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As a transition I will mention Von Schweikert Audio speakers from California powered by Weston Acoustics valve amplifiers, the latter handcrafted in the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne more famous for its Pinot Noir (I am a fan) than electronics. It was certainly an awesome combination although the room was not exactly suited to these speakers which are supposed to be placed against a wall.

Let’s move on to the locals. Trying to be fair I will mention them in alphabetical order. Aaron Loudspeakers are a famous brand based in Ballina near the famous Byron Bay on the northern coast of New South Wales not far from the Queensland border. I was quite taken by these products that were delivering a very honest sound for not much money. Each time I asked a technical question, the answer was the price of the product instead. Such is their emphasis on value for money. I don’t think you could attribute the misunderstanding to my Oz-tainted French accent.

Epos, Creek Audio and Aktimate
are distributed by Epos and manufactured in China but designed in Australia in association with Creek. My dear friend Jacki Pugh and her son Andrew very successfully ran their exhibit and even won an award for it. Well done! These are honest speakers at an honest price and beautifully finished. The fact that they sound exceptionally good is an added bonus!

Grover Notting is a new company based on the outskirts of Melbourne who make speakers—nothing too exciting about that yet—but then add the coup of having legendary Australian audio engineer Dr Neville Thiele involved in the design. This was a master stroke and it showed - er, sounded. These are pro speakers used by recording studios and musicians like Nick Cave. These are fabulously accurate and dynamic with a lot of gruntl. My friend Hugh Dean of Aspen designs matching amps for them and calls them power plants. They certainly are just that!

Kyron Audio
were showing the most extraordinary product of the event I think. An active open baffle speaker system called Gaia sported no less than 10 drivers per channel each of which was individually powered by its own amplifier with a total maximum output of 5kW! A DSP unit measured the in-room response with a microphone integrated in each speaker and corrected for any imbalances.

It was an amazing experience both visually and sonically and quite funny to see people approaching and circling the speakers trying to understand how they really worked - as though they were almost in fear that they would turn into a transformer! Definitely this was no ordinary speaker and certainly one of the most outside showings in Melbourne that day.

This photo courtesy of

Osborn Loudspeakers make - well, loudspeakers.They also import into Oz and Kiwi complementary equipment like CD players from Audio Aero, Consonance and Stereo Knight amps from China and certain DACs and iPod and digital accessories. The speakers are very well built and apparently use some Focal drivers. Interestingly enough their woofers are fitted with phase plugs rather than the midrange units. It's been a couple of months so I don’t remember their sonic qualities. It might be an indication of a less than impressive result but not necessarily. I will need to find another occasion to listen to them properly before I make up my mind. On display were the Epitome and Eclipse models.

SGR Audio
had an impressive demo of an active speaker system called the Illuminator based on the ScanSpeak drivers of the same name. I will take the liberty to quote from their website.

"SGR Audio began as a Melbourne-based father and son initiative to deliver world-class audio excellence. Harry Ralston the father was involved in the audio industry for over 40 years. Stuart Ralston grew up surrounded by audio equipment so it came as no surprise when he followed in his father's footsteps. Now Harry and Stuart are an inseparable team combining the best of both generations. Harry's strong business values and extensive industry experience proved the perfect match for the advanced electronics knowledge, exposure to modern technologies and fresh insight that Stuart's youth brings.

"SGR has spent the last 10 years working quietly behind the scenes with a small loyal fan base to perfect its product range. The strength of these products has recently secured SGR distributors in Brisbane, Canberra and New Zealand. In early 2010 a state-of-the-art R&D and manufacturing facility was set up in Templestowe, Melbourne and now that the bulk of the design and infrastructure work is behind them, SGR is making its public foray to showcase an impressive range of active speakers, electronics and equipment racks. With this full featured and fleshed out product range, SGR is excited about its potential to increase the reputation of Australian hifi locally and internationally."

It was certainly one of the most interesting designs at the show and one that kept you riveted to your seat just waiting for more music to confirm the initial impression that these were indeed fabulous speakers.

I will wrap up with VAF Research who were for very different reasons another highlight of my visit. Owner Phillip Vafiadis had perfected an excellent demo from his little cube called the i90 throughout his entire range and finished up with his quasi invisible Soundwall aimed at the WAF and CEDIA markets. VAF sells direct to the public making it a very good value proposition and very good sound as well.

In conclusion it was well worth forfeiting a beautifully sunny spring day in Melbourne (a rarity) for all the wonderful products on display. The crowds in the demo rooms and corridors certainly were proof that many more people than an aficionado like me remain interested in 2-channel high-end audio.