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Introduction. For over 20 years there hadn't been a real hifi show on Australian soil. Sure, all along certain dealers grouped together to participate at some Home Builder's event here and there. Professional shows like CEDIA meanwhile aimed at the custom install market and were run as mainly behind-closed-doors affairs between manufacturers, specialised A/V retailers and custom install members of CEDIA. However no real attempts to reach the end user occurred during that long period. Period.

It was quite interesting then to see the diversity of folks attending now, from hardcore older audiophiles like me to an unexpected proportion of younger people from mostly what we could call the iPod generation who seemed determined to discover the next level of sound quality they could expect if they were to invest in a proper system. My guess is that their interest might have been triggered by their experience with home cinema where the audio component is an integral part of the experience of watching a Blu-Ray DVD at home.

A favourite demo disc turned out to be This is it, the posthumous account of the preparation of what would have been the most extravagant Michael Jackson series of concerts in a 24/192 hi-resolution audio performance on mostly HD video (you actually didn't notice the bits not in HD as we were so taken by the performance and sound quality).

The venue was the recently refurbished Marriot Hotel at the edge of the Melbourne CBD. It proved to be quite adequate even if some exhibitors had difficulties getting their equipment in and out. The rooms were large enough to cater both to a sizeable assembly of listeners and sometimes monstrously large equipment (SGP Audio and the Ocean from Cabasse come to mind). The usual Aussie casualness added real local flair to a great collection of local and imported products. All in all it was well worth spending a Sunday to report about some of the staples of the hifi world but also some lesser known but nevertheless very good local products. Let’s start with the majors so we can get to the good stuff afterwards. Jamo and Marantz teamed up and had a big static display on the ground level and a listening suite on level 3. I was keen to hear their open-baffle speakers but was quite disappointed by the result. Perhaps the room was not supportive for that type of speaker? More on successful open baffles later though.

Alpine, Yamaha, JVC, Denon, Tannoy and Loewe were the other majors on the ground floor.

Moving on to the third floor of the hotel and the first floor of exhibitors, one got into more interesting territory with the likes of Krell, Thorens and Runco running an impressive 3D demo with two of their top of the range projectors, NAD and PSB, Polk Audio & Rotel.

A special mention goes to Bryston as one of my favorite brands of electronics. Perhaps I am biased as I was their French distributor for two years back in the 90s and because I still own a vintage Bryston 3B, finding it certainly their best combination of power and delicacy. It was also occasion to rekindle the friendship with one of the founders, Brian Russell whom I had not seen since his visit to Paris. You can see Bryan in the mirror trying to reach for his coffee sitting on a very expensive speaker.

Another special mention goes to my friends at Soundlabs who import a lot of components for speaker design: Mundorf, Auricap, drivers from Visaton and Wavecor and valves from Russian supplier Sovtek. They are one of the best in the business I am told. They also import turn-key products like Leben amplifiers and the beautiful and amazing sounding Audel speakers.

Moving on to the fourth floor one could indulge in a Cambridge Audio + Rega + Sonus Faber treat; or a JBL, Ypsilon and Kuzma medley; or B&W speakers whose new PM-1 I love and whose size doesn’t hamper an unbelievably good sound. Also present were legendary Naim and Spendor. There were also two Austrian manufacturers by way of Vienna Acoustics and Ayon, the latter presenting a very well crafted series of valve electronics and CD players and also showing an Avid Acutus turntable for vinyl maniacs like yours truly.

Unfortunately I missed out on two good demos, the new Magnepan MG3.7R—which I also missed at the Paris Show where they were on static display only—and the Origin Live Calypso turntable with London Decca cartridge feeding the famous UK valve electronics from Icon Audio. Lack of time also meant that I missed all of the fifth floor where Dali, KEF, Elac, Electrocompaniet, Arcam, Audio Physic and mainly the Dan D’Agostino Momentum amp powering the Wilson Audio Sashas made for a treat that was not available in Paris; and finally Linn Audio. But my greatest regret was having missed iconic Australian speaker brand Whatmough, whose founder Mr. Whatmough recently passed away.

Now I would like to make a brief but hopefully significant mention of the few French manufacturers represented in Australia and present at the Show (with the exception of Triangle whose distributor Audio Active chose to demonstrate Vienna Acoustics due to 'space constraints' and French absentee Waterfall Audio whose distributor didn’t bother to exhibit). Focal was powered by Krell amplifiers and you probably need that much juice to awaken these certainly precise but also power-hungry beautiful beasts.

Then Elipson was on the fifth floor presumably showing their Planets and recently released Music Center, a smart and good-sounding competitor to the Bose lifestyle system and other iPod dock devices. Audio Dynamics who distributes Elipson in Australia also imports the renowned French YBA electronics. But I kept the best French for last as Cabasse under Christophe Cabasse himself were presenting their new Ocean speakers. Christophe did a very mean demo of his newborns—an avatar of La Sphere—with their integrated electronics and processor. This was truly amazing sound even within the confines of a sub par hotel room.

But I also had the honor of being invited to a private audition at Audio Trends the following night. They are one of the best dealers in Melbourne and it proved well worth a late dinner and 60km round trip to an industrial estate where the unassuming facade of the shop would reveal an interior decor worthy of a prince.

The Oceans were in their elements here and Christophe bathed us in a sea of extraordinary sound. Thank you.