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12-13.11.2011 (Saturday & Sunday)

Hotel Jan III Sobieski, Hotel Tulip, Hotel Bristol

Adam Mokrzycki Services

tel.: 602 26 86 20

Edition: XV

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Pictures: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

15th Anniversary Show…

15th anniversary of an audio show is really something. Especially when we take into account what happened in the meantime in our branch: the idea of high resolution music played from DVD-Audio and SACD was born and died (realistically speaking), we witness an incredible growth of the vinyl culture, the CDs started to disappear from the mass consumer minds and Compact Disc players are being replaced by file players. We have also seen the birth and growth of a new paradigm of music distribution – we switch from shops and physical carriers to the Internet and music files, including hi-res files. One of the fastest developing audio sectors besides – the obvious – file players is the DAC sector. The amount of new devices of that kind surpasses even the first boom that happened in the 90-ties, when everybody wanted to improve the sound of their CD players. However, since then the manufacturers improved CD player output section to such extent that connecting an external DAC was only a step to the side and not forward. And it did cost money. As it seems we now witness a similar process, though involving file players, not CD players.
But this is not the end of changes – in the last few years the computer found its place as a fully fledged sound source, also in high-end systems. Due to an incredible quality jump in the USB signal transmission, the computer was finally freed from the constraint of interfaces and could be directly connected to high class DACs.

Yes – USB. Now it is mandatory not only in mini stereo sets but also in the most expensive CD and SACD players (for example dCS and Accuphase) and – this is a true surprise – in amplifiers (eg. TAD, Atoll, Accuphase, etc). I did not expect that. This is related to another change, equally hard to predict: amplifiers and preamplifiers are more and more often equipped with a DAC section – adding to this puzzle another thing related to playing from files. Also new types of devices were created, devices for which we do not have names yet – it seems that the manufacturers introduce new ideas to the market sooner than their naming can be established. And they drop them equally fast. The novelties are of course Internet related – because how you should name a product that is a file player combined with an Internet radio player, FM tuner, and has many digital inputs like a classic DAC? We can do it in a descriptive way but this is not how classification works. And it is needed to organize this complicated world, getting even more complicated and twisted. And we journalists are helpless against this madness. A few days ago I talked about that with Andrzej Kisiel who prepared editorial for the new issue of “Audio” and wanted to know my opinion. It is clear from this conversation – we know that we do not know anything (in another version: we know what we don’t know).

And I did not even touch things related to home cinema – do you remember that about three, four years ago, most of the devices reviewed in magazines with titles including ‘audio’, ‘hi-fi’, ‘stereo’, etc., and I am talking about the whole world, not only Poland, were home cinema devices? That it was easier to find a test of an AV receiver than a stereo amplifier and that a test of a turntable was a complete curiosity? That was the result of the market pressure, the manufacturers and distributors that found new and easy grounds to make money and imposed such profiling on the magazines. Now we can see how much people lost with that.
So what happened? On the wave of discontent with the state of events new magazines were born, almost exclusively in the Internet. As a fortunate coincidence (or maybe this was the logic of the process?) the explosion of the AV market was accompanied by a growth of services provided via the net. Now this is normal but ten years ago, when I started the project that became “High Fidelity”, when Srajan Ebaen did the same in the USA with “”, those were things hard to imagine. And now? Even my own wife works over the net, conducting lessons (please look HERE to see what I am talking about). When we begun we were treated as a curiosity, a harmless prank. Srajan and myself, and I know that for sure because we talked about that recently, we had one thing in mind: to advise people who did not want to read another review of trash 5.1 loudspeakers, hundred and fiftieth DVD player, differing from the competition by its black, instead of silver buttons, etc. The dumbness of the “AV” orientation was clear for us, and it turned out that we were right – now all printed magazines withdraw from that. But it is too late – they have big competition in us, which is how I see it. Maybe they even signed the death sentence for themselves. Because how does the edition and real sales of those magazines (usually 50 to 75% of the edition is sold, the rest is given away as free subscriptions, etc.) compare to the amount of readers of on-line magazines? It doesn’t.

As you can see, many things changed since the beginning of the Audio Show. On the one hand we made a big circle, returning to turntables, on the other hand we survived the illness of AV and made the jump from the physical carrier to the files. I am not saying that the CD will disappear, absolutely not! I recently talked with one of the most important drive manufacturers who confirmed that since two years he had been working on a new, top CD transport! But I want to show you that the accent moved away from the physical carriers and paper to the Internet.

Also the Audio Show has changed
And the Audio Show itself has changed. I have reported about it for “Audio” and “High Fidelity” for eight years, earlier I prepared a reportage for “Sound and Vision”, and one year earlier I was there as an exhibitor. So I think I know it quite well. During that time it changed from a provincial, small meeting of gentlemen in outstretched pullovers discussing for hours about modifications made to their old gear (I do not have anything against those people, but it does not have anything to do with hi-fi or hi-end), from a conference of people with suitcases who called themselves distributors, to a fully professional show.
Because this is how I see its 15th edition – as a fully professional show. This year I was very, very surprised how extensive work was done by most of the distributors, even comparing to last year. There were always companies that “pulled” the show, which others wanted to catch up with, just to mention Horn Distribution (unfortunately it no longer takes part in the show – now they handle mostly the big market, hyper markets, etc.), Audio Center Poland, Moje Audio, etc. Now the majority of exhibitors have a well thought out design of their rooms, marketing materials, trained personnel, and properly setup systems.
This last thing is somewhat troublesome in this anniversary edition, at least from my point of view. But to tell about that, first you need to let me take you for a short step aside, and tell you a few words about another exhibition, from another branch, namely about the Krakow Book Fair, which had this year it’s – yes, yes – 15th anniversary.

Anniversary Edition of the Book Fair
The anniversary edition of the Book Fair had a very unusual atmosphere this year. Thousands of people storming small halls, with passion for what they came to see, excitement related to talks with favorite writers, hunting for autographs, buying, buying.
I wrote about that some time ago, but I want to repeat: comparing an audio show with a book fair has deep sense, in my opinion. The lowest common divider is the same formula of a show/fair. Despite the fact that in audio the emphasis is on the show, while with books on the fair (sales). Above that there is a visitors related layer. In both cases those are usually people aware of their passion, but also some casual visitors. Usually they are well or very well educated people interested in an elite branch – both literature and music are exclusive ways of spending time. And finally on top we have a similar way of content distribution and challenges related to it (Internet). Statistically the percentage of people regularly reading books is as insignificant as the number of audiophiles (of course keeping the right proportions). But it seems that those two groups are similar. This is why I watch the next editions of the Fair with such curiosity – it is in a sense a probe showing the current state of what we call culture, and showing sentiments among the potential customers.

This year the Fair was fantastic! The amount of visiting people was overwhelming and reminded me of what I went through last year in the Sobieski Hotel during the Audio Show 2010. You could feel the positive vibrations in the air. Together with my wife we allowed ourselves to be caught in this, queuing to get Wanda Chotomska’s autograph (for our daughter), to get dedicated signature of the two sisters, owners of the brilliant Dwie Siostry publishing house, to talk to Izabela Sowa whose “fruit trilogy” gave us as much joy, to buy the new books by McCarthy and Eco (greetings to our reader, Mr. Wojtek from the Wydawnictwo Literackie stand!) and other wonders. I was very disappointed by the absence, sudden and unexpected, of my favorite writer, Michel Houllebecq, who, according to Małgorzata Sadowska “[…] did not pick-up his flight tickets, waiting for him. He did not show up. He did not call. He disappeared. The organizers had to call off his visit. […] The Krakow Fair Bureau is still waiting for explanations, and the question: “Where is Houllebecq?” remains open. (Małgorzata Sadowska, The Disappearing Writer, “Wprost”, 14-20 November 2011, page 83). Anyway it was a fantastic time. Tiring, but fantastic.
I remember well similar impressions I had during the Audio Show in the last two-three years, when the show bloomed, and earlier with the shows in the German Frankfurt am Main. Because the book fair does not fit in the old rooms any longer, the Krakow magistrate promised to expand the exhibition halls next year. Will this be the same fair? I think that it will not be exactly the same. It will become more civilized, which is a big value. But its club-like atmosphere will probably disappear, and some of the picnic emotions related to that. I would like to be proven wrong, but I am a realist.

Because the professionalization of a show is accompanied by the lowering of its emotional temperature
Because the professionalization of a show is accompanied by the lowering of its emotional temperature. Transferring the High End show from Frankfurt to Munich resulted in an incredible growth of “responsibility” and brought order to everything, also caused the increase of exhibitors, etc., and the development of the Audio Show resulted in what we saw this year – a slightly cool, very well prepared and directed exhibition.

And I do not blame anybody – I am far from that, such things do not make sense. The organizer did his best, he prepared the best Audio Show to date, the exhibitors put a lot of effort and even more money into it. Most of the presentations were very well prepared from the formal point of view, I mean the people knew what they were doing, they had appropriate music prepared, the gear was exposed well, etc. What was missing? In my opinion – emotion. Please do not think that I am always unhappy, because I am not complaining. I am just trying to calmly investigate and analyze what we are dealing with. This is not good or bad – it just IS THERE. You could check that for yourself, visiting all the rooms in the three hotels, and only the special events, like the workshop led by Michael Fremer (journalist from the American “Stereophile”), or the concert of Antonio Forcione, one of the best guitarists in the world, were full of life and emotions (a short reportage from the two events will be posted next month in “High Fidelity”, together with a view on the show by a 17 years old guy).

This may be the reason why this year it was difficult to talk about exceptional sound.
This may be the reason why this year it was difficult to talk about exceptional sound. This year’s presentations were fully professional, but the sound was only good (or maybe EVEN good?). I will try to show you most interesting things, although I am aware that these are only exceptions, and to some extent more interesting because of the products than their sound. On the other hand only two or three presentations, about which I do not want to think anymore, were plain bad. The good average was dominating.
And again – this maybe looks bad, but in fact is a result of what I said before – the change. This is not a parochial show, and the solutions prepared by Polish distributors are enthusiastically accepted by the guests from abroad (look at TAD) who are sending pictures to their headquarters. This is good, very good. Maybe the Audio Show is finally what an audio show ought to be: a place where you can see and touch (when allowed to) the devices, where premieres are presented, also world premieres (like in the case of the Systemdek 3D SIGNATURE turntable), and where you can talk to manufacturers, companies representatives, etc. Where you can meet. I have to say that this is a very attractive proposition. If the amount of extra events, like workshops, is increased, then I am all in.

As I announced the most important, in my and my only opinion, products and presentations, now it’s time to show them.
As I announced the most important, in my and my only opinion, products and presentations, now it’s time to show them. I am presenting them in random order.

The room of the Krakow shop Chillout Studio, with a Luxman SACD player, probably the D-06, the amplifier from the Krakow company Abyssound ASX-2000 (100W in class A!) and loudspeakers from the company DLS. A very good, full sound. We will need to have a closer look at this amplifier and loudspeakers. As one of our readers wrote in a letter, not everybody liked it. Maybe I was there in a good moment.

Audio Center Poland rooms, especially the one with TAD, for the absolute professionalism. The Japanese electronics had its Polish premiere and I think that it fared very well. Taking into account that the loudspeakers should play in a much bigger room, the sound quality was surprisingly good. In the room with cheaper electronics my attention was drawn by the new DacMagic Plus DAC from Cambridge Audio and a new set CD + amplifier 651. The DAC from the show went directly to me for a review – I am preparing a big test of DACs for “Audio”.

Very interesting were the Eclipse loudspeakers, directly from Japan. A single driver in a drop-shaped cabinet results in an incredibly coherent sound. Those are used mostly by people related to music production, but they look so intriguing and sound in such an unusual way that it is strange that they are not present in the home hi-fi market. Maybe now it will change. Distribution - AVIQ.

Splendid sound in the room of Studio Vander Brug, with the Array monoblocks (manufactured by the owners of the Studio, Hans van der Brug’s brother), and the source being the Qsonic file player using Wadia technology, and Genesis loudspeakers. There is no chance to call this sound “transistor sound” or “digital sound”, although there was not even a trace of vinyl or tube.

The room of Moje Audio with Hegel electronics and Xavian loudspeakers. A very juicy, nicely balanced sound. Hegel is one of the best solid-state electronics manufacturers for reasonable money, and Xavian made another step in the right direction.

The Endo2 amplifier from the Polish Baltlab – a new amplifier, there will be a smaller one soon. It looks nice, sounds nice – a very interesting product.

Supports from Franc Audio Accessories – feet, including a new line for turntables, and new platforms. Everything prepared in a nice way and looking very solid. We are acheduled for a review of the platform and supports.

Loudspeakers Bodnar Audio with a fullrange Sonido driver in horn cabinet. On the show it did not sound in an overwhelming way, but such loudspeakers need lots of space. But they were very nicely made, and you could see the idea behind them.

Loudspeakers prepared by the Audio Classic company, the distributor of the Miyajima Labs cartridges, based on paper drivers. This is a proprietary construction, the design of the cabinet as well as the drivers. The efficiency is 93.5dB for the whole frequency spectrum.

The Systemdek 3D SIGNATURE turntable with the Audio Origami tonearm and the top cartridge Transfiguration ORPHEUS. This turntable had a world premiere in Poland! Distribution – Pełne Brzmienie.

Loudspeakers Magico V2 with Ayre electronics – a brilliant sound, absolutely not transistor, and at the same time big precision. Distribution - audiofast.

Stand mount speakers Audioplan KANTATA – small, but aggressive. Distribution - Audio Consulting.

This is also an interesting debut, a Polish amplifier Elins Audio AMP 1000, with knobs made from thimbles.

Acoustic correction panels from Vicustic (distribution - MJ Audio Lab). I already bought four such panels, now they wait to be mounted on the wall. They look nice, they are light, and they work.

Loudspeakers GrajPudła – interesting idea, nice sound. We agreed to review the NUMER TRZY model, probably in February.

Debut of the Monolith Audio company, manufacturing anti-vibration supports and an incredible rack – everything from special kind of wood, ceramic balls, etc. And it really looks good.

Finally it sounded well in the room of Szemis Audio Konsultant, with devices from Kondo and old loudspeakers Snell Acoustics. Provocation after provocation – starting with a dog on a turtle to the step-up on toilet paper. But this time, after very bad presentation in the previous years, finally it was a nice sound.

The room, I do not know any names of the products, but the three-way loudspeakers with the slanted top seem to be a nice product.

Polpak showed two small, tube amplifiers from Xindak MT-2 and MS-3, both in a grey varnish, characteristic for old QUAD amplifiers.

Loudspeakers Wilson Audio MAXX 3 with electronics from Audio Research (audiofast). This combination not always works, and in this room things do not sound well (this is a problem of the room). But this time it was brilliant – dynamics, naturalness, expression.

Avantgarde Acoustic TRIO with Ayon electronics in the Eter Audio room. For the perfect preparation of the presentation, made by people from abroad – Armin Krauss (thanks – it was real fun!) from Avantgarde and Gerhard Hirt from Ayon. Not everybody liked it, and in my opinion the sound was too bright, not so natural. But Rammstein played this way sounded almost live.

Zeta Zero, for the exceptional shape, consistency of used technology and very good sound. For me it was too loud, but even in such conditions the potential of those loudspeakers and amplifiers could be seen.

Harpia Acoustic – well, the new loudspeakers from the MONK series seem a big step forward from the previous ones. And they look really well.

Finally it sounded great in the SoundClub room, with the ultra expensive Soulution system and the loudspeakers Hansen Audio Prince v2.

Previous Audio Show reportages:

  • Audio Show 2010 HERE
  • Audio Show 2009 HERE
  • Audio Show 2008 HERE
  • Audio Show 2007 HERE
  • Audio Show 2006 HERE
  • Audio Show 2005 HERE
  • Audio Show 2004 HERE


Please direct your questions, suggestions, opinions, etc. to:


"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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