The Audio Geek!

Australian Audio and AV Show 2013

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The Australian Audio and AV Show rolled into Melbourne on 18-20 October 2013 at the Intercontinental Hotel in the city. I spent an enjoyable three hours visiting old friends and making new acquaintances across the three floors of the show.

I attended the last event here in Melbourne in 2011 and in my opinion, the 'average' sound this year was better than 2011. I didn't get to very room, but I didn't hear many rooms that had 'ordinary sound', and most rooms sounded very good or better. It was a different hotel and maybe the rooms were better, but to me they look just like any other hotel room. So I put the improvements down to improved product development, considered set up and high quality front ends.

On the subject of front ends, the best sounding rooms were either analog and digital, with no obvious preference to either. To my ears, in most rooms (sorry for the generalisation), I couldn't tell the difference between the sound of either technologies, albeit on material I was mostly unfamiliar with. That is meant to be a compliment on the high quality delivered not a put down on vinyl. Most digital was just that, very few silver discs were seen, with a very significant number of rooms streaming off laptops or servers through various DACs.

So on to what I liked. Rather than do a 'Best of Show' thing, a bit arbitrary, and devaluing several great systems, let me list my preferences (in no particular order) and general recommendations.

The Rooms
Audio Note: An AN - TT 2 Deluxe Turntable with an AN Arm Three, feeding Audio Note's ultimate 211-tubed Ongaku Kensei integrated amplifier, driving their AN-E HE-SPe High Efficiency Speakers (in beautiful Madrona Burl) wedged into the room corners and heavily toed-in. The system laid out a gorgeous soundstage and delivered a detailed and engaging presentation. A real oasis of sound.

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The spectacular Audio Note Ongaku amplifier and a very serious amp stand! - 2013

Kyron Audio: After their Gaia flagship, Kyron Audio has now developed and released a smaller dipole system to suit more modest listening environments, the Kronos. To be honest, I couldn't fault the sound at all. It was hard to identify the highs, mids and lows as the music just appears from 'nowhere' and the sound field lays out in front of you and 'plays' and 'hangs' in the air driven by the quality of the source and not coloured or impacted by the 'box'. Just outstanding. The system was fed by a laptop-driven digital front end.

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The audibly and visually stunning Kyron Audio Kronos - 2013

Pure Music Group: A very, very engaging room. A Thales TT and Simplicity tone-arm with a Phasemation PP-1000 MC cartridge, Mola Mola Makua pre-amp, and Mola Mola Kaluga mono-blocks, EMM Labs XDS1v2 CD/SACD player, Gauder Akustik Berlina RC-7 loudspeakers, with the source gear supported on an HRS platform. From what I heard, these new products to the Oz market really got out of the way and you were drawn in to the glory of the music rather than just listening to high-end hi-fi products. A most enjoyable experience.

Audio Fidelity: An analog front end, Tenor amplifier and Vivid Audio GIYA G3 were superbly setup (better than in the distributor's room IMHO), and sounded spacious, relaxed and showed off the G3's to excellent effect.

Magenta Audio: Alternating between a laptop (through a Metrum HEX DAC) and analog front ends, into Audion Black Shadow 2 845 mono-blocks driving a pair of Zu Audio Definition Mk IV. Playing music and delivering a vibrant sound, the Zu's really do get you tapping your feet and drawing you into enjoying the music. Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Magenta Audio but do own a pair of Zu Definition Mk 1.5s, and therefore I recognise and enjoy the Zu 'house sound'.

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The Magenta Room, funky turntable, PS Audio, Pure Audio & Zu Definition Mk IV - 2013

I can't imagine anyone listening to any of the above rooms and coming away disappointed.

Anything else of interest? Well there was the Advance Audio room, using an audio sledge-hammer approach leveraging a clutch of uber high end brands. I didn't check the turntable (I don't usually as you can tell from the mostly non-existent analog descriptions above), but present was the awesome DCS stack (four very large boxes consuming an entire rack), a VTL pre and power combination and the Dan D'Agostino Momentum pre and power combination (visually ridiculously awesome). As for speakers, there was Wilson Audio Duette 2 and the new Wilson Audio Alexia. All in all, very, very serious audio jewellery to be sure. It was in one of the larger (and I suspect more difficult) rooms at the show and all I got to hear was the DCS/VTL/Duette 2 combo playing Dave Brubeck 'Take 5' . That said, the Duettes really sounded full-range like. Sparkling on top, good mid-range and very deep bass for a 'stand mount'. I have to say, the sound was pretty impressive. Would warrant a longer listen in a more friendly environment.

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Apologies for the cr*ppy picture of hi-fi 'royalty - 2013

One final observation, I would like to praise most rooms for playing interesting, tailored, thoughtful music rather than the 'audiophile' selections that have been prevalent in the past. A special mention to the Audio Fidelity (playing VinylEye discs), Pure Music Group and Kyron Audio rooms for their musical selections and variety.

The mood of the vendors appeared positive and the crowd seemingly engaged with the products on the day. I do hope that lots of new business was generated and that the audio market place grows in Melbourne as a result of this show.

PS - Apologies for the rubbish pictures. It appears that indoor product photography in crowded dimly-lit spaces is not a core competency of mine…