are always a treat to listen to. A personal bonus was being able to listen to the 9.87 system for the first time. Driven by Voxativ and TotalDac electronics, the 9.87 system projected the music effortlessly into the room. The Pi loudspeaker, a widebander mounted in a cabinet that includes a short downfiring horn, was placed on the new active dipole woofer system. This is a folded open baffle with isobaric loading based on the Ripol design by Axel Ridtahler. The Berlin company further enhanced the Ripol scheme with their Acoustic Stealth Technology just like in the Pi. Unlike most other (sub)woofer manufacturers,  Voxativ did not chose class-D amplification. Instead they went after a class A/B plate amp. All this made for a very fast bass system that did not give away its presence as a separate entity.

As mentioned in the opening of this report, MQA was one of the buzz words at the show. So far we paid little attention to this again latest greatest best of the best. However, we were invited to a presentation of the Brinkmann Audio Nyquist DAC which was born MQA Ready. There had to be something about MQA that made Brinkmann Audio who are attached to analog at the hip switch over to digital. In the room was not only Matthias Lück of Brinkmann but also Bob Stuart. The latter announced casually that Warner only hours before had joined the MQA camp which means a lot of source material will open up to the MQA coding process. Brinkmann's take on digital audio is one of insight which clearly is offered by the modularity of the new Nyquist DAC. To make the DAC future proof for new formats and digital technologies, the entire digital circuitry is user upgradeable by replacing a compact module. Most telling however was the demo of MQA on/off on the same tracks. We have to admit, there was a definite difference. To our ears, that difference lives in the deblurring capacities of the process. The demo was far too short to come to any definitive conclusions but the way attacks and decays behaved was key. Snappier transients and longer decays gave reproduced music more of a 'live' character. This demo persuaded us to look further into this whole MQA kit'n'kaboodle. The demo of the Nyquist also had the Brinkmann Marconi preamp, Vandersteen 5a Carbon loudspeakers and Vandersteen liquid-cooled M7-HPA amps.

Göbel packed out with their flagship Epoque Reference loudspeakers with matching subwoofers. Bending-wave speakers like these need some adaptation by the listener. One has to 'forget' that music emanates directly from the speakers one looks at. The music is just there. With smallish transducers like those used by Göbel, the switch is not as extreme as it is for instance with our own huge Podium One bending-wave panels which don't even need classic stereo placement to work. Here a gorgeous Kronos Pro turntable with SCPS 1 power supply and Swiss CH Precision P1 phono stage, L1 pre and M1 power amplifiers formed the input chain for the loudspeakers.

Orange is not only the Dutch national color arriving from the royal house of Orange. It is becoming a more and more hip colour for audio. After being popular in the colourful 70's hippie era, in later decades cool hifi had to be professional looking and most of all, be black. Crystal Cable offer orange as a standard color for their Arabesque Minissimo. That speaker is perfectly suited to it purpose but improvements are always possible. That led to the Minissimo Diamond model to exploit a new custom-built Seas diamond tweeter for the top end. By adding a Subissimo subwoofer, the bottom end gets enhanced as well. Of course the low-down looks retain Crystal's curvy style. When their Cube integrated amplifier drives this sub/sat combination, the user can configure the low-frequency roll-off and use a dedicated output for the sub(s). This is one of the many advantages of a one-brand setup. New were the Minissimo "hats". These are solid aluminium tops shaped to match the comma cross section of the loudspeakers, then machined with a stepped profile. With hat in place, the loudspeaker's dispersion in the vertical plane is enhanced, offering more height information for the projected image. Remember how next to orange, the second colour trend we spotted was gold? Crystal Cable followed suit with the 100wpc Cube in a gold finish. It downtrickles features from the big Siltech amplifiers like optical decoupling of the output stage. Crystal Cable and Siltech owners Gaby and Edwin Rijnveld own Devialet gear at home and enjoy their French remote. That no doubt was inspiration for their (what else) cube-shaped remote control for the Cube amplifier. [When I first saw photos of the "hats", I assumed them to include upfiring tweeters to add 360° dispersion to the upper treble. As it turns out, they do not. But wouldn't that be a good idea for the ideal super tweeter? – Ed]