Well, this is always my favourite part of going to any hifi show. I am still fascinated after more than four decades being in the trade to see how many people are still designing new - or not so new - speakers of all sorts of technologies, shape, size and colour. i often caught myself inventing new speakers in my head - sometime putting these ideas on paper and more recently going to the prototype phase. Trust me, it is a disease, and it is highly contagious! So you have been warned...
This show, I concentrated on a few favourites and also on some brands that I never had a chance to listen to properly. So here they are without further ado.
Speakers from OZ
The best speakers at the Show - and they are Australians - Kyron Audio
Well, call me biased, but I have watched Lee and Leon for three years now, going about their business of designing the best possible speaker in the World, and I was suitably impressed by their first product introduced here in Melbourne two years ago: the Gaia. Based on the open baffle principle and inspired by Siegfried Linkwittz, it integrated the best techniques of analog compensation for the baas, digital filtering and equalisation from DEXQ, also based in Melbourne, as well as Hypex Class D amplifiers, the best implementation of that technology by its inventor. At 180K$, nobody was expecting to sell hundreds and it didn't! But, Lee and Leon were not going to be stopped by limited commercial success, so they started designing a new product, much less expensive, smaller and with a much better WAF index. Enter the Kronos, a great example of design along the lines of form follows function. It is impeccably manufactured, the electronics have actually improved compared to the Gaia, and it comes at less than half the price! As far as I concerned, it is the most accurate, transparent and musical speaker I have listened to so far. You might have to sell an investment property to afford it, but it is definitely worth your money. Besides, you just need to add a source, CD, Steamer, or a good old turntable and phono stage. Enough talk, go and arrange a listen...
We listened to my French percussionist, so I could properly compared to the Wilson Audio, and the Kronos won!
Other notable speakers
Our next and final episode will be dedicated to valves, not because I am a big fan, but because they can be very beautiful objects...Stay tuned!
More and more people were using digital files on iPads, PCs, Macs, streamers of all sorts, so it was quite frustrating to see just a few CD players and a reasonable quantity of turntables. Here is my selection.
The British contingent: Naim and Cambridge Audio
A treat to finish this post: Wilson Audio, dcs Vivaldi, Clearaudio and D'Agostino
This is - give or take a few components - Ken Kessler's reference system. He calls the D'Agostino suite of products the best amplification in the World. We listened to a French percussionist that I carried around the Show - virtually - on a USB stick. It is a live recording and although it is "only" 16/44.1Khz it is one of the most amazing recording I have heard - period! It was sent to me with my old buddy, Alain Wacquet, who knows the artist personally. There is a passage where there is quite a rolling of drums and the D'Agostino got a bit of a workout...see photo of the power meter below. And I couldn't capture the highest peak 2/3 to the right...
It was certainly an amazing rendition and for my first encounter with that combination of two iconic products, I was certainly not disappointed, but...you will have to come back tomorrow for a bit of a surprise!
The Venue: Intercontinental Hotel at Rialto Towers
One can count on Melbourne for classy architecture! And this renovation is certainly the proof in the pudding.
On top, we had fabulous weather and the best coffee - although expensive - and a very decent buffet lunch to break the - long - day... I flew in just for the day on the second Virgin Australia flight - together with Len Wallis by chance - and returned on the last flight - a 16-hour day but well worth the effort.
Before I go any further, I would like to apologise in advance for the poor quality of some of my photos. My dear Olympus PEL-1 is showing signs of ageing - well, it is MY camera after all - and its autofocus is very poor in low lighting conditions. Thanks God, Christmas is not too far away!
Where are the French???
Not that I was expecting to see a lot of French products here, but it is always good to reconnect with some of my compatriots and French products. The disappointment came from the absence of Cabasse, Triangle and Waterfall Audio.
However, it was a surprise to see YBA now distributed in Australia by Audio Heaven and Elipson by Audio Dynamics who are also starting to distribute Davis Acoustics, the company founded by the late Michel Visan and now run by his wife and his two sons. Focal was there as usual in the good hands of Audio Marketing and the big noise was coming from Devialet, also imported by Audio Heaven and Avation. Even VAF was using them for driving their fabulous loudspeakers! Even, Doug Graham from Naim Audio came in for a listen - or did he see the writing on the wall and tried to get a new job? It would be a good way to rekindle the Auld Alliance! Just kidding...
French Electronics: Devialet, YBA
French Speakers: Focal, Elipson, Davis Acoustics
Stay tuned for more reviews in the coming days!
If you have a tight schedule at the Show, then go straight to Room 312 to listen to the new Kronos by Kyron Audio.
You know of my keen interest for open baffle speaker and having had inside information about this new "baby' - so to speak, compared to the Gaia... - and I have been trepidating for some time in anticipation.
A last minute impediment almost prevented me to attend the Show, but I managed to spare Saturday to pay Lee and Leon a visit at the Intercontinental at the Rialto Towers. Unfortunately, there will be no time to try "Vue du Monde" the famous restaurant of Shannon Bennett on top of one these towers.
The Kronos are a fabulous contraption with a 300% raise in their WAF compared to the Gaia. It will help that there also a tad less expensive...
Another exhibit that I missed in Paris and Melbourne two years ago was the Dan D'Agostino stand. It was static in Paris (go figure...) and ran out of time at the last Show in Melbourne. Glad I waited, though as we now have a full range of products, including the recently released preamp. Ken Kessler reckons this is the best amplification in the World. Let's see if I am trading in my Bryston - don't worry too much Brian! - They will be in Room 440.
Bryston will have a big room called "Stock", Another amplifier worth your time is Devialet shown in rooms 403 and 410 and one of the few French companies present at the Show, in good company with Elipson and Focal.
Cabasse and Waterfall seem to be absent from the Show Guide, but we might have a last minute surprise!
I will tell you all about the Show next week!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.