X-Fi 2016 pt.1

TD124 MkII

The rural setting of a former convent at Koningshof (in Veldhoven just a few miles from the Dutch city of Eindhoven – famed for the Philips research headquarters) has hosted hi-fi events for over 25 years. This time it’s the annual X-Fi AudioShow. For 2016 the show was bigger than ever and, certainly on the Sunday, extremely busy. Over the weekend some 4,000 enthusiasts visited the event; a mix of Dutch, Belgian, German, French and even further afield.
With notebook in hand, The Ear’s Trevor Butler toured the corridors of the sprawling venue and discovered some international debuts among an eclectic mix that ranged from state-of-the-art digital to refurbished audio gems of the past. Additional photography by René van Es. 

With a room bathed in soothing magenta light, Terrason Audio produced one of the best-sounds at a show that provided the usual array of exhibitors intent on producing volume over quality. But it was quality to the fore with Vivid Audio V1.5s in a matte finish for the Dutch market. Bi-amped Linn electronics were discretely hidden in the centre rack and helped produce an unforgettable sound.

Pure Audio Project speakers need to be viewed from the above to show their open style. Electronics here were a mix of Bryston, Consonance and Jadis with Psvane valves. The self-assembly speaker range from this Israeli brand comprises the large Trio 15 (requiring just a 10W tube amp to work) and smaller Trio 10 boasting an upgraded Mundorf crossover.

La Rosita from France displayed glorious looking speakers in a high-gloss, light-beech finish but with an unusual twist: they actually oscillate (left-to-right) this, says the designer, to compensate for the pistonic movement of the drive unit (front-to-back). They win top prize for most unconventional design of the show. The brand also showed its Zardoz tube and solid-state amps.

Manger CEO Daniela Manger gave daily presentations entitled ‘It’s All About Time’. Dutch distributor Audio Ingang partnered the S1 active floor-stander, in stunning metallic blue, with another beauty, the Resolution Audio Cantata Music Center streamer/DAC. The combination was striking, both visually and audibly.

In one of three rooms at the show relying on Harbeth monitors, Audio Ingang partnered the P3ESR mini monitor with one of its new lines, a pair of SPL1200 Ultra subwoofers from Velodyne. Electronics here included the new Lindemann MusicBook:25DSD streaming CD/preamp with matching 55 amps operating in mono for an impressive demonstration of dynamics under the control of importer Bjorn Mateijsen (pictured).

The more upmarket Bergman model, the Galder, was next door. Its vacuum platter holds the vinyl by suction and it can accommodate up to four tonearms. It worked well with CH Precision amplification driving Wilson Benesch Endeavour speakers. Featuring carbon fibre driver technology it’s apparently named after a Royal Navy vessel captained by one James Cook.  It packed a punch and ensured that it was standing room only in Room 11 throughout the show.

In a large room, which was constantly packed, Rega and Totem were twinned by distributor Joenit which operates in France and Belgium. Amid an impressive array of dried-flower arrangements, there was a separate display area, away form the demonstrations, to show a wide array of products.

Swiss loudspeakers from Piega were shown by AV Tunes who demonstrated the Coax 30.2 model alongside Danish electronics courtesy of Gato Audio. Piega, in production since 1968, have made the transition from traditional wooden cabinets to extruded aluminium, reducing cabinet size by some 30 per cent. Scan-Speak paper drivers are coupled with a Dutch-sourced tweeter. The results sounded most pleasing.

In an open area, a new Dutch brand ZMI-Audio (Zeggers Music Innovations) proudly displayed its Cephei 20.2 speakers which boast a frequency response of 18Hz-22kHz. Composer, musician and producer Kristoffer Zegers, known for his piano compositions, showed the capability of his new design and received a warm welcome in what is a crowded market-place. He was dissatisfied with the bass performance offered by others so decided the answer was to create his own, with that 18Hz ability but without the need for enormous woofers. The midrange is filter-less, with no capacitors or coils between 300Hz and 6kHz. Other models are under development to extend the range.

The floor-standing Piano G2 speakers in glorious high-gloss white from Tidal, driven by Thrax Eros Class-A monoblocks in a minimalistic setting, made for a stylish display by Very Fine Solutions. An aptly named distributor as it turned out.

British loudspeaker stalwarts ATC sent technical guru Ben Lilly to eloquently explain the brand’s virtues, both from the traditional Tower range and from the more recent Hi-fi Entry Series. The Helios Hi-Fi Import room was well treated with acoustic panels, work which clearly paid off.

These mighty Avant Garde XD-1000 horns with Omega Drivers, dominated the X-Fi Audio Imports room which also featured Chord electronics and valves by Air Tight.

Generating a distinct sense of de ja vu, ifi Retro were concentrating on jazz during my visit to demonstrate their LS3.5 diminutive two-way stand-mount with matching valve amp/DAC with phono stage, the Stereo 50. The Southport (UK) company is hoping for great things in the Dutch market and were certainly turning heads at the show.

A Dutch audio event would not be complete without the cheery face of Mr A.J. van den Hul who was in his element creating and repairing cartridges, his work projected onto a large screen for the captive audience to admire.

Sonore has some of the most interesting portable chairs I have ever seen. They were always populated as visitors lapped up the sound from the mighty horns fed from  a reel-to-reel source. The highly-efficient Gran Gioia speakers were courtesy of Blumenhofer Acoustics, powered by Octave jubilee monoblocks and matching pre-amp in an al-German lineup.

These Amy prototype speakers feature an unfiltered (no crossover) 12inch wideband driver, and horn tweeter that has just one resistor and a single capacitor to form its network. There is also a downward-firing horn in this Dutch/German collaboration from a company formed just two months ago by designer Robert Bastoni (pictured) and Armin Bos.

Small floor-standers in high gloss veneer from KO Melody looked exquisite and sounded melodic. There is an enormous range of finishes available for these 22kg heavyweights. ‘A design in great demand’, exclaimed Dutch creator Klaus Oudes.

Temporal Coherence shared a room with Hepta Design Audio since their products were at different price points and it allowed each a greater space to display their wares. The former featuring its Diamant model, an active three-way. The floor-standing Hepta (seven in Greek) features a sloping baffle is from a company founded in 1955 and run by Chris Rutgers.

Belgium’s Tingsha Audio spent years developing its Conquistar Series 2 with dipole RAAL ribbon tweeter. The brand was in Holland looking to expand its distribution worldwide, notably into the UK and USA. Amplifiers from Mola Mola provided an audibly good match.

Trevor Butler

Part 2 here