Since 2012, the Russian high-end audio time table at the beginning of winter is reserved for Moscow’s Hi-End Show. From November 8th to 10th this year, the hotel Holiday Inn at Simonovsky Val was the center of attractions again for the connoisseurs of hi-end sound and music lovers both from the metropolis, the outer regions and even abroad. According to my impressions, the share of young people attending increased. As before there were plenty of interesting presentations, a lot of vinyl and live music. This year, the expositions saw added space one one floor with three spacious halls and lower lobby.  The domestic manufacturers demonstrated their achievements within the circular listening framework where several sound systems installed in the hall took turns…

By way of coverage of this year’s annual autumn show in Warsaw, our regular Dutchies are planning… something different. So stay tuned.

Directional bass? Low bass propagates omnipolar. That means equally in all directions. The result is that we hear it more than once. First we hear the direct sound which hits our ears without bounce. Next we hear—whatever comes first—the ricochet off the side or front walls, ceiling or floor. Finally we hear the last reflections from the farthest boundaries. Depending on involved time delay, our ears either sum all this data into one, albeit with slightly blurred edges; or our brain processes the late signal as a ghost aka room-induced reverb/echo. What if bass could be made more directional and without massive DSP like the Kii Three does it?

A visit to Aalborg to learn about Ansuz, Aavik and Børresen …

The speaker builder’s sandbox. How to print a speaker cabinet. Between each other, Ondrej and Martin have many years in Skoda’s R&D department and shorter projects at Aston Martin, McLaren, Honda and Airbus under their belts. This has them fluent in the disciplines of design engineering, prototyping and 3D printing with selective laser sintering, fused deposition modeling and stereolithography. Between their Akemake prototype to Deeptime the Czech design studio and its first commercial project, five years were spent on R&D into acoustics and the hifi industry. This included learning how to print from sand and master so-called binder setting. In general, this type of printing was used for casting molds, not finely finished freestanding objects. Hence Deeptime had to develop their own compound hardener to turn an otherwise fragile silica structure into a strong acoustically inert object…

Magnepan 30.7 and the art of the road show. It’s been a sizzling summer of hot cross country tours by the legends of music. Not to be outdone by the likes of the Rolling Stones, Magnepan has likewise been on tour with their legendary new 30.7 flagship speaker, offering short 30-minute listening sessions at select dealers, hosted by 46-year Maggie veteran and Marketing Manager, Wendell Diller. Not to disparage the stage presence of Jagger, but he doesn’t have quite the moves like Wendell so when Adrian Low of Audio Excellence asked if I’d be interested in attending, I booked my time slot and strapped on my reviewer gear.

A perfect 10? Gold Note’s DS-10 teased at the Munich HighEnd 2019 show where it was described as “an innovative 32/384 PCM and DSD128 AKM AK4493 streaming DAC with headfi and analogue line stage plus dedicated control app, TFT colour display and multi-function control knob.” That was quite the packed sentence so let’s savor it like a lengthy always unhurried Italian meal. Mmmh.

Innovation. You’d think that well-funded firms with a big cadre of engineers and access to or even ownership of the latest measuring soft/hardware would be the ones to advance the state of the hifi arts. Perhaps that’s true. But it’s certainly not exclusive. Today we highlight six more recent discoveries—the Raal Requisite true ribbon SR1a headphone having been covered in its own earlier feature—which come from very small outfits…

Celebrity entertainment mags and blogs have ’em. I’m talking of those “who was there wearing what” featurettes. And it struck me. Most show reports are…

Can you see the northern lights from Glastonbury? With iFi Audio’s new Aurora, you can hear them from anywhere in the world. Because that’s what this advanced project, originally code-named Glastonbury for the popular annual music festival in the UK, is now called. Spearheaded by chief designer Thorsten Loesch who also handles their Abbingdon Music Research line of very high-end electronics and speakers, this is iFi’s all-in-one wired/wireless complete system. It sits in sustainable bamboo which nattily suspends in a pyramidal aluminum frame based on a concept by French designer Julien Haziza who apprenticed with Philippe Stack and was inspired here by the architecture in Tokyo’s districts of Omotesando and Harajuku. Eight drive units including two passives are managed by 32-bit ARM Cortex microprocessor brain power then driven by a hybrid 6N3P-tube/class D amp of 320 watts total whose 1.5MHz switching frequency is sync’d or clock-locked to the 32bit/192Hz ESS Sabre D/A converter’s sample rates. The output filter’s bandwidth is 300kHz, that of the amp’s 150kHz, suppression of the switching noise is 120dB.

Definitive Audio, the distribution and retail arm of speaker house Living Voice, were relinquishing their long-standing Kondo franchise for the UK. “We have always followed our heart because that’s where music communicates. It is fundamental that we feel a powerful connection to the brands we represent. Over the years we have enjoyed a good working relationship with Kondo and it is now time for us to move on and make way for someone who feels as passionate about their new designs as we do about their originals. We wish them well for the future. We, of course, continue to offer backup support and service on all of the Kondo equipment we have sold over the last 16 years. In this news blurb hide a few thought-worthy points. The most interesting perhaps pertains to…

What to do in Munich – stop N°4. As covered in last year’s show report of the HifiDeluxe in Munich, Bayz Audio there premiered their unique omnipolar Courante speaker which curved a thin-walled carbon-fibre tube into an upright C whose open section was bridged by their proprietary pulsing-rod tweeter. For this year, inventor Zoltán Bay has announced his flagship Counterpoint model…

What to do when in Munich –  stop N°3: The elephant and three deaf men…

What to do when in Munich – stop N°2. A nonmissable exhibit will be the Living Voce Vox Palladian / Vox Basso system running off pure battery power on Kondo valve kit…

If your name be Dragomir, the marketing gods would really have forsaken you if the word ‘dragon’ didn’t show up in your materials. Thankfully Dr. Colich’s first name is Dragoslav so we do get some fire-breathing toys to play with here. Chief technology officer for planarmagnetic headphone house Audeze, he has 4 decades of R&D into planarmagnetic physics, material science and industrial design under his belt. With Dragonfire Acoustics…

The devil wears Prada. 

When he’s called Vinnie Rossi, that means 15″ heels – er, woofers.

Forest. Tree. Fall. Does it make any sound if nobody hears it? Product. Disruptor. Is that still true if nobody notices? Today isn’t about the forest. It’s about a game-changing product which won’t do much disrupting unless more people learn about it first. To start, let’s ask what one common issue is which plagues all dynamic drivers – their suspension of outer surround (foam, rubber, corrugated paper) and inner spider (corrugated impregnated textile). It’s why companies like France’s Leedh and Belgium’s Ilumnia eliminate these parts altogether; why Cube of Poland replace their spider with a phenolic spring. To keep it simple, call the related problem energy storage. Like a capacitor or dielectric which stores energy to release it later, that’s not a good thing for the impulse response which shows behavioral accuracy in the time domain…

What to do in Munich – Stop N°1. The sender was Bruno Putzeys. The email read, “you might have picked up some noises about me taking part in a new Danish project called Purifi which combines work on class D amplifiers and loudspeaker drive units specifically intending to reduce distortion in both. In both cases my partner Lars Risbo and I have achieved a roughly 20dB improvement over current designs. Sonically the impact is quite startling. We are gearing up to become an OEM supplier of drive units and amplifiers and a few key customers have already gotten samples to play with. So we decided it’s time to go a bit more public. We’re setting up a private demo in Munich, combining the new Eigentakt amplifier technology with…”

Flagships. I’ve never really understood the phrase. That made it time I did something about it. Don’t all proper ships crossing international waters—that is, not mere boats sailed, paddled or rowed in a local bay, lake or river—fly a flag? In which case, where are the ships without a flag? Are they the no-flag ships, on the dry docks perhaps?

Woe be me. Stick around. You might see yourself in the mirror. That’s because you’re a showgoer, too. You’ve saved up to book the hotel and flight. You’ve even brought a credit card with big dynamic headroom just in case one of your favourite vendors sells discounted display samples that fit into your luggage. Once the doors of the M.O.C. open, your mind stops. You’ve of course read about how big this annual Munich show is but in person, it’s a whole other gig. Pretty soon your eyes glaze over. Your ears shut down. You feel like a headless chicken. Everywhere you look there’s personnel hyping this and that. Buzz words are wielded like sticky fly paper. As to auditions, they get louder as the day progresses. Most of them are less than splendid. Pretty soon everything sounds more or less the same. And it’s just your first day. There’s two more. Good grief. Right now a Weißbier or two sound far better than hifi…

Real people fi. Oops. Cursed by dualistic language, once we write that, we’ve turned ourselves into despicable judgmental dunces. What does that term make the rest? Hifi for faux people? Let’s try again. I just want to document what ‘real’ people apart from diehard audiophiles might/should do with small speakers like these Amphion Argon3s. For evidence, your prosecutor of the cause presents exhibit A. That’s my wife’s room. It’s how Ivette has always set up her bedside system around her MacBook with external DVD drive. The usual equally white Amphion Helium 510 in residence here simply made room for their bigger brethren. An Aura Note Premier 2 from Simon Lee’s old brand April Music is her designated driver all in one box. The laptop quickly disconnects from the USB cable should she do some writing work in bed.

Hindsight. It makes us all wiser. Or so we hope. Definitely older. No time spent, no hindsight. At the end of a year, looking back one takes stock. From everything we reviewed here  in 2018, what stood out as the King of (making) Hay for hifi’s version of Rafael Nadal on a budget court? Which was the key inventor to push a given sector’s state of the art? Were cost no object, did anything actually open up a new path previously not accessible? Who was the best dressed and smartest one? Here are our five mentions for these four categories… our take on a royal flush with a very loyal blush.

Damn surely poop. That’s one way to decipher DSP. But not ours. My two prior articles Breaking Good and Passive struggles, active solutions set the scene to become foreplay for today’s climax: digital signal processing as the key to better speaker design. Our tour guide is again speaker designer Pat McGinty of Meadowlark.

Why would anybody want to jump into the MQA debate now that the fad is fading and most seem to converge towards a consensus that it really was not much more than a way to get people to buy new gear and new copies of the same recordings all over again? Primarily because it is now possible to express a more balanced opinion without being torched – and most importantly, because I believe MQA is not useless, just not worth enough to pay for…