Qobuz - the buzz
Qobuz was the buzz at the Show, with a constant stream (sic!) of visitors to their static display.
The best description of Qobuz is an avatar of iTunes for people wanting the best quality music download/streaming at native 16/44.1 quality for a monthly subscription of 29euros a month - there is a discount for a yearly subscription.
On top, you can download some 24/96 files called Qobuz Studio Masters, a direct access to the digital master tapes of the participating record companies ((Plus Loin Music, Bee Jaz, Ambronay Editions, Zig Zag Territoires, ECM, Mirare, Aeolus, Ondine, Winter & Winter, Laborie etc...).
As a "loss leader", you can download a sample of these files for free as a visitor to the Show. Please get in touch if you want access. I have save them on a USB stick and tried to play them on my Blu-Ray Samsung player, which is capable of reading 24/192 files, but which refuses to recognise the Qobuz format.
Playing them on my PC thru my ordinary audio card and the Qobuz player feeding my extraordinary Senheiser HD212 Pro headphones gives a taste of the possibilities, but falls short of my expectations.
I will have to acquire an Oppo player...see below
As an aside, and to illustrate my point, I am currently listening to a direct broadcast from the Adelaide, a concert celebrating the 75th anniversary of the ASO - Adelaide Symphony Orchestra - on ABC Classic FM, my local FM station, streaming via the same set-up mentioned above in 24/96 and it is sublime...
Pro-Ject - Back to analogue in style
Pro-Ject was celebrating their 20th birthday with a complete line up of their current range, including some special edition for the occasion with decorated platter by famous artists.
You may have noticed that I am a Rega fan, primarily because of the quality of the RB 300 arm and its cousins.
In terms of the turnatles themselves, there is a lot of similarities between the two product lines, so I will let you debate of the respective virtues of both - why not start a thread on our recently opened Forum ?
In any case this was a beautiful display, complemented by a static display of their electronics on the other side of the alley.
Pierre Riffaud - Vinyl replay for the Kings
Well, I have to say that, in the realm of "money is no object" hifi gear, I have a sweet spot for Pierre Riffaud's contraptions...
He is the designer behind the "Epure" turntable now marketed by Micromega, and you can't prevent such a mind to get back to the drawing board and invent something even more outrageous than the Epure.
Sure, if you do not have an open cheque book, you can still buy a "Classique" turntable, or a revamped Garrard 401, one of Pierre's hobbies, but if you are anything but serious about vinyl replay, then you need a "Heritage".
If you ask for the price, then you cannot afford it!
Mass for the transport and unipivot for the arm are the keywords here, as well as the beautiful craftsmanship. We are par with the best of the best here, like the Clearaudio Statement for instance.
Point Musiques - the glue between Pierre Riffaud, Ocellia, Tosca and a few others...
Point Musiques is a very special place, and its owner, Jean-Jacques Capello, an extra ordinary man.
He spent his life educating young French people about music and HiFi during his working life as a Principal of various High Schools around France.
Now retired comfortably in the family house near Beauvais, an hour away north west of Paris, he continues to educate you and I on beautiful music reproduction systems, some more affordable than others, but all capable of disappearing to reveal the beauty of the music and the talent of the musicians, whether recorded on one the 4000 vinyls or CDs in his collection, all documented on his MacBook, but interestingly not saved in digital format in iTunes.
He was instrumental in bringing Tosca, Pierre Riffaud, Ocellia and Metronome Technologie together on a shared stand at the Show. Quite an achievement!
To pay tribute to people like Jean-Jacques Capello, I am starting a new page on this site called "Interviews & Reviews" where I will write longer articles featuring HiFi shops I visited, products I had a chance to listen too in more details - we may even start measuring some of them - or dissect a technical topic, like ADC and DAC conversion...so stay tunesd and come back to visit this new page.
Oppo - the most universal video player that also sounds great!
Oppo had only a static display at the Show, hooked up to a new 50' Samsung display - just the image quality by itself was quite stunning.
But I have heard - but not - through the grapevine, that this is also the best sounding affordable CD, SACD and CDHD player!
You can buy one online for about 1000$, and you can get a top of the range model in europe for 1500 euros.
It is certainly more expensive than my Samsung Blu-Ray player, but certainly not out of reach for a number of people.
I can't wait to put one to the aural test of my ageing, but nevertheless quite educated ears!
Ocellia - the most unorthodox speakers
Setting aside all acquired speaker design wisdom, Samuel Furon,
the designer of the Ocellia range, decided to start from a blank canvas and use his regular attendances to live classical music concerts to try to build a full range speaker that would give him the same pleasure and emotion than a live performance.
To achieve his goals, he uses drivers from another French company, PHY-HP, who makes extraordinary full range drivers with very high efficiency. Although quite different in the profile of their paper cones, they do have a sounding familiarity with our beloved Supravox 215RTF. However, they bring another level of performance and subtlety to this vintage icon.
Two drivers 21cm and 16cm conducted Samuel to design a big and a small Ocellia.
The big one can be complemented with one or two piezoelectric tweeters, also from PHY-HP.
The cabinets are very light and act more the case of a cello than the rigid and enclosed designs we are used to. Internally there is some diffraction structures on the sides of the cabinet to prevent unwanted reflections.
There is no filter between the full range driver and the tweeter(s). Wiring is with silver cables designed by Ocellia.
The result is astonishing of transparency, details, dynamic range, absence of coloration.
You completely forget that you are listening to a hifi system, specially when you sit comfortably in an old stone farmhouse of epic proportions, where a chamber orchestra could well be performing live for you.
A must to listen to, if you can find somebody who has such a beautiful instrument!
In terms of turntables, all the usual suspects were present( Pro-Ject, Rega, Michell, Linn, Roksan...) but these are gadgets compared with the MASSIVE "Heritage" from Pierre Riffaud!
Some may recall PR was the designer of the famous "Epure" 20 odd years ago.
Epure was sold to Micromega and is still availble today for a mere 12,900 euros...
The new "Heritage" is based on some of the same principles, the main one by Pierre's own admission being MASS
The Epure weights 85Kgs, the Heritage even more...
Pierre has also invented a new 12" unipivot arm customised to suit your cartridge. It is a curious piece of mechanical engineering which looks like a cross between a Russian Church and a minaret (All this doesn't sound very catholic...does it?- Hopefully my French speaking readers will enjoy the punt - apologies to all the other ones).
These two products combined are supposed to be the ultimate vynil reading machine, available on Pierre's money and time (undisclosed...) terms.
Once you engage PR to deliver your ultimate vynil experience, you are in the same realm as when engaging star Australian Architect Glen Murcutt to design your house; You know it is going to be your own and very special possession, but you can't tell when it will be ready to enjoy and how much it is going to cost you, although I suspect it is cheaper to build a Glen Murcut designed house than a Pierre Riffaud turntable ( I am lucky enough to work with Glen - and his son Nicholas - in my professional life...so hopefully Glen will forgive me for this comment...)
Now, if you can't afford the time and money for this "Haute Couture" vynil machine, then maybe you have an old Garrard 401 in need of TLC. PR just happen to have a surgery to bring these oldies to a modern standard, keeping all their original qualities, and getting rid of their original sin(s), and in between fits the more mundane "Classique" turntable, more or less for the price of a Bryston 3B!
Unfortunately, PR had only a static display at the Show and one would have to travel 60kms north of Paris chez Jean-Jacques Capello of "Point Musiques" a very private showroom in a very private "demeure bourgeoise".
The location is way past CDG Airport, so I didn't get a chance of a listen, and it is a shame as JJC has assembled electronics and speakers of French design and very much "outside the square" the main brand being Ocellia.
I will certainly pay Jean-Jacques a visit over my next trip to France (sorry, but you will probaly have to wait until July 2011 for this review...)
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.