AXPONA 2024 Show Report, Part 2: Turntables and Reel-to-Reel Tape Players From Michell, Metaxas & Sins, United Home Audio, Analog Audio Design, and EMT

Above, meet the Metaxas & Sins Perambulator turntable. All photos in this story by Julie Mullins.

Welcome to Part 2 of my analog-centric highlights report from AXPONA, which (as I also noted back in Part 1) took place April 12-14, 2024, at the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center in Schaumberg, Illinois, in the greater Chicago metro area.

One challenge of show reporting is that we just aren’t able to attend as many of the talks and panels as we would otherwise — and I’ve enjoyed both participating in and moderating some panel discussions at past shows myself — so, alas, for Part 2, I instead continue to maintain my focus on covering as many turntables as I could see and hear. Besides that, I’m also covering some reel-to-reel tape players as well.


A visit to the Luxman-Magico room for the third listening session hosted by Acoustic Sounds and Analogue Productions’ head honcho Chad Kassem on Sunday proved worthwhile. Kassem (seen above) introduced and played brief excerpts from seven of Analogue Productions’ recent UHQR releases. (For the uninitiated, UHQR stands for Ultra High Quality Record.) Four of these seven UHQR albums are considered audiophile touchstones — Steely Dan’s Aja and Gaucho, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold As Love. Kassem mentioned that it took him 30 years just to license the Hendrix material! He also played selections from Bob Marley and The Wailers’ Exodus and Rastaman Vibration, as well as The White Stripes’ Elephant, the latter of which was initially released in 2003 — the most recent release of this UHQR grouping by more than a couple of decades (and my fave from this bunch).

In his laconic manner, Kassem said of these mostly old-school releases, “I’m kind of a stick in the mud, stuck in the ’70s. New music for me is like 20 or 30 years old.” He is considering tackling some relatively newer releases in UHQR, however.

Only pure virgin vinyl is used to create UHQR releases, he continued. It’s called “clarity vinyl,” and it’s the clear, natural vinyl product before any additives get added — such as black (carbon) and modern, popular color vinyl. (As many of you know, the black color’s origins carry forward the original shellac record material’s hue.) “It’s like putting sand in face cream,” Kassem said of some additives. In response to an attendee who asked why all Analogue Productions records aren’t made with that clear vinyl, Kassem said it wouldn’t be economically feasible to use it for all the records — only for their UHQR special editions.

The brief demos of those two Steely Dan UHQR releases revealed the slick production, standout sharpness of bass lines, and Bernie Grundman’s mastering prowess. They didn’t even really sound like vinyl — almost too full-bodied, too detailed, too dynamic, too smooth to be. Kassem added that The White Stripes’ management had contacted Kassem about creating an UHQR edition. Excerpts of “Seven Nation Army” and “Ball and Biscuit” blew me away with huge-sounding bass (in spite of the usual, inherent hotel venue challenges) and substantial force on transient attacks. Clear separation of instruments was deftly handled.

(Sidenote: We here at AP have, of course, reviewed the balance of these fine UHQR releases in great detail. You can read our Aja UHQR review here, and our Elephant UHQR review here. A review of the just-released Gaucho UHQR will be posting soon.)


The Luxman America room also hosted top Luxman executives, including (pictured left to right above) Mr. Masakazu Nagatsuma, director of R&D; Jeff Sigmund, president of Luxman North America; Mr. Tatsuya Sueyoshi, president of Luxman Corporation; and Ms. Izumi Saito, chief of overseas sales department.

As AP editor Mike Mettler also noted in one of his own AXPONA 2024 reports here, the Luxman system’s analog source was a Luxman PD-191A turntable, a belt-driven design powered by a brushless DC motor and outfitted with Luxman’s latest LTA-710 tonearm, a 10in arm with a knife-edge bearing system co-developed with the SEAC Commerce Co. Ltd. The pickup was a Luxman LMC-5 cartridge, an MC cart with Shibata stylus with its signal going into a Luxman E-07 phono preamp. The rest of the setup included Luxman amplification driving Magico S3 loudspeakers in a nifty royal blue finish and Magico S-Sub subwoofers, cabling from AudioQuest, and audio stand systems from HRS.


In one of Fidelity Imports’ six rooms on the 12th floor, three made-in-England Michell turntables were shown. Two of them were shown passively — the entry-level TecnoDec and the top-tier Orbe SE — and one, the Gyro SE ($6,499, without cartridge; seen above), in an active system. Stephen Rowland, the son-in-law of the company’s eponymous founder/designer John Michell, was on-hand alongside his own son and Michell’s two daughters, who have been taking the reins following Michell’s passing in 2003 — and Stephen’s retirement in process. (The company had been out of the U.S. market for a time before working with Fidelity Imports.)

Rowland described some design details of the Michell turntables displayed alongside three new (to the U.S., at least) Michell MC cartridges, the Cusis E, the Cusis S (demo’ed on the Gyro SE), and the Cusis M. They have various stylus types, as represented by the model letter (Elliptical, Shibata, and Multi-line), and since they are low-output models, a step-up transformer should be used. (There’s also a higher-output Cusis E/M version available.)

The Michell Gyro SE is the company’s most popular model as eight out of ten turntables the company sells are Gyro SEs, Rowland said. This model was first released in 1982 and has remained largely the same since then. Solid brass weights beneath the Gyro’s Delrin platter add mass — and they also look cool. The Gyro part refers to the platter’s spinning within an open, freestanding housing. Once the platter is rotating, the weights help maintain momentum for speed stability, less work and noise from the motor, and to minimize wow and flutter. Its 24V motor is separate, with the only connection point being the belt, and it runs at only about 9.6 V, he noted. The feet are solid aluminum.

One difference between the Gyro SE and the top-end Orbe SE is the Orbe’s second level of isolation — of separation between the two plinths. But the main difference is, the Orbe motor has a tachometer on its underside to monitor the rotation speed. While the motor is turning, the tachometer sends a signal to the Orbe Controller, which increases or decreases the voltage sent to the motor to adjust the speed as needed. (You can read more about the Gyro SE here).


Michell’s upper-tier tables use an inverted bearing (as seen above). “Most turntables have a spindle on the platter and the body of the bearing is somewhere within the structure of the turntable,” Stephen explained. “We reverse that. The spindle is now on the chassis. We have a well at the bottom that you fill with oil.” Inside is a machined Archimedes screw — a spiral machined inside.

“All the while that bearing is turning,” he continued, “oil is being drawn around the spiral to lubricate the small [hardened chromed steel] ball sitting on top, and it returns to the well through that offset exit hole. So, all the time the platter is turning, the ball that’s at the top of the support for the platter is being lubricated minimizing friction.”

Meanwhile, the entry-level Michell TecnoDec ($2,000) table comes with a tonearm. It has a Delrin platter (without the weights) and it uses the same decoupled DC motor as the other models. (More TecnoDec info and specs can be found in our review here.)

Michell’s tonearms are based on Rega designs. “They’re supplied to us as an OEM product,” Stephen confirmed. But they structurally modify the tubes and wire them in-house. As with most “audiophile-grade” turntables, customers supply their own cartridge(s).


On the more extravagant end of the audio spectrum — both aesthetically and luxuriously — was a collection of gear from Metaxas & Sins. If you came across this equipment, you’d remember it. It’s shiny, sexy, and strange (but in a good way). Kostas Metaxas’ imaginative designs aren’t only visually striking, but they are also sonically serious. Metaxas was a recording engineer for 40 years, and he’s made more than 300 analog recordings of live jazz and classical music. Now he brings that live-music sensibility to his designs. “I want to be able to get everything off the tape I recorded,” Metaxas said of his Tourbillon T-RX reel-to-reel tape player’s goals. The Tourbillon (seen above) is an open-reel deck with external power supply ($49,000) with a relatively compact form factor and a less utilitarian design compared to most open-reel tape decks. He explained that he modeled it after a Stellavox field recorder — though it’s all-new, and machine-built from the ground up.


Also on the analog front, Metaxas also showed on passive display for the first time in North America his belt-driven Perambulator turntable ($29,000; shown above) in a standard anodized aluminum finish (gloss painted colors are also available) with two Combobulator tonearms ($8,000 each) in titanium. One tonearm was fitted with a DS Audio 3 optical cartridge, the other with a Miyajima ZERO mono cartridge.

The Perambulator platter has an acrylic top layer and an aluminum base layer within a sandwich design. There are wave formations between the layers, whose gentle undulations are said to dissipate vibration. Metaxas tries to avoid the colorations of mixed metals, he added. A Volcano power supply is included, while the tonearm(s) and cartridge(s) of your choice are sold separately. Metaxas & Sins is distributed in North America by Reel Sound Distribution. (You can read our prior report on the Perambulator and Combobulator here.)

 050224.julaxpona2.UHA Apollodeck.jpg

United Home Audio and Acora Acoustics hosted one of a few afterhours events at AXPONA 2024. I dropped by very briefly on Saturday night to listen to the larger of two systems in a room that included (in just a partial list) Acora Acoustics’ VRC-1 speakers of granite in a special Sunset Fire edition, powered by VAC (Valve Amplification Company) electronics, with a United Home Audio Apollo reel-to-reel player with outboard power supply ($55,000; shown above).

The mixtape on the UHA tape deck had an ’80s bent, including Guns N’ Roses’ classic “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (from July 1987’s Appetite for Destruction), as well as Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” (from the January 1983 album of the same name) sounding synth-perfect against Annie Lennox’s exquisite singing.

I’ve never really been a GNR fan, but Axl Rose’s caterwauling vocals had never sounded this compelling before. Ditto for Slash’s searing guitar solo. It might be the first time for my hearing that song and appreciating it for the serious production chops that were revealed on this late-1980s rocker.


A couple of other analog reel-to-reel tape deck experiences from the show merit mention. First, on demo in Room 428 was an Analog Audio Design TP-1000 tape player ($27,000) with a digital front panel screen and matching RC-1000 remote control (as seen below).


The TP-1000 appeared alongside Horch House tapes for sale ($398-$498), including recordings from Yello and Al Di Meola. Also, I’m happy to report that fully refurbished Revox open-reel tape decks — the B77 HS-MKII model, for instance — are making a comeback. The latter’s SRP is approximately €7200 plus shipping.


The DeVORE Fidelity room received high marks from many at the show (myself included). John DeVore had on demo an EMT 928 II turntable with a 909 tonearm and Pure Black cartridge ($17,995) for stereo records, and a 912 tonearm ($6,995) with a Tondose TMD 015 ($1,995) for mono records, as well as an A23 Homeage T2 and Vintage step-up transformers, Shindo phono cables, and — naturally — DeVore speakers, the O/bronze anniversary edition ($30,000).

Listening was a treat. Bettye LaVette’s “I Hold No Grudge,” the opening track from her 2020 Verve LP Blackbirds, for example, sounded full-bodied, and rich with detail. It was also a rare room that played some 78rpm records — here, with a Tondose TND065 cartridge ($1,995) — though I wasn’t around then.

And with that grand assessment, we bid thee adieu to Part 2. My final AXPONA 2024 report, Part 3, will post tomorrow on Friday, May 3 — see you all back here then!

Author bio: Julie Mullins, a lifelong music lover and audiophile by osmosis who grew up listening to her father’s hi-fi gear, is also a contributing editor and reviewer on our sister site, Stereophile, for whom she also writes the monthly Re-Tales column. A former fulltime staffer at Cincinnati’s long-running alt-weekly CityBeat, she hosts a weekly radio show on WAIF called On the Pulse.

If you’d like to see even more of our AXPONA coverage, check out Part 1 of Julie Mullins’ AXPONA turntables coverage here, Ken Micallef’s turntable-centric video report here, Mike Mettler’s look at Luxman’s new PD-191A turntable and E-07 phono preamp and his review of the Acoustic Sounds Atlantic 75 vinyl listening session here, and Mettler’s Day 1 photo essay here.


Glotz's picture

But the most striking piece is that Metaxas Perambulator TT! Salvador Dali would approve!

And the EMT Deck is no slouch, either! Oh, they're All Dosh and No Nosh! Gimme! lol.

habag134's picture

Keep up the great work! | Pearland

habag134's picture

Keep up the great work! | Pearland

lyly19's picture

The musical instruments Pokerogue are beautiful and luxurious. The sounds they make are amazing!