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Whilst their Blade and LS50 have gotten all the buzz, KEF's X30A active speakers with class A/B amps deserve your real attention if a/ your budget is tight, b/ you do a lot of listening on the desktop.

And to underline that headphones really are the fastest growing hifi category, KEF joined B&W, Focal, MartinLogan and Paradigm by entering it. Splash!

Exclusively for the nouveau riche was this Kharma exhibit.

Not so the Kingsound electrostatic headphones which traded gold-plating for plastic but had really attractive pricing (€1.000 for the solid-state version, €1.500 for the tube kit).

Swiss Klangwerk is firmly of the hifi is a lifestyle belief (bravo!) and thus takes superior inwalls as seriously as one should. Their active very compact floorstander above is a very solid alternative to the Manger.

Not all ground floor exhibits were of the leaner wallet sort. Here Kondo unleashed the hedge fun(d) with a complete system.


Lansche's plasma tweeter is their true piece de resistance. If their local distributor can deliver their smallest pair into my upstairs sound room—I made similar overtures to Goebel—I might just have opportunity to finally hear it for myself in a controlled environment.

Lawrence Audio has grown their current line well beyond the models brought to Munich over the span of what seems like a few very short years.

Joël Chevassus will do the honors on a smaller pair.

Magico's S5 driven from Spectral did nothing for me but perhaps that was because I stood way off-axis again (laid out as it was, the room was packed) and that Nils Lofgren popped bass track was played at overly ambitious levels.

But the curvaceous aluminium extrusion compression-loaded with expanded horizontal cross braces does eliminate my prior misgivings over bolting together straight aluminum panels and calling it advanced engineering. I'd thus be curious to hear the smaller S1 two-way in my own room to understand what all the Magico hype is about.

Daniela Manger showed off her active towers in an attractive anodized green.

Here my allergy to taking notes got the better of me. I can't remember this maker's name except that it ends in Manufaktur. My apologies. This speaker isn't a three-way with rear-firing woofer but a 2-way with passive radiator.

MSB's discrete R2R digital boards are found not only in the new Thrax DAC but also in ReQuest's massive new server.

Music First's passive magnetic preamp is a favorite of Stereophile's Sam Tellig but I prefer the far cleaner internal construction of John Chapman's relay-switched remote-actuated autoformer solution in my Tap X.

Between the digital iPod all-in-ones from B&O, B&W and NAD, the latter's Viso with PSB-designed speakers would have my vote. Because Apple's new iDevices abandoned the former 30-pin connector, the new Viso has eliminated the dock to get fed via special cable direct to its USB input.

The value-conscious company also introduced a number of compact digital devices which recall Corey Greenberg's immortal header "Go NAD" of yore.

Through his translator, I talked at length with Norma's Enrico Rossi who has very advanced circuits for fair pricing. (The latter isn't quite true for the US where importer TMH Audio always gets too creative with his ever-changing brands.)

Norma's tasteful exteriors were styled by Sonus faber/Wadia wunderkind Livio Cucuzza.

A review of something norma(l) is definitely on my books.