X-Fi 2016 pt.2

In a show that had its fair share of turntables, Hi-Fi Matters played the Perpetuum Ebner PE4040, a three-phase brushless design with floating, decoupled sub-chassis. Using Haydn Grand speakers from Vienna Acoustics, the music sounded clear and crisp. The two-way stand-mount has the company’s patented 6inch S3P Spidercone midrange along with a refined version of its silk dome tweeter.

Top prize for the most unusual-looking loudspeakers has to go to the highly-efficient Zugspitz Anmut Solist which rejoinces under the banner ‘Klang in Vollendung’. These were driven by massive Monarchie valve amplifiers, the tubes looking as though they would power a broadcast transmitter (below). The sound was impressive from the wideband, crossover-less drive units whose membranes are treated extensively with special oils and violin varnishes.

Driving the British Stirling BBC LS35/a V2 loudspeakers in stunning tiger ebony was the Takumi TT Level 2 turntable, made in Holland by Rik Stoet who also runs an all-vinyl software store.

QUAD Musikwiedegarbe showed just how good what they called ‘proper QUAD’ can be after careful restoration. Also renovated, were that they termed ‘the real’ QUAD amps and tuners from the team of Manfred Stein and Theo Wubbolts. It was glorious to be able to hear the old ‘radiator panels’ in such fine voice again.

Miller & Kreisel has been in Danish hands for the past seven years with increasing emergence into hi-fi and the custom install scene. In a five-channel dts-4D demonstration, with signals below 80Hz fed to a pair of its push-pull, twin-driver sub-woofers, the result was spectacular. Little wonder, then, that they are the first choice of THX in their reference room. The 300 series speakers (left, right and centre) rely on three tweeters and a pair of midrange units.

The affable Piet de Vries imports the superbly-made SPEC electronics from Japan. The brand was started by the former TEAC executive Shirokazu Yasaki. Among products making their premier was the Fidata HFAS1 audio server, the onboard 1TB SSD drive has but a short network cable to the matching network music player (streamer). Driving Harbeth’s mighty Monitor 40.2s, in a somewhat challenging room, the results were superb. SPEC is clearly a brand to watch.

In a room devoid of natural light, the YG Acoustics Carmel 2 floorstanders were powered by a PS Audio pre/power combo, DAC and transport courtesy. The speaker is the result of designer Yoav Geva’s desire to create the sonic performance of the flagship Sonja and Hailey at a more affordable price. It shares many components with the more upmarket designs, many produced exclusively in house.

An impressive array of equipment from distributors More Music included amplification by Simaudio Moon, the dCs Vivaldi range and tall, black active floorstanders from Golden Ear Technology of the USA. The Sandy Gross-designed Triton One sell for €5,900 a pair with inbuilt subwoofer.

Floorstanding Russell K Red 150 speakers, with a highly impressive nearfield sound, were coupled with CEC electronics by the aptly named Hear Everything Audio. The Japanese source was the belt-driven TLO 3.0 player and the new DAO 3.0 DAC, a Jens phono stage, Merrill Cara SE pre-amp and Veritas monoblocks. At over €100,000 it was by no means a budget set-up, but one that certainly rocked.

Perched on something resembling IKEA stools, newcomer Dutch & Dutch from Rotterdam were proudly displaying their debut speaker, the Model 8ct. This fully-active three-way with onboard DAC is Dutch designed and Dutch made. There was a grimace when I remarked that made it Double Dutch! It has been designed with tweeter waveguide and cardioid midrange to reduce room interaction while allowing placement just 10cm from the wall. The rear baffle features two woofers. An interesting concept and one I hope to try out although they are €10,000 per pair, without stools.

In a room dedicated to Latvian brands Reflector Audio speaker designer Roland Janevich demonstrated his Bespoke P18 model. The idea is to reduce sidewall, floor and ceiling reflections thereby saving on room treatments and making positioning less critical.

The same room housed new tube amps by DIMD, a company formed just three years ago. Technical director Edgars Sparnins shows the optional tube covers intended to increase the wife-acceptance factor by concealing the EL84s of the PP10 Stereo.

Marten Mingus Quintet floorstanders from Sweden were powered by Jeff Roland amps fed from an Aulluxity Media One network player (supplied by Belgium dealer Gydotron) in the HVP Audio room and were attracting a large crowd. The speakers, a more affordable version of the popular Coltrane series, boast very low distortion.

In a tie-up with Merging Nadac (a pro brand making inroads into hi-fi), Dutch company daudio played a 5.0 system using their dipole design W1, a three-way floor stander with tweeter artistically suspended below the midrange and an upward firing woofer in the base. For this brand, the speaker’s aesthetics are just as important as its sonic qualities.

Benelux distributor Colab mixed valves from Greece, courtesy of Truelife Audio in Athens, with the large floor-standing APL Gravitas NB-M speakers from Bulgaria. The combination was a convivial one.

Peter Chattelin from The Hague was giving impressive demonstrations of his favourite recordings in the Symphony Audio Import room. Magico S5 speakers in new, Mk III form took centre stage powered by Swiss electronics courtesy of Soulution.

Estelon floor-standing speakers from Estonia made an imposing statement in the Connaisseur AV room which also used Alluxity electronics from Denmark (the brainchild of Alexander Vitus Mogensen, pictured). In his range is a 2TB media server, integrated amp and add-on software to control the system without using the standard remote handset. The range is being branded as ‘lifestyle high-end’

And so another wonderful X-fi AudioShow comes to an end – an exhibition which should be a lesson to us all in how to attract manufacturers, distributors, retailers and, most importantly of all, the visiting public. Here’s to next year’s event.

Trevor Butler with additional photography by Rene van Es