AXPONA Wrap Up from Chicago with Aurender

Sunday in Chicago was hit hard by a snowstorm that backed up airports and cancelled flights for many of the AXPONA press and out-of-towners. 

The food accommodations at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Centre are not the worst I’ve experienced, so I found myself cozying up to the confines of the building for the past two years without a need for escape, rain or shine.

Truth be told, while some of my day was consumed with room coverage another large chunk of my time that weekend was spent in the coat check room next to the convention hall. This is where we set up our makeshift podcast studio for AudioStream and Innerfidelity. And while the conversations were delightful, the sight of half-open boxes of metal hangers are a pale comparison for the endless rooms of high-fidelity jewelry that could be found just a few steps away. One example of such audiophile gems was the Aurender rooms found on the 6th floor.

On one side, a non-demo room set up for hashing deals, talking specs and checking out the innards of the three models of music servers the company was highlighting. On the other, a pair of GamuT RS3i speakers ($20,900 USD/pair) and D200i Dual-Mono Power Amplifier ($13,900 USD) connected to the new flagship Aurender A30 “Caching Music Server/Steamer/CD Ripper/HDD Storage/Full Decoder MQA DAC/Headphone Amplifier” ($18,000 USD).

It’s true, the A30 does jump though quite a few audiophile hoops. Even the headphone bit shows some serious effort on the front panel with ¼” Single-Ended, four-pin balanced XLR and 4.4mm balanced connections. Also found on the outward facing side, an 8.8-inch wide color LCD screen, volume knob and TEAC slot-load CD-ROM drive. One can also find a quartet of buttons for playback control, but serious ventures will likely take up the company’s iPad Conductor App for a more elaborate access to Tidal, Qobuz, internet radio and native media files. As of AXPONA, Apple’s iPad is currently the only platform for the Conductor app, with Android options due out by the end of the year.

Internal bits for the A30 include an AKM 4497 chipset base. For the two tiers underneath the 30, we see two AKM 4490 in dual-mono (A10, $5,500 USD) and an AKM24490 single stereo (A100, $3,900 USD). The back panel features USB outputs, and can act as an external DAC via 2 optical and 2 coaxial if necessary. Close to the AC inlet lies a collection of APS supercaps, which holds a continuous charge for the device for approximately 10 seconds (for a soft power-down) in the case of an outtage. There is an individual filter for the Ethernet socket for noise isolation, five toroidal power supplies and a 10TB internal hard drive.

The rise of the digital streaming service Qobuz has no doubt warmed up the field of competition around high-resolution playback in the US. The new A30 does of course cater to both audiophile options, but opening up the design to allow for the final unfold of MQA positions it as specialist into a smaller niche – especially at the flagship level here. Indeed, at a few points in my time in the Aurender room mentions were made to the collaboration with MQA in development, and the resulting playback in demonstrations that day was superb.

First up in the live room was “Papa Lin” by Dried Spider. The spoken word vocals harnessed a devout refinement, and treble extension felt pure and natural. Percussion was snappy without a gritty texture, and the air around the instruments was almost breathable. Bass was balanced and fair (especially considering the standmount design of the GamuT) and each sample track the host played felt dialled-in to the system and medium sized room where it was sitting. It feels fair to say that the collaboration with MQA has bore fruit for the A30 on some level. If you are invested in the format, Aurender has some music servers for your consideration that might squeeze out a few more drops of fidelity under the right circumstances. It was an impressive room to attend, and I was glad I took the opportunity to stop by.

Overall, the AXPONA event in Chicago turned out to be a diverse audio experience that covered the wide breadth of products the hobby enjoys. It was very well attended from my perspective, surprisingly though, given the large number of exhibitors, didn’t really feel overly crowded.

Sure, unavoidable bottlenecks around certain areas are bound to occur (i.e. Andrew Jones’ ELAC room) but the vibes were positive and a taste for celebration appeared to permeate the collective consciousness of attendees. There were so many good sounding rooms, great sounding rooms and rooms that I wanted to instantly transport as an appendage to my house – so the real estate description could someday read “3 bedrooms plus one Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel Room.” Boarding my plane back to the west coast on Monday it felt like the show had been equal parts large convention, after hours networking event and an evening sitting on comfortable couch listening to music with friends.

Aurender America Inc.
17911 Sky Park Circle Suite H, Irvine, CA 92614 USA
+1 (888) 367-0840