Show Reports

Milan hi-fidelity 2022

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Milano hi-fidelity is a high-end audio event befitting the global capital of fashion and design staged at a five-star hotel over a pleasantly warm weekend when we wished the building’s air conditioning had not been switched off for winter. With free entry and a free catalogue, no wonder the event was popular from the moment the doors opened.

Spread over three floors, in a mix of impressively large conference rooms and some more modestly-sized hotel rooms (albeit sans furniture), there was only a smattering of huge, international brands: the likes of Sony (with 9.4.4. Dolby Atmos), Yamaha and Technics, while large specialist names were also limited to Focal/Naim, Sonus Faber/McIntosh, PS Audio and Klipsch. That left the way for more specialist marques to show their esoteric wares, and the event was much the richer for it.

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An impressively-sounding A/V presentation from Italy’s Vrel Electroacoustics (above and top) featured Leonard Cohen on an enormous screen matched by equally large, open-baffle speakers in a surround sound presentation. We were experiencing the full might of the Bequadro Duo loudspeaker system featuring: “coherent acoustical phase from HDPP full dipolar, true dual side-emission TSR tri-dimensional soundstage reconstruction, NSD nearly single driver. Phew!

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This was a quirky show in many ways, not least the sale of classic second-hand equipment as one would find at an audio jumble elsewhere. The Thorens TD124, complete with twin arms and a third arm-board, was €4,000 while the early Sugden pre/power combo some €500 or ‘make me an offer’. There was also a VPI record cleaning machine and some Klipsch HP3-2 Heritage headphones, nicely cased and looking pristine. However, given that I was already at hand-baggage limits, I declined and moved on.

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An original ‘master recording’ of Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly drew me to the busy Yamaha room with its punchy and dynamic sound thanks to the R-N2000 streaming amp and NS-2000A floorstanding loudspeakers.

Harmonizer

Some of the sound was put down to the Italian power conditioner on its cleverly sprung isolation feet. Designer Claudio Trevisanelllo was pleased to demonstrate the merits of his H3.1 now released in Mk II form and handmade in Venezia along with his specialist cable range. Both are popular with audiophiles in Italy, I’m told.

sure

An enormous variety of accessories was being sold alongside some interesting mini components. I was taken with Luxus Audio’s SD100/200 and 300 subwoofer plate amplifiers as well as Sure Electronics Class-D range of Bluetooth desktop amps, plus Rakoit’s SA100 wireless multi-room solution. There was, perhaps unsurprisingly, much interest in these.

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Celebrating their 45th anniversary were Indiana Line, an Italian company offering what must have been the ‘bargain of the show’ in the 3-way TESI-661floorstander with bottom-firing port. Designed in the Italian city famous for Fiat cars, and constructed in China, they were creating a huge sound, I was not the only one to ask: “where’s the subwoofer?” Timing was incredible and, playing Big Alice, they put a smile on my face. Even more so because they are just €800 a pair. Also of interest were the acoustic treatment panels on the floor. Trolley-mounted, they combine absorption and reflection sections; they appeared to be working well.

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Some highly specialised services were available such as cartridge repair and rebuilding; something popular in Italy I was told. Torlai will fit their innovative suspension designed to improve both dynamics and articulation.

stands

Bespoke racks of any size and shape for almost any application can be created by Demaudio who were also showing their isolation platforms and speaker feet. Every product is handmade in the local factory as owner Marco De Risi was eager to explain.

gryphon

One of the best-sounding rooms relied on German horns from Acapella (the €80,000 High Cecilia) and a huge Gryphon Apex power house (€100,650) with the €64,000 Commander preamp. The acoustics were good in the basement and a tight, punchy bass was created along with a lush midrange and detailed treble. I lingered here a while, immersed in the Beach Boys’ Ruby Baby.

flag

Tall but wafer-thin Flag L active panels from Italian brand Fonica International created a refined, detailed sound. Their isodynamic technology and dimensions create a linear source for uniform diffusion, while the remote control and digital inputs aid convenience.

transformers

From high-end set-ups to essential components, one display consisted entirely of transformers, of every imaginable kind. From step-ups, to toroidal; input transformers, single-ended types, open or canned, and crossover coils, all needs were catered for by Norberto and his team from Nor-Se.

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Lovingly hand-made to order is the glorious-looking Atlantis model loudspeaker from Supra Acoustics. Engineered by Alessio Paozizzi it was being proudly displayed by staff members. Alas my Italian wasn’t sufficient to extract technical data.

test

Another service not often promoted at shows is the all-important repair centre. PhonoLab brought a range of their test equipment, such as spectrum analyser, oscilloscope, signal generator, as well as some examples of classic hi-fi which they have restored, including a Micro Seiki turntable which is now available for €1,300.

tektron

Tektron were doing a roaring trade in all manner of valves. Vacuum tubes for a wide range of audio uses, and from small to enormous, were being snapped up by eager buyers. Whatever your need, it was bound to be accommodated from the staggering range available. The Mars above is a parallel single ended integrated with 211 output valves at €14,500.

With a true passion for everything Revox, Luca Maria Olgiati has authored a book about the legendary company and its equipment. Now he restores and sells vintage Revox machines.

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That Revox re-engineering is done by electronics engineer Carlo Colombo (above) who also runs Microsound Technology who produce hand-crafted electronics. New to the show was an impressive-looking SMA10 MosFet monoblock (below, €8,000) producing the first 20W in Class A and then Class B up to 50W/8 Ohms. No surface-mount here, I’m told, as all the components are sourced from the USA to ensure consistent quality, and then hand-soldered. The dual reservoir capacitors are enormous and provide a battery-like supply, while the power is conducted on copper busbars. There’s a dual-mono preamp as well, the XSP11 with nine RIAA curves for MM and MC phono inputs. Needless to say, the music source was a Revox tape machine with Charly Antolini’s Knock Out 2000 sounding very melodic.

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With a professional look and certainly a studio monitor sound, I really enjoyed the Brianza Audio Lab loudspeakers. Both the small 2-way Piccole (€2,120 pr) and larger, 4-way Classic (at €6,300 a pair with its super-tweeter) monitors produced a clean, detailed sound that was really analytical of the material played. Hand-made in Italy, these are popular with “demanding clients” at recording venues as designer Mario Garavaglia and Davide Miele explain. By request I am treated to Zubin Mehta’s Turandot and wallow in every note from a huge, powerful and dynamic soundstage with great presence and endearing midrange.

majandi

The sound is vast and yet the speakers are tiny – these are the square (10 inch cube) infinite baffle satellites with 8-inch concentric drivers, in a Studio Majandi system which also includes a pair of 15 inch sub-woofers, each at different levels; with different delay, phase and function transfer setting. Giantiero Majandi is the designer of the set-up which features tri-amping to drive the sub, midrange driver and concentric tweeter separately.

omega full

Another vast room was the one taken by Omega Audio Concepts from Camalò, another big-name brand in Italy but one I wasn’t aware of. They launched a new Class A/B monoblock, the Mono DNA as part of their top-range system which includes CD player and DAC (with separate power supply) and stunning 4-way Musa loudspeaker complete with external crossover, twin bass drivers, a pair of mids and a single, centrally-placed tweeter. Subs are in the base while the cabinet is totally isolated to disperse all energy into the room rather than try to absorb it. If the looks were good, the sounds were great and I was treated to some Pavarotti; it was if I were in the opera house, so realistic was the full and immersive soundstage. The company produces more modest systems, with all-in-one electronics and stylish speakers.

omega dna

oudimmo

Davide Perucchini started Oudimmo Acoustic Design in his garage, 10 years later he’s moved to 2,000 square-metre premises in Bergamo such has been the success of his mineral wool bass-traps to resolve acoustic issues. One of his best-known clients is Lamborghini who had a 80Hz issue affecting workers on the production line. For domestic use, panels can be disguised as wall clocks or art panels.

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Sound of the Universe, or Sotu for short, had a prototype 2-way stand-mount reflex with a classic look and using an AMT tweeter from Germany. Expected price €2,300. Alongside were Rocco Girardi’s latest new pre/power units which are powered by capacitors acting as batteries. All-in-all an enjoyable sound.

operly

Looking like upturned bathtubs, the Operly full-range horn loudspeakers packed a decent punch with real bottom-end grunt and great timing. At €45,000 a pair they create a full, detailed and fast sound. There was also a prototype tube amp, but details were minimal.

tapes

Who said tape was dead? Not only were pre-recorded cassettes being sold, new ones, but also both 7-inch (at 7.5ips) and 15ips on 10-inch reels of pre-recorded material.

tektron new

From Tektron Italia came the new Volcano solid state integrated stereo amp. Rated 70W/ch (8-Ohms) it has an MM phono stage and relies on Exicon MosFets alongside Nichicon Japan capacitors and resistors by Vishay. Very stylish indeed and about to enter production.

audel

I loved both the look and the sound of Audel’s Sicilian-made two-way stand mounts bolted to their tripod stands. The U-Basik 5/8 has SB Acoustics drivers in a reflex cabinet having a small front-firing port, and sells for around €2,200 a pair. The room was shared with M2Tech, an Italian company which eschews retailers and sells direct for best value. Thus, the Evo DAC3 is €875 shipped worldwide.

And with that the Sound of the Valves organised event was over for another year, with April 1st and 2nd 2023 already booked, at the same venue. If we are treated to as many delights then as we were at this one it will certainly be unmissable.

Trevor Butler

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