High End 2016 page 7
The ground floor of the MOC, home of the High End show is where the open, convention center-like atmosphere is located - and usually where I start out. It is expansive as it is crowded while it also centerpiece to the Newcomers circle: an area where new audio manufacturers from all over the world get the chance to introduce their products.
Thinking outside the box. The Flatsonic omnidirectional Cinos Take One loudspeaker is quite a unique looking self-powered loudspeaker. The Take One is designed as an all-in-one concept that features DSP technology and Class-D driven amplification in addition to wireless Bluetooth capability. Sound is also clean, open and detailed despite not being able to locate its drivers/source.
Another Newcomer worthy of note was Adam Damper's Air Damper. Based on the old and reliable air-based suspension theme the Air Damper looked impressive and produced a feathery and airier sensation through a modest pair of headphones. In a word, NICE!
Ubiq Audio's auspicious Model One loudspeaker, an attractive 3-way horn-loaded design, has been making some noise over in these parts of New Jersey since Laufer Teknik took on responsibility as this Slovanian manufacturer's US distributor. What has it gaining more attention than the fact that it's a new company with an excellent sounding floor-stander that produces a rich and luxurious soundstage with impressive 3-D imaging, is that it provides all this high-ticket magic at an enormously affordable asking price of $13,500. Don't believe me, then just read the reviews that have been garnered on this loudspeaker in just one year. We have a review in the works and are quite excited. Stay tuned.
Personal audio enjoyment by way of headphones is another trend that has seen enormous growth here at High End 2016. And wherever you see high-end headphones and the like, you'll most likely find King Sound and it's always affable team lead by Simon Lai (photo above). Showgoers were treated to hear KS Audio's newer series of electrostatic headphones that included the KS-H2, KS-H3 and KS-H04. Each were driven by various KS Audio headphone amps like their all-tubed M20 tube headphone amplifier and M03 solid-state amplfiers.
If looks could kill. The German brand Gruensch Audio is totally unknown to me but just one gaze at this, their top-of-line phonostage MCS-II+ told me plenty. Unfortunately, they were on static display so any attempt to hear whether this analogue dynamo sounded anywhere as good as it looked was out of the question. Hopefully, one day soon.
Was delighted to finally meet Martin Gateley, the man behind the Swiss-built Sound Kaos Wave 40 loudspeakers that Greg Voth, and yours truly, went gaga over some months ago (you can read that review here). Obviously, the surprise was on me when I peered into this room to see Gateley's newest product in the Sound Kaos open-baffle Liberation loudspeakers. Essentially, this dipole design uses the same driver as used in the Wave 40's except there's two: a single high-frequency driver and a mid-bass driver. Frequency extreme duties are handled by a RAAL dipole ribbon tweeter and a 15" woofer located in the lower baffle all nicely packaged in a phosphor bronze mesh exterior. Driven by a full-compliment of very affordable SOtM electronics of Korea, this system showed lots of promise by producing lots of spunk and lateral spread. In the end, I would have preferred to hear these delicate open-baffle gems on tubes (or perhaps the Grandinote amps Martin and I both admire greatly), though this setup wasn't bad either. Nice Job!
Walked onto Dave Brubeck Drive over to the Lawerence Audio suite where I was immediately introduced to Franc Audio Accesories' Pawel Skulimowski. All I can say is, experience has proved over and over that there's more to a tweak than just looks and build. And although these latest isolation feet seem somewhat simple in appearance, I bet there's more to them than meets the eye. In addition to showing off his latest isolation products Skulimowski also debuted his newest AC conditioner all blinged out in gold. After a short chat with Skulimowski we hopefully will have the chance to actually hear what his products can do...Stay tuned.
The new Lawrence Audio Penguin loudspeakers is a very impressive sounding loudspeaker. Physically, I like it's stance and overall appearance as well - I mention this because I have not been a fan of all Lawrence Audio loudspeaker designs. The Penguin however looks impressive! With an rated 86dB sensitivity and a 4 Ohm load, you may want to drive this 3-way with at least 100 watts. Sporting the latest Accuton drivers throughout, I found its performance very engaging and considering the space they were in, I would say they've a great new loudspeaker in the Penguin. The question of price never came up as I was enjoying the music so much, I forgot to ask. If looks are anything close to accurate, they tell me.... probably around $30k.
What a nice surprise to see my good old friend Robert Lee of Acoustic Zen here at High End 2016! As suspected, Robert doesn't stray too far away from certain electronics and his favorites over the years have been Triode Corp of Japan. Namely those gorgeous TRX-845 mono amps driving the Acoustic Zen Adagio loudspeakers with an uncanny level of synergy. Really great sounding setup. Again, in a makeshift room, they beat the odds and scored high on their very first show. Congrats!
Hearing the Italian EmmeSpeakers model Galileo proved a first for me outside of their smaller and more petit Da Vinci loudspeakers. Paired with some serious products like digital by way of Lampizator and analogue by way of Chronos and the True Life Audio Argo phonostage, not to mention Skogrand cables throughout, this room produced a level of sonic excellence that held me captive for longer than I planned. Another great sounding setup.
Pack your bags, we're going off the grid!
Everyone who knows my attempt for approaching the highest level for purity through noise and distortion devices knows what I think of Serge Schmidlin of Audio Consulting Switzerland. With his components there really is very little noise and NO AC artifacts to speak of since Schmidlin builds everything for battery power operation only. I've had the fortunate opportunity to hear the system in his Zurick Switzerland estate, not once, but twice. Both times I came away with a new level of respect for what could be obtained through correct applications.
This suite, located once again in the main Halle area in a makeshift square room did not negatively impact the performance.
I have only heard the Stenheim loudspeakers twice. Never heard their model Alumine Five which where driven by all-new Audio Consulting Meteor Mipa amplifier. But, I'll go on the record and say this, I had no idea as to what the sensitivity of the Alumine Five's were but new they were highly sensitive despite their conventional 3-way drivers. Ha, 94dB! I was right. I immediately heard the music popping off these mighty transducers especially when Scmidlin played Shelly Manne's Sounds Unheard Of! LP. My oh my did he have my head on a swivel. Just amazingly real and uncontaminated sounding when heard through an all-battery powered setup such as this. I could obviously go on and on about the virtues of Audio Consulting of Switzerland and Stenheim loudspeakers but will wait to hear them hopefully again. In tandem, they proved to be shockinlgly good performers.