There was obviously a plethora of turntables, even though digital files were never far away. One wealthy distributor had even brought his own Studer pro tape machine to play first copies of master acquired through very special connections. A treat!
I missed my friends from Bryston, Kyron Audio and Brigadier Audio, but the last two had just broken the piggy bank to attend the Newport Hifi Show in the US of A, a show with a lot more exposure for their very special speakers indeed...
There was, surprinsigly, only a handful of Australian manufacturers, and I was the only French thing in sight, besides a static display of Cabasse speakers and Audio Aero imported by Osborn.
Holton Precision Audio - Ex Nihilo Amplifier - Tasmania
And it is beautiful too, the chassis being machined in Switzerland, a country that has produced other fabulous sound machines like Stellavox or Nagra, not to mention Goldmund, Alumine and a few others..
We were treated to listening to these beauties (it takes two to tango...) on some open baffle speakers from Israel, Pure Audio Project. See below for my take on these speakers.
Quoting his website here says it all and certainly reflects my opinion:
"After several years of experimentation the Mark 1 Epitome was born. This speaker easily eclipsed the best of the references used in their design and they captured the heart and soul of those that heard them. The same ideals are reflected in the present generation of speakers where each instrument is separated from the next and operates in its own acoustic space. They have spectacular dynamic range with no dynamic compression and awesome bass response, so that the potential power of the orchestra can be sensed by the listener even during quiet passages. Osborn Loudspeakers put back what has been missing from reproduced music: life, excitement and satisfaction.
Although the three larger models epitomize the designers goals, he at least appreciates that people live in real houses and usually have real wives who can see no reason why the living room should be dominated by something as imposing as the Monuments or the Epitomes. The Eclipse was the major attempt to bridge the two ideals. It is large enough to be able to reproduce deep bass and it is lightning fast, with a sound out of all proportions to its size."
VAF Research speakers
And now let's have a look at the foreign contingent...
The room set up was no ideal, as I think the speakers were too far apart to produce the kind of image these type of speakers are capable of. But,eh, every exhibitor had some of the same problem. After must tergiversations, we finally managed to plug my famous USB stick in the system and play these percussions from Jean-Pierre Drouet, one of my definite test.
It played quite well, maybe not as accurately as the Kronos from Kyron Audio, but still very realistic with good timing and slew rate, but the timbres were not as precisely rendered.
Mind you, these are also a lot less expensive that the Kronos... Great looking speakers!
German Physics, Ypsilon electronics and Studer tape machine
Ypsilon and German Physics need no introduction and we have covered them before on this blog. I like these german speakers much better than their MBL "cousins".
Fed by either first copies of master tapes running on the Studer or from the Doehmann Helix turntable, the result was some of the finest listening sessions of classical music or jazz at the Show. I did spend an inordinate amount of time there, just because I could...
PureAudioProject - Open Baffle in kit form (almost...)
One interesting thing is that they are shipped flat packed and ready to assemble by the end-user, IKEA like. They are also very affordable, in the same price range as the now famous Emerald Physics from the US of A.
Curiously, I was far less impressed by the "grand modèle" using Morel drivers (also from Israel).
I thought they sounded more brittle and the timbres were not accurately reproduced. Unfortunately there was no possibility to plug my now (in)famous USB stick, so I could not test them with material I knew intimately. These larger speakers are not on their website yet, so let's give them the benefit of the doubt and consider them at prototypes for the moment.
Harbeth - Un grand classique
The construction, manufacturing and finish is outstanding although very dated in terms of look, a real vintage winner with a modern twist.
A couple of electronics from the USA and China
Bricasti Design - USA
Brian travels the World to show his wares with his own pair of speakers (Accuton) and his demos are some of the best you can get as he not only knows his gear, but his music as well.
I have never heard them before and it was quite a revelation. Besides Brian looks and talks like an HP engineer, so we got along just fine... I was expecting Siegfried Linkwitz to walk in any minute...
You should visit their website, as there a number of interviews of pro users raving not only about the sonic qualities of these electronics, but also about the care taken in their manufacturing!
Melody - China
Unfortunately, the Chinese music being played almost exclusively was not familiar or should I dare say enjoyable to be able to give them a fair judgement and hopefully I will have a chance one day to listen to them on material that I know. Just from the manufacturing quality and aesthetics point of view, they certainly look the part and I expect them to perform accordingly!