Report by Thorsten Loesch
Sadly many rooms sounded pretty bad. Even my Girlfriend (self confessed
"I can't hear a difference" person) could tell that many rooms sounded pretty bad. And it's not even just the fact that most of the gear
exhibited is bad (which it isn't), there seemed to be little care about general setup and arrangements that even gear I know to potentially sound
good sounded awful. Especially the small rooms with large acoustically hard walls seemed to encourage a sound that was overly hard and aggressive and
often overblown in the bass. Nothing of course that a nice Digital Voicing Equaliser or a few 100 kg. acoustic treatment could not have solved. Shame no-one used digital room equalisation and so few exhibitors used any room
treatment. Interestingly though, some gear managed to sound at least pretty credible in some cases very good. As I had the little lady along I
paid attention to her judgment as much as my own. We both liked best:
Audio Reference with Clearaudio Turntable, Acapella Speakers, CAT Pre and Horch
(solid-state!!!) amplifers. Good on almost everything, but strained and faintly unpleasant when played real loud. We managed to
sneak Eryka Badu and Groove Theory past Robert Suchy while he was off buying records and promptly cleaned the room of
audiophiles, who however appreciated my Mussorski (Pictures at an
Exhibition, Muti & PSO) so much they held it hostage for much of Thursday.
Beauhorn with their "small" B2 and their EL34 SE "integrated" amplifier offered very pleasant sound. Just goes to show, fairly inexpensive,
extremely simple, even limited bandwidth, but great and musical sound in the best of all senses. I got them to play Mori Kante
"Yeke Yeke" which sounded great and had the little lady really grooving and liking
it. I had some Emma Kirkby with Vivaldi's "Gloria in D major" and it sounded pretty good, also Ulla Meinicke "Taenzerin". Only the strange
German stuff they pulled out towards the end in an effort to please me (or to get rid of us?) really didn't strike a chord with me.
I really liked the Pioneer DVD-Audio Demo using five excellent
TAD/Pioneer domestic monitor speakers - shame they are "Japan Only". The Music was some Flamenco, too bad they did not feel like playing
our request (Africa Unite from the One Love Bob Marley All Star tribute
I also liked the Set-up used on Thursday in the Eminent Audio room very well, the LothX Aida
turntable, LothX JL-300B SE amplifier and LothX Polaris made pretty nice sound, if giving a little too lean a sound for my liking.
We also liked quite well:
DNM, with the production of Redheko Speakers stopped shared a room with Rethm,
and while I thought the sound rather lean and a little too forward the system
proved surprisingly good even with pretty difficult recordings like Ulla Meinicke "Taenzerin" and some stuff from Classic FM Telarc
Americana Sampler (Barber "Adago for Strings", "Swing Low Sweet Chariot"). The Lowther driver used just managed to avoid the often
noted Lowther Honk and aggressiveness. Listening to Barbers Adagio in view of the
events last Tuesday was very moving, not only for myself I noticed.
ART and Sudgen exhibited together including the Avid turntable. They had some bad room boom problems, but still managed to sound quite good. The
Sudgen "Masterclass" amplification provided some of the better "transistor"
sound at the show.
Neat loudspeakers exhibiting with Naim amplification sounded pretty good, if you like that kind of
thing. The sound was rather a little boxed in and not very open, but excellent pace and rhythm. NAIM themselves where this
year clearly exceeded by the sound from the new "Ultimatum" loudspeaker. Naim introduced their first real
home cinema processor with Dolby Digital etc....
Usher Audio Guys from Taiwan make excellent Scan Speak Driver
copies and interesting looking speakers. They sounded jolly nice using their own transistor electronics, but a little too forward and aggressive.
I'd say a little too much Hi-Fi and too little music, but a real and quite reasonably priced alternative to Krell, Wilson, Sonus Faber and the like.
Lady Ella and her Band wreaking "Jack the Knife" live in Berlin sounded a bit thin and forward (but it sounds like this anyway). On the other hand
"The Girl from Ipanema" with Getz & Gilberto sounded pretty good. During this song a lot of people came into the room, obviously drawn by the music.
Lamm where using Wilson Benesh speakers on the day I visited their room things sounded sounded okay, but lacked a bit of "magic". The Lamm
electronics seemed fine, most remarkable perhaps the ability of their 6C33 SE Amp to
drive the 88db/W; 4Ohm WB Discovery to pretty high levels cleanly. I would have however liked to hear the big Kharma
loudspeakers also in the room instead.
The Renaissance push-pull 300B amplifier also did pretty well on the Wilson Benesh
Arc, better than the German AudioNet Electronics downstairs on the same speakers in a slightly larger room at any extent. The new WB Arc and
Arc Center are clearly aimed at the AV market, not two channel audio. On static
display in the WB Suite where the "Bishop 2", it had me joking that what WB really needed to produce was a "Pope" with all drivers scaled up to 12" or
15" and a larger hat....
I was very positively surprised by Bryston/PMC, who have traditionally sounded at shows much worse than in reality, this year the sound was
pretty good actually, shame about not having a turntable at hand.
Henley Design introduced a new Project Turntable, pretty nice looking, much in the vein of the Wilson Benesh Circle and SME 10. The perhaps most
interesting product at the show for me personally where the tonearms from Frank Schroeder Berlin, featuring
arm wands from various woods, string suspension and magnetic damping.
Lastly, the Eminent Audio room on Thursday when I visited the show alone was as noted pretty good, on Friday with some small stand mounting
LothX Speakers and Croft integrated amplifier the sound was nowhere near as good as on Thursday, yet considering the cost of the Speakers and Amp
I enjoyed meeting and chatting to (again) Lothar Sanders (LothX),
Eric Thomas (Beauhorn), Terry from Loricraft/Garrard (their stand
being the usual mess and still not fully ready even by the end of Friday), Andy, Chris, Stuart, Rupert and Adrian from the London Live DIY
Hi-Fi Circle and for new interesting people Robert Suchy (Clearaudio), Frank Schroeder
(nice Arm's Dude) and Adnan Arduman from Turkey.
Notable for particularly unappealing sound and presentation where both Absolute
Sounds suites (third year running) especially the home theatre with the new Krell
loudspeakers, I don't know what it is but I could not get back out quick enough. The Chord/Dynaudio room also seemed to be severely lacking in
musical truth, well at least the gear looked real good and was real expensive in all cases, that
surely counts for something.
ATC in their home theatre presentation should have stuck to showing their better
two-channel loudspeakers, the sound on the two days I was there competing hard for "worst sound of the show". It's a shame really as so far their
stuff always sounded pretty good even under the usually difficult show conditions. I guess I fail to get the point of all this Multichannel stuff,
I don't WANT to sit among the orchestra, but in the audience.
Notable by their absence where GT Audio, much missed by me for the Ocellia Speakers, JC Verdier Turntables and Electronics as well as the Tron line of
electronics which to me always make for great listening. Also a lot of U.S.A. based personalities where sadly absent, from our
own Steven R. Rochlin to Chad Kassem (Acoustic Sounds), Jon D'Appolito (whom I had very much looked
forward to meet), Mr. Chesky and many others.
Click here to see a
complete listing of show exhibitors.