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pass the bass

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  1. I don't think visitors expect ideal sound at the show because of venue limitations, however it should be decent enough without being bad. Excellent (never ideal) sound is the icing on the cake. A common problem is many demos have the volume turned up too loud. When one room does this it starts a loudness war, then every one loses because you hear distortion and cannot tell if the bass is coming from the demo or adjacent rooms. Some of the exhibitors displayed volume level in their room, which is good to see, as they were less likely to turn feral. I was in the Lake4 room trying to appreciate the ATCs and saw how the the exhibitor was trying in desperation to find music he could play that wouldn't be drowned out by the Yamahas next door. Also, I think many listeners put too much emphasis on stereo imaging, stage and image focus; they are not the be all and end all of audiophiles, and would be very difficult to control in irregular, small hotel rooms with odd furniture and crowds. Timbre, dynamics and timing for example are equally important, and can be appreciated even if you don't sit in the sweet spot (as long as you're not too far out to the side or right against the back wall). Many speaker setups sound decent enough if you sit within a 30-45 degree arc, as designers usually factor for this.
  2. It wasn't easy to have a listen to the Spendors, as there were only 2 chairs in the room. But I'm glad I persisted, because the top models from the D (9.2) and Classic (200) lines were on demo. It's uncommon to hear an infinite-baffle design (Classic 200) these days, let alone comparing it with a bass-reflex design (D9.2). Another interesting aspect of this comparison is that they are made by the same company, employing similar sound principles, and even sharing the same midrange driver - which reduces the number of confounding variables. Both are 3-way, 4-driver floor-standers. The other major differences are that the Classic 200 has 2x 31cm woofers, compared to 2x 18cm in the D9.2. But wait, there's more: to top it all off, Gordon Hoskins (Director of MG Hoskins, distributors for Spendor) kindly allowed me to play several tracks on both speakers, as he switched them back and forth after each track - I was in hifi show nirvana. Both speakers did not sound too boomy in the bass (that was my first concern as the room was on the smaller side). From the Classic 200, piano notes had a more sonorous tone, you could hear more of the tonal harmonics and decay (equivalent to more colour saturation on a screen). I suspect the Classic 200's large woofers contribute to that effect because I have heard this in other systems employing stereo subwoofers to enhance higher-frequency perception, air and space; they also impart a "warmer" tonal balance. The D9.2 were stronger on transients, attack, and clarity. There was less (not unsatisfactory) "body" to the sound, and the tonal balance was not as warm (certainly not cold). The soundstage was wider with the Classic 200, and deeper with the D9.2's, neither being deficient otherwise. I liked the sound of both speakers, and it really comes down to choosing the sound you prefer, according to the music you play. To use another analogy: do you prefer curvaceous, or athletic women? Aren't they all beautiful? Amplification was from a Leema Tucana solid-state integrated. N.B. Pictures are borrowed from Spendor, as I have a crappy camera-phone.
  3. What I found surprising is how good the Magnepans sounded sitting close to the side walls (they were at least 1 metre from the rear wall and only cemtimetres from the side walls). I thought that panel speakers in general need to be far from the walls to sound their best. Also, I thought they didn't really need subwoofers; there was enough bass in that room.
  4. Vale Con Lucas I only found out from attending the hifi show that Con had passed away earlier this year due to ill health. He was formerly of Telos Audio. The Telos room was usually packed and jumping with music. It was frequently voted best sound of show. I recall one year the combination of omnidirectional speakers and Dohmann turntable produced such a "live" atmosphere, it felt more like a concert than a hifi show. There was even a Studer machine playing reel-to-reel tapes. Con would be sitting discretely at the back of the room with his stack of records, directing his professional team. I first met Con after hearing Charlie Musselwhite play Cristo Redentor (a rambling, bluesey harmonica & piano performance). He was eager to chat about the music afterwards, not just to enquirers, but to the whole room between each track; I liked that aspect of listening to music in context. One always felt unconditionally welcomed in his room, there was no "sales pressure", just there to enjoy the music. Although there was undoubtedly high-end gear in his room, it always seems that they were subservient to the music: the talk was largely about the music, and uniquely, his whole team showed this passion in the way they went about their business. It's one thing to have a knowledge of the music and using it for demos, but quite another to show passion for it. Rest in peace, Con. You will be missed.
  5. First Impressions Though I didn't get to every exhibit, notable sounds were heard in: Park room - Chord amps, DACs & Kharma speakers. Admirable set-up utilising elaborate and elegant acoustic panels. 1310 - McIntosh amps & Sonus Faber speakers. Enjoyable "valve" sound, in comfortable armchairs (like the ones I use at home). If only they could also serve whiskey on the side! 1206 - NuPrime electronics & Magnepan speakers. The transparency of the Magnepan speakers, with the usual very good music selection. Overall, I thought there were fewer demos offering quality sound this year. I thought the KEF Blades & D'Agostino amps combination undersold their potential, being limited by the small room they were placed in. Often overheard problems: 1) Visitors asking to play their music, with no intention of purchasing hifi. - It's understandable that exhibitors need to sell; it's a business after all. But, the show also provides the opportunity for some to experience gear that they could not afford. 2) Playing music that will not clear the room of visitors. - We have different tastes in music, so there will usually be someone who won't like what's being played. Choose boldly, not timidly; I would risk suffering unpleasant music in my exploration, than to be restricted to a narrow range. Musical discovery: The textured baritone voice of Tenessee Ford. Thanking all those who made the show possible.
  6. I've listened to this system a few shows previously and agree. I particularly liked its natural sound, without excessive treble or bass. It had impact and composure in equal measures.
  7. Notable systems at the 2018 Como show (in no particular order): Audio Note & Takatsuki The music, as usual, is eclectic, relaxed and played at a reasonable volume. Why do many exhibitors play it too loud? Interesting sight seeing aged males lose self-control around glass tubes. Synergy Audio Visual Audio Research CD9 source/Ref 6 pre/Reference 160M monos, Sonus Faber Amati speakers. Tube sound, with heft. Interesting discussion about the sound of earlier CD releases and digital recordings, and the merits of 16-bit redbook recordings/mastering done right. Reference Audio Visual Esoteric Grandiso K1 source, Esoteric Grandiso F1 (30wpc class A integrated amp), EgglestonWorks Viginti speakers. Good example of class A solid-state sound. The modest power output belying its big, deep, well-damped sound - and without the usual transistor "grit". The speakers were not wife-friendly, but they had a synergy with the amplifier. Magenta Audio & Halcro PS Audio disc/dac, Halcro (Eclipse?) amp, Davone speakers Good selection of mainly jazz tracks, varied in styles and well recorded. I felt the amplifier may have been held back by the speakers. Groove Works AMG turntable, Ayon disc, Tidal Audio dac/pre, Einstein pwr, Tidal Audio Contriva G2 speakers The speakers were positioned nearly half-way into the middle of the room, which probably accounted for unusually deep staging. Very effective A-B-A demonstration of enhancements by using Telos Audio active grounding box and Telos Audio resonator conditioners (solid metal pieces lifting speaker cables off the ground). I heard the most convincing sound of Muddy Waters - Folk Singer played on vinyl. Carlton Audio Visual Yamaha C-5000 pre/M-5000 pwr/NS-5000 speakers Powerful sound. The speakers' dark piano-gloss sitting atop architectural stands are irresistible eye-candy. The treble, like those of the B&W 800 D3, could be too revealing. Which is the best system? Who is the most beautiful woman? I like them all. Thanks to the above exhibitors for giving me the opportunity to hear my music through their system.
  8. There are multiple compressed gas cylinders underneath, and control switches on the front - which I presume would make them 'active'.
  9. The upper-bass sounded boxy, like someone playing a cajon by slapping against a box.
  10. Very few exhibitors discuss the music they play. This is why I usually like visiting the Audio Note room (though it wasn't present at this year's Stereonet show). The gentleman there not only chooses well-recorded music, he talks about the sound, the artist, and the song being played, as well as handing the CD/album cover around for the audience to view. I think this adds another dimension to hifi enjoyment - it becomes a social experience. Another suggestion for exhibitors: Don't just play track after track. Allow a bit of time between tracks for discussion about the sound, the equipment, and the music. Tell the audience why you chose that track, and perhaps what to listen for - make it an educational experience. In this way, you may convert more people to hifi and to your gear.
  11. How about exhibitors rotate the genres of music they play: rock-jazz-classical? vocal-acoustic-electronic?
  12. Cor blimey! After 2 days of slogging around the Pullman like a travelling salesman I can now sit down to reflect: My overriding feeling is "I wish I could have heard more of my music", or other visitors' music for that matter. I got tired of hearing a song called 'Similar' performed by 'Whoever'. Their titles may vary, and the artists may be diverse, but when it comes down to it, they all had that sameness of sound: slowly drawn out lyrics, Aunt Agony themes, recordings so closely-miked you lose all sense of perspective. I don't mind hearing them twice or even three times...I would like more fun music, like the Kraftwerk they were playing in the foyer, things to get my feet tapping and me jiggling in my seat. I, too, was not wowed by the B&W 800 speakers. The midrange was quite abrasive. It may have been the space perhaps? However, it did prove that no matter the gear, if the music is good you can still have fun listening to the music... ...even if they come out of vintage radios, in mono, and crackly. A two-thumbs up for the Historical Radio Society of Australia. I walked in the room and there was this long table laid out with wonderful retro radios clad in wood veneers, bakelite, curves which showed they were designed with the eyes, and knobs that moved this vertical thin line across a little window when you turned them in your hand (I did ask for permission first). The three curators sipping tea were the most chilled out people at the show. The sound was different, but thoroughly enjoyable. I was more impressed by the synergy of the Hulgich speakers and Holton amplifier combination. Did anyone else notice the 2.5kW transformer on the Holton amp? I haven't seen these specs since Peter Stein's ME amplifiers, and they used 2kW transformers. In these days of minitiarised class-D amps, I thought it unusual. Bravo, bravado, brave, brazen! I enjoyed the SGR sounds at last year's show, but this year they were just cycling through the few same tracks, so I didn't linger. I spent more time listening to the headphones playing through the Chord Hugo2, Hugo TT, and DAVE/Mscaler through Sennheiser 820S. Am I the only person to have listened to the Hugo 2 (on several occasions) and not been impressed? It's certainly good, but not as natural sounding as the DAVE. The Kii 3s sounded too etched, lacking lower end balance(I was curious because of all the press they have been receiving). I was more impressed by the bass coming out of the narrow Aequo Audio Stilla speakers. They are shaped like giant baguettes. Their big sound, belying their diminutive size, was due to active amplification. Is active amplification, class D amps, DSP, and Dutch design the future of audio? Let's hope their hifi is better than their cuisine. The Krix Esoterix Altum speakers were impressive. If you haven't seen them before: they are standmounts with an external horizontal horn, looking like something out of 'The Fifth Element'. Driven by Vincent hybrid amps, they sounded good. I was told their sensitivity was 98dB. Is it possible to have that kind of sensitivity in a standmount? I thought standmounts have highish impedances and lowish sensitivities due to their physical limitations. Speaking of another Australian manufacturer...I listened to the Legend Kama (2.5 way, 2x mid/bass, 1xtweeter) demo not knowing about them. These are handsome small-floorstanders with dark wood veneer and faux-leather baffles. I thought they sounded good for $20K speakers. Until I discovered they cost $2K. In hifi, I look for the 10/90 ratio like the visual artists and speaker-installers have their 'golden triangle' ratio: how to get 90% of the sound for 10% of the cost of high-end heavy-weights, eg. KEF LS50. It is not surprising, as I later discovered, that they won the 2017 Stereonet 'outstanding value' award. Commiseration goes to Bill Mcleans. It was heart-wrenching seeing him struggle with the streaming/network problems (also suffered by other exhibitors on Sunday morning). He always works hard to beam beautiful music into the room (a perennial favourite with show-goers). It did make me think how the apocalypse might pan out. It won't be fires, angels of death and the Grim reaper wielding his scythe. No, it will be something more prosaic like losing wifi, not being to access Tidal, and withering away to a Hell where no music is playing (or only Diana Krall is allowed. Sorry - she's not bad for a song or two, mind you). Finally, I would like to thank everybody who made it possible to experience all of this, good sound or bad sound (not being sarcastic there, I really mean to thank them all). Enough said. Time to tidy up the house a bit. (I don't believe in emojis.)
  13. One of the things I like about attending hifi shows is discovering new artists, rediscovering negleglected/ignored artists, and sometimes even new genres of music. Many times I have heard an often-repeated song played at the hifi show and thought "I want to find that track or search for more by that artist". My discovery this year was African jazz musician Hugh Makesela. I heard him played through a system comprising Dohmann Helix turntable, Thrax monoblocks, and B&W 800 D3 speakers. The percussion was DYNAMIC, and the flugel horn had that nice brass sound which is simultaneously metallic and warm. I checked the album back cover and identified 'Analogue Productions, 45rpm' - search! I would like to acknowledge those exhibitors who facilitate requests by providing the options of turntable, CD and streaming. Some exhibitors seem limited to certain types of music, artists or a few songs, which may make it easier for them to run the show, but not so interesting for the visitors. Some of them have curated eclectic demo tracks which are usually interesting. Telos and Mcleans usually don't disappoint in my experience. This year, the Hulgich/Holton room was playing good music. Hifi is not just about gear-porn. The music is the reason. Often, I come across a room bristling with gear and accessorised to the max, then I listen to the music, and wonder "what's the point?" Having said that, music is a most enjoyable experience when shared, and there will be times when one needs to put up with it rather than complain or behave disrespectfully. Just accept that tastes vary, and no music will please everyone all of the time. GLWTSong
  14. I've really been impressed by the representation of high-quality Australian gear. You could put together a decent system without having to pay import duties: sources from Dohman, DEQX; amplification from Holton; speakers from Hulgich, Legend, VAF, Osborne, Krix, SGR.
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