Manron, from Łubianka in north-west Poland, created an impressive display with their stunning loudspeaker cabinets along with tube amplification. Speakers are the static Lambda 80 (from €5,499) and the amazing Lambda 120 (€13,199) with its swivel top-section housing the Scan-Speak midrange and tweeter. This is a patent-pending design element. The company even commissioned their recording of local artists which are available to customers only on vinyl and CD. Founder, Krzysztof Szmit also produces a range of cables.
One of the most interesting rooms was not trying to sell anything, unusually for a hi-fi event. This was the DIY area where I spoke with talented individuals who had created their own projects. One item to catch my eye was a three-in-one DAC unit (above), where the user can choose to decode the signal using either a TDA1541, AD1865 or PCM 1704 DAC chip. It was revealing to switch between the three and listen. There was also an open-baffle loudspeaker project with horn tweeter and a Nelson Pass M2 Class A amplifier (below) producing 25W/ch which was the work of Piotr Teterycz. More events should encourage this kind of display because it is so educational.
We were treated to the first viewing of the xact s1 music server, a €10,500 high-end box from JCAT. This features the world’s first 100 per cent linear-powered motherboard. Based on JCAT’s Zero-Noise-Architecture board, rather than relying on switching DC-DC converters, this uses super-low-noise linear regulators. It sounded pretty impressive as well.
Zebras were a charming touch in one of the Audio Anatomy rooms where the new Shubi Suave speakers were used alongside electronics from Audioflight electronics and Audes Maestro 146 speakers. This new 2-way bookshelf uses a SEAS silk tweeter with waveguide and a 10.5-inchcellulose STX mid/bass driver in a bass reflex cabinet with dual tuned ports. Careful attention has been paid to the crossover network to create a 40Hz to 22kHz response.
Designer Jacek Grodecki from Stereopolis was demonstrating the latest range from his Polish brand, Closer Acoustics. The monitor loudspeakers were appealing and used with an advanced phono preamp (with five EQ curves), tube amplification. The turntable source is a 10th Anniversary Lenco Heaven, capable of 16, 33, 45 and 78 rpm, and painstakingly refurbished by Closer with a new plinth, replacement bearing and new works. This is how the company began but has now grown to produce its own electronics and loudspeakers.
Wide-range electrostatics came courtesy of new Hungarian company Popori Acoustics’ W360 and WR1. An ultra-thin foil is stretched between electrostatically-charged insulated wires. Standard colours are white, red or black, with white front and back planes. The large model costs €43,000 with the more-affordable smaller ones €12,800. One of many rooms intent on cranking up the volume, they had a penchant for playing opera which, perhaps, the room wasn’t capable of reproducing to best effect. The space was shared with 71 Audio who provided the front-end source which included a €3,200 tonearm, €1,400 phono stage and power amplifier costing €3,600 in a system attracting attention.
With a start in microbiology, Circle Labs migrated into audio and spent 25 years refining their designs. Owner Krzysztof Wilczyński has long been an audiophile and, in 2019, launched his reference monoblocks. We were treated to the P300 preamplifier and M300 power amplifiers in monoblock mode along with a Transrotor La Roccia turntable with an Analog Relax EX 300 cartridge.
Hungarian brand Allegro Audio based their system around the Flow One integrated amplifier (below) while there was a promise of a new model ‘soon’. They used Way Cables and displayed the flagship line-up of Poetry+ RCA and XLR interconnects, Mind Ethernet Cat 8+, Libertas USB, Endless X speaker cables and jumpers. There were also Core power flexes and the Union power distribution strip. The digital source used to create a decent sound comprised a Fidata HFA1 server/streamer with a Weiss DAC 501 converter all into Franco Serblin Accordo Essence loudspeakers. A room I thoroughly enjoyed, and also noted that they played high-quality material at a sensible level which tended not to exacerbate resonances. I, for one, hope we hear a lot more from Allegro Audio.
Building on his original Reference floorstanding tower speaker, Alta Audio’s Prezemyslaw Banaś launced the Titaniam Hesta II model which features new titanium former for a promise of enhanced dynamics. The speakers certainly filled the room, literally and with a huge soundstage and impressive ability to play successfully at both low and high levels. No wonder he looked pleased during my visit.
Some rooms just give off a good vibe, and one such in Warsaw was using Polish handmade electronics from Muzg Audio, a brand I confess I know nothing about. Of particular interest to me were some elegant-looking new loudspeakers created by Karol Goliński, the man behind Audiophase. The €3,700 Charles Martin Violin model is a 2-way floorstander, here in Special Edition version, with back-firing port and using Scan-Speak drivers. The sound was exquisite and I sat a while to soak up the music; not something that happens that often at shows.
Drawn by another reel-to-reel, this time a Technics RS1500, the highlight of the room for most was the launch by J.Sikora of their flagship KV Max Zirconium Series tonearm, in 9” and 12” versions. Production is underway and they should be available from early next year. We witnessed their world premiere and the show samples were heading to Washington DC for their event on 11th November. Both new arms build on the ‘best aspects’ of the KV12. Robert Sikora has made a Kevlar armtube in order to reduce weight and increase stiffness. At the same time, reducing resonances thanks to a unique bearing made of zirconium oxide. The result is said to be improved damping, maximizing stabilization of the arm with “unrivalled tracking”.
With eight floors of rooms in the Hotel Sobieski, and some eight conference rooms at the Golden Tulip (opposite) it is a short shuttle-bus ride away to the Polish national sports stadium where, traditionally, most of the major brands assemble their wares. Hidden among them though, is a handful of small, more esoteric brands which made the journey worthwhile.
The first of those was HEM, an electronics company based in a smart facility just outside Warsaw and famed for producing early Mytek products. This arrangement ended during Covid and they now major on the Ferrum range. A key facet of the Ferrum OOR headphone amplifier/preamp design is that the signal path remains balanced when using the XLR inputs, and becomes truly balanced using the RCA connections. Having a quick listen in the bustling Headphone Zone, the results were impressive and I hope to borrow a unit for home evaluation. Meanwhile the small team are busy working on a prototype DAC which we should see next year.
Not a new product but a room worthy of special mention, for two reasons. Firstly, Dutch & Dutch left the magnificent view into the national stadium, which so many rooms had blocked out, and secondly the sound. The rather special ability of these Dutch loudspeakers to cope even in the most hostile acoustics (such as a reverberant hospitality suite at a sports stadium) meant that a lush, detailed and beautifully-balanced sound was achieved by designer Martijn Mensink from the 8C thanks to its ability to provide constant directivity from 100Hz upwards. It really was a delight to listen to, and visitors marvelled to discover that the cabinets contain high-end DACs, amps, subwoofers and a DSP for room-matching and streaming capabilities.
Good friends from Audio Group Denmark presented a wide selection of their well-established products from Ansuz, Aavik and Børresen. Of note were the newest products in their portfolio, including the Børresen M1 loudspeaker, the Børresen X3 loudspeaker (above), the Aavik I-880 amplifier and several product from the Ansuz Gold Signature series. The room sounded really good and they played at a sensible level to create an enjoyable and involving sound.
In the large T+A room using the €130,00 Solitaire loudspeakers, I have to say that I was rather taken by the source: a Studer A807. This one has been lovingly-restored and completely overhauled by Jacek Kalucki of Analogowy, Poland. He can’t get enough of these magnificent machines; such is the demand in the country for R2R tape. I particularly liked his addition of the red-anodized top-plate on what had been a daily workhorse for me while at the BBC. Amazing to hear and producing an incredibly wonderful sound; smooth, lush, warm and detailed. But to deprive those queuing outside, I would have stayed longer.
It’s incredible how many turntables were presented and used at the event. One launch of particular excitement, if only for the name, was the WoWo from Tengora, used here with Kuzma four-point arm in a €15,000 package. It was used with a €12,000 Idhos 845 valve pre/power amp combo (plus €6,000 for the matching phono stage), driving Bellatrix speakers by Divine Acoustics. All-in-all a decent sound which was attracting crowds.
Along the corridor were old friends from Innuos who had brought their top-end Statement with Next-Gen power supply music server and streamer, accompanied by their PhoenixNET audiophile-grade network switch. Chosen loudspeakers were Jean Marie Reynaud’s Abscisse Jubile from France which produced an enormous soundstage, very detailed and really enjoyable with wide dynamics.
Among the most colourful exhibits at the event was that by Metaxas & Sins, a family business. Kostas Metaxas and his wife, Camilla, operate from Greece and The Netherlands. Last time I saw him, in Prague pre-Covid, he had a new integrated amplifier. This time it was a range of beautifully-crafted reel-to-reel machines. The €35,000 Tourbillion and the larger, €55,000 Papillon (butterfly). They were whirring away and creating beautiful sounds, running so smoothly and so effortlessly. I find it incredible that there is demand for brand-new tape recorders around the world today, but these ones are very appealing.
Silent Pound is a relatively new Lithuanian brand run by Audrius Balčłunas. Two-years work, with a renowned physicist on anti-room interaction techniques, have led to the Challenger open-baffle loudspeaker which was shown in prototype form – production likely to begin next year with a price around €10,000 a pair. If so, they could be an absolute audio bargain.
The 3.5-way not only looked amazing, thanks to work by a respected Korean product designer, but also sounded great, even within the confines of a hotel conference room. I was particularly struck by the off-axis response. Overall, one of the best-sounding rooms at the show. The design aim is to direct the sound toward the listener while suppressing sound-waves to reflective surfaces to reduce room interaction. Audrius (winner of the unofficial best beard of the show award) explained the importance of midrange frequencies in creating a soundstage which is why he’s paid particular attention to the mid and HF sections of the design. This includes a unique acoustic enclosure for an optimal mid/bass balance. The mid being replicated from a mathematically- modelled bespoke compact horn.
Mytek founder and chief designer, Michal Jurewicz, spoke enthusiastically about his new top-flight electronics, notably the design philosophy of the Empire ultra-fast GanFET monoblocks. He claims these are a huge improvement over earlier Class D circuits which use mere MosFETs, they retail at $10,000 each. A matching Empire Streamer is much more than that, it has an onboard 8TB drive, five-stage DAC/preamp, Roon core and even a phono stage in the $25,000 package.
Just when I thought I’d found the last gem of the event, another one would appear around the corner. So it was with Aretai’s stand-mount Contra 100S speaker with its rear-firing driver producing amazing levels of clean, fast bass. A Latvian company started by Jānis Irbe in 2018, this was the ‘finished version’ of the design and one I’d like to get my hands on to try at home. Designed in a sealed-cabinet, the €7,500 2.5-way design has a pair of six-inch drivers, at the front and the back, complemented by a one-inch tweeter at the end of a distinctive waveguide which protrudes above the cabinet.
And so ended a manic three-days of one of the busiest audio events I’ve ever attended. That can only be good news for the exhibitors, several of whom told me that trading conditions were tough post-Covid. Here’s to Audio Video Poland 2023 and, why, oh why, can’t we create a national show like this in the UK? It’s a crying shame.