Copenhagen High End 18

It was inconvenient that the weekend of the Copenhagen High End show coincided with the weather changing from mild and balmy to wet and windy but inside the Clarion hotel there were plenty of great systems to enjoy. This small but elegantly formed show featured exhibitors from across the globe alongside some smaller local companies that have yet to break out of Denmark. Organised by Densen founder Thomas Sillesen this show has been running for a number of years and is the largest in the country, a fact marked by the high number of visitors which sometimes made it difficult to get into the rooms. There was also a smattering of new product launched at the event, but what was more interesting were the combinations of brands, the pairing of Cambridge Audio and Tannoy is typical of this sort of thing and in that case brought impressive sonic rewards. 

Densen had one of the most extreme systems of the show, their new B180 was paired with tall Triangle Magellan Grande Concert loudspeakers to great effect. The B180 (below) is Densen’s first amplifier integrated amplifier with built in streamer and DAC (€10,000), it’s a feedback free 150 Watt design with class A preamp stage, it’s compact dimensions proving more than capable of driving the big Triangles.

 

The most entertaining sound I heard in Copenhagen was in the room shared by Innuos and Avantgarde Acoustics. The German horn specialist had brought its Trio Luxury Edition 26 system complete with the Basshorn XD and matching amplification for a properly room filling sound with bass that breathes. Innuos had the near finalised Statement server, this has OCXO reclocking on both USB and ethernet outputs which means that high res streaming services such as Qobuz and Tidal sound nearly as good as music stored on the SSDs, making it even more appealing than it already was. We hope to get one in soon but the speakers will have to wait.

Peter Comeau of IAG entertained the crowds in huge room with a Quad system fronted by ESL-2912s, the biggest electrostatics in the range. Elsehwere in the room I spotted some pre-production examples of Mission’s forthcoming ZX series. These curvy beauties have a new ring dome tweeter with a damped rear chamber and the midbass has a seamless diaphragm driver driven by a cone beneath and supported by an inverted surround. The range will consist of two standmounts, three floorstanders, two centre channels and a surround speaker, prices look like running from £600 to £1,800.

Olé Lund Christensen who originally founded Gamut has gone for a radical new material for his Jern loudspeakers. The compact and curvy Jern 12 is made of cast iron which has the benefit of being self damping, Christensen demonstrated this by hitting a piece of aluminium and a piece of cast iron with a hammer; the aluminium rang like a bell. The Jern 12’s sealed enclosure is 30cm high and weighs 12kg, it’s claimed to be good down to 65Hz and costs less than £2,000. Designed for near wall placement and available with a single pole stand the idea is to offer uncompromised sound quality to people who want compact speakers.

Audio Note had cellist Vincent Bélanger performing alongside one of his own recordings on their system, effectively it was a duet and one that sounded remarkably homogenous under the circumstances.

Tom Fletcher’s Nottingham Analogue turntables are going strong under the Copenhagen based Fletcher Audio brand, there were at least three of their Omega Point 5 models at the show and they always sounded good. This one had a Zero arm with the very affordable Grado Black cartridge and sounded great via RussellK Red 100 speakers.

Danish electronics specialist Phison had their new A1 100 (€3,359) power amplifier, a smaller version of the A2 120 that impressed me last year. The power supply has been halved but the current feedback design has been upgraded and the results sounded excellent through some prototype speakers from the brand. Apparently these “are too expensive to produce”, which is a rare admission in high end circles.

It was nice to hear a pair of Living Voice Avatar speakers on the end of a system with a CODA CS1B amplifier and new Dr Feickert Volare turntable (below). The latter is an entry level model at just over €2,000 with the motor and power supply of the brand’s larger models. Here it was equipped with a Jelco TK 850S arm that had been augmented with a nifty micrometer style VTA adjuster from Purus in Portugal, a device that allows tweaking on-the-fly.

Long time 47 Labs distributor Sead Lejlic had a typically compact system with Konus Audio electronics that are clearly influenced by the Japanese brand. The Sparkler Audio S507t transport (€1,764) with separate PSU fed a Konus Digitale 1000 DAC and Integrale 1000 amplifier at €2,520 each in matching dark grey casework. The speakers were local from Trym, single driver designs with deep square section cases they cost €3,000 with stands and helped this system sound open, lively and fresh.

As mentioned in the intro different distribution arrangements result in unusual product partnerships, and sometimes they work rather well as in the case of Cambridge Audio’s ambitious Edge range of high end electronics paired with Tannoy Arden speakers. They were playing my type of music, Public Service Broadcasting’s Race for Spacewhich helped but this was a full bodied and powerful system that sounded sweet.

Audio Solutions loudspeakers are beautifully finished and surprisingly affordable in the context of high end prices, the Figaro L is a substantial floorstander at €6,880 (we have a Figaro S review in the pipeline). They were sounding great on the end of Alluxity electronics and an Amari LP-82S turntable with Acoustical Systems platter, arm and cartridge at €10,000. 

Sonus faber is marking its 35thanniversary with the Electa Amator III (€10,500) standmount, the latest generation of the first speaker the company built. This has a wooden housing on the back of the 28mm tweeter for damping and a Carrara marble base on the cabinet. A 180mm mid/bass woofer with a cellulose cone provides the power in this reflex loaded beauty.

R2R ladder DACs are usually the preserve of the high end with companies including MSB but this hasn’t stopped Soekris Engineering from building a range of three compact R2R DACs that start at €588. They make three models from the DAC1321 to the DAC1541 with balanced and single ended headphone outputs at €1,500. They also sell DAC boards for DIY builders.

Mads Buchardt is a young Dane with ambitions to stake his place in the European speaker market. His S400 standmount distinguishes itself with a custom tweeter in a large waveguide that is designed to match the dispersion of the mid/bass unit below it. Also unusual is a racetrack shaped ABR driver in the back that provides an alternative to the more common reflex loading or sealed box approaches. The S400 sounded good atop some high stands with a tiny PS Audio Sprout streamer/amp and costs €2,000 with free shipping worldwide.

New to me was the Bergmann Galder turntable. We got great results with its sibling the Magnelast year so it was interesting to talk to Jonny Bergman about his biggest design. This has a 12kg air bearing supported platter and vacuum clamping system that has been designed for quick vinyl changes, removing the clamp breaks the seal and allows you to swap discs. The turntable has tacho feedback speed control, a DC motor and an air bearing parallel tracking arm with a damped carbon fibre tube. Price is as hefty as the turntable at €35,000.

At the other end of the scale scale Lindemann added a network streamer to their Limetree range of compact components. The Network (€895) is good for sample rates up to 384kHz/DSD256, has wifi and LAN connections, streams Tidal, Qobuz, HighRes Audio etc and has mono-mode DACs plus 32-bit resampling and an “excellent headphone amplifier”. All of which makes the price/size ratio more palatable.

Jason Kennedy