High End 2017: Key Kim Report Page 3
CEC debuted new prototype electrostatic loudspeakers ($13,500). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get much information except that it’s a electrostatic closed-in cabinet design. It simply sounded fabulous. Overall, the sound was transparent, detailed with great resolve. These stats were fast and provided enough good bass to keep me interested. Their response-time is very quick which gave vocals and strings very natural feel. The system was comprised of an Amplifon Audio SET140 from Poland. It’s a Single-Ended topology using an 833A output stage triode producing a powerful 140 watts per side in a pure Class-A (A2 Class output triode), an analog sounding digital source a CEC TL 0-3.0 CD belt drive transport ($31k) and a CEC DA 0-3.0 D/A converter ($31k).
I was very impressed with the sound of this modest Einstein system in a small room. The system produced a beautiful sound rivaling many big systems. Einstein Audio is mostly known for their superb OTL designs but for this modest system, The Tune Integrated amplifier ($7,800), a solid-state design producing 90 Watts in Class A/B with integrated DAC and a phono stage was used to drive their simple two-way sealed-box reference Monitor loudspeaker ($9k) and TecDas turntable was used. It shows that system synergy does not need to be excessive in size nor expense. The system sounded so good that I could’ve spent all day listening.
The Harbeth Monitor 40.2-40th Anniversary edition ($19,500) loudspeakers was paired nicely with a Magnum Dynalab MD-309 ($9k) hybrid Integrated amplifier, producing a powerful 225 watts per side with a built-in DAC including the USB for a computer audio source. This is a trend becoming one of the standards for integrated amplifiers. In a celebration of the 40th anniversary, a limited edition of the Harbeth flagship, is available in a walnut veneer with some beautiful added features, including the latest WBT-nextgen binding posts, custom Harbeth internal cables and Harbeth branded British made audio grade poly capacitors. The sound was warm and with wonderful midrange.
Zanden/Audio Union/Kroma Audio
I was walking the show and I was surpised to see Yamada san of Zanden, exhibiting a static display booth on the first floor. It was his very first High End show. But, he told me his German distributor was exhibiting Zanden (along with a few dozen other manufacturers, dealers and distributors), at the High-Fi Deluxe show held at the Marriott hotel Munich. I visited Zanden’s room and it was one of my favorite sounding rooms. This has to be the best sound I have heard from Zanden at the trade shows. Maybe it’s the room or the synergy between the Carmen loudspeakers or the Helix turntable; whatever I was taken by the sound. I liked the sound so much that I wanted to stay longer but I had to move on to other rooms. The Kroma Audio Carmen ($50k) loudspeaker is a two-way three-drivers with a sensitivity of 91dB with a nominal impedance of 8 Ohm, relatively easy load to drive with an amplifier greater than fifteen watts. The Carmen is world’s first loudspeaker without any metal screws in its construction and is a full Krion cabinet with a crossover isolated in a hermetically separated chamber. The Carmen was driven beautifully by the Zanden electronics that featured their 9600 Mk2 mono amplifiers: a pure Class-A 60 watts per side in a fully balanced push-pull design from input to output and utilize Zanden’s original direct coupled circuit. Also featured was the Zanden 3000 Mk2 line preamplifier, their 1200 Mk3 phono preamplifier and a state of the art Audio Union Helix 1 turntable as the choice for analog.
I was very happy to see Kiuchi san in person. It has been at least three years since I saw him last. Kiuchi san manages to always put up a stellar sounding room and this was no exception. The Encore ENC-5 Reference monitor loudspeakers ($6,750), a two-way small bookshelf sounded remarkably natural driven by Reimyo KAP-777 power amplifier and a CAT-777MkII, a CDT-777 CD transport and a DAP-999EX limited D/A convertor. The sound was impressive. It was open, transparent, and musical. Listening to vocals and small ensembles was breathtaking. The nominal impedance of the Encore is 8 Ohms and rarely drops below 7 Ohms, making it easy to drive, even with flea-powered tube amplifiers.
Alsyvox Audio Design/Omega Audio Concepts
Daniele Coen of Alsyvox Audio Design presented his new Botticelli ($98k), a full-range three- way ribbon loudspeaker from Spain. He was the original designer of the Leonardo full-range ribbon loudspeakers from Italy. The Boticelli was paired with DNA Series electronics from Omega Audio Concepts of Italy and sounded stunningly live. It had transparency, dynamics and with an authoritative articulate bass and a coherent sound like a singlewide range transducer. It was outstanding and I really enjoyed the sound.
Visit to Thrax Audio in Sofia, Bulgaria
When I planned my trip to Munich a few months ago I promised to “pay a visit to a manufacturer either before or after the High End show.” My first stop this year would be Bulgaria. The city of Sofia to be specific. Home of Thrax Audio. I now use Thrax Audio components as my reference and became quite curious to see how Thrax Audio components were designed. A day after High End show ended, I took a short flight to Sofia where I was greeted by Rumen Artarski and his wife Anna (photo above). I didn’t know what to expect of Sofia as this was my first time visiting Bulgaria.
Thrax Audio is located in the business center of Sofia, which is about a fifteen minute taxi ride. On this trip I met up with Mark Dohmann of Audio Union (right) and Dave Kleinbeck of Enklein cables (left). We all took a trip along with Rumen and his wife to a vineyard and to the Maxi resort Velingrad. From there we visited a geniune mineral water spa where I was able to get some relaxation time in. I didn’t’ know what to expect but the food in Sofia, Bulgaria is excellent.
Rumen Artarski was proud to annouce that next year would mark Thrax Audio’s tenth. He started the company with only three people back in 2008 with the Dioynosos preamplifier as his very first product. Thrax Audio now offers a complete line of electronics that now includes loudspeakers. Fortunately the company has flourished in a very competitive industry and its growth now includes more than thirty employees. From beginning to end, all products are built in-house. As the company grew, Artarski invested more on machinery and developed the R&D team. Thrax Audio has a state-of-the-art CNC machinary an in-house R&D team. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get to see all the machines and craftsmen in action because of the holiday but now I know how my some of my favorite products are designed and made. It’s a first rate company, top notch in quality, and service, and it’s getting stronger. Thrax Audio occupies two full floors that includes the machine shop (first floor) and its 2nd floor is where the R&D department, administration, parts department and a dedicated listening room resides. In one room Artarski had all types of tubes and transformers from all over the world. The beauty of Thrax Audio is that they don’t need to rely on other contractors because everything is done in-house. This saves time and involves less guesswork. Artarski and his team are constantly working on new projects to improve their products. I really enjoyed my visit to Thrax Audio during my visit to Sofia, Bulgaria. Moreover, I’m very glad I had an opportunity to see the excellent workmanship that the company provides. Thrax Audio ladies and gentlemen is the real deal.