Each year there are a handful of audio highlights. These are not the odd dealer shows although those can be very cozy and heartwarming. No, we’re aiming here at the large hifi outings where thousands of attendees gather to be inspired, get somewhat greedy and feel enlightened about new trends and developments. At these gatherings, the audio industry puts its best foot forward— at least tries to—and engulfs visitors with well-balanced sound from the best equipment their budgets can manage. At the moment there are two of these gatherings which fit the European grandeur bill. One is the May Munich High End show of Germany. The other is the November Warsaw Audio Show in Poland. Our listing also ranks these shows. Munich is by far the largest in numbers of exhibitors, attendees and floor space. Warsaw is a very good runner up.

The 2015 installment of the Warsaw show offered serious changes from previous versions. Show organizer, miracle man and Adam 'Mr. Modest himself' Mokrzycki* had renamed it from Audio Show to Audio Video Show, including a separate sector of interest to the audio offerings in general and vinyl and headfi as longer-standing niches. Then very strong growth of exhibitors wanting to participate enforced the need to find a bigger additional venue. For 2015 the posh Bristol hotel of yore that had offered a limited amount of largish rooms was abandoned in favour of the Polish Stadion Narodowy or national stadium. This huge soccer stadium with its remarkable retractable roof not only seats more than 58’000 sports fans, it also offers so-called sky boxes and a few lounges. Football sponsors use the luxurious and spacious sky boxes for their networking to wine and dine clients in a private atmosphere whilst enjoying the game from private premium seats right outside the sky box. Adam had managed to rent all available sky boxes for his show, i.e. 56. Together with the traditional accommodations in the Golden Tulip and Radisson Blu Sobieski hotels, the Audio Video Show 2015 laid out 145 rooms. The latter two venues are across the street from each other. From there a convenient shuttle bus covered the stadium distance. The last change over previous shows was an additional half day of show time. For attendees, this made for a welcome stretch totaling 22 hours of hifi opportunities.

This Warsaw show was our third. When Adam invited us again, we were thrilled as we always had a great time there. Last year Srajan covered the event and he already mentioned a growth in non-domestic exhibitors. Adam booked us a room in the show’s headquarters, the Sobieski hotel. That made it easy to visit the two nearby venues lightly dressed. With that in mind, we prepared our visit from the show’s website information. We decided to concentrate on pure audio rooms and leave the video exhibits alone. What to do with the headphone specials was to be seem. The two of us are not really into headphones since we like listening together. Though the flight from Amsterdam to Warsaw takes well under 2 hours, the tight security measures at Amsterdam Schiphol airport are time consuming to include a mandatory full-body scan followed by a pad down. In our professional opinion it’s pure theater but that’s a different discussion. After we repacked our carry-on luggage, put back on our vests, boots, belts and bracelets, we could proceed. Warsaw’s Chopin airport was calm and quiet and for a handful of złoty (four to a euro) a taxi took us to the Sobieski hotel.

There exhibitors were already busy setting up their rooms, hotel lifts stacked with boxes and crates. Schlepping of hardware is hard wear on exhibitors. There were many familiar faces and greetings well before curtain lift and not only from Poland and surrounding countries but from all over the globe. Think Rethm’s Jacob George from India and Japan’s Kiuchi-Fusai or Mr. and Mrs. Kazuo Kiuchi of Combak/Harmonix. When ‘doing’ the show, we would meet more and more foreigners. For us the first show day would be stadium day. Actually, it only took us half a day. From Sobieksi to stadium was only a short drive. Because we wanted to be on time, we skipped the shuttle bus and opted for a taxi. The hotel had already warned us that finding the round stadium’s entrance would be a bit of a challenge. We had to make sail and hail with hands and feet to convince our driver to drop us at the door, not 180° and a long walk across from it. Cursing in Polish, he did drop us off at the right place: the wejście or entrance.

Publisher's note. For some background on just how resourceful Adam Mokrzycki is, consider this email from Lynn Scott of Living Voice who attended for the first time. "Thought you may like to see these links for your amusement which our guys sent over from the Polish show. It's of some TV coverage and National news shots that Adam had arranged. He's a brilliant show organiser. We would quite like to poach him to organise one in the UK but he's probably too busy! The media were all over the place and so here we have Live Sat morning TV interviewing Polish pop groover Smolek & Kev Fox (who outsell Justin Bieber - who?) in Poland. They debuted a new CD (I have a copy) through our system on Friday night, to an audience of however many were crammed in. Then there's a radio DJ being interviewed on our Living Voice OBX-RW Notts Analogue system who plays vinyl records once a week on telly. His own TV show, playing LP on telly? Then a couple of TV news shots about the show. They had a turn-out of 11'214 Adam said. That's up from last year. They actually ran out of wrist bands by Sunday. TVP Panorama 18:00, TVP Pytanie Na Śniadanie 9:00-10:30 1 & 2, Polsat Wydarzenia 18:50. Seeing hifi on British television is completely unheard of. The media attention at this show was about the equivalent of UK car shows where Bentleys and Aston Martins are unveiled. So ten out of ten to Adam. Mind you, he did tell us that for the past 3 months, he'd been going to bed at 3am and setting his alarm for 7am. Now that what's you call driven!"

The two of us had been to plenty of Rock concerts in the past but never a real stadium before. The spaciousness of this venue was overwhelming, especially in light of an audio show. Even the MOC in Munich is cramped compared to these wide hallways.  Exhibitors we spoke to lauded the accessibility and wide lifts. Many of the open spaces were occupied by merchants of vinyl and CD.

It sadly appeared that quite a few exhibitors hadn’t yet even started their setup or were only half done. Some apologized and improvised, others refused to let us enter. For visiting reviewers on a tight schedule, the latter quite simply meant, too bad. We'd not be back. The first welcoming room albeit still in a frantic setup race was filled with McIntosh gear including the multi-driver XR200 floorstanding loudspeakers that matched the backdrop wonderfully: drivers galore with the Grateful Dead!

Bodnar Audio from Katowice were a brand we recognized from previous Warsaw installments. The new venue suited these products well on size and setup requirements. The large open-top single driver Sanglass Grand Piano were driven by a pair of Bodnar prototype GM-70 based tube amps. New was the subwoofer SSC-10.

Tidal were one of the show sponsors and the main sound source in the Auralic room where Kaiser Acoustics Chiara speakers connected with Sablon cables to Auralic’s Merak monos. What struck us was the use of Spec Real-Sound Processor RSP-901EX speaker filters which allegedly enhance the sound. What were we listening to; a Zobel filter perhaps?

Audio Physics’ reborn Avanti loudspeaker showed in a nice combination of PS Audio gear including the BHK 250 amp with tube input stage and DSD Direct Stream DAC. With a small footprint for the loudspeakers but a large one for all the additional gear, the system was able to create a credible sound picture in the room.

We’d met Andrea Vitali of Blumenhofer and Claudio Trevisanello of Commino Audio already upon entering the stadium. In their joint room, Andrea demonstrated the Blumenhofer Genuin FS3 MK2 driven by Cary Audio’s 805 Anniversary Edition monos.

While it was quiet still, we took the chance to explore the stadium a little from the sky box perspective. It was amazing to see so much detail down below on the field where a new lawn was being laid out - with Dutch grass by the way. The lighting was superb and the construction of the opening roof thought-provoking.

Back inside, Claudio showed off his latest work. He now offers a line of cables based on his successful Harmonizer technique. Our photo shows his phono cable.

McIntosh, VTL and a VPI Classic 3 formed the basis for Rockport Technologies’ Atria speakers. A warm background was created by acoustic panels of which various makes and models adorned many of the exhibits throughout the show. Their effect was simply not always obvious.

Next to the common factor of acoustic panels, dark rooms were popular as well. Taking a photograph in a dark room with mostly black equipment like these Norwegian Electrocompaniet AW600 monos with Wilson Benesch ACT 1 speakers was not easy.

Not so the FM Acoustics room which was well lit, with goldish equipment and translucent acoustic panels. The Swiss company saw themselves well represented and in hindsight the sound here would appear to have been one of the best of the entire show. The electronics were from their Resolution Series whilst the triangular-shaped Inspiration System XS loudspeakers carried the sound. What struck us was the ease of this system and the great dynamics even at—and this would be a show theme... er, not!—low volumes. Our visit not only gave us an insight into this to us previously unfamiliar brand, it showed that good ears and craftsmanship could transform a stadium sky box into a good-sounding bona fide hifi space.