Dublin Hi-Fi show

oldric_naubhoff

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Mar 11, 2011
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Hi

I was attending a hi-fi show in Dublin last weekend. I don't really get to see such shows so when one was being held near where I live I decided to give it a try despite a big chance it might be a total failure (Ireland is not a hi-fi country unfortunately). in the end it turned out it wasn't a huge event but it wasn't a failure at all as well. I'll try to briefly cover some of the highlights and share my impressions.

1. Stax, Hifi Man, S***t Audio (sorry for the asterisks but the system is stupid and will edit the name of an audio company!), Ayre (source).

yes, it was a head-hi room. I was particularly interested to hear Stax headphones as they are electrostatic headphones. I don't expect to hear Quads or Martin Logans in near future so Stax gets as close to electrostatic panels as I can get for the moment. sound: at first I was disappointed by slight lack of bass. but then abundance of detail and truthful decay of instruments hit me and it turned out to be very addictive listening. it's not to say my system lacks detail. it's just electrostats seemingly do it better. I'm also sure now I don't want to listen to music through headphones. I think soundstage created by speakers appears much more realistic with regards placing it in space.

2. Sonos and Peachtree Audio

only static display. Peachtree Audio looks preety sexy in the flesh :)

3. Arcam home theatre; reeiver + 5 muso speakers + 2 subwoofers, also wireless rDAC and some BD player as source

integration between speakers was quite nice considering differences in size between satellites and subwoofers. the guy was mainly showing off how Arcam HT gear is doing with music. he was comparing 128, 192, 320 mp3s to FLAC and WAV files of "the Pink Panther theme". there was a difference between uncompressed and compressed although 320 sounded pretty good.

he was also playing some acoustic guitar concert on BD to show how Arcam represents live music. well, suffice to say that on this set up the seemingly acoustic guitar sounded more like a dobro guitar but not as smooth as a dobro! I guess I wouldn't like to know how violins sound like on this setup :). didn't really like the sound in there.

4. first pleasant surprise. some really hi - end gear: VPI deck, Audio Research Amp, Devialet D Premier, Wilson Audio Sasha. (can't remember phono pre and CD transport for the Devialet).

at the time I was there Devialet was responsible for making music. there was some easy listening jazzy music played. I wasn't really thrilled by it or by presentation so I asked to play my CD (what a treat, I thought, I'll be able to hear Wilson Audio! :) ). it was tune "Galak" from Flanger's "Outer space/ Inner space" album. this is sort of hi tech electronica meets lounge jazz. very difficult track to play due to electronic bleeps and crackles on the beginning and also live instruments are recorded very well so you can hear if a system is good at resolving true nature of sound or not so much. I can only say now I was pretty much disappointed with Devialet. the intro was one big mess with all electronic sounds sounding the same and in the same mechanical way. then when live instruments entered; bongos, vibraphone (I love vibraphone sound), double bass and percussion things got slightly better. but only to a point where the music was only acceptable, not enthralling. there was much more order in the music but the stage was constantly very shallow and instruments sounded pretty thin and unnatural. I mean, you could distinguish vibraphone or double bass for what it was but I know it could be done much better. I don't know where this praise for Devialet comes from. I guess that for me this was the moment where I understood class D is definitely no good for music. I used to have a budget class D amp and it was quickly replaced but I thought that a piece of equipment such as Devialet will prove I was wrong for class D. it didn't...

unfortunately, I didn't get to hear Audio Research with VPI in action as it was being ready for later.

5. Cyrus, B&W PM1

here was the second worst room in the show. music was flat, mechanical sounding and indistinct. I would blame the Cyrus Streamline. why? there was another B&W room too but more on it later. I really love the idea of this Streamline; just add speakers and you have yourself a hi-fi. if only it didn't sound so terrible.

6. Primare, SA speakers

there was an I 32 and a CD 22 playing and also an I 22 on static display. this wasn't too bad for a class D music. although I wouldn't swap my amp for a Primare. I didn't test this set up with my CDs but what was played there was detailed and focused. but the sound drifted towards unpleasant brightness (although it never got to the point of being unpleasant) and, again, soundstage was very shallow.

7. Podium racks

very nice wood to the touch :)

8. Meridian

there was Sooloos playing through standmounted Meridian active speakers. well, this was by far the worst room we were in. I was quite surprised knowing that Meridian is using digital active speakers (meaning; D2A conversion is taking place inside speakers and also signal is crossed over to drivers still in digital domain). I was really expecting something more from this set up but it was literally one big noise! there was also bigger floorstanders from Meridian but only on static display. I must say they look really stunning and also much smaller than judging from the pictures.

9. Classe, B&W Diamond series, some projector - Home theatre again

there were a few HT rooms but this one was by far the best. I didn't really bother to spend time in HT rooms but this one was real treat!

here I can only say one thing, if only regular cinemas had this kind of sound people would much happier go watching films. there was last part of "Pirates from Caribbean" played in 3D. it was best 3D I've seen so far. still, I can easily live without it.

there was a Classe processor connected to some big a*s Classe 5 ch. power amp (I don't know the details because I'm not interested in HT gear and I couldn't afford this set up anyway :) ). there were Diamonds all over the place 800 or 802 in the front and 805 in the back plus Diamond centre and some sub as well. it was great with movies. very detailed and clear with great scale. but later they played some music. it was a remix of Kraftwerk's "Home computer". I don't know if it was high volume level or maybe the tweeters but I couldn't stand the sound. highs were too piercing to my liking but not grainy or distorted at all. the overall impression was of very clean sound and powerful. I wish they played some acoustic music for comparison too.

10. Kharma

this is one of the brands I was not familiar with. later it turned out that it didn't matter anyway. outrageously expensive speakers. they were driven by comparably expensive electronics. there were 2 rooms with this brand. both were quite similar soundwise. great scale and good image depth and also very nice midrange detail but the sound in general was artificial. I above all am looking for this illusion of realism in reproduced music. that's why wall shaking bass will not impress me at all if the rest of the spectrum sounds like there's something missing. but I'm telling you, both set ups were visually impressive, especially the big one (that doesn't mean the smaller one was small :)). in "impressing your buds " category this set up scores highest marks possible. in the bigger room the source was a CDP, I think a Meridian but not sure, and a Clearaudio Innovation Compact TT. the sound was markedly better through the TT, more lifelike.

now, I left the goodies for the end. there are still great things happening in hi-fi.

11. Lavardin, Lecontoure

I was really thrilled for this audio show because of Lavardin. I was considering buying a Lavardin IS Reference or even IT but they were too expensive for me at that time. and then the Pathos came along the way. I never regretted my choice at all. but now I know that if I chose Lavardin a year ago I would be equally happy if not happier. there was an IT-15 demoed with Lecontoure Mobile 160 speakers. source was (surprise, surprise!) a Meridian CDP but it didn't spoil the sound at all. my track was from Peter Gabriel's "Scratch my back" song "Apres moi". it sounded as involving and romantic as in my home. there was no trace of any mechanical sound. just pure flow of music. the soundstage was as deep and "black" as I want it to be. it was a pure pleasure to listen to this amp. my GF liked it too (BTW she had the same opinion on most of the gear most of the time). this was very pleasurable experience despite the fact the room was far from being perfect. there were two rows of chairs and first was not farther than 1m from the speaker plane. the speakers were almost right against the wall. there was some bass boom present but the midrange and highs were just magical.

12. Oracle Audio, Leben, Golden Ear Technology

here I must say it was BY FAR the BEST sounding room during the whole show. yet again, it was very small; just two rows of chairs and the front row was no more than 1m from the speaker plane. but it didn't manage to spoil great sound.

source was a Oracle TT and phono pre and also Oracle CDP, amp was puny Leben CS-300 or maybe CS-300XS and speakers Golden Ear Technology Triton 2. from the first moment when I got into that room I thought "yeah, this is a fine sounding room indeed". at first I blamed it on the TT being used as the source. but since the room was always full I didn't get to hear my recordings. I was coming back every now and then and always the same impression - great music, great sound, but the room was always full. surprisingly, there was no problem with sweet spot because even when I was to the far right or left (near the exit) the sound didn't change from what it was in the middle. then finally at one moment there was almost no one in the room so I asked the guy to play my track. it was Peter Gabriel's track again. simply put I was gobsmacked. the bass was so deep (from such a slender tower) and taunt and also extremely quick! it was the first time I though my Dynaudios are lacking something. they go incredibly deep for such small speakers but they are not as taunt and definitely not as quick. then came voice of Peter Gabriel and my first impression was "Peter must have lost some 20 kg! :)". simply the sound was so much more focused that the voice simply appeared right in front of me rather being smeared in space. don't get me wrong, Dyns are great imaging speakers but those Golden Ears do it even better. and also they are even much more smoother than Dyns. which is quite surprising for me, since Dyns are equipped in soft dome tweeter and such are claimed to be smooth sounding. Goldens have a Heil type ribbon tweeter which is incredibly fast, hence smoothness without any hint of harshness or fatigue. there are strings sections in this song and I'm telling you I've never heard violins reproduced with such speed and tonal accuracy. it wasn't mellow or romantic it was very powerful (when it had to be powerful) but not harsh and fatiguing (it's really hard to explain in words what I heard but it was much better than anything I heard so far). also there is a moment in this song when horn is playing a long note over other instruments. I've never heard a horn sound reproduced so precisely, delicate but full of inner reverberation (and I should know something how horn sounds like since I played one 4 years). Dyns play that part slightly too warm. there's also a moment where piano kicks in for literally just 2 chords. and it was heard very clearly. it wasn't like it suddenly stood in front of the rest of orchestra. no, it was still well buried within the rest of instruments but still much more vivid. with Dyns I have to concentrate more to hear those chords. those speakers are truly full range. they go very deep during crescendos and don't get caught struggling. deep notes are very well defined, precise and quick. there's no bass lagging as in many poorly designed wannabes. even big Diamonds from other room exibited some bass bloom in lower registers. I'm sure some people would prefer such presentation. but for me this lightning fast presentation seems more realistic and natural.

I'm sure some of those praises should go to the little amp as well. in the end that's where the signal is coming from and if the signal is crooked the speakers will not play well. but I couldn't understand how a 12W amp can drive those towers so efficiently! after the song ended everything became clear. the speakers are hybrids. bass section is driven by internal 1200W power amp (probably class D) and the rest is driven from external amp. and that is a great solution; transparent, reviling tubes for mids and highs and brutal solid state for lows. those speakers really made me think I should do some upgrading in my set up :). and they are very efficient too so low powered SET amps will be OK too. I'm thinking about getting those speakers first and then I could upgrade my amp to Pathos Inpol, in which case even 10W Inpol Remix will be sufficient. forgot to mention, those speakers also use d'Apollito array for mids/ highs, which is where tweeter is surrounded by mids drivers and appropriately aligned in time. this is claimed to reduce early reflections from floor and ceiling as the waves cancel each other out in vertical plane under certain angle above and below tweeter level. and this ribbon tweeter has wide horizontal dispersion pattern, hence no problems with soundstaging off centre.

anyway, I think those speakers are a real bargain. considering their price (Euro 2500) and performance it's hard to find anything which can even compete. for instance, the new B&W PM1 with matching stands will be even over that price mark and what level of performance they bring to fore? if anyone is looking for a system around Euro 5000 - 6000, then this Leben - Golden Ear Technology pair is a killer combo and will easily outshine systems cost much more.

wow, this got bigger than I thought it would but I hope someone would find this report useful.
 

Reby

New member
Sep 26, 2011
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Great review, I was there as well since the show was in town. And thanks to Cloney for setting it up.

I wanted to add a couple of impressions:

On the Cyrus / B&W PM1 room

I share the disappointment, but I think I found the reason why. THe guy presenting from Cyrus wanted to show what he mean was affordable everyday use. That is why there was one Cyrus device, a WD NAS drive and the PM1s. Not sure how "entry level" that was, given the price-tags, but in comparison, it was low-key.

Unfortunately, he took it a step to far, playing ordinary music and some of it even compressed (I think). I got him to play some proper hifi recordings and some 24-bit samples and that is where the magic happened.

The PM1s sounded fantasitc and I was amazed the the 30 wpc Cyrus was creating such space with the speakers. Normally, B&Ws are quite hungry in my opinion.

Anyway, I think your man in the room and the music he chose to play was the key problem.

Nordost / Raidho room

OMG! I have never heard such great examples of what power conditioning can do. The pair of presenters (Lars and Michael) did a great job in explaining the setup and technology and proving the points with reconfigurating cables and demo'ing the difference. Those Raidho C1.0 speakers with a 0.02g tweeter membrane are defying logic and it was such a great listen. The idea of eliminating resonance through mass-reduction and utilizing the rest (the speaker stands are designed to sway) was brilliant.

I am pretty sure I will never be able to actually buy those products, but that was a killer room for me at that event!
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Nice review. Must have taken you ages to type. Wasn't there myself but did see similar kit at Machester recently.

B & W PM1's : Sounded good BUT they were being driven by some serious high end kit and not sure if it was a representative price match, although of course B & W would want them to sound there best. Also connected to the amp by the most ridiculously huge speaker cables which in my view were aesthetically horrible and totally impractical for most living rooms. B & W were not alone doing this!

Sonos/Peachtree : Shame it wasn't working but its a tidy little package and the Sonos can be parkes in the back of the Peachtree is a specially designed slot. Mind you I would say this wouldn't I as I have this combination.

Meridian Soloos : Just and opinion and of course a personal one at that. I think this is overblown streaming at its very best/worst. Considering what you get for over £4000 the Sooloos control unit is an awful lot od dosh for what it is. Seems to be a cd ripper, some software and a fancy screen, not even a DAC?

Last point has been touched on also and that is the source material played. Best sound at Manchester was 12" vinyl on a Michell deck. So So sound seemed to emanate from an iPad toting rep streaming poor music, can't remember room though.

All good fun though and a thoroughly enjoyable day out, even her indoors had a great time
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Didn't make the Dublin show, was referring to the Manchester one. It was our anniversay so thought it would be a nice idea (for Me!), to book a room at the Rennaisance hotel in Manchester and treat the boss. By the way it paid off as she loved the show. She is now hankering after a Michell Gyrodeck to play all the vinyl she hasn't got! No point mucking about with cheap stuff eh! Good lady goes straight to the top!
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Hi Rick

I see your are a Derby lad, lived there many years ago and grew up there. First developed my fascination with opening up radios and stereo systems in order to improve them. Is that quirky shop still open on Babington Lane, Potts I think it was called. Spent all my pocket money in there on repacement transistors, capacitors etc. Needless to say then had to buy them all over again when I'd blown the ones I'd just bought by experimenting. Hope they are still open, splendid establishment.
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
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Great stuff Oldric, almost feel I was there (if I'd known, I might have been).
 
nick8858 said:
Hi Rick

I see your are a Derby lad, lived there many years ago and grew up there. First developed my fascination with opening up radios and stereo systems in order to improve them. Is that quirky shop still open on Babington Lane, Potts I think it was called. Spent all my pocket money in there on repacement transistors, capacitors etc. Needless to say then had to buy them all over again when I'd blown the ones I'd just bought by experimenting. Hope they are still open, splendid establishment.

Hi nick8858

Yes, Potts are still on Babington Lane :)

All the best

Rick @ Musicraft
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Splendid Rick. Must pay them a visit next time I go to Debry, might also try Musicraft whilst I am at it!
 

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