In another room and despite a giant screen, our attention was magnetically drawn to the largest horn systems we have ever seen in such a small space. They weren't on active duty but the music played in the room emerged instead from 4 speakers attached to a professional light rack, projecting sounds from the ceiling downward. This exhibitor was clever and offered us a CD/ROM with documentation. From this disk, it became clear later that the company is into professional installations of light and sound systems in clubs and concert halls. The huge horn systems are made by Void Acoustics and as the manufacturer states, are 'Mid-Fi' and intended for clubs. Nevertheless, they look great. The ceiling-mounted loudspeakers were made by Italian firm NewTec and are meant to be used as PA/background loudspeakers. NewTec offers all manner of omnipolar designs, some with LED lighting on top for professional applications.

Next door's exhibitor demonstrated with Triode equipment from Japan, sweet-sounding small amplifiers with 300Bs and KT88s and quite in contrast to the adjacent rooms where Magnepans were battling it out with a forest of bass traps and against a 5.1 contingent of Sonus Fabers which shook the floor driven from Swedish Bladelius electronics. The Gondul multi format player is conveniently equipped with a small LCD screen so that menus of DVD-A discs could be handled without problems. When the volume toned down to humane levels, the combination of refined Italian loudspeakers -- even when present in multi-channel redundancy -- and Swedish workhorses proved worthwhile listening.

Conversation in a much more familiar language or two became possible in Avantgarde Acoustic’s Moscow dealer exhibit where Armin Krauss of the German hornspeaker firm was present. No Duo Omegas here in Moscow. Sales are reportedly so good that bringing a pair to the show proved out of the question. The exhibitor had to make do with a pair of standard Duos and Solos. Avantgarde is pleased with the success of the Omega upgrade and the concept of upgrading to protect their customers' investments is working out splendidly (we shall report on upgrading our Duos to 19-ohm 108dB Omega status shortly).

The Russian distributor for Isotek found himself confronted with a big problem. It had nothing to do with the products he sells and all to do with the varying voltages Russia and many other places in the world are prone to suffering. Voltage in Russia can apparently sweep within a fraction of a second, from far below the expected 230 volts to way beyond it. Most electronic equipment can handle these tides though life expectancy is reduced when voltage oscillations are regular. Two weapons in the battle against such mains issues are power regenerators or voltage regulators. Isotek from the UK has chosen the latter. Their newest Centauri and Aquarii regulators -- the difference is between a more professional and 'household' version -- employ a novel approach. These regulators are not based on a so-called Variac transformer that uses a wiper against exposed windings of the transformer to output a certain voltage. Whenever the incoming voltage changes, the wiper has to readjust too. This can be automated with a steering logic chip.

Here Isotek's notion of Zero Locking Voltage enters the picture. In an environment where 230 Volts at 50Hz is nominal, every sine wave will reach its peak in 5msec and go from 0 to 325.3 Volts. The next 5 msec, the voltage will drop to 0 again, thereafter to minus 325.3 and then swing back to 0 Volt. One full sine wave takes 20 msec sharp. The new power device samples the peak voltage every 5 msec. Depended on what is found, the microprocessor selects an action involving an internal flux reservoir of the Isotek voltage stabilizer. Every 5 mseconds, the Centauri transforms electrical to magnetic energy and back again. It is here that the new Zero Locking Voltage principle goes to work. By adjusting the flux, it generates either a higher or lower voltage at the end of the cycle. These adjustments are carried out at the zero crossing point of the sine wave. With a reaction time of 5 msec, the system is quick enough to prevent damage and smooth out the voltage to the desired 230 Volt (+/- 6%). Because the adjustment is made at the zero voltage crossing point, the connected equipment remains oblivious to the manipulations. Interesting technique. If it works in Moscow, it should work everywhere (with the internal DSP adjusted for different target voltages, of course).

In the adjacent room, Crystal Cable celebrated the debut of its latest and top-line cable series. Christened Ultra, this line doubles up on the Reference series. Take two Reference cables, twist them around each other and connect the double ends to the firm's connectors. Though it sounds easy, it is a bit more involved. The Ultra series cables are serial numbered so the manufacturer can keep track should the need arise. This number is printed on the plexi disc that covers the connectors at the splitter transition. In order to detach the splitter from the cable, the printed seal must be broken. The first use of these cables occurred while recording the latest MA Recordings opus by Todd Garfinkle.

Each year the HDI Show recognizes the best new HiFi product with an award. The jury consists of the editors of 10 leading Russian HiFi and video magazines. This year the award went to Crystal Cable. Gabi van der Kley was clearly surprised to be presented with a statue in the form of a flower whose stem was an RCA connector.

Every floor of the Iris hotel sported long tables filled to bending with magazines. These magazines are published by the show sponsors and not merely audio or video oriented. Playboy and Pingvin were just a few samples of - er, genre-crossing exposure but the sheer amount of magazine titles showed that the printed press including its A/V-oriented titles is a booming business in Russia.

Another Dutch cable manufacturer present was Aalt Jouk van den Hul with a full display of various cables and wires from his stable. He also suffered some language problems but not with all attendees as the picture shows. Opera had a big display and the beautiful looking Droplet and Consonance designs drew heaps of visitors.

Virtual Acoustics is a Russian company designing and building probably the heaviest loudspeakers ever attempted. These are all made from solid marble and must weigh a ton. Imagine the shipping costs.

Descending to the lower floors in the Iris hotel, the amount of video screens and boomy bass rose proportionally with the amount of beautiful young and barely dressed girls. The louder the exhibits, the more denuded the ladies. This served as a reminder that HiFi slash video is a men's business in Russia just as it is everywhere else in the world.

Two-channel audio appeared alive and well in Russia and many show exhibitors proved that there is a perceived market here for expensive equipment. However, much more interest was reserved for the video component. Most rooms at the Moscow show were stacked with screens, projectors, 5.1 to 9.2 speaker sets and more. This trend has an origin called economics. Especially in Moscow, the economy is booming. Imagine real estate prices rising 50% annually! The real estate agents are making money hand over first. Together with the real estate bull market, related industries soar as well. Maybe the biggest incentive in this growing market is the opportunity for young professionals to secure a mortgage. The mortgage system remained unknown in Russia until very recently and its introduction is opening new doors to its citizenry. On the downside, the gap between the new haves and the have-nots is growing bigger and bigger.

Moscow at the beginning of March was not ideal for tourists. The streets proved icy beneath the snow and walking around became awkward at best and dangerous at worst. Taxis and the metro with its beautiful stations can bring you everywhere but a nice wintery stroll through the city was not advisable due to the hazardous road conditions.

Next year the show will take place in mid April, probably better timing for visitors. Even though we felt lost in translation, time and place at certain points, the visit to the show and city were worthwhile. Being in such a different place with different ways and cultural habits added something to the usual experience of press members attending an event. Whenever you feel lost, there’s always the universal bond and emotion that music offers.