Oslo Hi-Fi Show 2023 pt.1
When a country needs a decent audio show there’s probably nobody better equipped to create it than the major importers working together with the top magazine. So it is that Oslo now has an audiophile show to be proud of although one city centre retailer did their best to scupper it by moving their in-store event to the same weekend. By all accounts the tactic failed because Oslo’s first hi-fi show was a roaring success, so much so that the Scandic Askar venue has been booked again for a repeat performance in 2024.
I was impressed by how many actual manufactures and product designers had been lured to the Norwegian capital, an impressive number made their way through the snow to the well-connected hotel which boasts express trains to Gardermoen international airport, frequent and reliable local buses plus a motorway close-by.
Not only had the exhibitors at the Oslo Hi-Fi Show taken great care to set up the 50 or so demonstration rooms, but the organisers had invested £25,000 to have a high-current power supply installed in every room. A further clue as to the professionalism of this non-profit event was the advertising which even included the Norwegian edition of the Financial Times.
A Fyne Vintage in compact form
Making the journey from Scotland were Fyne audio who used the opportunity to demonstrate the newly-launched Vintage 5 two-way, reflex stand-mount. It features a control to adjust the presence-region (2-5kHz) level in a 5-inch design costing £3,700 plus £600 for the dedicated stands. Also on demonstration were the larger £4,500 Classic VIIIs, with 8-inch drivers to provide room-filling sounds.
Graham Audio resurrect a BBC classic
At the Oslo Hi-Fi Show Paul Graham and designer Derek Hughes (of Spendor-family fame) were both waving the flag for the British brand Graham Audio which has become synonymous with resurrecting historic BBC loudspeaker designs. This time they did not disappoint as the mighty LS5/1 made an appearance. “Built on a whim”, I was told, these were found in BBC studios as a general-purpose speaker until the early ‘70s as successor to the LSU/10. Using a 15-inch mid/bass and two tweeters (here in series for impedance matching, although the original BBC design had them in parallel) in a UK-built cabinet, the re-creation has proved popular in Italian and Chinese markets. They sounded more than decent and worth their £12,000 per pair price tag. Electronics were courtesy of MBL, from Berlin, and proved a good match.
Devialet to go
From France came Devialet with their unique offerings which included the company’s first portable speaker in a compact package. Featuring separate woofers front and back along with four full-range aluminium full-range drivers, the sound adapts as the unit is moved to maintain a 360-degree stereo image from a stated 30Hz to 20kHz. The €890 wireless Mania is Apple Airplay, Spotify Connect and Bluetooth ready as well as wi-fi connectable. There’s a more upmarket variant which includes base dock.
Mini Magnepans captivate with acoustic
To prove that panel speakers can be both compact and affordable, distributor Audio Nord demonstrated the LRS+ from American brand Magnepan at the Oslo Hi-Fi Show. This magnetostatic design produced a huge sound from a small panel. It was both detailed and refined and, to my mind something of a bargain at 16,999 NRK, or £1,350. Yes, they won’t satisfy bass junkies but the sheer quality of the mid and top-end was captivating on acoustic music.
Hamrammr shakes the show
In a complete contrast and filling the entire room with bass notes were Hamrammr who are based just a few miles from Oslo. With left and right stacks (running in mono) each comprising two passive and three active subs, the main 12-inch coaxial drivers (in ported cabinets) each side made for an impressive sound which could be heard way down the corridor. Talk about bass!
Eam Lab’s heavy hitter
The most powerful solid-state amplifier from Milan’s Eam Lab was doing sterling service. The recently released Signature One (€18.000) stereo package punches 350W/ch rms and we eagerly await the matching preamp due later this year, I was assured. It’s likely to feature a DAC module option.
25 years of Hegel
It was a momentous occasion for Norwegian electronics brand Hegel who launched their 25th anniversary celebrations at the show. Founder and chief designer Bent Holter had created a display of his models from the 19-inch rack-mounted professional amplifier (above) he created on day one to System 4 comprising CSP4 CD player, P4 pre-amp and H4 power amplifier, the first domestic system.
Best in show: TechDAS, Engström and Marten
The room at the Oslo Hi-Fi Show that I shall long remember featured a TechDAS Airforce V turntable (with Reed 1H arm and Hana Umami Red cartridge) as source for Engström’s balanced tube amplification driving Marten’s Parker Trio Diamond Edition floorstanding loudspeakers. I was entranced with a DG recording of Mahler’s Ninth under Rafael Kubelik. It was spine-tinglingly good and one of the most enjoyable sounds of the entire weekend in Oslo. Marten’s designer Leif Olofsson also brought his most expensive design to the show, in a much larger ground floor room.
See part two of our Oslo show coverage here