IFA 2007


Name: IFA - Internationale Funkausstellung
Place: Berlin, Messe Berlin
Time: 31 August - 5 september 2007
Organizer: GFU - German Association for Entertainment and Communications

I say this right from the start, loud and clear: this was a weak show. Still huge, still most important in Europe, but regardless of what you will hear from other sources please take my voice into account. The problem of a show of the size of IFA lies in the throughput – the amount of visitors – and the expositions, events etc. – but also in the attractiveness of main offering, in this case the technology. During the history of the show many breakthrough events happened, let us mention for example a reading by Albert Einstein or the “starting” of color television by the German chancellor in that country, and many, many others. And this during the whole existence of the show, starting in the year 1924, when the Funkausstellung was written in the technical vocabulary for the first time. Since a few years the leading motive is the vision – first related to home cinema, so also related to the sound, and now to High Definition. And this last direction, seeming to be the goose laying golden eggs, pushed the decision makers to change the eighty years of tradition of organizing the IFA every two years. Although there were some interruptions (war), shifts, etc, but those were things that were caused by an outside force. But last year, on purpose, the show was organized for the first time without a break, a year after the “regular” show, stating that this will now be the new rule. And – at least for now – this does not look good. The events were not very frequent, boring and without substantial value, there was a lack of ideas, and actually nobody fought for the client. Because how to show to everybody that one plasma screen is better than the other? In the show environment the differences are negligible. Maybe there was no idea how to show the supremacy of HD-DVD beyond the Blu-Ray or the opposite, or maybe this does not interest people much, because they do not want two formats? I am not sure, but we can say that there is some stagnation.

The most important trend, besides HD, was the change of the attitude of the exhibitors – much more time, space and energy was devoted to dealers and distributors than the visitors. How do I support my observation? Most of the space was made available for the business meetings. Many times a better exposition was behind the wall than in front of it. Now because the press pass worked in most cases as a platinum credit card in a restaurant, I was there, I saw and I talked. What is the reason for that? Maybe it was assumed, that a normal client cannot decide what he should buy, so the seller should be convinced, as the last link between the manufacturer and the buyer. And probably this makes sense, because the difference between the two HD formats is illusory – their capacity, interactivity, etc. are so big and advanced, that even if one side announces that it enhanced one or another feature, it has no breakthrough meaning, as a two hour film with all possible add-ons and best possible sound quality will be played flawlessly from both discs. For the normal client it will have no real meaning, as it also should not – he is to get what he wants, HD picture and uncompressed multichannel sound (more about this in a moment). And this is given by both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. So maybe about the success of one or the other format the game market will decide – Blu-Ray is supported by PlayStation 3 and Sony, and HD-DVD by X-Box 360 and Microsoft. Or maybe both will fail and we will download films from the internet. More curiosities in my report in „Audio”. You will also find there more pictures devoted to video devices.

I cannot withhold from citing a larger passage I wrote for the printed press, I do not want to change it, because I think it describes well that what captivated me: “Absolutely unexpectedly, and not only for me, the most important event was the presentation done by the Motor Presse Stuttgart GmbH & Co. KG, editor of the titles „Audio” (German) and “Stereoplay” (total circulation is about 85000 units/month). This company organizes presentations every year, that have the goal to popularize our hobby among the broad audience. A splendid idea and the only chance to reach out of the ghetto and show the people that something can replace the mobile phone in the role of the home audio center. Those presentations are done every year and attract large amounts of visitors. To approach the acoustic to a standard room and separate from outside noise a mid-sized room is built in the exposition hall, with walls, ceiling, floor, etc, that can house about 100 people inside. The presentations are done hourly. Everyone that has seen the queue waiting for the doors to open, without being sure they will be allowed inside for the next performance, will applaud the idea. The titles responsible for the organization of the event are judged differently, worst in Germany, but in this particular case – hats off and prejudice aside. I try to attend those every year, so I can say the presentations are sometimes better, sometimes worse, but they keep an overall high standard. Their theme is different every time, one time it is about the most expensive audio system, another time to show the difference between a stereo and multichannel system, and this year a very classic comparison was prepared, something that was common in British shows in the 60ties, namely the comparison between live and recorded sound. This can be done in many ways, and the journalists from “Audio” and “Stereoplay” chose probably the best one. So before the listeners a quintet of acoustic instruments appeared. From the left: I violin, II violin, piano, tenor saxophone and contrabass. Before those microphones were placed – small diaphragm Shoeps in front of the violins and saxophone, two stereo for the piano and one large diaphragm Neumann U87A for the contrabass and additional two stereo picking up sound from a distance. The quintet played a few pieces, really nice, with feeling, without the domination of the piano or saxophone, and the performance was recorded in a separate room on a hard disc of a mobile studio. The recording was made by one of the best sound engineers from the German Radio. After a few pieces the quintet disappeared from the stage and the sound was played back from the recording. After the listening session the people in the room voted for one or the other performance. The verdict was… In a moment. First some words about the equipment used for the project. The source was the hard drive from a professional recorder. The role of the converter and preamplifier was given to the reference surround processor from Marka Levinsona the No 40 HD Media Console, that drove Krella amplification – brilliant, two box monoblocs Evolution One, working in the low frequency section and the stereophonic EVO 402 driving the higher frequencies. The loudspeakers used for the presentation were the beautiful, tube loudspeakers from JBL the Project Everest DD66000, being a monument prepared for the 60th anniversary of the company. Those three way speakers, with two 380mm woofers, that can stand 500watts and are characterized with an efficiency of 98dB (1W/1m). And cost in Japan, where they have a cult status, 6300000 Jen and 200000zł in Europe… Anyway, there were five of those speakers in the room, because in the second part of the session a multichannel system was used. OK, now I can say that we unanimously voted for the live sound. Without any doubt the recording was a re-creation, a second look at the performance, and not a ‘senso stricto’ document. Interestingly, I was sure that the recording is worse only for the first few minutes. The longer we listened to the elements of the system, formats, the more I was appealed by the sound. In this way one can feel something, that I described some time ago while testing – if I am not mistaken – the Accuphase DP-800/DC-801 player (description of this device in comparison with older products of this company HERE), namely that the recording is another world, completely separated from the live event and having its own rules. The described system showed it nicely, because it sounded really splendid, just as if not on a show. Dynamics and the presence of harmonics were really incredible. I am really impressed by those loudspeakers. They are not free of shortcomings – about that in a moment – but are really phenomenal. The main difference was the way of showing the instruments in space and the space itself. We were in the ideal situation that the recording and playback were done in the same acoustic surroundings. And probably the impossibility to reproduce the real space, including the “air” audible between the instruments make the recording a vision of the sound engineer – better or worse but only a combination of decisions and choices. Just after that we started to listen to vinyl, that sounded incredibly natural: the monumental turntable Clearaudio Statement with the Goldfinger pick-up was hooked-up to the gramophone preamplifier of the line preamplifier Accuphase C-7810. Now I have seen this kind of setup a few times during other shows, so Accu must offer something special here.”

This year’s show was held in the traditional time and place and fit in the two year schedule. But everything points to some kind of stagnation. This can be supported by the drastically diminished area used – 104000m2 compared to 160000m2 from last year and little activity from the expositors. To stay alive, IFA must attract ALL – the expositors and the visitors. This cannot be done with such high prizes for the space rented. Maybe after deeper thought this is not even a question of money – but more of the attitude: the expositors must have a goal in it and see the sense of exposing here. And finally, although here it is all about this, the visitor must be provided with recreation, meaning exciting, interesting demonstrations and superb products. If this will not be there, then the show will start to get smaller and smaller, and even if there would be no implosion, it will become just another local show. This is a big challenge. But as I do not see any signals that this is going to change, next year, waiting for improvement, I’ll go rather to visit the incredibly growing exposition TOP Audio&Video Show in Milan devoted only to audio, that opens just a week after the IFA. And I will take care of bringing as much photos, news and ideas with me from that show.

Very interesting comparison encompassed the Playstation 3 console as a Blu-Ray player. On all setups we could… or rather couldn’t see the difference between a stationary BR player and the PS3.

The German magazine, TV Spielfilm popularizes its Plus X Award, promoting design, but in conjunction with high quality sound.

Despite the designer background, Plus X Award honors also fully audiophile devices, including very recent ones – the Sondek LP12 turntable in the new version and the Majik stereo system as well as the “cinema in a box” Classic Movie.

LG prepared a very interesting comparison of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD while using theirs Multi Blue Player, a device that can playback almost all formats except… CD. It turned out, that to lower the costs the lens for the CD is not being mounted although there is a place for it in the pick-up.

That was nice – you could immediately see that Harman International employed experienced and creative industrial designers to make the design of the exposition hall. It could also be seen clearly, that the business part was located like last year – on a suspended platform, leaving much space for normal visitors.

JBL is strong in the car audio business, which it did not forget to show. A big amplifier and large speakers. And this display on the hood… Maybe this is a version for delivery cars.

JBL presented also a complete novelty, a technologically advanced series of speakers called ES Series. The mid-woofers are made from a compound patented by the company named PolyPlas – a layer of cellulose with covered with a polymer layer.

In the ES series from JBL most interesting are the tweeters, and there are two of them – a classic titanium dome and a ultra high frequency tube enhancing the frequency response to 40kHz.

And this was one of the most interesting presentations but not due to the quality of the sound – this was quite mediocre due to the used amplifier – but due to the possibility to have a very close look at the unique JBL project – the Project Everest DD66000 loudspeakers.

DD66000 are tube loudspeakers with a beautiful enclosure. On top registers works the ultra tweeter 045Be-1 with a beryllium membrane with a 25mm diameter and 50mm diameter neodymium magnets, allowing the frequency response reach above 50kHz. The nest speaker with a tube (476Be) also has a beryllium diaphragm but with 100mm diameter. The two woofers have a diameter of 380mm each. Beautiful, really beautiful! Only the price: 200000zł…

JBL is not only a company of novelties, but also a strong background of tradition. Thus a new jubilee version of the five-way loudspeakers TL 260. Frequency response: 32Hz – 40kHz, efficiency: 92dB, impedance: 8ohm.

Mark Levinson, after consolidation in the boundaries of the Harman Specialty Group, among others after killing off the Proceed brand name devices, seems to catch a second breath. On the picture a beautifully crafted monobloc – a new reference amplifier aimed to replace the legendary No 33, now carrying the #53. Power – 500W/8ohm, price around 20000USD.

This is the newest player from Levinson, the No 390, put to pieces here. Attention is drawn by a modified, brilliant drive section, but also the power supply is admirable by its shear size and complication.

Revel, a brand name of loudspeakers well known behind the Ocean, but never took off in Poland. But it seems not to worry about this, as every year one can see new models in Berlin. This time it was the perfectly looking line of the Ultima Voice 2.

The Revel from the Ultima Voice 2 series have large capabilities of shaping the sound. In the central speaker we can adjust the amount of high frequencies – four positions, or set the way the sound propagates from the speaker depending on the placement of the speaker – above the screen, below it, etc.

This is a silent fight, but it seems, that one of the most important weapons for Sony, to fight for the clients for Blu-Ray is the Playstation 3. The response to this is the Xbox 360 from Microsoft equipped with an optional HD-DVD drive.

Toshiba is one of the biggest companies supporting HD-DVD. This caused the presence of their newest product, the HD RD-A300 recorder, equipped with a large hard disc.

And this is one of the most interesting things I saw on the show: the SF-AD11 pick-up for reading HD-DVD manufactured by Sanyo. It turns out, that this company is the source of 90% of pick-ups for CDs, DVDs and almost all HD-DVDs in the world. With small letters below the name card the medium was advertised: “The Look And Sound Of Perfect”. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

And this is a snippet from the world of mobile phones. The company Hitachi presented a LCD display, thin as a human hair, perfectly reproducing colors and with a wide view field, achieved by applying the IPS – In Plane Switching technology.

This is again Hitachi, this time with a… 3D display. The effect was achieved by placing two identical displays together and intelligent signal management. The effect was really good – the depth was outstanding, although by longer looking two planes could be clearly distinguished – a close and distant one. But the idea is nice. The presented screen had a brightness of 200cd/m2 (so not very bright) and a 800x400 pixel resolution.

Grundig presented of course plasma screens and LCD screens, but next to them there was a setup with two large spheres near a chair. It turned out, that the spheres are a part of the Audiorama project. That is the name of loudspeakers in the shape of a sphere offered by the company in the 70ties, now refurbished, for the hundred anniversary of the company founder, Max Grundig. The spherical shape is not only for aesthetic purposes, but also acoustics – those are omnipolar speakers.

Panasonic is one of the biggest players in the consumer electronics field. This is confirmed by the strongly promoted Blu-ray player DMP-BD10A that can decode a Dolby True-HD and a DTS-HD track.

And this is one of the few Knights that got lost and exposed on the IFA – the very nice gentleman is Mr. Salvatore Filipelli from the company HiDiamond, presenting small omnipolar speakers Colibri, available in two sizes and many finishes.

On the next stand also Italians, from the company Stat Audio, presenting a set of beautifully crafted, sensibly priced, fully in Italy manufactured cables (including the wires). Prizes – starting from 120 Euro.

Pioneer promoted two sides of the medal – cinema and stereo. On the cinema side, except for the new plasma screens, were the systems based on the Blu-Ray player BDP-LX70A and the receiver VSX-LX70. The most important information was this, that the components were connected via the HDMI ver1.3 interface, allowing to transmit the DTS-HD Master Audio signal. The mentioned receiver is one of the first capable to decode it!

Marantz advertises the new top series named the Legend Series. On the picture the insides of the powerful monobloc MA-9s2, fully covered with copper. Beautiful!

Berlin was a further place, where the sister company for Marantz – Denon showed their top devices, among other s a ten channel power amplifier POA-A1HD (7000 Euro).

And this is one of the most interesting German loudspeaker companies, Elac, still not recognized enough in Poland. The new loudspeakers from the series 240, like the BS 243 shown on the photo, are based on very interesting drivers: the tweeter is the AIR Motion speaker, based on Dr. Heil ideas, and as mid-woofer, for the first time the Crystal Membrane. This is a rigid element from aluminum connected to a solenoid, but not with a flat surface, but with a surface bent in a shape resembling a crystalline structure.

Model FS 249 from Elac, despite the advanced technology and perfect manufacturing quality costs only 2000 Euro.

Do you know what speakers were used by Sir George Martin while mixing the disc Love of The Beatles? No? Here they are: ADAM Studio S3A. Those speakers are based on Dr. Heil AIR Motion tweeters (just like in Elac, but this is a version modified by ADAM), named ART – Advanced Ribbon Technology, and mid-woofers from Eton. The same solutions we can find in the home line from ADAM, like in the Sensor series (shown on the photo), the models Gamma (the smallest), Beta (midsized) and Alpha (the largest).

In the biggest construction, the model Alpha, ADAM applies an interesting solution – a small tweeter and two mid-tweeters in a setting resembling d’Appolito. All those drivers are the ART, of course.

Some companies seem to be a bit disoriented during the return and strong presence of stereo. TEAC or Onkyo seem to think that this is just the return of the old stuff. And this is not the case. So reviving a cassette deck – on the photo the Onkyo TA-RW255 – is at least an anachronism, or better said a complete lack of understanding.

In case of Onkyo this disorientation is highly strange, as the company offers a new stereo system, based on the CD player C-1 VL and the amplifier A-1 VL.

Nice – a technical wonder from Audio-Technika, beautifully crafted, wood finished headphones ATH-W1000. And let us remind, that Audio-Technika has its 45th birthday this year.

This is a surprise – a new stereo system from Yamaha. Wooden side panels, front styled like the 70ties and next to it the Soavo-2 loudspeakers. It is visible, that the company has a plan… The amplifier A-S 2000 is to be balanced, have a power of 2x160W and cost 1549 Euro. The player CD-S 2000 has to have balanced output, a cast CD drawer, proprietary drive and to cost 1299 Euro. No SACD.

This is a Studer extravaganza. The company seems to be a bit lost, and fully departed from its studio roots, but such cow-like loudspeakers, the model Re:sound S brilliant with a digital cross-over, might find a place in a house on a Polish ranch.

The German Magnat, best known for loudspeaker manufacture, prepared two interesting products – on the photos one of those, the amplifier RV1, based on EL34 Electro-Harmonics tubes. 2x35W, frequency response 5Hz-70kHz, built in phono preamp, price – 2000 Euro.

And a second novelty from Magnat – all in one – a SACD player with an amplifier and a tuner module.

Magnat also distributes the interesting docking stations for the i-Pod from the company Bernstein. On the picture the model ITR10, with tubes in the preamplifier section. There is a vast palette of different varnishes and wooden veneers available.

Pioneer introduced three new stereo devices last year – one SACD player and two amplifiers. This year two tuners and one player were added. The demonstrations were conducted using the splendid speakers S-3EX, with the coaxial system using a beryllium dome tweeter mounted in the center of the midrange speaker applied. It resembles the Uni-Q, because the creator of that last system, the founder of the company TAD (bought by Pioneer) worked at KEF while the Uni-Q was designed.

This are the preparations for the German “Audio” and “Stereoplay” presentation.

That was the queue to enter the demoroom about half an hour before the demonstration time. This is the end part of the queue as it went around the room.

The quintet in action.

Bass amplification by Krell Evolution One.

The Krell powered the big tube speakers JBL Project Everest DD66000.

Analog source – the mighty turntable Clearaudio Statement.

Accuphase’a C-2810 preamplifier in the role of the phono stage.

Main microphones, in a classic setting, were the Shoeps microphones placed quite high above the performers.

The contrabass received its own microphone, the large diaphragm Neumann U 67A.

The system used for the demonstration fully set-up. So many devices, as different systems, formats, etc, were demoed.


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