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Yes, it is really that cold and dark
As the new Scandinavian correspondent on staff, it is with great respect for the writers already contributing. I have seldom read reviews or musical commentary from such a crowd of skilful writers. So, I am proud to become a member of this team and I will contribute from time to time with industry news and goings-on here at my end of the Gulf stream, which of course is a place a lot colder than that of many of my colleagues. The good thing about our climate? It's fully accepted to have a hobby like high end audio. It makes for a good excuse to stay indoors. For those unfamiliar with the way of life here in the European North, I should tell you that our winters extend from November all the way into April and the sun practically disappears during these months. So now you know. But please, don't remind my Italian wife! More on that later.

My audiophile journey from mono to stereo

Being Norwegian, my hobby in music playback thus far has included plenty of Scandinavian gear. But first, let's go back in
time to where it all started. I have been an audiophile since about the age of ten. Of course, I didn't know that I was an audiophile when I was running around in shorts playing soccer but now I understand that my first upgrade actually occurred when I bought an additional speaker for my mono Phillips cassette player. I remember this quite well. It really meant something to me. From mono, I moved upwards to my first German ITT stereo at the age of 13. I was in heaven! I was listening to a lot of the Beatles. In fact, I only listened to the Beatles for several years. But of course, disco started to play a major role in my life as a teenager and so, with a little help from the Beatles, I moved to...

A mother screaming help but for other reasons
As a teenager, I was heavily into bass, disco, Reggae and high playback levels. Back then, I had all my equipment in my sleeping room next to the kitchen. With a large Sony receiver -- it really was a beast weighting in at ca 30 kilos and putting out 2 x 150 watts -- connected to my Altec Lansing Santanas, you could say that the bass on Grace Jones' Nightclubbing was felt throughout the house. So much so in fact that I broke several glasses in the kitchen when I was playing loud. You can imagine how happy my mother was. The sound of this system wasn't very good at all but damn if it didn't do tha basz. And, I impressed my friends - very important at that time.

Next up was a Sansui system with Rauna Njord speakers [below]. The Njord was made of concrete and developed, I believe, by the people behind the Opus 3 record label. I also had an NAD amplifier while on the Njords. Not bad and much better than my next system.

Audiophilia nervosa
In this period, I changed systems rapidly without really knowing where I was headed. The next step in speakers were Infinity Kappa 8s, a power-hungry monster that I had to biamplify to get to function at all. At the end of the day, it became clear to me that the Kappa 8 wasn't a great speaker so I sold them plus one of the amps driving them, the Nakamichi PA-5. But I kept the Tandberg.

When I was about 22 or 23, I had my first decent system. This consisted of Proac speakers, Conrad-Johnson PV 7 preamp and the old Tandberg 3026A power amp. This together with a Micro Seiki turntable produced good sound. My first CD player was a Onkyo Integra, a big solid machine. I then upgraded to the Tandberg and my amp to the Dynaco Stereo 70 Mk.2. With this system, I was very happy for a long period. It was neither very powerful nor neutral but highly musical to my ears.

A new start - and still searching
Then I sold all of my equipment and moved abroad to study. For about 4 years, I began the next phase of my new audiophile life. Being Norwegian, I bought electronics from Electrocompaniet. Well, nobody tells you to do so, but the EC stuff is relatively cheap in Norway compared to what you have to pay for it elsewhere. So it was good value for the money.

Now some news before I go on: Many people may not know this yet but Electrocompaniet has gone bankrupt and is, for the time being, not producing any new equipment. Bankruptcy was caused by many years of production issues here in Norway and the slower sales because of it. But I am happy to report that the former owners and Per Abrahamsen are now busy to relaunch the brand and develop new products. They also have some new investors so let's hope for the best. Electrocompaniet was the pride of the audiophile community in Norway and we definitely want and need them back.

The products I had were the EMC-1 CDP, the AW120 power amp and the ECI-3 integrated used as a preamp. This together with Dynaudio Contour speakers produced a highly relaxed and detailed sound. In this balanced system, I used the Nordost Red Dawn cables throughout. Not bad at all. Then I sold the Dynaudio speakers and bought the excellent Finnish Amphion Xenon. This is a great speaker for the price and was a very good match with EC equipment as well as tubes. I can easily recommend this speaker to audiophiles and music lovers on a budget. They sell for ca. $4000 in the US.

The present state of the high end in my listening room
I am very lucky to have a dedicated listening room in my house. It isn't big but ca. 6 x 4.5 meters. In my opinion, a dedicated listening room is essential in this hobby. The room has to be of a certain size and be treated as a listening room. That means one must be free to rearrange the furniture, plants, carpets and lights so that it can function as a music-only space. I also like the idea that the small fingers of my two small children are kept safely away from my gear.

I think my current system does many things right but of course nothing is perfect. It is a combination of Danish and American high end products and consists of the following:

  • The reference system:
  • Preamplifier: EDGE G1
  • Power amplifier: EDGE G6
  • CD-player: EDGE GCD
  • Loudspeakers: Peak-Consult Princess System
  • Cables: Argento Serenity, speaker and signal
  • Powercords: Transparent Reference, Cardas Golden Reference
  • Rack: Finite-Elemente Pagode Signature
  • Tweaks: Finite-Elemente Cerabase, Ceraball and Cerapuc, Cable Towers from Dedicated Audio
  • AC: 2 dedicated powerlines, no filters or power plants.
Some words about the components. Edge Electronics G1 + G6 + GCD - great musical performers with a neutral, crystal clear sound. Edgeless. These are here for the long haul.

My speakers are the InCognito Princess System from Peak-Consult in Denmark. The man behind this brand is Per Kristoffersen. The drivers come from Audiotechnology and Scanspeak and are made to Mr. Kristoffersens' specifications. The internal cabling are made of silver and manufactured by Stereovox. The crossover alone weights app. 4 kilos.

They are like all the very best speakers - extremely good in a discrete way if you know what I mean.My cables come from Argento, also from Denmark and are made of silver. Good performers in my system, that's all I can say. The powercords by Transparent Reference and Cardas Golden Reference aren't the cheapest but they work well for me. My rack is the Pagode Signature from Finite-Elemente. Very stable - and it does have a great positive effect on the system. And I like the way it is constructed and the whole philosophy behind it. My tweaks also comes from this German firm, those being the Cerabase, Ceraballs and Cerapucs.

In my room and for my taste in music, this system plays music as I like it. There's always room for improvement but as it is now, it fulfills my needs and then some. I am not much of a tweaker but I take the issues with vibrations quite seriously. Please note that my opinions about the sound are based on the performance in my system and in my room. Others will of course hear this differently. As I always say, system matching is of great importance in High End Audio.

The Danes have a great history of producing very good loudspeakers and Peak-Consult may be the best. These two-piece four-driver 3ways are one of the best speakers I have heard in my listening room or elsewhere. They have a magical midrange, airy highs and a bass that reaches to ca. 25Hz. The drivers are by Audiotechnology and Scanspeak and the internal cabling is made of silver and manufactured by Argento (now handled by Stereovox)..

Listening biases
As you may have guessed by now, I am no longer a bass freak. However, the bass I do enjoy now is of very high quality. To me, the midrange is the most important thing, which won't surprise you. 85-90% of the musical information resides right here. If you've got that handled, you're well on your way. My system excels on voices and reproduces the sound of a piano in a very realistic way. I also like its airy treble and the three-dimensional large soundstage. All this has become more important than the slam I was so interested in earlier. Now I search for quality from the bottom to the top. Well, ain't we all? In my room and for my preferences, the system sounds great. It sounds like a creek in the Norwegian mountains; crystal clear and neutral. No added flavor. When I listen to music, I don't play it very loud. My system is capable of high volumes but I think that you can tell from my preferences in music later on that I prefer it lyrical, kind of slow. My kind of music is not the kind one normally plays at head-banging levels.

Reviewing and the truth about sound perception
Although I read a lot of magazines about high end equipment and music, my idea is that sound and what we think about a system's performance is highly subjective. What is the absolute sound ( not the magazine)? It has to be an instrument played in a room that has no influence on the sound whatsoever. Does such a room really exist? No, of course not. What then can a review tell us about the sonic performance of a piece of electronics or speakers? Does the reviewer refer to instruments played at a concert and bases his or her observations on this, e.g. "the real thing"? That is normally the case but it doesn't really help the reader because all of audio is so
highly subjective. An experienced reviewer can tell the reader something about the behaviour of the equipment (i.e. hints on how it sounds ) or whether components are well matched. Alas, nobody but the reviewer knows how much his listening room influences how the system sounds.

I'm not saying that reviewing is a waste of time nor that one shouldn`t read reviews. My advice is simply that reviews should be read with great care and a healthy scepticism.

Finally, the music
This is of course why we are into this hobby. I am very interested in Jazz and that is what I mainly listen to but I try to keep an open mind about classical as well. In Jazz, I do like trios such as the brilliant Jacques Loussier Trio, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Ray Brown and so on. I am a big fan of much of the work by the Pat Metheny Group, Patricia Barber and also own a few Diana Krall recordings. Norway has some international Jazz stars such as Jan Garbarek and I should also recommend the exellent Tord Gustavsen Trio on ECM. Simply buy it [left]! In a future article, I will give you some hints on what music to buy from Norway and Scandinavia.

In the classical milieu, I am trying my best simply because there is so much good music that I still don't know about. Right now I am listening to some chamber music and the brilliant Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. So while I am approaching classical music with an open mind, I still have lots to learn about it. But that is what makes this hobby so exiting, isn't it? I can say for sure that I will never be a lover of the big symphonies and that I positively hate screaming saxophones and avantgarde/free jazz.

Sometimes I wish that my musical taste would include other genres but it just hasn't happened yet. However, I'm buying music all the time so who knows how I might expand my horizons?

In the end, I should tell you that I am 40 years of age, married to an Italian woman and that we have 2 children. We live in the suburbs just outside of Oslo. We spend a lot of time in Italy where we have a house in a small Northern mountain village that gives us opportunities to hike in the mountains. Unlike others, I do not keep a second system. When I take a vacation, it is to get away from my job, my country and my music. My regular job is in marketing.

You should also know that on the side and for free, I am working as a consultant for an importer of high end audio here in Norway. If I think that this is in conflict with what I am writing about -- or my opinion on a product or manufacturer -- I will of course refrain from writing about it in the first place. Srajan is well aware of this and neither of us see this as a problem.

I will try to report on what is happening here in Scandinavia. You all know the famous Scandinavian brands so I will tell you about the lesser known ones, talk about music and whatever else of interest is happening in the land of the Fjords and our much loved neighbouring countries. That's all for now.