High End 2018h
Kondo Audio Note of Japan debuted their new Gakuoh II 300B monoblock amplifiers (€160k) alongside a pair Kaiser Acoustics Kawero loudspeakers of Germany (€80k). The original Gakuoh was released back in 1998 (which is quite a span of time between the original and the new Mk II version). This newer version boasts newer parts in its signal path, not to mention all hand-made silver capacitors and rectifiers. I’m just a sucker for Kondo Audio Note gear and make no apologies for it. Yes, it’s grossly expensive but recreates His Master’s Voice in a way I’ve not heard surpassed (though, I’ve heard two other brands come very close to matching). If money were no object…you’d bet I would own a pair of these babies. Yep, no apologies!
Many of the rooms I entered were playing vinyl. Here’s a shout out to some of the ‘tables I admired…
Breathtaking is the only word that comes to mind in expressing what I experienced in the Von Schweikert/VAC suite. Believe it or, though this room was smaller than at last year’s Munich show, the sound overall, in my opinon, was better. A blessing in disguise? My feelings were, because the room was narrower, the sound became more intimate and thus more personal and less of a show stopper like last year. This allowed me to hear into the music that much more gracefully, rather than have the music thrust upon me by the sonic virtues of those VR 11’s powered by the VAC 450 iQ mono amplifiers.
NAT Audio’s Magma SE SET, based on the high voltage, 170 watt GM-100 tube, is said to be the most powerful tube available today in the high-end market. Driving a pair of Odeon 33s horn loudspeakers, I can say this was one of those rooms I didn’t want to leave. A tad light in the bass, as I found a lot of rooms were, there was an incredible sense of palpability and grace offered over what I remembered hearing from Odeon last yaer. I felt, though the music wasn’t familiar, I did however enjoy this setup immensely. And those NAT Magma’s are gorgeous!
Whether big vintage horns or small, the guys from Silbatone Audio Japan, know one thing: how to make the music shine!
Oliver Göbel’s new High End Divine Majestic loudspeaker is a complete departure from the bending wave driver technology that placed Göbel Audio on the high end audio map. Big, bold and powerful, their overall dynamic abilities were impressive, however, the overall performance ultimately left me wanting. I was looking for the intimacy and delicacy of Oliver’s other statement designs are known for. I wanted to return perhaps for a better seat, to get another perspective, but the room was so overcrowded every time I returned, I gave up. Hopefully, I will get another chance for a listen.
The Living Vioce Vox Olympian/Vox Elysian ($800k estimated), loudspeaker system is unfortunately out of most pedestrian’s financial reach. However, astounding transducer should serves as a marker (and a very high one) for what is possible in the here and now. Every year I make it a point to listen intently once again, if this loudspeaker – along with Audio Note electronics – can sonically out-distance the competition: and every year, it does just that. Hard to explain until you hear it for yourself.
Holger Stein was having a grand time swooning showgoers at this year’s High End show. And why not? He’s only improved on the already sonic exellence of his incredible line-source/horn loudspeakers that much further.
Stein Music’s Top Line “Bob XL” loudspeaker is designated as Stein Music’s statement product. The Top Line XL is a unique blend of line source, horn and open baffle design on a narrow footprint of 25” by 16”. What’s more interesting to these ears is that each woofer section has an integrated 3000 watts of amplification controlled by a DSP to perfectly adapt the bass response to any given room. “The rest of the speaker, says Holger Stein, works in passive mode, so that you may use your favorite electronics from 60Hz upwards.” The Top Line XL loudspeaker ($135k), is specifically designed for larger listening spaces with good distance from the listening seat. From the vantage point of this rather nice sized listening space, I would venture to place the performance of this loudspeaker, using all Stein Music electronics as well, equalled that of the Living Voice setup. Looking at the speaker, it would appear almost impossible for something this large to disappear in front of you, but that’s exactly what it does. One of the best, and most unusual designed loudspeakers I have seen before. An 8ft tall open-baffle line-source that employs a horn midrange? Yet, the sound stands out as among the best at this show for two years straight! And guess what else, this is just their second year showing. Im still trying to wrap my head around how and why they work. Absolutely stunning!
Until the next time we meet!
Stereo Times Masthead
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