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Meridian may have absorbed Sooloos but Absolute Sound is also the distributor of Imerge music and movie servers. Servers are slowly but surely gaining ground for their user-friendly interfaces, convenience and competitive pricing. Sure they cost more than a PC or MAC but these music and movie servers bring a whole new experience once savored. Anything less would not be acceptable! The Meridian DSP8000 stood out as the flagship for the last few years and is by far one of the most advanced loudspeaker designs money can buy. Not cheap with the level of applied engineering in DSP, amplification and loudspeakers all rolled into one, it is a tour de force in high-end AV.

Another industry veteran, Reference Audio demonstrated the most expensive loudspeaker of the show, the $250,000 Gryphon Poseidon loudspeaker. The four towers were mind boggling, second perhaps only to the likes of a big Wilson or Genesis. The speaker arrives with a built-in 1000-watt amplifier driving 8 x 8-inch woofers churning out low-low bass extension to 6Hz. This speaker took the Gryphon design team some 15 years of speaker design experience and knowledge to build. Good stuff even if just for audiophile wet dreams! If you have the dough, you know where to look for Reference Audio!

Reference Audio also used this opportunity to demonstrate the quality of 24/192 recordings through this flagship loudspeaker, dispelling the myth that ‘digital isn’t good enuf’. Now that we are done with the larger rooms, we head up to the 7th floor to preview the smaller, humbler and hopefully more realistically priced products. I want to listen to music not at the expense of selling the kids. Not that the thought never crossed my mind at some point or another.

Hornspeakers anyone? The guys from Feastrex Japan, Teramoto-san and Akiyama Jr (son of partner Dr Akiyama) were in town to join the fun. Aural Design now markets a hornspeaker design called Alga Horn which is proudly made in Singapore. It uses a 5-inch Alnico Feastrex drive unit. Since Feastrex itself makes no enclosures, just raw drive units, the Alga Horn became a back-loaded horn with pretty nice curves in the right places that was driven from a P/P EL34 design by Italian tube amplifier specialist Tektron. An interview with Teramoto and Akiyama are forthcoming.

The Dynaudio Consequence is one ungainly massive loudspeaker, as pretty as Godzilla in tutus yet it never seems to have lost its appeal over the years. Now in its ‘Ultimate Edition’, meaning the ‘Best of the Best of the Best’ Consequence ever, these 114kg worth of wood, five drive units per side and an ultra-complex crossover made for a musical experience only a Dynaudio loudspeaker can give.

IMS, the distributor of JBL, Infinity, Harman Kardon, Chord Electronics and Pathos showcased their classic series JBL4338 loudspeaker driven by Chord Electronics Cyan Click DAC integrated amplifier with Bluetooth. I call this a miracle in compactness in a high-end audio products. John Franks from Chord was at the show but not in the room while I was there.  Perhaps next time, John?

Did I miss a group buy for the Gallo Reference? Darn! I was told about a dozen pairs were already sold, many to residents in the ultra high-end residences in Sentosa Cove. How come security never paged me? Anyway, I like the looks of this ultra-slim lifestyle-oriented no-holds-barred line-source design and if that sound like a mouthful, it’s part of the bigger game plan. Yup, these tall guys do intimidate me (coz I’m short) but I like the design elements that go into these speakers. Even if it sound duff—which fortunately it isn’t—I’d still get a pair or two. Tall columns make my house look grand. Any more group buys, guys? In case you missed these at the show, you can always make your way down to Audio88 to have a listen to these slim wonders.

Nagra from Switzerland makes some pretty good professional audio gear. They also are a big sponsor of the Singapore Mosaic Music Festival held every year at the Esplanade. Anyway, this was a home AV and not pro AV show so we’ll just have a closer look at the gorgeous—and I really do mean gorgeous—and petite, CDC CD player with pre-out. Feeding the VPA mono towers, it drove a pair of Verity loudspeakers. Nice guys, nice.

Panasonic’s winning streak seems set to continue with yet another generation of their wildly successful ‘000 series. Now the AE4000 (S$3999) replaces the AE3000 (still available whilst stocks last). Housed in a similar chassis, the AE4000 offers a couple of extra features – a red rich lamp, 100,000:1 contrast, improved cinema mode, improved color accuracy, improved video processor for frame interpolation and a new ‘Clarity’ processor. All the well-loved features from the AE3000 are carried over so you basically get a much better projector for about the same price as the outgoing AE3000 (the launch price.) The AE3000 is knocked down in price slightly to S$2999 (from a previous S$3499) to clear the stock. There is already a review in Projector Central so go and check it out.

Raindrop Audio is one of the newer hifi companies in Singapore, dealing with many interesting products without which our hifi scene would be a lot less, erm… interesting. Here with one of the few analogue front ends used for demonstrations at the show, Avid is a UK company making a nice line of high-end turntables and here we had the hairy-chested named turntable called Volvere with an SME 309 tonearm (also English) and a Nagaoka MP500 moving magnet cartridge. The phono stage was a  Vacuum State SVP2 with a Wyred4Sound STP-SE hybrid (part active, part passive) preamplifier and Red Wine Audio Signature 70.2 power amplifier driving a pair of open-baffle Emerald Physics CS3 loudspeakers through a digital crossover between the pre and power amp. Exotic, isn’t it?

Peachy audio gear? Peachtree Audio’s USB amplifier made its appearance at Audio Trio’s room. Audio Trio started off just like any hifi shop some years ago but have since placed their bets on computer audio, the preferred audio playback of the younger set of audiophiles. If it’s good sound, that’s all that matters, computer, compressed or otherwise. Here we had all things computer audio related – the aforementioned amplifiers with USB inputs, USB to S/PDIF converters, high-quality outboard DACs with USB inputs, audiophile-grade USB cables, small active speakers and so on. If you are keen on getting the best sound from your compressed (or non-compressed) music files, Audio Trio is perhaps your best bet in our local market!

Or you might try Resolution, a new but actually not that new outfit run by some pro audio people. On demo were some Indian made active bookshelf monitors from a company called Sonodyne. The Sonodyne SM50 active bookshelf monitors sell for S$1050 and are a nicely made speaker in a metal chassis. On display were some room treatments from a Portugal company named Vicoustics. A compact 24/192 DAC, the Audio Control 1, comes with Cirrus Logic DACs and USB input and was offered at just $450 which Resolution claimed was the cheapest in the market. There is an even smaller and cheaper 24/96 version in a small cigarette-pack enclosure called Audio2DJ - for a mere $180. Now there is absolute no excuse for bad-sounding music files from your computer or iPod to be piped into your hifi system!

Music is an experience and hifi gives us an opportunity to live that experience. Though hifi is at best a facsimile of the real thing, it is better than nothing. However, any true music lover and audiophile must frequently refresh their ears with the sound of live music. It is for this reason that the organizer of Sound an Sight 2009 Mr. Tham collaborated with Rain Forrest Music.

He arranged to have the acclaimed singers Chang An and Xu Le from China specially flown in to give a series of live concerts. The two young performers had a tremendous reception for their performances. Well done, the effort paid off and was much appreciated by the show visitors. All I can add is, we want more! Click here for a short clip of the performance.

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