Monday, September 19, 2005

Helsinki Audio & Vision Expo 2005

Yours truly attended last week-end Hifi Magazine's Audio & Vision Expo in Helsinki, Finland. You can read show report at Highendnews' Web-site, under Industry News.

Overall expression was that this year there were several decent sounding rooms. I personally feel that to provide detailed listening reports from hi-fi exhibitions is waste of time for various reasons. First, like in this case, exhibition was organized in the hotel and like we all know, hotel rooms are not designed to be optimal acoustic environments. Second, very few dealers can spend enough time to optimise the system. Ask yourself how much time you personally have spent to obtain maximum sound from your system. And third, any attempt to critically listen to microdynamics of a system is futile in an environment where other organizers' systems and attendees' voices overload your ears (and eyes, those showgirls...).

Having said that, if a system sounds good in an hi-fi show, then it has potential to sound great in a good environment. In this context some systems were promising. I and two other fellows from Highendnews (audio editor Ari-Martti Pohtola and publisher Mikko Mattila) were privileged to play (LOUD!) JM Lab Grande Utopia Bes after show hours, the "audiophile recording" in this case was Rammstein's Los track from Reise, Reise album. I've listened to Grande Utopias as well as smaller (everything is relative) Nova Utopia Bes before, but this time I was impressed. The Be tweeter revealed astonishing amount of detail that put my highly-revealing Revel Studios in shame: extremely extended and transparent, yet never harsh. The transient response and physical appearance of low frequencies were highly convincing. We also played earlier all-acoustic recordings, which showed the depth and totality of the Utopias' neutrality. Kudos to a local dealer who had courage to bring Utopias in a public display.

The other potentially great sound was found in Kruunuradio's (the oldest hifistore in Helsinki) room - and could not be more in contrast to €70.000 JM Labs. Evidently Kruunuradio has cooperated with Gradient Loudspeaker's renowned designer Mr. Jorma Salmi to bring onto market an inexpensive two-way mini-monitor. In order to provide attractive price/performance ratio the speakers are to be manufactured in low-cost country and to be sold under dealer's own brand. We were literally blew out of the water. These little suckers sounded way, way better than their suggested price point indicates - actually after our positive feed-back price evidently went up ;). At €500 a pair (new price point) the dealer in a question better be careful, these speakers carry a significant opportunity cost factor and might actually substitute sales of higher price point speakers. We had to go back twice in order to substantiate our assessment.

Running out of space, so just few other positive remarks. The debut of PenAudio's latest "auditional wellbeing", €2.590 a pair Alba presented highly resolving capabilities, and Crevasse's production-ready horn loaded ribbon loudspeakers (around €9.500) showed much improved integration of woofer. I'll be attending Brussels Hi-Fi show in early October, so stay tuned for additional coverage.

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