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Big Dog RJ

Melbourne In't Hi Fi show

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G'day maties, just wanted to report some "honest uncolored coverage"
 

The Melbourne Hi Fi show; hi fi? I think a more appropriate term would be “low fi”...
On a scale of 10, I give it a strong 3! – 1 for good parking, 2 for good accessibility & 3 for clean toilets, that’s about it!

First of all this post is NOT to put down Melbourne in anyway way or form, or letting down Aussie land for that matter (for those who may be offended already). This is purely from an equipment point of view. In terms of evaluating high end audio. So I make this very clear before offences take place, thanks.
I was looking forward to this show, since I hadn’t been to a local one for years, only to be quite disappointed. The overall show was well organized, easy access and free parking on Sunday. Set along the beautiful serenity of Albert Park. Walk in and for the novice, well I guess it would have been an eye opener to experience such elaborate systems, with elaborate price tags…

However, for the seasoned Audiophile, music lover and tech guru, this was a huge let down. As I walked in, I came across the mighty Halcro electrostats, huge stats indeed! Big Halcro amps, preamps and the works- soundwise? I sincerely think the Bose 901 is far better. I don’t mean this as an insult to Bose owners but to say to achieve a sound with a price tag in excess of 150 grand is not necessary, the Bose 901 is just fine!

Moving onto the upper floor, came across a massive butt ugly pair of JBL horn loaded system. Jeepers creepers, this was like the awaking of Dracula! Driven with huge tube amps from Melody (Chinese made), those tubes were larger than the latest missiles fired by Kim Jon Ill (or however you spell his name). Sounded terrible! Just a wall of a thunderous blast!
Opposite to that was the WAF room. Slightly better but yet another blast! As I ventured into each room, it was basically blast after blast. I felt like I was in a war zone and not an audio show or at least some decent room where you would relax to the music and not end up with a headache within the first 15 mins!

There were speakers from Hulich, SGR, Monitor Audio, Devialet, Klipsh, Paradigm, etc, the majority were dynamic driver- box designs. And, I could distinctively hear each and every type of box! They were boomy, muddy, and didn’t allow the music to flow freely, although driven with 100’s of watts. I was wondering whether the Klipsh Lascala’s would possibly sound any better driven with tubes? I have heard the Klipsh with tubes and they are wonderful. These were driven with Marantz SS, just awful, another big blast!

I was told by nearly all the show people that they didn’t like their rooms. Maybe so; they were small and cramped, wall to wall carpeting, and if too many people were there at any given time, it would end up being sweaty and smelly. There was no ventilation, just plain stale air. I strongly believe, an open exhibition center would have been far more effective than pigeon holes… Of course constructing partitions to demo systems would be challenging but is doable. Other audio shows I have attended have been in these types of settings and the sound is not congested at all. I assume that the major problem for poor/mediocre sonics was partly the room acoustics, to say the least.

There were no panels for that matter, other than the one Halcro stat system. The lounge that this system was set up in was more than adequate to let it sing, but sing is what it couldn’t do whatsoever! 

I finally managed to find a decent demo with two systems that I am very familiar with:
1.The Sonus Faber (Safarina) driven with a full McIntosh system (C22 digital pre, SACD player/transport & MC452 power amp). Although the room was about adequate for just one speaker, the sound wasn’t overbearing and quite listenable compared to the blast zone out there! The Safarina’s were begging for a larger space (I could hear them saying, "please allow us to breathe...") the bass was tight, gutty and quite smooth but did have some overhang. Speed & agility were more apparent in the mids & highs. The chaps who were the importers/distributors for SF & Mac told me that they spent a good half a day trying to tame the SF’s with the Mac amps the best they could and found this positioning to be ok. I agree!

2. The other system which was pleasing to listen to and had a far better control of “coherency and balance” was the Avant Garde Uno XD system. Driven with Avant Garde’s own hand crafted SS power amp (looks & sounds outstanding) partnered with a tube pre from Lab, soundwise the best on show! I thought I had wasted my time with this show but that Avant Garde Uno for the last hour was well worth it!

Bonzo: I am not sure of you have heard the AG Uno XD’s but they are VERY good! The overall balance factor in terms of horn and driver integration have come a LONG way from previous designs and the dynamics and smoothness are superb! The dynamics are not forced out, and does not make you jump, unlike previous models. In fact, if not for that horn looking diaphragm, I would certainly like to have a pair of these partnered with my CJ amps. Cameron the importer said the CJ amps would take the performance to another level on the XD’s. I can imagine.

Overall, I think for what was on display/demo was indeed a good array of gear to audition. Including audio software such as, Tidal/hidal & bridal whatever… (I am ignorant in this area and not interested as I still feel that a dedicated transport & dac or all in one playback is still unbeatable). Then comes the deqx, meqx and so on… whether this makes a difference or not I wouldn’t know. One thing for sure is that no matter what exq was used, obviously to no advantage…

In summary: I can clearly see why other high end dynamic types such as Wilsons, Genesis, Magico’s & Rockports cost so much. About 70-80% of the cost goes on the structure of the cabinets, hence the main reason you don’t hear the box! But does that mean in order to acquire a top end dynamic design, you have to spend over 100 grand to achieve it? I certainly hope not because the average audiophile/music lover does have an actual life other than dishing out large sums of money for speakers.

And this is where the fact remains- in order to achieve that “open/natural/transparent/unhindered/de-congested/expansive soundstage with realistic scale and with a realistic price tag” there is nothing better than panels! May it be AA, Maggies, Apogee’s, stats from ML, Acoustats, Carver, Quad and so on, I sincerely feel that they are superior in reproducing what’s “available” on your favorite recordings, and they can be driven with either tubes or SS according to your liking.

I ended up staying back in the AG room, virtually whiles Cameron was packing up. Then when I got home way after 8pm, fired up the system and listened again till another late-night session. It is now 4:00am! And all I can say is that for a fraction of the cost on some of that very fancy/pricey gear on show, the Ethos & CJ operate on a totally different platform, one that is not only higher in every sonic regard but also one that is in a league of its own when it comes to stats or panels. The comparison is just not possible whatsoever! 

The Avant Garde’s on the other hand, yes but these are horns and well-designed ones and they cost 35 grand upwards- the Ethos were just under 10… Apogee’s & maggies are way less than 35 grand as well, value for money? Obviously!

Now, I can certainly understand how and why Roberto enjoys his CLX’s with the CJ Classic 120, that would be one outstanding SOTA combination at its very best! Also an Apogee system, no doubt. I am very happy I attended this show because now, I appreciate the humble / simple systems even more!
Cheers to those with good room setups, great gear to match and well thought out layouts, enjoy what you have to the fullest! You really don't have to go homeless spending on high end, careful planning and rational judgement will get you pristine sound.

Cheers! and a big woof RJ

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No one at an audio show is ever happy with their room.

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I couldn't get past the third paragraph. Sorry. Or should that be sorry!!!

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No matter which hifi show I go to, I end up not bothering with 75% of what is on display. That said, I was quite surprised at what I personally found exciting at this show: 

 

- The BenQ room. I went in only because I have a policy of looking at all the rooms. They had a little projector. What shocked me was the price and the quality - only $899 (show special), it has a battery (good for 4 hours), Bluetooth, HDMI, USB, and wireless streaming. And most impressive of all, it has an auto keystoning feature. I know most of you go to hifi shows to kick tyres and look at high end gear (I am the same) but I was seriously impressed with this little thing. 

 

- The "Solo" room. From outside I thought it would be another room where the demonstrator was playing music too loud and with too much bass. I walked in, and saw a whole bunch of people standing around what looked like a 60cm tall tube. That thing was making all the sound! The demonstrator showed that this little thing was capable of projecting a stereo image with a surprisingly convincing plane flying overhead from left to right. So, why was I excited over what is essentially a low-fi bluetooth speaker? Because it costs ... $500. It is cheaper than the Bluetooth speaker I use when I go travelling, and sounds much better. 

 

I don't normally buy anything when I go to these shows, because you can normally see much better equipment if you live in Melbourne and are able to visit all these distributors. In fact the only reason I go is to socialize and meet people. But I bought that BenQ projector and the Solo speaker - this little combination of battery powered projector and speaker will turn any room in your house into a mini HT. 

 

The lack of high end gear is probably because Con and Boris didn't show up. Con was unwell (he said so on a post elsewhere on SNA), and i'm not sure what the story was with Boris. 

As usual I was most impressed with the Pure Music Group room. They have a certain magic touch and they seem to be able to demonstrate consistently good sound, show after show. Probably something to do with their choice of music and that they don't play the music so loud that your ears bleed (most guilty of that - the Melody room). 

Edited by Keith_W

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The thing with ESL is that there is a very narrow sweet spot so you need to be in that sweet spot to benefit.   I didn't get a chance becuase that spot was constantly occupied and I just walked passed.  If you went to last year show you would have notice a huge improvement in the Melody room, last year there was something technically wrong with whatever they were using, it sounded like a broken transistor radio that was trying to look impressive!  This year it was better presented with a nice wall of sound.

Bill Maclean somehow had the decision not to bring any Maggies.  I wasn't at all impressed with any of the gear there even with the DEQX, and I didn't stay long.   You're right most rooms had that boxiness sound, and this is coming from a someone with large dipole ribbons and maggies so it may be bias.   But the best place to be was here at the end of the programme, SPL that can't be used in any hifi show!  :P

 

https://www.stereo.net.au/forums/topic/234920-sunday-hifi-show-weekend-gtg/?page=4&tab=comments#comment-3791906

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Big Dog RJ

I really can't agree with most of that.You should not go to these shows with the expectation that you are likely to hear things sounding their absolute best because that is not the point.It is a showcase of what is available and from which you can take note of equipment that you think you might want to investigate further.

An experienced listener should be able to hear past most of the room based issues anyway.Yes a few really struggled with bass overloading but I think most achieved very acceptable sound and many very good sound [Hulgich for example].

If there was one particular nightmare room it was the Avantgarde room because there was some horrid phasey sounding anomolies going on in there [horns can be like that in the wrong environment] -and yet that is the system you liked most?

 

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I got to hear the Sennheiser HE-1’s, no room acoustics required, apart from meeting some good folk, those headphones where primarily why I did the trip. Satisfied 100%, pity I’ll never own a pair. 

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You have got me interested in electrostats now.

They do some very detailed but what about the coherence with the bass driver?

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16 minutes ago, THOMO said:

An experienced listener should be able to hear past most of the room based issues anyway.

Spot on.

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6 minutes ago, Qwertyqaz said:

You have got me interested in electrostats now.

I've owned Quads and Maggies, in the past but atm I'm listening to JBL's.

Couldn't be happier.

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52 minutes ago, Qwertyqaz said:

You have got me interested in electrostats now.

They do some very detailed but what about the coherence with the bass driver?

IMHO unless you properly time-align the panel and the bass driver you will have issues. All the Martin Logans I've heard (and I've only heard their entry-levels) have had issues. 

The Sanders Electrostats have a  completely seamless integration. 

 

Full range panels obviously don't have to deal with this at all

Edited by Sir Sanders Zingmore

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37 minutes ago, Sir Sanders Zingmore said:

IMHO unless you properly time-align the panel and the bass driver you will have issues. All the Martin Logans I've heard (and I've only heard their entry-levels) have had issues. 

 

Funny that you've posted that... 

All ML with integrated bass have this issue.  However one set some how integrated well with a Pass Lab Aleph.  

Edited by Addicted to music

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1 hour ago, THOMO said:

 

An experienced listener should be able to hear past most of the room based issues anyway.Yes a few really struggled with bass overloading

Even if you hear passed that, every cone driver had that issue of being "boxed" in.

and unfutunately those Spatial open baffle drivers suffered the same DEQX or no DEQX to me they were super disappointing and even worst when I learnt the price!

edited: hence the reason I left after a few hours!  And I was hoping to stay till at least 3:00pm.

Edited by Addicted to music

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1 hour ago, Sime said:

I got to hear the Sennheiser HE-1’s, no room acoustics required, apart from meeting some good folk, those headphones where primarily why I did the trip. Satisfied 100%, pity I’ll never own a pair. 

I'm glad you got to hear that @Sime  unfortunately I missed this but got to hear the Stax 009

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I really enjoyed the show, it was nice to experience stuff that you wouldn't normally get to, like the Hulgich speakers and Holton amps which were the two stand outs in my humble opinion which were actually affordable. Also, @Keith_W, any idea which model that projector was? It was very very impressive for it's size.

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2 hours ago, Keith_W said:

 

- The BenQ room. I went in only because I have a policy of looking at all the rooms. They had a little projector. What shocked me was the price and the quality - only $899 (show special), it has a battery (good for 4 hours), Bluetooth, HDMI, USB, and wireless streaming. And most impressive of all, it has an auto keystoning feature. I know most of you go to hifi shows to kick tyres and look at high end gear (I am the same) but I was seriously impressed with this little thing. 

 

 

 

 

And it has an L.E.D. "globe" that's rated for 20,000 hours!  A stunning unit.  Plus you can project to a full 150" screen with ease.

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2 minutes ago, Sime said:

@Kaynin what resolution was it?

 

Good question, I don't recall.  At the size of the image that was thrown on the wall (close) I couldn't tell if it was 720 or 1080.  The sales rep mentioned something to us about 1080 resolution, but I don't remember if he was saying that the unit was capable of it, or a future model will be.

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1 minute ago, Kaynin said:

 

Good question, I don't recall.  At the size of the image that was thrown on the wall (close) I couldn't tell if it was 720 or 1080.  The sales rep mentioned something to us about 1080 resolution, but I don't remember if he was saying that the unit was capable of it, or a future model will be.

720P

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7 minutes ago, Qwertyqaz said:

720P

That’s right, he said future models were going to be hd. @Kaynin

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Yep that little PJ had my mind blown.

Not only its portability, running time on its own battery ,auto keystone correction but its connectivity.

Was it playing of an inserted USB stik?

I was really just trying to find a reason not to have one being no bigger than an external HDD.

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Yup that projector was 720p and it was projected on a wall, and the room wasn't completely dark and it was still damn good. 

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Thx for the review.I was intending to fly down from Sydney for the show but left my booking run too late and the airfares became silly.

Appears I didn't miss much.I remember attending a hifi show at The Hilton Hotel near Sydney airport many decades ago.Back then 

I was very impressed by Duntech Black Princes(too bad they were the size of a wardrobe).

I remember Jamo putting on a demo in a very large room.Because of that rooms acoustics all bass was missing in action.

The exhibitors are stuck with the room and its acoustic problems.

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8 minutes ago, Elnido said:

Appears I didn't miss much.

 

Probably best to read the other reviews from other attendees to get a balanced idea on what you did or did not miss out on!

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5 hours ago, LogicprObe said:

 

No one at an audio show is ever happy with their room.

Presumably, this is consistent with what they think about the vast majority of their customers rooms.

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