Audio Video 2017 pt.2

It was wood, glorious wood as Czech brand RD Acoustics displayed the smaller Euphoria and larger Evolution speakers, the latter with changeable diffuser/waveguide. Both looked amazing, were extremely tactile and made great music. Stand-by, I was told, for the launch of a third model at May’s High End in Munich.

Voxativ showcased its new ‘born in Berlin’ baby in a growing line-up. The brand’s first personal monitor using full-range drivers (so no crossovers), the Hagan has an active dipole-bass subwoofer for those demanding greater LF extension. At the other end of the scale was the impressive System 9.87, which combines the full-range Pi passive with the active Dipole Woofer in what’s described as a ‘semi-active approach’ giving bass down to 20Hz.

Next door were fellow Germans from Kaiser Acoustics with the glorious high-gloss Kawero speaker range with a directional tweeter cabinet. The choice of Dire Straits ensured the room was rarely anything but full. These alternated with a Lithuanian model, the Overture 0203F floorstander from Audio Solutions, with the source a Korean streamer/DAC, the Aurender A10.

In one of the largest spaces at the show, Tannoy and KEF demonstrated their wares, including the Definition DC10Ti and the Blade Twos. Powered by mighty Burmester amplification the system attracted many visitors who made their way to the venue’s roof garden to find the Mozart Room – it is the Don Giovanni Hotel after all. The source was the substantial Avid Acutus SP turntable with SME 309 and Nagoka MP150.

Not content with taking over British brands the Chinese are also entering the market with their own brands including Auralic, whose Polaris is a single box streamer, DAC and preamp including MM input, and amplifier. Alongside were Bulgarian electronics from Thrax which are definitely worthy of further investigation.

Across the border from Russia came Deluxe Acoustics with CEO Aleksei Dorokhov proud of his DAT-200 spherical table/desktop speakers and matching floor-standing DAT-350 – the number denoting the cabinet diameter. They certainly performed well and would enhance many a computer-system.

It is great to see so much home-produced hi-fi on visits to shows, and the Czech brand Operly was no exception. In stunning, almost dazzling pillar-box red sheen, the mighty floorstanders are certainly imposing. The Intelligence model is described as ‘a compact horn’, but in fact each is a dual horn built around a single drive unit. In the confines of the hotel room and driven with valve amplification they enticed visitors to linger and enjoy.

Bright colours were also the order of the day next door in Vienna Physix who were demonstration the bright orange horns of the Diva model. This three-way hybrid has mids and highs created by horns with bass from an active bass-reflex system. A 550W digital amp powers the subwoofer with its carbon fibre diaphragm. For an archetypal horn sound, this is hard to beat.

Conventional cabinets on first appearance, the more one examines the Elfton Magion the more it becomes obvious that this Czech design is anything but. Mark Elfton formed the company last year and already has a range of products for worldwide consumption. Created to emulate the highly successful Dynaco A-25 from the glory days of audio, a 10inch SEAS main driver is coupled with a Scanspeak Classic 9500 but with the Ferrofluid drained and a large horn, filled with lead shot, added. The sound was certainly full and airy.

Powered by field-coil drivers, Wolf von Langa loudspeakers from Germany boast an unconventional appearance and the latest audio engineering principles. They were attracting a lot of attention, and rightly so.

Italian brand Grandinote produce a range of integrated, power amps, preamps and sources. While some cannot decide on tubes or transistors, here we have the best of both worlds in Magnetsolid, a combination of ‘ferromagnetic’ with solid-state technologies. The Shinai shown is zero feedback integrated amp boasting 37 Class A Watts per channel from its 40kg chassis.

The hotel’s first floor may have had some of the largest rooms but they were not without acoustic challenges. Grand systems were assembled in the vast spaces which needed to be heard in the nearfield, before any room interactions took over. That said, high-end electronics from EMM Labs, including a TX2 transport and DA2 DAC for SACD sources, powered Estelon X Diamond speakers to great effect when driven by an Audia Flight Strumento power amplifier with a passive preamp by Bespoke Audio. A truly aspirational system.

At the opposite end of the room, and playing alternately, was a system featuring Avant Garde’s mighty Acoustic Duo Mezzo XD horns driven by their own XA amplifier series and an EMM Labs DAC. To see wooden-fronted electronics was rather nostalgic and reminded me of the walnut and mahogany dashboards from great British motorcars of the past.

With space to muster the best of the brand B&W, Denon and Rotel were combined by Czech Republic distributor Electrostar Ostrava. The systems were appreciated by the many visitors who seemed to linger here and enjoy the wide repertoire of music on offer. The room also appeared something of a magnet for the hi-fi press and even a video crew.

It was champagne time at speaker brand Xavian who showed their Stella, Ambra and Perla models that hare all handmade in Prague. Celebrating their 20th anniversary in style, the company makes everything from compact two-way bookshelf designs to tall floor-slanders capable of decent SPLs as their staff demonstrated.

Despite the attraction of enjoying cool beers or ice creams in the sunshine, the event attracted virtually the same number of paying visitors as last year.  Organiser Daniel Březina acknowledged that his third Czech Republic audio event had gone well but remains far from complacent. "We are growing and getting much more mature with each passing year", he told me. "The first show was done with pure passion but we learned a lot so that last year was a huge improvement. This time I think I can say I learned what it really means to run a show; so, from next year on we can start to really develop it." Not only does Daniel have youth and enthusiasm on his side, but he remains extremely committed. "I saw a lot of smiles and heard a lot of positive talk during the event and can assume that at least 90% of visitors and exhibitors gave us a thumbs up - that´s pretty great result for me." Keep up the good work, Daniel - and see you next year.

Trevor Butler