First up on Day 2 was the Focal Stellia. Focal always has a really cool and enormous booth, and they often bring some of the most top-notch electronics around to every show. They had their usual collection of cool amps, my favorite being the SPL Phonitor series, as well as the newish Stellia cans.
I took a listen to them and found them a fair bit warmer and mid-bassier than most of the other Focal cans, and very smooth sounding. I kind of like the Spiderman patterned bronze look, and the build quality is Focal’s usual – super supple full-grain leather and beautiful metal cups. Even in the quiet pre-show hours, these headphones didn’t isolate a ton, but I look forward to hearing more of them, and maybe getting my hands on one of those SPL amps!
Next up was the Meze Empyrean booth, which I only passed by briefly. I got the chance to sit down with an Empyrean at F1 Audio, a local dealer with a superb selection of headphones, and really enjoyed my time with them. They are the slightly warmer, more relaxed cousin of the Ether 2. The soundstaging and overall smoothness of these is very attractive, but they do like a bit of juice.
At Audeze’s booth I didn’t spend a lot of time listening as I’m fairly familiar with their lineup, but I did get some information on the new Cryo Earpads for the Mobius. These are gel-filled and are supposed to provide better comfort, stay cool longer and seal much better on the head. They didn’t have any I could try at the booth, but I’ll for sure be checking these out soon. There was also a neat Carbon Gray Amazon-Exclusive Mobius and a new wireless Cipher cable for the iSine series – more evidence of wireless’ gaining popularity.
I also swung by ZMF’s booth and visited Zach and Bevyn Mehrbach – they’re Pendant Amplifier collaboration with Ampsandsound and their recent Aeolus headphones made a really nice pairing, with a very warm and rich sound that was surprisingly lively. These were not dull or boomy at all, they were one of the most natural and sweet sounding setups I heard on Day 1 or 2 – I suspect these will remain a top 3 highlight of Axpona for me.
I also passed by Steve Rochlin of Enjoy the Music who was sporting a delightful set of Smiley-face earrings and a really special pair of hot-rodded steampunk LCD-3 Audezes. I’m more than a little envious!