I can't believe it has been a year already since I was last in Melbourne for the previous Show!
I woke up at 4.00am to catch the first flight from Sydney and was in Melbourne way before the opening time. Walking from Spencer Street Station to the Intercontinental is only a 15 mins walk, invigorating as the cold Melbourne morning air was "au rendez-vous". And the place was packed with 70,000 Jehovah Witnesses attending their annual gathering at the near by Etihad Stadium. Quite a sight and a very polite, well dressed and orderly procession, it was!
With 42 exhibitors and maybe 50 rooms to visit, it is not a huge show, but all the important players in the local market and their suppliers are committed to give the audience a good time!
And a good time I had, indeed...So here is my report organised in a different format, as I can!
Involve Audio - The most innovative product and it is Australian!
Combine electrostatic speakers, innovative signal processing technology, and a hint of vintage quadraphony and you are close enough to describing Involve Audio. Here are a few diagrams that might help understand how it works. And by the way, it does work!
The interesting thing is that technically, you could use your own speakers and definitely your own amplifiers, as they are not part of the system. However, the way the speakers are designed, they take full advantage of the decoded signal and will bring you the best surround sound result.
I actually find the look of the speakers quite interesting and they sound pretty good at the price.
Kyron Audio - the most awarded product before and during the Show
If you follow me on this blog, you will know that it is no secret that I really like those speakers - actually, I should say this system. I have been a great advocate since the beginning of Leon and Lee adventure with the Gaia, and now there is no excuses for not considering buying their gear, with the introduction of the Kronos. You need only a source to play music, and that be be your audio files on your computer, iDevices or Androids, and why not connecting an OPPO player and a turntable. That should leave you some spare cash out of a 100K$ to buy more vinyls...
And I have been vindicated by Michael Fremer of Stereophile fame who could not find enough praise for the Kronos on his blog Analog Planet: http://www.analogplanet.com/content/kyron-audios-kronos-best-sounding-system-you-will-ever-hear.
Michael was invited at the Show to run a turntable masterclass and he was enticed to go and have a listen to the Kronos. The boys were a bit nervous, I heard, but then they got over it!
The cutest products
I didn't get a chance to listen to these cuties, but I have found memories of discovering WOO at the CES in 2012, where their minimalist look and great sound opened my mind to this genre.
I will have a whole chapter of this review on headphones, miniDACs and amp in episode 2.
SONY - the most innovative and coherent offer in AV
Very good private demo of the various capabilities of the Hi-Res Audio new products from SONY, coupled with the amazing 85" - that's 2.15m diagonal! The video signal processing, the hi-speed refresh rate and the new pixel technology make you feel more looking at a slide projector than a TV screen. Who remembers the first demos by Dr Faroudja at CEDIA in the 90s. Incroyable!
The audio side of things was not as stunning, but it was very good indeed for a Japanese designed speaker. I like the new three-part tweeter. Things were on the brighter side as a result.
Where are the French?
Although these four French brands of speakers have reputable distributors in Australia, none of them chose to show their French wares at the Show, and I believe the Aussie audiophiles are missing out on some great products. Hopefully this will be different next year.
Devialet had team up with Athom and a special edition of their GT-1 to give us one of the most spectacular demo of the Show. No sub, just two very good bookshelf speakers. The CD transport was provided by OPPO, although the DAC in use was the Deviate. The speakers were also further equalised with the proprietary SAM technology which covers about 60 different speakers as of today, but up to 200 before the end of the year. The system is keenly priced as well.
Most speaker designers follow some of the same principles and end up with different box designs, relying on proprietary drivers, esoteric loading, complex crossover and cabinet geometries variations to deliver what each believes to be the best sound at that price point.
On the other hand a few, like Kyron Audio, Siegfried Linkwitz and the two culprits here, Brodmann and DC10Audio make wonders out of designs that are not following the book.
I have been willing to find out about these speakers in real life for quite a while, as I suspected that although their design is very unconventional, they might actually work very well. And guess what? I was quite impressed! And yes they were very well fed by a YBA CD transport, an Allnic DAC and an YBA amplifier, and I was welcome to play one of my favourite CDs - Patricia Barber's Cafe Blue, A Taste of Honey on HDCD - and the high sensitivity coupled with the horn dispersion made it for a very smooth, dynamic and precise sound. And they look gorgeous too...WAF!
I have discovered these speakers at the CES in 2012 and was quite intrigued by them. I have since had a chance to listen to them numerous times here in Australia with mixed results. But at this Show, they were paired with Thrax - which I first heard driving Kaiser speakers - and an Ypsilon CD transport which i love the look of - and the result was mesmerising. Having just not one, but two tweeters on the front baffle for the top of the range model shown here (a no no in MY book...) and the bass-midrange drivers on the side of the cabinets, you need a particularly good positioning to reproduce the sort of diffuse sound that you experience in the concert hall when you are far away from the orchestra. These speakers are amazing on classical orchestral music, and at reproducing cellos, one of my favourite instruments. Thumbs up!
A few turntables for good measure
That's it for Episode 1! On the next and final episode, I will review DACs and headphones and their partnering amps, all the major British brands including my report on the private listening session of the Statement amplifier and associated gear from NAIM. And obviously, all the nice Australian gear like Legend, Richter, Osborne and Krix. Until then...good night!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.