Denmark’s Gryphon Audio Designs is well known for massive class-A-biased power amplifiers that generate a lot of heat, take up a lot of space, and probably injure a lot of backs as buyers try to maneuver them into place. Examples include Gryphon’s flagship Apex stereo and monoblock power amplifiers. The stereo version of the Apex won a SoundStage! Network Product of the Year award in 2022.
I’ve been into audio since 1980. Since then, I’ve been aware of the Naim Audio brand, but I’ve never owned a Naim product—though I’ve been tempted to. Naim Audio has always had a fervid, almost cult-like following. People don’t seem to just buy Naim; they live Naim. I’m reminded of that whenever UK-based SoundStage! contributor Jonathan Gorse speaks of the brand. He owns several Naim components, including the Nait 1 integrated amplifier, which the company released in 1983 and just refurbished for Jonathan. Never having owned a Naim component, I can’t quite understand this fervor, but it’s something I kind of envy.
It had been a slow start to Friday morning. After dinner Thursday night, we’d made a tactical error and ended up at a bar with some industry folks. I proceeded to drink more than was strictly advisable given the early starts we had scheduled for ourselves. Doug Schneider is much more mature than I am when it comes to this sort of thing. He had one beer and then split, shooting a look of warning at me as he bellowed, “8:30 tomorrow in the hotel lobby. Right, Jason?”
France’s Diptyque showed the new DP 140 MKII in one of High End’s hall-area displays on the main floor. Priced at €14,000 per pair and measuring 55″H × 19″W × 1.85″D, the DP 140 MKII is a ribbon-based design described by the company as being part of “a new generation of isodynamic speakers designed for music lovers.” Frankly, the beauty of this tall, wide, shallow speaker might be in the eye of the beholder, but I think it looks really good. It could dress up an appropriate living room with its lithe, modern look.
At High End, companies usually showcase very expensive products. But at High End 2023, the focus of UK-based Professional Monitor Company, aka PMC, was affordability.
When covering events like High End, we hardly ever include products that are being displayed away from the show itself. It takes too much time to visit offsite exhibits, which means we’d shortchange the event we’re supposed to be covering.
If you’re ever feeling too comfortable in your life, if you ever wanna be overwhelmed for a spell, nip on over to Germany and spend a morning walking around Munich’s High End show. It’s huge—way bigger than any show I’ve ever experienced. I’m on audio overload.
In the weeks leading up to High End, many companies send out press releases describing the products they’ll be unveiling at the show. I try to look at every press release, though I sometimes miss a few. But the one that jumped out at me the moment it arrived came from NAD, announcing the Masters M66 streaming DAC-preamplifier. The M66 is priced at €5999 and will be available this fall.
Last year I spent a week visiting Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries (DALI), one of the world’s largest manufacturers of hi-fi speakers. DALI had invited a group of journalists to Denmark to tour its factory and gain detailed insight into the design and construction of its flagship Kore loudspeaker.
Since its founding in 2010, Estonia-based Estelon has focused on making sculpture-like speakers where form and function appear to be on an equal footing. According to CEO Alissa Vassilkova, this form-and-function approach has been guided by her father, chief designer Alfred Vassilkov. From the beginning, his goal has been to make speakers that look and sound beautiful. Estelon’s latest speaker is the Aura, which was announced a few months ago. As far as I know, High End 2023 was its first public showing. It sells for €17,500 per pair.
Holland’s Crystal Cable is well known among audiophiles for its thin, attractive interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords. It’s the sister brand of Siltech, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. But although much younger, Crystal Cable has enjoyed astonishing success during its 19-year history.
Have you ever looked in the window of a bar and watched people dancing? Without hearing the music? It’s creepy to watch, sort of like human versions of those weird-ass birds of paradise you see on nature shows, doing nutty dances while the female bird watches intently from a nearby twig. We’re not far removed from the simpler animals. We build fences to protect our territory from intruders. We dress up and work out to attract mates.
As I’m typing this, I’m in Munich, Germany, and it’s one day before High End 2023 opens. The show will run May 18 to 21.
Audio Show East 2023 took place over the final weekend in April. The event was organized by Signals Hi-Fi, a well-known British audio store located in a converted church in Trimley St. Mary, Suffolk, England. This year marks the store’s 30th anniversary. The show was held in the modern facilities of Trinity Park on the outskirts of Ipswich. This large showground normally plays host to vast agricultural shows for farmers and traders, so access and parking were a breeze for hi-fi manufacturers and punters alike.
The past two years have been great for me, as a reviewer, having had the opportunity to audition a good number of fine turntables, from entry level to the top of SoundStage! Access’s purview. (You can find my turntable reviews on SoundStage! Access almost every month.) For this posting, I revisited my reviews for the past two years, selected the finest examples of the science and art embodied in high-value turntables, and summarized my findings in reverse order of preference.
It’s a bit of a cliché. This sport of audio is all about reproducing music, and audiophiles tend to blather on about how important the music is to our world. But walk around most audio shows, and it’s all about the gear, the equipment. There’s often a marketplace for used or new records, but it’s the equipment that takes center stage.
I’ve known Don Rhule, the Canadian distributor for Kimber Kable and Quadraspire, for over 30 years. We originally met at a car stereo shop that we both used to frequent. The shop was a touch sketchy, but the proprietor was a fun character, and to this day we like to joke that we used to have the same fence. People tend not to get it, thinking we mean that we were neighbors, having shared the same backyard fence. We then explain the joke and laugh uproariously.
It’s rare for me to sit down in front of an unfamiliar system and melt into a puddle. But that’s what happened to me in retailer Filtronique’s larger room. I’d just sat in front of hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of Nagra gear playing through a pair of Wilson Audio Alexia V speakers, all fully wired up with Siltech cables.
Unlike Friday, when I drove to Montreal on the morning Audiofest opened and couldn’t find parking anywhere near the Hotel Bonaventure, where the show is held, on Saturday morning I woke up at the hotel and began making my rounds the moment the show opened.
How can a country with as small a population as Canada incubate so many high-end turntable manufacturers? When I say, “so many,” I actually mean “three.” First off there’s Oracle, the granddaddy of Canadian record players. I recall seeing an Oracle ’table for the first time in the early 1980s—I was absolutely transfixed by its baroque, crystalline construction. Its successor is still in production as the Delphi MkVI. Oracle is at the Audiofest this year, but I’m not here to talk about them.
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