Australian Hi-Fi & AV Show 2018
This year’s Australian Hi-Fi & AV Show was full of surprises—including several world-firsts. We rush-wrote this brief report to meet deadline. You can read the full-length show report— and see many more photos of the show—at www.avhub.com.au/show2018
The biggest surprise at the show for Melbournites was that they were the first in the world to hear the first amplifier ever built by Japanese valve manufacturer Takatsuki, the TA-SO1. Of course it was a valve amplifier or, to be precise, a single-ended integrated amplifier using TA-300B valves… made by Takatsuki itself. ‘ We first heard this amplifier in March this year in the listening room of Takatsuki with the design team,’ said Bryan Fletcher, of Finn Bespoke Technology. ‘ It was actually quite a surprise as we were visiting the company to find out more about their valves and knew nothing about the existence of their amplifier. When I asked what amplifier they were using, they said it was their own development which wasn’t released yet. The dynamics, tone, and speed of the amplifier were all very impressive, but at the time, the power transformer they were using was only set up for 120-volt mains. After convincing them to built a new transformer with both 120-volt and 240-volt taps we had to wait for several months while Tamura designed and built those transformers, which happend just in time for us to show the amplifier to the world for the very first time, here at the Australian Hi-Fi & AV show. The amplifier we’re demonstrating here bears the serial number 1.’
space OpTimisaTiOn imprOved
Visitors to the Australian Hi-Fi & AV Show 2018 were also the first in the world to hear the results of Scottish manufacturer Linn Products’ recent improvements to its ‘Space Optimisation’ technology. What is Space Optimisation technology? According to Nigel Ng, of Advance Audio, Linn’s Australian distributor, it’s technology that allows you to get the best sound in your room. ‘You can have great speakers, but Space Optimisation technology will make them sound better in whatever room you’re putting them in.’ But according to one show-goer, who wanted to remain nameless, what Space Optimisation technology meant to him is that: ‘ I can put my loudspeakers where my wife says they have to go, yet still get perfect sound at my listening position.’
Linn’s improvements to its Space Optimisation are many. One of the biggest and best is that you can now do all the required programming with a phone or a tablet: there’s no longer any need to use a computer. Almost as big a change is that whereas you previously could model only regularly-shaped rooms, you can now model rooms of any shape, including ones with recesses and nooks and crannies, specify the materials the wall surfaces are made of, plus tell the program where all the windows are and their sizes. You can even have the system compensate for the effect your room’s temperature and humidity have on the speed of sound in that room. Best of all, you don’t have to know anything about programming to use this Mk II version of Space Optimisation. Rooms are created by just ‘drawing’ on the screen surface of your phone or tablet.
aries ceraT symphOnia
Although they’ve previously been demonstrated at industry and trade shows in Europe, Aries Cerat’s Symphonia Limited Edition loudspeakers (pictured on the opposite page) made their public debut at the Australian Hi-Fi &AV Show. The Symphonia Limited Edition differs from the standard edition by virtue of its exterior being coated with ‘liquid carbon’ and ‘liquid copper’ finishes, plus the crossovers, internal cabling and transformers have all been upgraded. The high-frequency transducer in the Symphonia is a customised aluminium foil ribbon loaded with a specially-designed and unique-shaped horn that Aries Cerat says dramatically alters the
parameters and performance of the ribbon. The midrange driver is a 100mm diameter titanium driver (also horn-loaded) that has a magnet that weighs 11kg. The bass drivers are baffle-mounted, but they’re rear-horn-loaded to maximise output in the listening room.
EgglEston AndrA Viginti
Eggleston’s new Andra Viginti ($65,000 per pair), which are not only the first Eggleston speakers to use a slotted bass reflex port, but also the first to use a midrange-tweeter-midrange (MTM) driver array, made their Australian debut at the Melbourne show. Designer Jim Thompson says the slotted port enables the enclosure to behave as a sealed box down to the port tuning frequency of 30Hz, and that because the tuned frequency is so low, the resulting group-delay phase shift occurs in a region where the human ear is effectively insensitive to phase errors. The Eggleston Viginti sports two 254mm carbon-fibre coned bass drivers, two carbon-domed 152mm midrange drivers and a 25mm Beryllium dome tweeter plus a superb finish.
The biggest surprise in Bricasti’s room was not so much the new Bricasti M21 Platinum Series DAC/Preamplifier, which was released earlier this year, as the fact that the person demonstrating it was none other than Bricasti’s founder and designer Brian Zolner, who’d made the 17,000km trek from Massachusetts to Melbourne to help out his local distributor Deborah Sloss, of Studio Connections. The new M21 is perfect for anyone who’s not sure what type of digital conversion process they like best—20-bit ladder, 24-bit delta-sigma or 1-bit DSD–because the M21 allows you to choose whichever one you want, whenever you want, due to being switch-selectable. In addition to handling all types of digital inputs, using whatever DAC method you like, the Bricasti M21 is also network capable, is Roon ready, and comes with a built-in renderer.
One of the busiest stands at the show was the headphone corner, ‘HeadZones’ and one of the longest queues was the one for Focal’s new Elegia design. Unlike Focal’s last three high-end headphone releases (Elear, Utopia and Clear) which have all been open-backed designs, the Elegia is a closedback design. The second-busiest queue was for Sony’s DR-Z7M2 headphones which take over from Sony’s award-winning DR-Z7M2s and whose neodymium driver magnets are twice the volume of that model. The MDR-Z7M2 ($1,299) uses 70mm aluminium diaphragms coated with liquid crystal polymer and claims a frequency response that extends out to 100kHz. The DR-Z7M2s were connected to Sony’s new DMP-Z1 ‘portable’ DAC/Headphone player, which uses dual AKM AK4497EQ DACs and features Sony’s DSD Remastering Engine which converts PCM to DSD 5.6MHz.
dynAudio confidEncE 20
Dynaudio showed its new Confidence 20 speakers, which replace the old C1s and are the first to arrive in Australia of four new Confidence models. All four have new drivers, including the new Esotar3 tweeter with its new directivity control lens. The new coned drivers have revised chassis to enable improved air flow around the rear of the cones, new glass-fibre coil formers and new ‘NeoTec’ magnets. All baffles on the new models are made from a material Dynaudio calls ‘Nomex’, rather than the previous MDF. The Dynaudio Confidence 20 is a large, two-way stand-mounted speaker that couples a single 177mm bass/midrange driver with the Esotar3 tweeter. The speaker comes with a dedicated stand because it has an unusual down-firing bass reflex port, and so cannot be used on a conventional speaker stand.
yAMAHA 5000 sEriEs
Yamaha showed the same 5000 series components at the Australian Hi-Fi Show in Melbourne that it debuted earlier this year in Berlin, at IFA, namely the C-5000 stereo pre-amp ($12,999), M-5000 stereo power amp ($12,999), and GT-5000 turntable (TBA), but all were prototypes, with limited operational functionality. The C-5000 pre-amp has twin toroidals and fully balanced, mirror-imaged circuitry that is floated to remove potential issues caused by grounding. The M-5000 power amplifier’s circuit topology is similar, and power output is rated at 100-watts per channel into 8Ω (20Hz–20kHz, 0.07% THD) and 200-watts per channel into 4Ω. Both models have the retro Yamaha hi-fi ‘look’, though the switches and control mechanisms have been modernised with ball-bearings and precision-cut aluminium knobs and housings.
MArAntZ isHiwAtA AnniVErsAry
Not to be outdone, Marantz showed its SA-KI Ruby SACD/CD player ($7,990) and PM-KI Ruby integrated amplifier ($7,990), which it says will be available in a limited global production run of only 1,000 pieces each. Each component features a laser-etched facsimile of Marantz ambassador Ken Ishiwata’s signature and a symbolic ‘ruby’ (actually a red Swarovski crystal) atop their front-plates. The two components celebrate Ishiwata’s 40th anniversary of working for Marantz. The PM-KI Ruby has a Class-D output stage derived from the Marantz PM-10 amplifier that’s rated at 100-watts per channel into 8Ω and double that into 4Ω. The SA-KI Ruby plays SACDs, CDs, and home-recorded CDROMs and DVD-ROMs. An asynchronous USB input handles formats up to PCM/DXD 384kHz/32bit plus DSD11.2MHz. Marantz uses what it calls ‘Marantz Musical Mastering technology’ to up-convert all file formats to DSD before conversion to analogue.
As with most audio shows, attendees were predominantly male, so it wasn’t hard to do a straw poll in the corridors to find out which of the hundreds of loudspeakers at the show women would most like to have in their homes. The overwhelming majority of those polled identified the Davone Solo, which were being driven by Halcro amplification in Magenta Audio’s demonstration room. The Solos were designed and engineered in Denmark, reportedly as an homage to the famous 1-2-3 chair created by one of Denmark’s most influential 20th-century furniture and interior designers, Verner Panton.