8-9 November 2008

Hotel Jan III Sobieski
Hotel Kyriad Prestige
Hotel Brystol

Success. This is the word that describes this year’s, 12th, edition of the Audio Show, organized by Adam Mokrzycki Services. Another success. This is how this looks taking into account the last few years. Success and – what now? This is the tie-in of this year with the next. Did you notice the hesitation and uncertainty in the last phrase? Because there is a question in it, what to do with a show that outgrew itself. In case recession will not stir in those plans. And although all my interlocutors during the AS – and I prepared some mini-interviews for “Audio” – recession will have lesser impact on the branch than other sectors, and the hi-end sector can only benefit from that, because the “hot money” loosened from stock and deposits will have to be utilized in some way. I also talked with two specialists, experts, managers of sales in big, multinational companies, and they told me that recession is a splendid period to grow – for promotion, advertizing, etc, one should spend more than the competition, because this is the way the free market rules are – when this will be over only the most active people will remain. And where is a better place to advertize than during the Audio Show? This is not a shop, no leaflet given in the street, that have to result in immediate customer flows, but a place ones position is being confirmed, a doing that has long-term effects. I repeat that always, when I hear from distributors (mostly in the first and second week after the show) that it did not translate into sales, the amount of customers did not increase. Because this need not translate into that. Because if somebody is not there, then his sales get lower. If he is there, then he supports the sales (of course conditionally, looking at the market situation). And that’s it. This is how this works and will work like that.

But this is not interesting for the music lover, audiophile or whoever visited the Audio Show. But with this is like with the Internal Revenue: we do not have to be interested with it, but it has interest in us – the financial condition, and the so called moods among distributors and sellers, have direct influence on what we can see on the show, what can be tested in the audio magazines, what will hit the store shelves, etc. So we cannot fully get loose from the “other” side of the counter.
But regardless of everything, one thing is certain: Audio Show 2008 is a big success. The show was visited by 8000 people (including expositors and 700 people invited by them), and those are splendid figures. The number of companies – 68 (in 2007 64 companies were present), the amount of rented rooms – 76 (last year – 66). The show was visited by four TV stations. Many journalists were present, from specialist magazine and others as well. And most important – the show was done in three hotels, besides Sobieski and Brystol there was also Kyriad Prestige located conveniently close to first one.

That was really good news. But I need to point to a few things that could (and should) be improved, if the show is to grow. This is still a local event. It is better than last year, because almost every company invited somebody from one or more of the companies in distribution – we could talk to them, they conducted presentations, etc. I did not meet all of them, because this was just not possible. Anticipating something like this, I asked the companies before the show, to send me information who is invited. Unfortunately not all of the companies responded, so I missed for example the people from Isotek, Vienna Acoustics Log Audio, and probably some others as well. But I did meet and talked to:
· David Hobbs from Monitor Audio
· Maurizio Aterini from Bluenote
· Roberto Barletta from Xavian
· Kerstin Mischke from ADAM-a
· Derek Dunlop from Art Loudspeakers
· Tom Willis from Art Audio
· George Robertson from Arcam
· Pierre Maillard from Focal.JMLab
· Andrzej Lipiński from Lipinski Sound
· Armin Krauss from Avantgarde Acoustic
· Martin Oliwkowski from Clearaudio
· Willi Nienhaus from ASW
· Eunice Kron from KR Audio (the interview in the issue 50 from June 2008 – HERE )
· Ken Ishiwata from Marantza.
I conducted interviews with most of them, that will appear in “Audio”. As you can see there were many interesting guests.

But still Audio Show is a local show. The proof of that is the low number of international journalists present. In the last years, the organizer invited one or two people on his expense, for example from “Hi-Fi News”, and that was good, but how a show is seen can be judged by the amount of journalists that are willing to pay for coming themselves. Many times, such visits are sponsored by the companies (manufacturers), and only the way they see a show matters for them to send invitations. Let us take a look at High End Show in Munich (the report from the last edition HERE) - this is the best hi-fi and hi-end show in the world. Journalists from all over the globe go there. And in terms of the number of companies and guests we are not far behind – I would even say, that looking at the numbers, while keeping scale – High End is the best show of the world, Audio Show is a local show, will allow for better understanding of the problem. In 2008, the best year to date for the HE, the figures look like this:

  • Number of expositors: 231
  • Number of visitors: 13895
  • Number of press accreditations: 407 (from 57 countries)
  • Exposition space: 18373 m2

    Now while the last category is out of reach – HE is held in the big exposition house M.O.C., and AS a hotel based one – like, long ago, the Frankfurt show in the Kempinski hotel, the two middle categories are interesting – the number of visitors and journalists. As you can easily see, the people that stormed (this is really good description) through the Sobieski hotel this year, would surely fill the HE. And the number of journalists, the heralds, bearers of the “good news”, in a way of speech, was much higher than in Warsaw.

    The second issue is related to the visitors themselves. This years show, especially on Saturday, ran out of control in my opinion. The crowd pressed into the corridors of Sobieski, the compositions of heads and hands visible at entrances of many rooms, could (and did) scare away many music lovers. And this heat… Many of my acquaintances said, they will not even come close to the Sobieski and concentrate on the Bristol and Kyriad. Well, Kyriad… There will probably be as many votes as there are readers, but for me this was a very nice place for the show. The sound was good and very good in most of the rooms, and if there was something wrong, then it was an error of the organizers in placing or choice of the components, and not a flaw of the room. The less I can understand, that so little people visited Sobieski and Kyriad, while the latter was only a few steps away. Maybe the information about it was too weak. When I went to Sobieski on Saturday morning, the queue was so long, that I could not fit it on the photo! And at the same time Kyriad was completely empty, and the tickets could be bought in either hotel. Also later there were no crowds there. I do not know how to resolve the situation, but on Saturday it was clearly visible – how bad the number of visitors fit in the small hallways of the Sobieski. This is why in many rooms I was only for a small moment, that is why I did not have the opportunity to listen to many things, and why many systems did not sound like they should.

    Hence my far going cautiousness in assessing the sound in many rooms. In most places I visited there was not much to hear, and I did not like those very much. I know, that this “negative” effect is influenced by many factors, so that describing any sound in a negative way could be harmful. I will make one exception for the presentation of Audio Note – the devices are yummy, their presentation and sound – horrible. This is not the way to expose hi-end! On the other hand, if somewhere was nice sound, we could be almost sure, that it will sound at least that way when placed home, and probably much better. And such presentations and expositions should be especially valued.

    This year there were only a few places that I remember. Two of them are especially worth underlining – those were Avantgarde Acoustic and, the others I will quote alphabetically (sorted by the name of the expositor):

    The Sound of the Show:

    · Avantgarde Acoustic Trio + BassHorn. The loudspeakers were driven by power amplifiers and preamplifiers from that company, with the sources DP-700 Accuphase and turntable Turbillon from Transrotor. The sound of this presentation was incredibly impressive – details, fullness, dynamics, resolution – everything was top notch. The only problem was the too high level of sound, and the fact, that the first rows were too close, in a place, where the sound of the separate tubes did not yet integrate. The distributor, Nautilus Hi-End, is not to blame on this because although the room was big, it was also filled to extent, every time. The presentation was made as always with charm and feeling, by Armin Krauss. Exhibitor - Nautilus Hi-End.

    · – a completely eclectic system turned out to be splendidly compiled. A player with the disc on top a’la Ancient Audio or 47 Labs (depending on whom we consider the “father” of this idea – in my opinion it was born simultaneously in the heads of two visionaries of hi-end– Jaromir Waszczyszyn i Junji Kimura), preamplifier Air Tight ATC-3, which we tested some time ago (HERE), tube amplifier I did not recognize and old Yamaha loudspeakers the size of Tonsil Altus. Incredibly full, saturated, deep sound. Expositor –

    · Ancient AudioLektor Prime player, power amplifiers Single Six, based on 6C33S in SET setting and Monitor V loudspeakers. Cabling: interconnect and loudspeaker cable - Cardas Golden Reference, power cables – Acrolink 7N-PC7100, electronics on EMA tables (description HERE). I tell from the beginning, that I am not a special admirer of the companies loudspeakers, with the exception of the Wing (description HERE), that at that time surpassed everything I ever heard before. That is why last years presentation was not very successful – in my opinion. This time it was different – there was “flesh”, detail and incredible space, probably the best one on the show. Expositor - Ancient Audio.

    · Creek from the Destiny series and loudspeakers from Epos, the M22i – inexpensive, nicely composed system, with a thorough, but also fleshy sound. What does thinking about a system, and not about the separate components, bring! This motive is visible – please look at the previous two systems and Reimyo – this is the same direction. Expositor – Audio System

    · Harpia Acoustics – with Linn, Manley and Luxman electronics (interchangeably). This is a subsequent place, where you can point me, that I’ve chosen because I know it, because I tested many of the loudspeakers from this Krakow based manufacturer, and I own the model Dobermann since more than a year, and I’ve tested all the mentioned gear (Stingray, Linn and Luxman for “Audio”). You may, I will not object. But I have my own opinion and want to state it: this was fantastic sound. And this in such difficult setting, with the loudspeakers almost pressed into the walls. Thorough, and rich in harmonics. Just like it should be. Expositor – Harpia Acoustics.

    · Art Audio Conductor + Diavolo + Art Loudspeakers Deco 10. Power – Ansae. I agreed for a test of the electronics, and just after the show it went to me for the test. Everything I heard during the show was confirmed – fantastic sense for the “form” of the pieces, extremely natural timbre and very good dynamics. Expositor – Hi-End Studio.

    · Reimyo + Bravo! + Harmonix – also during this test you may argument that I got used to this presentation (test HERE), that it did not sound like it could at a clients home, etc – this is all true. But I heard a sound, that in that hotel room had uncommon timbre, resolution and dynamics. Yes, the space was flat, but this is just how shows are. But you could hear the prelude to what the system is – absolute world class. Expositor - Moje Audio.

    · KR Audio Kronzilla SXI-S (test HERE), powering the loudspeakers from Gemme Audio, the Katana with ceramic drivers. The source was the split player Accustic Arts Drive II + Tube-DAC II. The sound was dynamic, alive, with maybe a bit small bass, but lets not exaggerate. Expositor - Soundclub.


    Saturday at 10:00 the queue before the entrance of the Sobieski went on for a few hundred meters. And it was just enough to go to the Kyriad, where there was nobody at that time.

    Author with Gerorge Robertson from Arcam.

    Believe it or not, but in this composition the editorial staff from “High Fidelity” met for the first time. Really! I met Krzystof for the second time in my life. Signum temporis…

    Cary electronics drove a novelty this year - WLM La Scala loudspeakers with a paper dome tweeter – the return of the ideas from the 50-ties.

    Novelty: S1 firmy Excentric Digital loudspeakers showed, that Scan-Speak drivers are still the top, and in the hands of experienced constructors may work wonders. Please look at the extremely tasteful design.

    Future at the touch of our hands: DVICO TVIX Box M-4100SH High-Definition Digital Network Multimedia player, able to reproduce all kinds of audio and video signals from a network or loaded directly on its hard disk.

    It is never too late to learn – this is wonderful, that this company was at the show - Audio Logos – specialized in literature related to the audiophile and professional sector. The most important position this year is Pro-Audio, a Polish-English and English-Polish audio recording terminology dictionary. A must have things.

    Beauty has many names… A woman next to the new ADAM A5 speakers is not a coincidence – the loudspeakers are designed to work with computers, also in recording studios, but including the iPod, so this is more than just ordinary hi-fi.

    French Focal.JMLab proposes the newest incarnation of the Utopia loudspeakers, series III. In Warsaw we could listen to the model Scala Utopia. One of the novelties is the complete separation of the modules, that can be independently set to converge in the listening point the axes of the tweeter and midrange.

    Sony returns to audio, this time with the splendid player SACD SCD-XA54000ES and multichannel receiver STR-DA54000ES.

    Bartosz Łuczak, the editorial webmaster and DTP person – at his creation, the banner representing the November cover of “High Fidelity”.

    Art Loudspeakers is a British company manufacturing loudspeakers with high efficiency. On the photo the model ‘10’ from the Emotion Deco series, with a uncommon, very nice looking cabinet in Art Deco style.

    Trafomatic Audio is a Serbian company that specializes in making transformers, which it uses in self made amplifiers. On the photo the amplifier Experience Two based on 300B tubes.

    Austrian Log Audio presented high efficiency speakers with a characteristic super-tweeter.

    The representative from Isotek presented the assets of using high grade power cables. If somebody doubts their function should have been there.

    The loudspeakers Swan and Sound Art electronics – very interesting sound and interesting design. Really good combination.

    Canadian loudspeakers Reference 3A, where the mid-woofer has no cross-over at all, and the tweeter only a capacitor and resistor.

    The Japanese company Kondo is a legend. But even a legend requires a professional presentation, otherwise there will be problems. This year, the sound of a system worth a small fortune, was incredibly weak. On the photo the amplifier KSL-Neiro and preamplifier KSL-M7.

    Fantastic turntable AN-TT3 Reference MkII Audio Note, with 2 BHP motors.

    Joint presentation of Polish companies: Batlab (Epoca III amplifier) and Gigawatt (power conditioner PC-4 and power cables). Splendid craftsmanship and interesting sound – just world level.

    ADAM wall mount loudspeakers, of course equipped with the ART tweeter - Accelerated Ribbon Technology. This was one of the surprises of the show, as the sound was better than from many expensive systems.

    The Polish company APS specializes in pro-audio and making of active speakers. They just enter the consumer market with passive version of their studio monitors – Aeon and Io.

    A marriage of studio and home technology – the loudspeakers Io in a special varnish, identical to the one used for the iPod. The latter is placed in the Wadia docking station.

    A very interesting system presented by the company Sound Club, composed of Katana loudspeakers (with ceramic drivers) from Gemme Audio, solid state electronics from Accustic Arts and tubes – those are the gigantic power triodes from the Czech KR Audio.

    Gemme Audio Katana is an example of an application of ceramic speakers in an especially nice looking enclosure.

    New models from Harpia Acoustics – the model designed to work with 300B triode amplifiers – is the bigger one) and Pogodno. Electronics – interchanged – from Luxman, Manley and Linn.

    If somebody thinks, that a high efficiency loudspeaker can only have very sparse cross-overs, then he is mistaken. The model 300B from Harpia Acoustics shows, that linearity of the impedance curve is something worth fighting for, even if it requires more work and money. As a result, the cross-over occupies half of the back plate.

    Japanese tube based electronics does not have to be expensive, what was confirmed by the company TRI with the CD and amplifier. They cooperated with Art Loudspeakers high efficiency boxes.

    Like every year good sound was coming from the room with Polish made power cables and filters – Ansae. On the first plane Spendor loudspeakers.

    Splendid electronics from the Canadian Simaudio Moon – with the awarded, by us, magnetostatic loudspeakers from Magnepan.

    Top Moon, with amplifier Simaudio Moon W8+P-8 and Andromeda player. Those beautiful loudspeakers are the Totem loudspeakers model Wind.

    Offerings from Qba – based almost exclusively on metal membrane drivers.

    Very successful, well prepared presentation of the company Crafty, with small, but noble, loudspeakers Azumi and tube electronics Yarland, resembling the Italian Unison from outside.

    Amplifier FV35A from Yarland based on the rarely used tubes 2A3 in SET setting, with two parallel tubes per channel.

    Platinum PL100 Monitor Audio with Arcam electronics. The combination was interesting, because the amplifier tuner AVR600 worked in bi-amped setting, but it seems, that those loudspeakers are worth more refined electronics…

    Luxman electronics – preamplifier C-600f, power amplifier M-600A and player DU-80 with PL300 Monitor Audio loudspeakers is a tasty composition visually and in terms of the sound.

    The newest player Audio Research CD-5 inherits almost everything from its older brother, the reference CD-7, while being much cheaper.

    Avantgarde Acoustic Nano with Ayon electronics – a new player CD-2 and preamplifier Polaris II. The room was much too small for those speakers.

    Akkus, until recently a supplier of only DIY components and kits, presented their loudspeakers from standard production – on the photo the model V3 – using Usher drivers and Soundcare Superspikes in place of traditional spikes.

    Mordaunt Short is not lucky in terms of distribution in Poland – maybe now? On the photo the top model Performance 6 LE.

    Another new brand - German Physiks with HRS 120 loudspeakers. They are based on an omnipolar transducer DDD - Dick’s Dipole Driver. The cabinet is made from woven carbon fiber.

    This was one of the best presentations – based on not very expensive Creek Destiny components and Epos loudspeakers.

    “Active” loudspeaker cables Quasarus MkII from Audionova. Their active element is the powered shield. room with various electronics (Air Tight, North Star Design, DIY). The loudspeakers were Art Loudspeakers and old Yamaha in turns. The sound was surprisingly mature, full and resolved.

    DIY sector in the room, represented by the split CD player Euphoria with the disc rotating on top like in the Ancient Audio players.

    Talcomp Production – very interesting presentation, but due to the crowd it was hard to listen to anything in the room.

    Topowe Xavian XC series loudspeakers and cult player from Abbingdon Music Research, the CD-77.

    Paradigm Signature v.2 S6, besides the NHT Classic Three with characteristic, dome midrange loudspeakers made from metal.

    Japanese absolute hi-end, the company Reimyo. The whole “available” for about 350000zł. The DAC uses exclusively the JVC K2 processor.

    Vienna Acoustics Klimt, the newest development with a moving midrange module.

    New top loudspeakers from Martin Logan, the CLX, are full-range electrostatic speakers. Powered by Krell.

    BAT room – preamplifier VK-3i SE, poweramps VK-75 SE and VK-D5SE player – with the loudspeakers Triangle Magellan Concerto SW12 it surprised with a full, saturated sound. The alternative source was the turntable Pro-Ject X-Tension with PJ12ccEVO tonearm.

    Lipinski Sound loudspeakers are studio products, made with emphasis on phase coherence. Hence the looks, resembling the Dunlavy products (a company no longer existing unfortunately). Because they do not reach far down, they should be aided with a sub-woofer.

    Linn is now the most experienced company in terms of network players. The studio-master recordings taken from the Linn pages sounded superb.

    Pulsating spheres of the tweeter and midrange drivers of the MBL loudspeakers 116 Elegance accompanied by a classic woofer. Electronics – also MBL, and the cabling – the newest top models from Tara Labs– The Zero Gold and Omega Onyx.

    Avantgarde Acoustic means not only loudspeakers, but also electronics. During the show, the mighty Trio were driven by class A monoblocs and a battery powered preamplifier. As the source the SACD Accuphase DP-700 player and the Transrotor Turbillon turntable were used.

    In the RCM room we had as usual Wolfgang Bernreuther and Rudi Bayer playing, this year with a vocalist, Beata Kossakowska. As you can see it was acoustic and electric. We could hear, how a good guitar amp really sounds.

    Exposition of the top Furutech offerings, including new stuff like the power cable Piezo Powerflux Power Cord Alpha PS-950-18E. All elements use braid carbon fiber.

    The mighty loudspeakers Magadis from ASW debuted on the show.

    Novelty from ESA, Credo 3 Illuminator loudspeakers. Those are big, two-and-a-half way loudspeakers with characteristic mid-woofers, without the cuts, but with a flower-like reinforcement. The power comes from Nagra.

    As usual, the Lodz based Audiofast made a special presentation – the system using the new acquisition, Vandersteen 5A speakers, darTZeel amplifier and dCS player. All of those are absolutely top products.

    Last year I did not like the presentation of the Krakow Ancient Audio. This time the sound was finally as I know it – full, saturated, fast and resolved. The CD player was the known Lektor Prime, and the amplifier and loudspeakers are new products: Single Six and Monitor V. Cabling – Cardas, power – Acrolink, table - EMA.

    The McIntosh system as usual split the audience in two – ones were in heaven, the others shook their heads. Maybe that is the way hi-end should be, because this is the only way, any discussion about reproduced sound can take place.




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