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No. 235 December 2023


translation Marek Dyba
images by Bartosz Łuczak/Piksel Studio

No 235

December 4, 2023


Three important events took place from October 26-29: the International Book Fair in Krakow began on Thursday, and a day later the Jazz Jamboree festival and the Audio Video Show 2023 kicked off in Warsaw.

» You can find more photos from our meetings on „High Fidelity News” → HERE

E WRITE ABOUT IT EVERY TIME, but let me remind you, not to fall out of character. The Audio Video Show 2023 had its 25th edition this year, so it was an anniversary show. Spread over three venues, the Warsaw event is the second most visited event of its kind in the world of perfectionist audio in Europe. As the journalists from all over the world who attend it agree, and which is echoed by manufacturers from more than a hundred countries, it is the biggest exhibition where music is listened to - Munich, having the upper hand in terms of tickets sold and invitations and passes issued, is, above all, the place where business is done. Contrary to the nice feeling appearing when one realizes it, I don't know which is better - one, however, can’t argue facts.

⸜ Presentation of the Statement in High Fidelity award; from left: Dirk Sommer, Angus Leung and the author.

This was twenty-first AVS I attended as a journalist, which, with one I attended twenty-one years ago as an employee of a McIntosh, Aerial, VTL, etc., distributor makes twenty-two events. Quite a number. Nevertheless, it was absolutely unique for me and the first of its kind. After all, it was the first time that I did not prepare a report, and only conducted seminars and workshops. After so many years, I knew that the work, which in other editorial offices is done by three or four people and which I had been embracing on my own all these years, I had to split in half. So this year you will read a report by two Tomeks, people from the Krakow Sonic Society - Tomek Folta and Tomek Lechowski (you are welcome to read it on November 16th.). Tomek F., because that's how I sign him in the KSS reports, wasn't just at one Audio Show, he attended them all. I focused on what I like best - meetings with you.

The show started for me at six in the morning on Friday, when Bartek Łuczak, a graphic designer who has been preparing the "High Fidelity" website for you for almost nineteen years, drove up to pick me up. Walking to the car I did not complain, in fact I was grateful to fate. For most people who prepare AVS it starts much earlier. Not to mention the organizer, Adam Mokrzycki, who has had the previous month taken out of his life. Exhibitors start "getting together" as early as Wednesday, to be on site on Thursday unpacking equipment, setting it up, fighting with the power grid, which keeps failing, and praying that everything will finally play out, which last late into the night, or even till the next morning.

Friday is an extension and culmination of these efforts. Compared to their experience, my Friday six o'clock in the morning was like a trip to the spa. The drive took us just over three and a half hours, thanks to the recently completed sections of road connecting Krakow and Warsaw. When we checked into the hotel before ten o'clock, I knew I would have some time for the additional meetings I had planned. The first stop was the room where the equipment from WestminsterLab stood. This is the company that this year won one of the two Statement in High Fidelity 2023 awards in the Polish edition (more about the awards → HERE (PL).

⸜ Statement in High Fidelity award presentation; from left: author, Robert Sikora, Janusz Sikora and Dirk Sommer.

We were greeted by ANGUS LEUNG, its owner and designer. The award, designed by Bartek Łuczak, was presented by me and Dirk Sommer, editor-in-chief of magazine, with whom we awarded them. Even then, while joking and laughing, we knew that the dinner planned for the following evening, to which our magazines invite the winners together, would be a success. I took the opportunity to say hello to the people managing Lumin, NELSON CHOI and LI ON. I had been scheduled for an interview with them for quite some time, and since I didn't have time during the show, we decided to have an email interview. However, the meeting yielded photos of my interviewees, which I will use.

The second prize this time went to J.Sikora, and this company had its room at the stadium that everyone is talking about: the National Stadium, and bearing the official name PGE Narodowy. The hotels and the stadium are connected by an exhibition bus, running every half hour, four of us took - me, Dirk, his wife Birgit and Bartek. The latter was tucking under his arm a bag with some of the printed "High Fidelity" covers we were to distribute to the rest of the company (more about HF covers → HERE (PL). A short sprint and we were in Janusz and Robert Sikora’s room. And again: a super pleasant situation, lots of smiles and shaking of hands, after which the prize is handed over. It is just before 1 p.m. and I have some time until my first meeting with you.

Before it happens, however, I run into Audiofast's room, where the dCS people are waiting for me. And that's because we've arranged for the official presentation of the February cover of "High Fidelity". I take advantage of the presence of more than a dozen visitors in the room and gladly hand it over to LIAM DAVISON, manager of the export department. We take the opportunity to arrange a test of the dCS Lina file player. It's supposed to come to me along with a clock, and if it goes well, I'll also ask for a headphone amplifier, which is part of the series. I'm thinking that as a second system, used for streaming, it could turn out to be something I've been waiting for a long time. And there's a moment for Alastair McDonald, who is in charge of exports at the company, to ask if he could drop by the Krakow Sonic Society meeting sometime with some dCS equipment. He's been hearing from Raveen Bawa for years what a cool experience this is, and he's been hearing about it for a really long time - Raveen was with us - note - in 2014 (!); more → HERE. We have an appointment.

⸜ Workshop prepared by AC Records and "High Fidelity", on the right Adam Czerwinski, and on the left the author

And so, it turned 2 p.m.. I went down to the headphone area to get a glimpse of what was going on there, but also to have a coffee and something to eat in peace - this is usually the place where the queue for the bar is shortest. This was the first free moment to think about how I perceive myself in this new role, not as a journalist preparing a report, but as an editor-in-chief and workshop organizer. I still don't have a clear answer, because on the one hand I finally have time to do everything I didn't have time for before, and on the other hand I don't actually know what the show looks like.

So I go back upstairs and try to walk through the rooms to at least get a glimpse of them, but apart from Unitra and Diora I don't succeed, because every now and then I see someone familiar, or someone sees me, stops me, we talk, smile. I like it. Before I realize, it is high time to go to J.Sikora's room, where I will conduct the first meeting. There are already a lot of people in the place, and in a while the place will run out of space. So it is no wonder that it will be a pleasure to speak to you, and that I will see a broad smile on the face of ADAM CZERWIŃSKI, owner of AC Records record label, my partner in this presentation.

Because there is nothing nicer than being among people who love music as we love it, Among people who understand that its true beauty is brought out by using the right equipment, performing the right procedures, and that without this, music is flawed, regardless of what those who think of themselves as "music lovers" say. And yet, the presentation itself draws you in as well, because we are dealing with great music, it is narrated by Adam, who is the producer of all the albums and also plays on most of them, we also have color and black copies of the albums, and above all - Test Presses and lacquer similar to the one used to make the matrix for one of the titles. There is absolute silence when we listen to it - it turns out that its sound is downright incredible.

⸜ EABS’s performance at Jazz Jamboree 2023, a view from a balcony where I sat together with Tomek Hatylak

Finishing conversations, taking some photos with you my mind was already somewhere else. For at 6 p.m. I had an appointment with TOMEK HATYLAK, a journalist for Radio 357 (more about Tomek → HERE). He is a long-time reader of "High Fidelity", we both like good music and respect similar audio brands - Tomek has a Leben amp - so we quickly find a common ground. We arranged the meeting in advance with Monday's Cool Kid of Jazz broadcast in mind, that I were to be a guest of. The Mała Polana Smaków on Emilli Plater Street is a very nice restaurant, there is pleasant wine, the conversation goes smoothly - a recorded conversation, I might add. The idea for the broadcast was that it would be edited and excerpts would be broadcast./p>

We talk about music, art, high-end, equipment and concerts. And so the evening ends, with us moving to the Stodola Club, where Jazz Jamboree takes place and the concerts of EABS and Błoto in particular. Unbelievable were the performances - I haven't heard such well played, and interesting jazz and around jazz music for a very, very long time. I think this is one of the best contemporary bands playing this kind of music in general, not just in Poland. I left the concert with two CDs: EABS 2061 and an intimate solo CD by Lighthizer (the group's leader) titled Marianna, recorded as a tribute to his grandmother. Returning at 1 a.m., I meet the familiar crew headed by Birgit and Dirk and the folks from Audio Group Denmark at the hotel bar. One or two shots served by Linette from magazine and I go to bed.

First thing in the morning - breakfast. For many years considered one of the best hotel breakfasts in Warsaw, this time it disappoints. It will let us down once again, on Sunday morning. It doesn't have much in common with what we remembered. Bartek missed the roasted bacon, and I missed all the rest. However, there is no time to complain, because DAMIAN LIPIÑSKI is already waiting for me. We agreed that Damian would be a guest of the workshop at which I wanted to present new versions of Czesław Niemen's albums, released on SACD discs - he is the one responsible for remastering them. It turns out, however, that the people of Polskie Nagrania decided to arrange it in their own way and, without taking you or me into consideration, prepared a meeting for Damian he simply "had to attend". And since it took place at the National, at the same time as our workshop, he apologized to me and asked me to pass this apology on to all of you who wanted to meet him.

⸜ Damian Lipiński, we owe new Niemen releases to, and soon also for a lot more rock music SACD releases

But Damian is a very reliable man, so in the morning he came to see me at Sobieski with a story about how his cooperation with Polskie Nagrania came about, what the remastering process looked like, what problems he encountered and what his future plans are. I have to tell you that this is super-interesting stuff and that there are many publishing surprises in store. After all, this is a "75 albums for Empik's 75th anniversary" campaign.

Although it seemed that we, Bartek and I, had plenty of time, I had to hurry to prepare for the first meeting with you on Saturday. Entitled Test Press – WTF? it was conceived by me as an introduction to the issue. So I brought to Warsaw both the Model Discs of Polskie Nagrania, 10" and 12", as well as various kinds of Test Presses. The meeting was held in a small room occupied by Q21, that offers such brands as Rega, Vienna Acoustics and Audiolab, among others, so there were only ten seats. Whether it was the early hour or the huge number of other events there weren't many of us in the room even at five past twelve. But at exactly 12:10 p.m., the seats were filled and some people were standing.

I don't know about those I met with, but my time passed very quickly. For Test Presses are a very graceful topic of conversation. For, on the one hand, they allow you to feel the magic of first pressings, that is, the first copies of a given series, when the matrix are still absolutely new, and on the other hand, they have their problems. And it is the discussion of what is an advantage and what is a disadvantage that is so interesting in this. And there is no single, this "right" answer to the question "Is it worth it?".

⸜ Saturday and a workshop related to Test Presses. We played records from a beautiful Rega Naia turntable, intriguing due to its ascetic form

While I buy these types of discs whenever I can, the - already mentioned - Dirk thinks it's an inferior form of LP. And that's because test discs are made in a few, sometimes a dozen copies on machines that haven't quite warmed up - it doesn't pay to run everything at 100% for a disc that's only meant to give sound engineers insight into whether the mastering was done correctly. This results in higher background noise than on LP and more frequent crackling. On the other hand, and this is important to me, the dynamic range of such releases and their resolution are higher than on final vinyl. I don't know what you who attended the meeting think about this, but from the questions you asked and the answers you gave to my questions I can conclude that opinions are divided also among you. However, the phenomenon itself turned out to be, as far as I can tell, extremely interesting, since it is very rarely covered in the pages of industry journals.

After the meeting and following conversations, it turns out that it's already two in the afternoon and it's time to eat something. By chance we end up with my graphic designer at a nearby restaurant with Greek cuisine - Kalimera. A very cool place, good food and - just as important for us - German beer Tucher Bräu. We know them from the Nolio restaurant in Krakow's Kazimierz. And? - And it's already three o'clock, an hour later we start the workshop "with Niemen". But before I even leave the restaurant the phone rings and in the receiver I hear the voice of Zbyszek, who says that he just happens to be at Sobieski and that maybe we could meet. And how could we not meet with him? ZBIGNIEW BIELAK is a world-renowned graphic designer, the author of many famous album covers, mainly of black metal rock, but he has also designed covers for the groups Ghost and Paradise Lost.

The last time we saw each other was fifteen years ago, and although we have spoken many times on the phone and emailed since then, this has not replaced a live conversation. And we talked, because Zbyszek is a fan not only of music, but also of audio, having played an SME 20 turntable and Naim electronics for years. When we finally hugged, we had to tell each other about everything that happened during that time, what systems we have now and so on. And it's quarter to four already. Fortunately, Damian gives up driving to the stadium and goes with us - Bartek Łuczak and me - to the Tulip Hotel for the workshop.

⸜ Zbyszek Bielak, author of album covers of many iconic black metal band

And these are fantastic. Lots of people are interested in the subject. And no wonder - the release of Czeslaw Niemen's albums on SACD is a big event; review → HERE (PL). They are beautiful and sound beautifully. I apologize to those present on behalf of Damian and start listening to music and comparing releases. To begin, I chose Memory, a piece with lyrics by Julian Tuwim, included on the CD at number 4. And off we go.

The different versions clearly aroused your curiosity, and the differences between them were significant enough so that you didn't have to listen to them long to assess them. This was, of course, helped by the system we played the discs on, consisting of Accuphase electronics, Estelon speakers and Crystal Cable cabling. I asked the listeners what they thought of the different versions, and while they differed in their assessment, the listening of Damian Lipinski's remasters was perhaps the most interesting. I keep talking with you after the meeting, taking photos together and I have until 6 p.m..

⸜ I bow to all those who took their time and listened with me to the various versions of Czeslaw Niemen's albums

I thought that Zbyszek Bielak would finally rush to the stadium, and here's a surprise - he liked it and is staying for the next workshop. So we go downstairs for a quick coffee, and it's time to get back to prepare for the meeting led with me by Birgit Hammer-Sommer and Dirk Sommer. During shows they have a dual role to fulfill: Dirk is editor-in-chief of the magazine, but together with Birgit they run the record label Sommelier du Son, where Dirk is responsible for live mixing to two tracks on a Studer analog tape recorder, and Birgit has what used to be called the Tape Op, or tape operator role. In Warsaw, they assumed the latter role.

For comparison, they prepared a copy of the master tape of the Live at Villa Belvedere album by the De-Phazz Jazz Quartet, several tracks that we listened to with both the Test Press (which, as it happened, was offered to me after the event) and the LP. The tape was played on a Studer tape recorder lent to us by Jacek Kalucki, who distributes Audio Group Denmark products in Poland. But Dirk brought something else - acetate from which the metal matrices used for vinyl pressing were made. He handed the second one, prepared for another record, to the attendees so they could see and smell it for themselves (literally, and it’s an unusual experience).

And, curiously, the lacquer was not the preferred version. "Dark", with heavily emphasized bass was considered too "soft". And this is probably the key word to understand what happened. Afterwards, I remembered the difference between the lacquer played by Adam Czerwinski and the one Dirk had with him. The varnish brought from Germany had previously been used to make matrices. It had therefore been damaged to some extent. Separating the metal copy from it is an invasive procedure. The "Polish" lacquer, on the other hand (although prepared at Abbey Road), was made as a gift to Adam and was never used in production. It was therefore "pristine." It was over quickly, even though an hour had passed. And that's a sign that time has thickened from emotions and these emotions have caused something of a time bent.

⸜ Saturday evening and the four of us you know from previous years from the same place: Gerhard Hirt (Ayon Audio), and in the middle Dirk, Birgit and the author, doing the job of translator; I do it so well that Dirk understands my Polish even when I show something with my hands; usually it's something he didn't say :)

Already tucking away the discs and packing the tape recorder, right after I spoke with you, my thoughts were already in the Stary Dom restaurant. Located on Pulawska Street, the space has been our venue for Statement in High Fidelity awards for years. It's an atmospheric place with very good food and a showpiece dish - tatar. Not surprisingly, five of the six of us ordered it to start, and we watched in fascination as the master skewered, wrapped, seasoned, mixed it. Only vodka goes well with tatar, and Janusz Sikora ordered it for everyone. He remained faithful to it, by the way, until the end of the event.

The award was conceived by Dirk and myself as a space to meet people we respect and like. It worked well this time, too, as both the Sikoras, though extremely tired, turned out to be entertaining, and Angus Leung, the head and designer of WestminsterLab, was fun to be with too. Originally from Hong Kong, the designer studied at a boarding school in the UK from the age of twelve, so he speaks beautiful English. As he says, his parents sent him abroad because the school system in HK enforces memory learning, which they didn't want for him. Isn't it similar to a Polish school? Only where should we send our children?

⸜ Stary Dom and Statement in High Fidelity, from the left: Dirk Sommer, Robert Sikora, Janusz Sikora, author and Angus Leung; gentlemen keep the awards in their hands

But that's not what I wanted to talk about. Rather about the fact that it was a beautiful evening. We finished it, by the way - no surprise here - in the hotel bar with a glass of vodka in our hands. We weren't alone there, as Jeff Fritz, the head of, was uploading his material, so engrossed in the screen that he just waved his hand, letting me know he could see me, then drifted off again.

It so happened that this year the change to winter time fell during the show. So when Bartek and I packed up early in the morning, we were not particularly sleepy. We were coming back in the morning because "High Fidelity" was due online in three days, and we couldn’t do it remotely. So breakfast - again disappointing - and on our way. At home, work, and in the afternoon the final two episodes of the Bodies miniseries that my wife and I have been eagerly awaiting (Bodies, dir. Haolu Wang, Marco Kreuzpaintner, Netflix, 2023). And then there's the attempt to read the very cool book Odrzania by Zbigniew Rokita, which ended in failure. Already then I know that the recording prepared by Tomek for the broadcast on Radio357 is too noisy and muddled, and that we will connect live on Monday.

I'm going to bed. Tomorrow is another busy day. Another day with work, which I love.

Chief editor

About Us

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Our reviewers regularly contribute to  “Enjoy the”, “”“”  and “Hi-Fi Choice & Home Cinema. Edycja Polska” .

"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.

"High Fidelity" is an online magazine, i.e. it is only published on the web. For the last few years it has been published both in Polish and in English. Thanks to our English section, the magazine has now a worldwide reach - statistics show that we have readers from almost every country in the world.

Once a year, we prepare a printed edition of one of reviews published online. This unique, limited collector's edition is given to the visitors of the Audio Show in Warsaw, Poland, held in November of each year.

For years, "High Fidelity" has been cooperating with other audio magazines, including “Enjoy the” and “” in the U.S. and “”  in Germany. Our reviews have also been published by “”.

You can contact any of our contributors by clicking his email address on our CONTACT  page.

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