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Show coverage
Audio Show 2010

6-7.11.2010 (Saturday, Sunday)

Hotel Jan III Sobieski, Hotel Kyriad, Hotel Bristol

Adam Mokrzycki Services

tel.: 602 26 86 20


Edition: XIV

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Photographs: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

I just finished writing the reportage from the Audio Show 2010 for “Audio”, where I publish the reports from Audio Show in Warsaw, High End in Munich and IFA in Berlin since seven or eight years – I do not remember. Writing two different reportages at the same time, and this is rule, is not easy. Because it requires a response to the question: what do I want to write about. And although it seems to be the most important question, from the reportages I have read it does not appear, that it was posed. I do not want to seem more saint than I am, I do make mistakes. But with shows, I must be more to the point than usual, and define the specifics of the magazine, for which the reportage will be written – as each one is different and reaches different readers. This year, I do not see how I could manage to do that. This time it is the Show, that imposed a point of view on me, and I need to touch things common for everybody. This will be a different reportage, but the common points will be more visible than before.

Readers point of view

First of all I would like to cite parts of two emails, which I received from the HF readers, and which will be good introduction to the topic – this is good, well balanced text, with which we can agree or not agree:

“For me (with all restrictions) the sound of the show was in the HiFi Club room (VPI turntable with Lyra Titan cartridge, VTL electronics with 6550 tube monoblocks and the loudspeakers Thiel CS3.7); describing it with one word – a tube amplifier, but with the necessary amount of energy, and this needs KT88 tubes and not 300B.
I must confess, than I am not a fan of the 300B tube, and I have not yet heard an amplifier using it, which I would like to have at home (including the integrated Ancient Audio, which I listened with the Harpia Acoustics Grand 300B – brrr….). That was until I visited the JAG Electronics room (Mr. Gryglewski), who managed to create an almost budget integrated amplifier (9000zl) based on the 300B Full Music. That amplifier, combined with the company own loudspeakers, built around Goodman’s wide range drivers, topped with a small ribbon tweeter supporting the treble, welded me tight to the chair I was sitting on, and I could not move for over an hour. Pure revelation!
The problem of this system is the fact, that it is unique – the elements used by Mr. Dariusz determine the final effect.
Many disappointments – the first one was the incredibly expensive Lyngdorf/Steinway system (which – according to the exhibitor – could not handle adjustment to the acoustics of the exhibition room with closed curtains, and could play only with them being open (sic!), and that also quite poorly, unless the listener is fond of listening to an audiophile mass in a gothic church). In my humble opinion the constructor went wrong with the Room Perfect system, as well on the gigantic open baffle speakers (much better sounding open baffles were made by the Polish company Ardento from Bydgoszcz – here the constructor did it well, although he claims not to know how he did it ).
Mr. Adamek (RCM) defended the system playing with the Isophon loudspeakers for unknown reasons, as it sounded bad in my opinion, the sound seems dry and “thin”, distortion on the bass could also be heard – maybe this was due to the acoustics of the room; but Mr. Adamek had a second system with the Zingali speakers, which sounded beautifully – with a full, natural sound, not submitting to the acoustics of the room, despite the phono stage made by Mr. Adamek, which I tested at home, and of which I know the pro’s and con’s.
I was greatly disappointed in the Ancient Audio room – the system with the digital source and monoblocks using the “devils” sounded in a slightly damped way, as if through a gauze, loosing sometimes the necessary sharpness and fire in a recording. I do not know what was the reason for that, but monoblocks using the same tubes made by Mr. Głowinski from Lodz, combined with HUM loudspeakers (with Lowther drivers) sounded much better (not even mentioning how less costly was that second system). Actually I think, that the digital sources are still worse than others, and for me the only system playing real music, that used a digital source was Audiofast (Audio Research and Wilson Audio).
Other interesting things were the amplifiers Viva, loudspeakers Voxativ, Ktema and maybe Zeta Zero, but the last ones I could not hear for longer.
I had of course more impressions, but I will not bore you to death with those.”

And again:
“Having the opportunity, I will allow myself another digression. I have the idea (confirmed by some of the exhibitors) that the acoustics on AS were awful. I heard some of the displayed systems in better conditions, where they sounded much better. Is there really no place in Poland, where the acoustics would be at least acceptable? I know, that this is not only a Polish problem – I was two or three years ago on a similar Audio Show (I do not remember the name) in Vienna, where it also was done in hotel rooms. And? The same thing – an acoustic nightmare, but there was a group of exhibitors, who’s systems sounded better than others. I noticed, that this group used, almost unanimously, old Garrard turntables (from the 300 and 400 series). I asked about this phenomenon Mr. David Haigner, the manufacturer of very interesting loudspeakers (, an engineer, musician and acoustics specialist (who designed many concert halls in Austria). He responded, that the Austrian exhibitors found out, that in that hotel, the problem is related to a specific frequency range, and then, using cut and try method came to the conclusion, that the old Garrard turntables eliminate this problem (unfortunately I do not remember the part about frequencies, resonances, damping, etc) – and this is why they were so popular during the show.” J. (name known by the editors)

Why doesn’t it sound well? Pt. 1

As you can see, the first and most important issue we have to talk about, is the quality of the presentation related to the acoustics of a given room and hotel. “Hotel sound” bugs the exhibitors for a long time, regardless of their country of origin, the country the show takes place, the manufacturer, distributor and listener. Not even mentioning the organizer of the event. For a long time the sound sources – turntables – were blamed for the bad sound. Those are complicated electromechanical devices, very difficult to being properly setup, and during the show always badly regulated. Besides that, the turntable should work in a given room (with a given temperature and humidity) for a few days, to work in. This is pure physics. As you can clearly see, it cannot be done well on an audio show, you have to count on your part of luck and you need lots of experience in that area. And this is probably one of the most important factors to that very differentiated sound during the shows, including this year’s Audio Show. Because I heard very good presentations using a turntable and very bad ones. Within the good ones the HiFi Club had an outstanding presentation, as well as Gerhard Hirt in the Nautilus room. Also the Systemdek in Pełne Brzmienie and the SME 30/2 in the RCM room were good. And here you can see another problem I touched – I just agreed with the reader in some part, and disagreed in another part. I will return to that in a moment. This is interesting, because this state of things (turntable = problem) is history, at least to a large extent – although in Munich, as that show is for me the reference one, the sound with a turntable as the sound source differed largely, but did not fall below a certain level. It was almost always very energetic, dynamic and had a very good timbre. The presentations differed in details, but the two elements: energy and timbre, were the common divider. There is something in the “physiological” sound of the vinyl, that makes a decently setup turntable sound in a very involving way even in very difficult conditions. I can confirm the thesis from the letter, talking about the supremacy of the Garrards – they, and the Thorens TD124, sound almost always very well. I am not able to verify the information about a certain frequency range, which can be compensated in a certain way, but I can point to one thing. In my opinion those “antiques” owe their nice sound to their simple construction – they are not decoupled and do not have a drive belt, which have to adapt. But this is not the thing I wanted to talk about. In the quoted email, the reader talked about a general supremacy of the analog sources over the digital ones. This is a valuable opinion, but I do not fully agree. I know many digital sources, which sound splendidly, not worse than turntables. Of course some elements are not interchangeable, I mean that vinyl will always have something that the digital sources do not, but it works also the other way round. In my opinion, the problem is elsewhere: vinyl always sounds pleasant – many times not fully right, maybe not too “high fidelity”, but always nice. That is why it is easier to cover the flaws of the system using it, flaws quickly exposed by the digital sources. I think, that the problem for the digitals is, that they are not so forgiving, and not their flaws. And this is a problem of the systems, and not the sources. And the CD players get blamed? Well, we have to find the guilty party…

Why doesn’t it sound well? Pt. 2

CD or SACD is of course not the whole world of digital sources. As you can see on the pictures, and as it came out from the discussions and correspondence with you, we all noticed, that many presentations used file players or computers as the sound source. This is a trend, which I noticed in the reportages from the last two High End Shows (2010 HERE , 2009 HERE), and it has also arrived in Poland. I think, that everything points to the fact, that this will be the successor of the CD, even if the physical carrier will be available for the coming few years. It has fantastic assets, like high resolution of the files, which are a copy of the master tape, the ability to purchase them over the internet, etc. This is a giant step forward, at least in theory. Yes – theoretically, because we can see, that it is only the beginning of the road. My interlocutor showed in his email to the weak, except for one presentation, quality of the sound from those kind of sources during the Audio Show 2010. I concur with that statement. This is a problem, that touches not only the Polish exhibitors, but audio shows in general. Like I say, this is not how it should be – files are a chance to surpass the very limited CD format (SACD is a very niche one, and CD did not yet make its final statement, but the format is going to die). But the file players do not sound as they should. And again – why? There are a few valid answers. For me the most important one is that, what I mentioned talking about turntables: most users cannot configure them properly in an audio show setting.

First a computer and an external DAC. Many users think, that a computer “plays” on its own. This is bullshit – this is a complicated tool, which needs to be properly configured: use the proper drivers, configure them properly, use the proper software and finally provide it with well prepared files. Like I say, the files do not have “history”. Although tags can be written, they can also be edited, what strips them from any credibility. A well prepared file is difficult to be created. The easiest way is to use files prepared by specialist companies like Naim, Chesky or Linn, because those are copies from the master tapes. But if we create the files ourselves, we should know how to do it right. The next thing is a good DAC, and most often a USB one. And this in not easier. Everything combines to the digital source being harder to configure than a turntable. Really. It should be easier with file players, but here we also have “numb” files, without history, and problems with the players themselves: those are in fact specialized computers, what means a high level of complication, far away from the “ampliwire” concept. This is why for me the new format SDMusA is ideal. I mentioned it in the lead article. I listened to the system during the Audio Show, and in my opinion it sounded very well. Much better than the CD based system last year. This is a really valuable technical novelty, because besides the wealth of options it provides, it eliminates the computer from the sound path, which other systems use.

Why doesn’t it sound well? Pt. 3

And so we come to the thing, that seemed so important to me this year – my observations do not match with almost no other review I know, with stories from my friends, with emails from readers, etc. The mail I quoted in the beginning is a good example for that. And at the same time it is written in such a way, that it does not provoke aggression or fight, but discussion. For the first time I see such big discrepancies between my experience and the views of others. In case of that email I already mentioned a few things, but we need to add the case of the file player and the Sophia 3 (it did not sound well for me), RCM – Zingali did not sound for me at all (they sounded much better at my home), and on the other hand I liked the Isophon. And so on. This is the reason, that I do not feel capable to give out the Best Sound award for the Audio Show 2010. There are many rooms, that need to be prized, but mostly because of the professional presentation – and that was not depending on the room, the setup of the turntable, computer, etc., but only on the professionalism and good will of the exhibitors staff. This is why I liked the room of Audio Center Poland with Arcam and Monitor Audio, the presentation of Gerhard Hirt with the Avantgarde Acoustics, Ayon and Lumen White turntable, traditionally the presentation of the HiFi Club with the VTL, Thiel and VPI turntable, the Zeta Zero presentation (except for the scattered electronics). It was also nice in the room, because those were real emotions, the presentations were made before our eyes – DIY in the best possible version. As always the exhibition of Moje Audio with the system Lecontoure Lavardin, which I tested (and which sounded way better at my home), and the WLM in the Audio System room. The latter one used files, and it was one of the few rooms with a computer which sounded well. Also the ascetic presentation of Naim was quite good, and the Art Audio room with the Systemdek turntable was to my liking. And another ascetic room – Linn Polska, nothing interfered with the listening. And I liked the RCM presentations. Those are of course not all the rooms, but the ones I remember.

Why a hotel?

Yes – memory… I repeat that every time: a journalist is a human being, and he behaves like that. This means, that we cannot be everywhere and we cannot remember everything, and mention everything later on. During audio shows this is superimposed on a big randomness of listening sessions – either we enter when there is the right moment, music, amount of people, or not. Hence the approaches to evaluate the sound are so provisory, and the initial impressions are so important. This randomness is deepened by the total lack of correlation between the system and the sound, created by all those elements, but mostly by the terrible acoustics of the hotel rooms. This is the reason, that your question why the Sobieski hotel (as this is the one in question) is used to host the Show, seems legitimate. But the problem is more complicated and cannot be easily answered. The first issues are historical. When 14 years ago the Audio Show started, nobody wanted to talk with the organizer, Adam Mokrzycki, who was 19 at that time. Only Sobieski agreed to meet him, and it was not an easy discussion. The hotel management was not easy convinced to move the furniture out of so many rooms. Even now it is hard to find a hotel, that would do that. The hotels do not need complications – and a show of that scale (this year 8000 visitors) means big complications. You could ask – why at all a hotel? The Munich High End uses the exhibition halls from the M.O.C. complex, and year after year the sound there is better. But the problem remains the same – we do not have such a place. And until it is there we do not have anything to talk about.

As you can see the Audio Show is not only the “extortion of the organizer”, “give-away of the organizer”, “inability of the exhibitors”, “bad systems”, “awful sound”, “lack of deodorant” and “moronic music”. Lots of elements come together to built a whole. And even solving all of them will not bring us closer to nirvana. Bartek Chaciński, the culture anthropologist, writes in his newest dictionary Wyż nisz: “All audiophiles are united by one common goal: to find the Holy Grail, which is called high end for this hobbyist group – this is more than hi-fi, a stereo system, that you “cannot hear”. An ideal one, giving the ultimate listening experience. Having such a system means, that there is a moment, when we do not need to save more money, because we are happy with what we have – and we start to listen to music. At least in theory, because this is a moment, which – let me add that – does never come, because you can always find something better. And when it comes, the whole thing becomes difficult, because we become satisfied people, and we stop being audiophiles.” (B. Chaciński, Wyż nisz, Kraków 2010, p. 22.) Because we maybe are called “human beings”, but deeply inside, we are what we are: “audiophiles”.

Previous reportages:

Audio Show 2009 HERE
Audio Show 2008 HERE
Audio Show 2007 HERE
Audio Show 2006 HERE
Audio Show 2005 HERE
Audio Show 2004 HERE

At the very end – the next show will be the 15th edition. Noblesse oblige, so the organizer already announced, that we can expect two concerts of Antonio Forcione, the guitar virtuoso, the star of the Naim Label, and the presentations of Michael Fremer, the editor of the American “Stereophile”, who will present, how you should setup your turntable. Until then, you can visit his portal “MusicAngle”. This is the hot news. But there will be more interesting things happening…

P.S. 2
I have to tell about some devices, that I deem most interesting, I cannot control myself :)

  • loudspeakers Zendo OB1 from the Polish company Ardento with an open baffle
  • system
  • system from Nautilus: Ayon Crossfire II, CD Ayon CD5s, turntable Lumen White Mystere, loudspeakers Avantgarde Acoustic Duo Mezzo
  • integrated amplifier from the Polish company JAG Electronics 300B MkII
  • SD card player SDMusA
  • system Hi-Fi Club – most of all the turntable Aries 3 VPI
  • loudspeakers Isophon Berlina RC7
  • loudspeakers Ascendo System M/S
  • turntable preamplifier Aesthetix Callisto Eclipse
  • N-Audio electronics
  • Idhos amplifiers
  • Arcam rDAC
  • loudspeakers Pro Individual using Goerlich drivers
  • top loudspeakers Sundial Supremus
  • phonostage Phasemation EA-1II (before Phase Tech)
  • amplifier Sophia Electric 300B
  • Italian amplifiers Viva Audio
  • Polish amplifiers Elins Audio
  • stained glass with disc covers in the Studio 16 Hertz room
  • loudspeakers AVCON Avalanche
  • turntable Systymdek 3D
  • bases Franc Audio Accessories
  • bases Pro Audio Bono
  • power amplifier Audio Note Vindicator
  • loudspeakers Ktema

I will try to test as many of the mentioned products as possible. I like them.


  • system Steinway & Lyngdorf
  • system Lowther Club & Kustagon

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"High Fidelity OnLine" is an internet magazine, published since may 2004, devoted to high quality reproduction of sound and picture. It is a monthly magazine, but the articles are uploaded twice a month - in the beginning of the month and in the middle. The news column is updated on on-going basis, if possible. The main sections are: "Tests", "Events" (interviews, reportages, and similar), "Hyde Park" (user tests, opinions) and "Who asks..." (readers questions and HFOL answers). Articles from earlier issues can be read in the "Archive". Have a nice read!

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