Audio Show Reports

by Kevin OBrien on April 18th, 2023


AXPONA 2023 kicked off the nice Spring weather in the Windy City the weekend of April 15th. Just in time for Tax Day! Unfortunately, my flight into O'Hare was delayed out of Denver. Guess we better make lemonade out of this lemon. Off to the Voodoo Doughnut shop for a quick treat before waiting in line to board United Flight 758.


We were excited, as we were here in Chicago to have fun, not to showcase our own YFS gear. It can be fun to show off your own audio creations, but it can also be STRESSFUL. We may go down that road again at some point, but not any time soon. The fact that we could just take it all in this time around, and not worry about how our room was sounding, would make this experience that much better.

Most of our thoughts will consist mainly of coverage of the 'Nirvana B' room at the Schaumburg Renaissance Hotel & Convention Center. EMM Labs, Credo Audio Switzerland, van den Hul, and DS Audio of Japan shared a massive room on the second floor of the hotel. We were invited by John McGurk of Audioshield, to join in on a press release for the new Meitner PRE. This took place after-hours on Friday evening, so apparently, it was by invitation only. We didn't realize that until afterwards. Seeing Michael Lavorgna, as well as some other well known reviewers, we should have put two and two together. Anyway, we were about to embark on a neat little audio adventure. What a great way to kick off this year's AXPONA event.


Amadeus Meitner was in the room along with Shahin Al Rashid, head of sales for EMM Labs. Amadeus is Ed Meitner's son, who we all know by now, and my good personal friend. We were excited to meet William and Marc, from van den Hul. AJ van den Hul's sons to be exact. Van den Hul has a new cable concept called Nano Carbon Tube technology. It's used for their new reference loudspeaker cables and it sure did a fine job, especially since it's the only metal-free loudspeaker cable we know of in existence. We were also lucky enough to meet Michael Kraske, owner of Credo Audio. His parents started the business modifying / repairing DJ setups in Switzerland back in the 1970s. They eventually began building their own loudspeakers and the rest is, as they say, history. They are all second generation entrepreneurs and will be taking on the family business, similar to Amadeus. VERY COOL!

We were totally pumped up by what we saw and heard in Nirvana B. Visually, the room was impressive, but sonically, it was just short of stunning. We have yet to be disappointed by an EMM presentation at a show, and this was no exception. The Meitner PRE was making it's world debut, and what we heard, did not sound like Meitner. It sounded like an EMM PRE2, but we were assured by the turn of the volume knob on the smaller silver and black box, that we were indeed listening to Ed Meitner's budget line of components. Although they can hardly be viewed as "budget", in this hobby, it's all relative. The EMM Labs DS-EQ1 was on display mated to the DS Audio Grand Master EX optical cartridge. The optical cartridge is a great idea, as there's so much less mass the stylus has to contend with. So much less than a traditional moving magnet or moving coil cartridge, that it should allow that much more detail to come through, and keep surface noise at bay. Well, that's exactly what we heard during Amadeus' demo of the DS Audio / EMM pairing. 


Marc and William were kind enough to stay late, after the rest of the folks funneled out of the room, to play us some "fun" music that was not on the menu for the press release earlier that evening. SCORE! We got to hear some fresh tunes from a rock band in Iceland along with some interesting EDM. We don't usually listen to electronic dance music but we must admit, we were impressed by the sounds coming from the Swiss transducers towering over us. Good food, good beer, and excellent reference sounds filled the evening and made us all realize just how lucky we were to be here after the world's recent events. AXPONA is back!

As far as other topics of interest, we had not nearly enough time to even scratch the surface. We made it to a few rooms that really impressed us, but as per usual, a lot of rooms sounded good but not great. You can pretty much guarantee that all of the rooms will sound good, but getting 'great' sound is challenging in a hotel environment, especially in the small sleeping rooms. But, with that being said, we stumbled upon a few things we were not expecting, which was a nice surprise. The first surprise was a tip from Mark, a past Absolute Sound reviewer, and friend of our beloved YFS customer, Thomas. Thomas and Mark have known each other over the years and go way back. I'm sure they traded gear back and forth before we even knew that "Audiogon" existed. These two guys are both the real deal when it comes to sound, and they know a good room when they hear one, immediately. As we found out traveling the busy halls of the Renaissance Hotel, these guys had pretty much the same musical tastes and preference for system tone / overall presentation as we did. That made this particular show extra fun for us. We all got to bounce ideas off one another and stir the 'audio pot', all while enjoying time outside in public, FINALLY.

Mark tipped us off to a guy named Bill Stierhout of Coherence Systems. Bill got his start in audio by installing studio consoles and digital tape machines for the Pro Audio market back in the 1980s. This guy has been around the block a few times. He has an interesting idea that helps everyone's system by inducing psycho-acoustic effects into your listening room. This is done by inserting a type of AC Line Conditioner in parallel to your current power conditioner. They are not actual power conditioners, and you don't need to plug your components into them. We're not sure what to call them? Bill calls them 'AC Harmonic Resonators'. Bill started a brand by the name of ADD-Powr. Under this new brand, he has launched several products, all inducing a sag on your AC power line that is supposed to create a presence in your listening space that can make your music sound better. Better than it does without these products in your system. This is a similar concept that has been visited prior to now in history. Mainly in the field of psychology. Scientists have experimented with playing subsonic and supersonic frequencies to individuals with schizophrenia and other disorders, to invoke some type of 'calming effect'. VERY COOL! We don't know if Bill's products work, but we bought one, and we're going to find out. Stay tuned for a forthcoming review of the ADD-Powr Sorcer X4 Plus. EXCITING! This is a perfect example of why you should give next year's AXPONA event a shot, as you never know what you're going to find.

As far as rooms went, we really enjoyed the CAT / Magico room, right next door to Nirvana B. This room had nothing but good sounds coming from it that were hard to fault, at all. 'Incredibly effortless' is the phrase we would use to describe what we heard. The fact that Convergent Audio Technology is extremely well-designed tube gear, made right here in the USA, we didn't expect anything less. We are all familiar with Magico. We also didn't expect to be able to purchase any of this gear, as it was all well above our pay-grade. That's a common theme in this hobby unfortunately. But hey, you don't go to a car show to look at a Honda Civic, do you!?

The one rather interesting room we visited was the Aretai / OePhi combination. This room featured the CAT SL1 Legend preamp and the CAT JL5 amplifier. I believe the most affordable component in the room was the set of speakers themselves, the Aretai Contra 100S, coming in at $9,000 USD. The Aurender A20 provided the source duties (music stream / DAC). WOW! We couldn't believe such wonderful sounds were coming from such a tiny footprint. Impressive indeed. We are SERIUOSLY thinking of trying to find a way to become authorized US Aretai dealers. These little speakers from Latvia impressed one of the most seasoned audiophiles we know, our very own YFS customer, Thomas. He couldn't believe these little guys could sound so smooth, detailed, and open, yet sound so big and full range-esque. Our hats go off to Aretai.

Octave / Dynaudio also showed us what a smooth, laid back, yet highly detailed presentation can sound like. No harshness whatsoever and never "shouty". This pairing, along with the Simaudio MOON source components, really impressed. We love a warm presentation, but enjoy a lot of detail and PRaT. This system delivered all of that in spades. Way to go and job well done.

Overall, we had a great time in Chicago, and even got to experience some late-night pizza on our way to the hotel. Chicago is a friendly city, with great food, and even better people. The main reason to visit this part of the country every Spring: AXPONA. We extend our gratitude to Mark Freed for all the work he put into this event to make it what it is today. It's been a great run so far, let's keep the momentum going.

We hope to see you all at next year's 2024 AXPONA event...

Thank you for reading.

- KOB 

by Kevin OBrien on January 25, 2017



YFS and Mutec will be teaming up in Chicago for the AXPONA 2017 audio exposition on the weekend of April 22nd. Come see our HD.Ref-3 music transport in action in Room 554. The Mutec MC-3+USB / Ref-10 clock combo will be mated with our YFS HD.Ref-3 server transport and EMM Labs DAC2X V2 DSD DAC to bring you some of the finest digital source equipment around. Our YFS CA-60a custom tubed preamp and custom YFS Headphone Cables will be on display along with our latest Custom Ref 'Split' Copper USB. The all new Von Schweikert Unifield II Mk3 3-way monitors will be taking care of speaker-duty. Be sure to ask us about show specials. Don't miss this special event in the Windy City. We are excited to get to know our customers and chat all things audio-related in late April. We hope to see everyone there.


by Kevin OBrien on June 15, 2016


YFS, Mutec, and EMM Labs will be teaming up in Denver for the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2016 on the weekend of October 7th. Come see our HD.Ref-3 music transport in action in Room 7010 in the 7th floor Tower. The Mutec MC-3+USB and latest Mutec external clock (REF-10) will be mated with our YFS HD.Ref-3 server transport to bring you cutting edge digital source equipment at its finest. The new EMM Labs DA2 DAC as well as our YFS modified vintage McIntosh MC75 amplifiers will be on display. Our YFS CA-60a custom tubed preamp and custom YFS Headphone Cables will be on display along with our latest Custom Ref 'Split' Copper USB. We will have YFS USB cables on hand to sell to the public at discounted prices as well. Be sure to ask us about show specials. Don't miss this special event in the Mile High City.

We are excited to get to know our customers and chat all things audio-related in early October.

We hope to see everyone there.

by Kevin OBrien on April 27, 2015 


We would like to thank all the folks that came out to see us in Chicago in 2015 to allow us to pull off another great showing. YFS, Endeavor Audio, and Constellation Audio teamed up to get the tunes going and the folks tappin' their toes in the Westin O'Hare room 426. We wanted to thank all the reviewers and audiophiles who showed up to listen to what our team had to offer.

We wanted to personally thank Jason Victor Serinus from Stereophile, Greg Weaver and Jonathan Valin of The Absolute Sound, Gary Beard from Positive Feedback, Mal from Part Time Audiophile, and Peter Breuninger and his lovely wife from AVShowrooms for taking their time to listen to our system and give us their comments and suggestions. We wanted to wish a special farewell to Spencer Holbert of The Absolute Sound as he recently left the publication. We miss you already Spencer and the show wasn't the same without you. Thank you guys for all of your hard work.

We were showing our newest additions to the YFS lineup in Room 426. The new YFS PS-512 Mac Mini power supply ($1,095 MSRP) was on display along with our new copper Litz headphone cable ($395 MSRP), The Super 30, and our new YFS Custom Ref 'Split' USB cables ($1,195 MSRP) offered in pure copper or silver conductors of your choice. The PS-512 is a dual-rail power supply that is especially designed for the Mac Mini. It has one 5V rail and one 12V rail. It allows our customers to implement a 'Split' USB cable that plugs into the rear of the PS-512 while simultaneously powering the Mac Mini. This saves space in your rack and keeps more money in your wallet. Our PS-12m is still our reference Mini PS but we now offer a cheaper version for our customers so more folks can get on board.

Our equipment list is shown below. We didn't get too detailed in our descriptions of the gear because it's all online already in multiple locations. Just do a simple Google search to find out more about each product.


The EMM Labs DAC2X was on display along with the new affordable line of Constellation gear named the Inspiration Series. This is one serious lineup. This gear is legit although it's Constellation's entry-level gear. Do not let that fool you. These are very special pieces indeed and there is nothing 'entry-level' about them. 'Reference' is the word that immediately comes to mind when trying to describe these works of audiophile-art.

Our YFS HD.Ref-3 streamed the digital files through all these fine pieces ultimately ending up at the mouth of Endeavor Audio Engineering's new E-5 loudspeaker system. This is Endeavor's new flagship and it was mighty impressive. I personally loved the new silver metallic finish and no, the speaker is not made out of aluminum, it just looks that way in the pictures.

We hope to see everyone next year. Thanks for stopping by and chatting and we'll keep designing and building as long as all of you keep asking us to. It appears we will not be stopping anytime in the near future. We're not going anywhere, that's for sure.

We want to thank all of our customers. You are responsible for making these audio shows happen in the first place. Without you guys supporting our work, we wouldn't be able to travel around the country to see all of you.

Thanks again! 

Until next time...

- YFS Design Team



YFS and Endeavor Audio will be at Axpona 2015 in Chicago on the weekend of the 26th of April. Come join us for some of the finest food in the lower 48 as well as some of the most amazing computer audio sounds available anywhere. We will be showing our YFS HD.Ref-3 LE along with our EMM Labs DAC2X. Our YFS Headphone Cables as well as our NEW Mac Mini power supply, the YFS PS-512, will be on display. Constellation Audio will be showing their Inspiration Series Monoblocks and Linestage. Endeavor Audio will be showing their E-5 loudspeakers. The E-5 speaker system measures over 6 feet from top to bottom and utilizes an array of various drivers. The E-5 system is a sight to see and an amazing, one of a kind creation. Come on by room 426 of the Westin O'Hare and check it out. We'd be happy to chat and talk all things audio. We hope to see all of you there...



by Kevin OBrien on May 3, 2014



We love coming to Chicago because we always know we're in for some great food and some really friendly people. This trip reinforced this for us yet again. Thanks Windy City. The second AXPONA event took place (we're not counting the past 20 years) here in Rosemont, IL and it was an even better show this year than last year. This was mainly due to the new location and hotel if you ask us. We could have used some better room signs but that's a small gripe. We felt the rooms were a little tough to tame but we run into that no matter which show we travel to.

Check out our 2014 AXPONA equipment list below. This should give our readers some idea as to what we were showing this year. Unfortunately, a list won't do the room justice....

We'd like to thank Spencer, Jonathan, Robert, and Steven from The Absolute Sound for their hard work and killer reviews. We'd also like to thank Jason Victor Serinus from Stereophile as well as Scot Hull from Part-Time Audiophile. We don't want to forget all the other reviewers from the other publications as well. Thanks guys! We'd also like to thank Steve from AXPONA for stopping by our room to chat and listen. We couldn't pull this off without your help so thank you!

Here are some pics from our room. They don't do it justice but this is all we have for you unfortunately. The room sounded MUCH better than it looked which is saying a lot. We did get a considerable amount of compliments from folks on how good our room looked.  Thanks everyone...  

The weather was a bit cold and the wind did not disappoint. We were counting on this but what we were not counting on was how well we were able to manipulate the sound of our room. This was helped by Bryan from GIK Acoustics. Thanks Bryan for bringing the acoustic treatment by our room. It was VERY helpful for tweaking and getting that last bit of performance from our crappy hotel room. This is what we deal with at every venue but the square rooms and thin walls were especially tough on us this year.

Below we are showing a pic of our YFS static display. The modified YFS Mac Mini is sitting to the left, an Android tablet displaying our YFS website in the middle, and our remote control for this show, our MacBook Pro, to the right. Yes, we were controlling our Windows 7/ 8 based YFS HD.Ref-3 via our MacBook Pro. That threw some folks for a loop.

Overall, we felt our sound was top notch and apparently the reviewers and show-goers agreed as well. We kept hearing praise from folks from all sorts of various backgrounds. The one constant was that the Endeavor Audio E-3 speaker system was not being out-shined by any of the components in the room. This naturally also included the Constellation Audio gear. Every component complimented one another nicely and nothing stood out. It's great when all our gear plays nicely with one another.

Finally, we'd like to thank you, the readers, for taking the time to read. Nobody has time to read anymore. Video seems to be the easier way to do things but we think it never hurts to take the time to sit down and read books, magazines, web blogs, etc. As tech keeps advancing, it feels like if we can't get our info spoon fed to us in 30 seconds, we just don't have the time. Let's all remember to sit back, relax, and take a break from the busy world every now and again to enjoy the music.

-YFS Design Team


by Kevin OBrien on June 5th 2013


The YFS / VSA crew is back from Newport Beach, CA and we must say it was a great show. We would like to thank all the visitors for stopping in and saying hello, and most importantly, for taking the time out to hear our gear. THANK YOU.

The weather was fabulous and the music was superb. We have some pics to share with our readers and a few notes we feel are worthy of mentioning. A big thanks goes out to Peter Breuninger, Robert Harley, Jason Serinus, and all the reviewers who came to visit our room. We'd also like to give a shout out to Peter at Constellation Audio. His amps are AMAZING. THANK YOU guys!



I also wanted to personally thank Paul Zimmer and Leif Swanson as well as Devon Von Schweikert for their help setting our room up and doing the heavy lifting. You guys are awesome! A lot of folks don't realize these are the guys that make these shows happen. Thank you!



First off, let's get everybody familiar with what we had on display. There's always some confusion it seems about what was in the show rack so we'll give you a list below.



We felt we got some pretty decent sound. The room is always a battle but things seemed to sound good right out of the gate which was a nice change of pace. We tweaked the system Thursday and then a little more on Friday and by Saturday things were sounding GREAT.

We had plenty of folks in and out of the room throughout the weekend but the main highlights for me were meeting Fred from Audio Prana representing Metrum Acoustics, Dusty from Channel Islands Audio, John Thompson from J.River, Steve from Empirical Audio, as well as a host of other non industry-affiliated folks.



After speaking with Steve from Empirical Audio, we cannot wait to get our hands on Steve's Off Ramp 6 SPDIF converter which should be coming out in the near future. It implements the XMOS USB input chip and should be compatible with all Linux, Mac and Windows based computer transports. We're excited!



The California atmosphere, the weather, as well as the really NICE cars outside of the Irvine Hilton were all reminders that we're some of the luckiest guys on the planet. We get to play with VSA speakers and mind blowing amps and DACs all in the name of providing outstanding sound for the most discerning audiophiles. What more could we ask for? (OK, a winning lottery ticket would be nice!)



Well, that pretty much wraps things up for us and we're excited to show some really cool NEW products from VSA at the upcoming Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver. You'll all have to wait and see what we're referring to. You won't be disappointed!!!

THANKS for reading!

 - YFS Design Team


by Kevin OBrien on October 25, 2013


Denver is a great place to be this time of year. The fall colors and the cool, crisp air remind me that the snow will be flying just around the corner.  For now though, the weather is great, the foliage is amazing, and it's audio time in the Mile High City.

We're taking the time out to give the folks who could not make the journey to Denver a peek into what went on in the YFS Room at the 10th annual Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. We were truly grateful for having Meitner DesignConstellation Audio, and Von Schweikert Audio support us at this year's show. Thank you Shahin, Peter, and Albert for an amazing opportunity to show the world your truly outstanding gear.

An equipment list below gives our readers a glimpse into the scene inside room 542. As always, there's a little left to be desired as far as the room layout goes but most exhibitors pretty much had the same room to work with. We were looking into renting a ballroom but that's not going to happen ANY time soon due to pricing.



The YFS Room was lucky enough to be graced by some of the hardest working reviewers in the industry including Jonathan Valin of The Absolute Sound, Stephen Mejias from Stereophile, and Mal & Kirsten Kenney from Part-Time Audiophile. I'm sure we're forgetting a few others, namely from Enjoy The Music and Stereomojo, and a few other reviewers from some other audiophile magazines we can't remember at this point.

We don't want to forget to give a shout-out to Chris Connaker at Computer Audiophile. He stopped by our room on Thursday to chat and talk computer audio as per usual and discuss the latest Pearl Jam happenings. Thank you guys for taking the time out to come listen, snap photos, and give us feedback. We truly appreciate it. We would also like to thank all the showgoers who showed up to chat and listen to our latest designs. It's always fun to catch up and describe our latest iterations of computer audio madness. In fact, this year we debuted our brand new YFS Mac Mini which we are truly excited about. Thank you folks.

We would really like to thank Jonathan Valin for taking the time to stop by our room. We don't play analog sources such as vinyl or tape at any of the audio shows we exhibit at. Unfortunately, those are his favorite sources, but he still managed to give a listen to our system and compliment us on our sound. In fact, it turns out he liked our tonal balance and presentation along with our smooth sound...

YFS has some announcements it would like to make regarding some new developments that took place this year at the show. We became Authorized Endeavor Audio dealers! Check out their brand new E-3 floor standing loudspeaker pictured above. Holy crap did these things sound good for the money. In fact, they sounded great regardless of cost. Nice work Endeavor Audio! We also ran into Mat Weisfeld from VPI who hopefully will welcome us back into the VPI family. (We were recent dealers up until a year or so ago). It was great talking with you at the show Mat. And yes, we do actually listen to vinyl.

EMM Labs will be coming out with a firmware update for their DAC2X some time in the near future which should give the Meitner MA-1 as well as the DAC2X a nice boost in performance. EMM Labs will also be debuting a new Reference DAC some time next year which utilizes a two-chassis design. One chassis houses the power supply and the other chassis is for the D to A conversion circuitry. Pricing will come in at ~ $30,000.

Overall, we had a great time at the 2013 RMAF and we hope next year is even better as far as attendance goes. If there were any complaints, that would be it. It seemed like less folks were at the show this year in comparison to last year's show. We were assuming the Broncos game and the beer fest were partly to blame but I have a feeling the recent flooding in Colorado was really the reason attendance was down. Hopefully folks will rebuild and be back for 2014.

Until next year...

-YFS Design Team


by Kevin OBrien on March 21st, 2013


We are all back safe and mostly sound from Axpona 2013 and we have to say it was a great trip and an awesome show! Here's a 'thank you' to the city of Chicago and to Steve for putting on a great show. We have a feeling we'll be back next year for the great food, the great sounds, and the incredible gear. We also wanted to thank Albert and Damon Von Schweikert and the entire VSA family for giving us the opportunity to share the Othello Room.

The room sounded great and we can't thank VSA enough for an overall top-notch weekend. We don't want to forget to thank Joe Lavrencik from Critical Mass Systems for supplying the killer component stands in our room. A 'thank you' goes out to Shahin at EMM Labs as well. Thank you Shahin for getting us the EMM Labs DAC2X in time to get it integrated into our rack for the show. Everything sounded great!

We wanted to give our readers a glimpse of the Axpona '13 YFS-VSA component list. We figured posting it for you to see would be the easiest way to do this. Our line-up was incredible as far as the gear was concerned and the VSA VR-100XS speaker system was absolutely glorious! We were thankful for the opportunity to show our latest iteration of the YFS HD Ref-3 server, the Limited Edition. The LE version of our Ref-3 takes an already great source component and elevates it to a new level.

We keep everything the same as the Special Edition but implement an 8-core processor, our latest YFS DC power supplies, and our latest YFS Reference dual-headed USB interconnect. The DC linear power supplies can be seen in the photo above. They are the two silver boxes below the HD Ref-3 LE.

The YFS 12V DC power supply powers the SOtM USB PCI card and the YFS 5V DC power supply powers the USB power for the EMM Labs DAC2X via our new YFS dual-headed USB cable. See our EMM Labs DAC2X review for more info. We wanted to note that we were displaying a special new Master Built USB cable as well which uses Delphi Aerospace conductors. These conductors are identical to the rest of the Master Built Signature cable line conductors, hence the price.

We received some "Best of Show" awards from various reviewers so we know we're on the right track. We'd like to thank Myles Astor, Peter Breuninger, and all The Absolute Sound staff as well as the Stereophile staff for taking their time out to listen and give us their feedback. We'd also like to thank Greg Weaver, the senior editor over at Positive-Feedback who will be reviewing our HD Ref-3 SE this summer... Greg Weaver also gave us a "Best of Show" award for the Axpona event.


The shot above shows the YFS-VSA team. Pictured from left to right: Brad Easton, Mike O'Brien, Kevin O'Brien, Albert Von Schweikert, and Damon Von Schweikert. Here's a link to VSA's Facebook page which has more info on the show awards, etc. that were given out for our Othello Room set up. And yes, we were part of the room although YFS was not mentioned specifically in the video. 

We hope to see you all at the next audio show... Until next time.

-YFS Design Team


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