since 2005! And it's audible. Roberts, Dewes, and Grzybowski unfailingly assemble one of the finest-sounding rooms at each show, year in, year out.

That's recognition! Congrats :thumb:

Triode Pete

Re: Feedback from AXPONA 2022
« Reply #6 on: 30 Apr 2022, 10:17 pm »
That's recognition! Congrats :thumb:

Thanks, Ron!  :beer:

Triode Pete

Re: Feedback from AXPONA 2022
« Reply #7 on: 1 May 2022, 01:06 pm »
Additional feedback from Michael Lavorgna's Twittering Machine...

Axpona 2022: Border Patrol, Volti Audio, Triode Wire Labs (a Favorite)

Good things come in threes.

Border Patrol, Volti Audio, and Triode Wire Labs—who are Gary Dews, Greg Roberts, and Pete Grzybowski respectively—tend to show together as I mentioned in my coverage of the Capital Audiofest:

…and they go together like peanut butter and bananas.

You are looking at, from top left, the Border Patrol S20EXD 16 Watt 300B SET Power Amplifier (starts at $19,500, +$500 for optional volume control, +$1500/pair Western Electric Tubes), Border Patrol DAC S/SE-i (starts at $1525), the Innuos ZENith Mk3 Streamer/Server (starts at $4699), and underneath, from the left, the power supplies for the Border Patrol Amp & DAC, and the Innuos PhoenixUSB Reclocker ($3499). Everything was wired with cables from Triode Wire.

The speakers in play were the Volti Audio Rival (from $14,000-$18,500/pair, as shown at Axpona $14,000 in Bubinga), that have a claimed frequency response of 32Hz – 20kHz with a 100dB sensitivity (1W/1M).

This system sounded effortless, airy, and alive with lightning fast reflexes and gobs of texture and color. Bravo!

Thank you, Michael!!!

Triode Pete

Re: Feedback from AXPONA 2022
« Reply #8 on: 2 May 2022, 10:10 pm »
Here's a nice YouTube video of our room...


Triode Pete

Re: Feedback from AXPONA 2022
« Reply #9 on: 29 May 2022, 02:30 pm »
Some late feedback from The Sound Advocate...


Another great room in the more down-to-earth domain is the Volti Audio/Border Patrol/ Triode Wire Labs room. Volti Audio usually makes speakers of much larger size and price like the Vittora. Greg Roberts From Volti is showing off his most affordable effort to date with his Razz Speaker US$5,900/pair. Border Patrol and Volti have a close relationship with each other as they seem to be a great match when paired. In this system, there is a Border Patrol S20 EXD amplifier for US$19,000, Border Patrol P21 EXD amplifier for US$14,150, Border Patrol DAC SE-1 for US$1,225. The excellent Interconnects, USB cables, Ethernet cable and Power Cords are all from Triode Wire Labs. Details here

(Review forthcoming). The music source was from the Innuos ZenithMusicServer US$4,699 and Innuos PhoenixUSB Reclocker US$3,499.

I talked to Gary Dews from Border Patrol for quite a while on the first day of Axpona. Intrigued by all things DAC design I wanted to know more about the DAC SE-1 and its Phillips TDA1543 R2R DAC chip and how this chip managed to put out enough voltage in this DAC that there is no need for any buffer or output section! Stay tuned to The Sound Advocate as Howard has a review sample of this very DAC in his setup and will be writing a review in the next week!

The system sounded great and left a lasting impression on me. I have not heard Volti’s larger designs, but this speaker had all the dynamics and slam one would need in a room this size. The soundstage and imaging were great, music just flowed from this system.

Thanks, Douglas Moore!

« Last Edit: 1 Jun 2022, 07:53 pm by Triode Pete »