From 11’993 of last year, this year attendee numbers were up to 14’116.
They could visit 173 rooms (up from 166) where 167 different exhibitors (up from 155) showed their wares. This is the final tally for our number one favorite audio show in Europe. Organizer Adam Mokrzycki pulled off another great event, now for the 21st time in a row. Whatever stress and incidental handling went on behind the scenes, visitors suffered none of it and just enjoyed themselves. This was our fifth time here and the familiar three locations of the Golden Tulip and Sobieski hotels plus the National Stadium played hosts again for the many exhibitors. Our trip into Warsaw started at Amsterdam Schiphol airport where apparently security did not trust their fancy full body scanners to make a manual pad down—read groping—mandatory. Refusal was an option but then flying was not. Catch 22. After a nice Polish dinner and good night’s sleep, we were ready for our endeavor of visiting all the rooms where stereo was the focus. Rooms running video were left aside just like the areas where the newly added home automation offerings featured. We apologize in advance for any rooms missed; and for not going back to rooms that were closed or not ready when we came around. Beforehand we made a schedule on how best to navigate our rounds. Day one would be for the Golden Tulip and the top floors of the Sobieski, day two for the National Stadium, day three for the remainder of the Sobieski. In this show overview, we follow the same route so we start at the Golden Tulip.

A staple of each Warsaw show is the Sveda room. This Polish manufacturer started out as a supplier to the pro-audio market with active studio monitors but now more and more also supplies the consumer sector. This year Sveda showed their active three-driver 2-way monitors called Neon in suitably bright yellow lacquer. These sat on the premiering Tower subwoofers, all drivers by ScanSpeak. For sources Sveda teamed up with LampizatOr. Lukas Fikus, present in the room, was quite nervous how his new top-line Pacific DAC would be welcomed. Signal for it came from his own SuperKomputer server. For rock-solid physical stability Stacore provided their best anti-vibration platform also made in Poland. Lukas had no reason to be nervous. The sound was dynamic, full of detail and rich in tonal information while the virtual image was wide and deep.

One down point we would encounter in many more rooms to come was the snippets trend. That’s when the man or woman in charge of the music only allows a minute or less per track. Very annoying. We talked about this with several people and the conclusion was that the likely culprit is over exposure to Spotify & Co. Especially the youth hops from one song to another quickly. Their attention spans are extremely short – much shorter than ours that is.

Passive noise attenuator by Polish Verictum at right.

In the adjacent room, we met Sven Boenicke who had brought his smallest speaker, the lovely W5SE+. Fed by the Boenicke—still not quite in production—integrated and an Ayon CD player, the little speakers demonstrated that David can be(at) Goliath and fill a room with music at very decent SPL and with plenty of low-frequency information. Small is beautiful said Schumacher years ago and Sven’s products proved that right.

A truckload of Jadis JA200 KT150 tube amplifiers with separate power supplies, a massive DaVinci Audio turntable with Master Reference tone arm and Grandezze cartridge and Ktema speakers by Franco Serblin teamed up with a Thöress phono stage. With so many tubes and all seats occupied, the temperature in the room was quite high - so high in fact that the built-in cooling fans of the Jadis kicked in. Despite that benign additional noise, the sound still was full, open and transparent.

Stax presented their signature headphones in a quiet corner which was a clever choice as we would appreciate once we encountered Headphone Zoo at the National Stadium. Software in the form of vinyl and polycarbonate was available at all three show venues across various outlets. Here we see the Golden Tulip variant.

Another staple presence at any Warsaw show are Holophony. This year the room was more brightly lit so their loudspeakers built around vintage drivers were more visible. These offer a very pleasant non-intrusive sound which modern drivers—think ceramic, diamond etc.—more often than not don’t present. If you like your sound natural and easy on the ear, Holophony should be on your radar.

Gauder Akustik’s Dark 5 loudspeakers and Vitus Audio’s SM-103 mono amps played back end to a multitude of turntables and phono stages that could be activated for duty. We identified a Dr. Feickert Firebird, Tech DAS AirForce One, Döhman Helix and Kuzma Stabi M; and an RCM Theriaa and unknown RCM stable mate plus Thrax Orpheus in the phono stage department. During our visit the second system around Alluxity One components and Odeon Audio model 32 loudspeakers sat idle.

Ayon from Austria’s room was not yet up to owner Gerhard Hirt’s standards so he kept the doors closed until it was. We snuck in anyway and had a conversation on the ethics of a demo room. We fully agree with him that it’s no use to demo anything not to 100% satisfaction of the exhibitor. Anything less would be a complete disrespect to the visitors who may have traveled far. Each year Ayon treat their room acoustically and this year Sonitus panels floated above all of their seats. It took the Croatian craftsmen of Sonitus an entire night to install this temporary armada this cleanly.

The polar opposite of the Boenicke speakers came next. In a big room the rack stacked a Swiss FM Acoustics 123 phonostage and 245 preamp. On separate shelves sat the matching 108 monoblocks. Analog came from a Vertere MG-1 turntable. Loudspeakers were the 205cm tall Italian Sigma Acoustics Maat. With an efficiency of 102dB, those pack two 42cm carbon woofers, four 16cm midrange drivers and dual Neodymium AMT tweeters for a claimed bandwidth of 16Hz to 30kHz. Fortunately the exhibitors knew their stuff and the sound level was most acceptable rather than overblown. The images projected very realistically, in our opinion partly due to the high placement of the top woofers. Later we wondered what the result here might have been had the Maat been swapped for the Boenicke W5SE+ using the same electronics and room. We’ll never know.

One room was not even beyond the unpacking stage when we popped our heads in so it was time to walk across the intersection back to the Sobieski on this first day. The Sobieski sports one of the most colorful facades and staying here now for the fifth time, it had begun to feel real homey.