It has been four pandemic disrupted years since the high-end audio event was staged in the Swedish city of Gothenburg. The bi-annual show had many names including Arken Exhibition, Gothenburg Sound & Picture, Gothenburg Hifi-Show. This year saw its return with exciting news that it might become an annual event in the new hands of Sweetspot Events, known for the successful Stockholm audio show.
This year, three of Gothenburg’s hotels offered an array of audio delights with everything from mainstream brands such as Focal, Naim, Dynaudio, JBL, Technics, Bowers & Wilkins, Dali, McIntosh, Martin Logan and a long list of respected names across the fifty-plus rooms. It was lovely to see so many stands as well, all stocked with new and used LPs and CDs, headphones and accessories available to try and buy.
Rather oddly for this kind of event, there was no catalogue so one ambled aimlessly around the various corridors in search of conference rooms that were actually staging hi-fi demonstrations rather than seminarss for local companies who’d happened to hire the facility. Hopefully this is one of many improvements that can be addressed by the new organiser.
I was keen to track down the Scandinavian esoterica which seemed to be concentrated in the Hotell Heden. It wasn’t long before I was in the Akkelis Audio rooms. The first was dominated by massive, fully-active Avant Garde horns, complete with enormous bass horns which dominated the back wall. An enthusiastic Stefan Bystedt was extolling their virtues although, I have to say, the room’s acoustics were doing the system no favours and, after admiring the Kuzma turntable (analogue-only here, as they proudly stated) and latest Chord electronics, moved next door.
Here a larger-than-life David Jefferys, representing Epos (now in the hands of Fink Team) and proudly playing the first new ES14N model which will soon be hitting the streets. Of interest here, to me at least, was the turntable being used. The source was a Swiss Lenco L75, heavily modified, but with long-serving Jelco arm which sported the latest cartridge from Hana, the ML. The sound was most respectable and the reception convivial as we chatted about old times over some Swedish coffee.
Along the corridor was a new company with exciting new products and a story to tell. Connected to their Sonus Faber Sonetto Vs were Anatech tube amps. Ah, I said, “Swedish”. No, came the reply. Apparently not just Swedish, but Smooland. The PHLA9 Phono pre-amp and PA9 monoblocks are all-tube designs. They look so sleek, so non-valve. Ah, said Lars and Bõrge Ekstam in unison – that’s because they’ve been designed to be ‘family-friendly’ when so much audio equipment in general, and valve design in particular is not. To achieve this, the pair turned to two female industrial designers to ensure that the result would find favour in the home. They are now looking for distribution in various territories and were receiving a warm reception at the show for their efforts which sounded decent enough.
Next, I was drawn by a rather smooth and delicate treble into Lars Dåverstrand’s room. He’s working in collaboration with Californian engineers to create a satellite tweeter system. Daver Technologies was showing what it terms the ‘image enhancer’ which comprises two-inch tweeters on very tall stands, way above head height, and which can operate between 150Hz and 20kHz. The result, in A-B demonstrations, was highly revealing. We are likely to be seeing more of this project as it develops. How imaginative to bring it to the public arena at this development stage.
My favourite product of the show, if only for the name, was a brand-new Swedish turntable called the Wallop. Even more enjoyable is that it comes from Oops Audio, I kid you not. Lovingly hand-made by cabinetmaker Torsten Salander, it was the idea of designer Jonas Lenberg. Each unit is christened with its own name as well. The tonearm used is a Rega RB220 recommended by Mike Harris of Moth Audio fame, someone I met when I began working at Hi-Fi News in 1988 as the man behind the magazine’s popular Accessories Club. The arm works with Jonas’ feather-weight top-plate, light but incredibly strong. It’s fixed to an extremely heavy and very rigid arm-board. The idea being to lead unwanted vibrations away. The platter is of composite wood while the mat is manufactured from British wool. Selling price will be about £2,000.
Almost falling into the darkness that was Solhaga’s space, one wall was completely dominated by bass units, sub-bass boxes and a pair of floor-to-ceiling AMT tweeter/mid towers along with no fewer than ten Class A MOSFET amps. Here was a truly unique and very personal system. Suffice to say this is the work of a real enthusiast and one who goes to enormous lengths in search of the ‘perfect’ sound. As it was, the hotel room was struggling to handle the quantity and depth of bass produced. Really unusual though to see such research projects being shown at public event like this.
An old friend of The Ear’s gave me an enthusiastic welcome and my first chance to hear OePhi’s equipment from Denmark as the CEO, Joakim Juhl, enthused about his lines. His room was constantly busy and he took time to share his enthusiasm and broad technical knowledge. The brand is known for its cables although I was taken by the 2.5-way floor-standers being used, the Immanence, with its ribbon tweeter, which produced a very full and vivid sound that visitors were clearly enjoying.
Analogue sources were a plenty, with at least two rooms using Revox reel-to-reel; this one the 1978 B67 (although sans VU meters, for some reason) alongside a Denon DP-100 turntable, both described as ‘priceless’, feeding Zikra amplification into Lala Classical 15EX loudspeakers. The sound was more than respectable and it brought back memories of working with these tape recorders, day-to-day, for BBC News.
All being well, there’s an exciting future ahead for the event as Björn Hestner (above left) takes over the helm from Ingemar Carlssons. He was given a very warm welcome in his ‘shadow’ capacity this year and will be investigating whether to make Gothenburg an annual event on the hi-fi calendar, subject to industry support for the move, of which there seemed to be a lot from the reaction I got.
Bjorn has been involved with hi-fi from an early age, in fact he purchased his first equipment when he was just 13. When his children left home he returned to his audio hobby by upgrading his system. This developed into becoming a Swedish distributor for German electronics by Trigon, and then a show organiser before he sold his distribution company to concentrate on exhibitions. All this while the ‘day job’ is industrial concrete repairs to the likes of water towers and car parks.
He chuckles as he tells me that he’s an analogue man at heart, and admits “I play CDs while I’m changing the record”. Today his family are involved, manning the admission desk and guiding visitors, their involvement is bound to increase as he has plans to take the show to new heights. I’ll look forward to seeing it all come to fruition.