Australian Audio & AV Show Day Three
Still with us after Day Two? Well the doors have now closed on yet another Australian Audio & AV Show in Melbourne, and exhibitors are likely still working through the tireless task of breaking down systems and trolleying heavy gear and props back to the loading dock.
As attendees of such a show, we take for granted just what goes into putting a show on from an exhibitor point of view. The work starts weeks (or more) before the show even opens. From organising international guests, arranging new products to be in the country in time, having brochures, flyers and business cards printed, that's really just the beginning.
As the date approaches it's immensely time consuming organising the logistics of shifting a tonne (literally) of gear to the event location, generally being given a very small time slot for unloading. As an exhibitor ourselves last year I recall the rabbit warren that is between the loading dock, and three and four floors above where the rooms are located. Small service lifts and corridors, tight corners, not enough trolleys, and so on, we haven't even begun to plug cables in or setup the systems. So spare a thought for these guys as you walk room to room at a Hi-Fi show. It's a long, tiring weekend, and granted they're working for your business, but they could be forgiven for being a little worn out by Sunday afternoon (and that's just the ones that didn't take the opportunity to have a 'social' beverage or few with colleagues from around the world the night before).
Sunday saw a smaller crowd by my visual observation moving throughout the corridors. With a few rooms left to tour, and a couple of others I just wanted to revisit I was looking forward to an early finish.
Located on the lower level tucked away in a corner was the BenQ room. The darkened room was actually a pleasant place to be on a Sunday morning (I may or may not have been feeling the effects of an excessively late night). Showcasing their latest projectors, it's truly amazing when you witness the performance now available in projection versus affordability. Superb picture quality, projectors for small and large rooms and everything in between, BenQ continues to set great standards in this category. If the current capabilities in projection were even possible just a short five years ago, the price would have been out of reach for your typical domestic home cinema.
Synergy Audio Visual distribute what is perhaps one of the most prestigious portfolios of brands in Hi-Fi. To name a few, Audio Research, Cambridge Audio, McIntosh, Rega, REL and Sonus Faber; brands that many enthusiasts aspire to owning at some point in their hi-fi journey. All were represented well at the show, albeit perhaps not the best execution for auditioning. With that said, I did get a demo of the Sonus Faber Lilium loudspeakers connected to a McIntosh system featuring the MT10 turntable, and it left me most impressed and wanting for a quiet room and a seat. Rumour does have it that this system may appear at an upcoming StereoNET LIVE! event in early 2015.
Loads of new tech was also on display in the Synergy room, and there is no doubt that compact, portable and lifestyle audio systems have forged their place in the market. Cambridge Audio certainly have stamped their authority in this channel and while aesthetics, functionality and connectivity generally dominate the design criteria for products in this category, Cambridge Audio still value great sound and that is evident by the products they're releasing.
Advance Audio, distributors of Definitive Technology were showing off their new 'W' series of wireless speakers on Floor 3. Consisting of a wireless soundbar and subwoofer, two tabletop wireless speakers, a network amp and an additional adaptor for existing hi-fi systems, this category once dominated by Sonos is certainly under fire from many major brands today. W9, the flagship wireless speaker needs to be heard to be believed, and combined with a seamless interface multi-room audio is becoming as easy as plugging in power and opening a smartphone app.
I've been following our reader reports over the weekend to gauge the overall opinion on must-see-hear rooms at this year's show. One is being touted quite possibly as the stand-out room of the show. The other is simply a no-brainer to visit and experience when given the opportunity.
The former is from none other than our home-grown Kyron Audio. Located in one of the larger rooms, this year the more affordable of the two model range was shown. While 'Kronos' is a dipole loudspeaker system, utilising active amplification and DSP (digital signal processing), it could also be considered an audio 'solution'. With amplifiers, and a DEQX all contained in one little package, the heart of the system is also a fully featured DAC (24bit/96kHz) and serves as a preamplifier. In fact, for around $80,000, just plug in your source and away you go.
Kyron Audio could still be considered the new kid on the block as far as manufacturers go, but in a short time they've certainly attracted plenty of attention. In fact, Michael Fremer of Stereophile fame stopped by the Kyron Audio room and was truly impressed. So much so, he actually revisited the room to confirm his first opinion. Fremer posed the question, “Is Kyron Audio's Kronos the Best Sounding System You Will Ever Hear?” over at Analog Planet. While he didn't go as far as to giving the final answer himself, by all accounts the king of analog certainly took notice of this 'digital' system.
Loads of suggestions have been made as to the best sound of the show. Pure Music Group's room (mentioned yesterday) was rightfully so right up top of the list. By my loose calculations the system was worth in excess of $70,000 with the digital source (Antipodes Audio DX Music Server, EMM Labs DAC), or $160,000 in the analog realm (TechDAS Air Force One turntable, RCM Theriaa Phone Stage etc). The Brodmann Acoustics room featured just as highly, but has been debated about the ability across multiple genres of music, and at somewhere between $150,000 and $300,000, it is a serious investment into audio.
The second room we alluded to was none other than from Naim Audio. With a slightly different approach to demonstration than all others, the Naim room and 'Statement' system was easily the most professionally presented room. As punters wander in and out of rooms at a Hi-Fi show, they may only hear a random track at the time of arrival (and it may well be a bizarre request from an attendee), combined with chatter (hosts and attendees are both guilty of this) and the constant flow of traffic it's often just not the best possible scenario for critical listening. Naim actually run a 45 minute presentation delivered by Doug Graham, International Sales Manager, giving an overview of the brand and the $325,000 show system, followed by a broad selection of music from various genres. Attendees must book a spot at the next available presentation and the doors are then closed until it has concluded. This approach isn't agreed to by all attendees, but it certainly does allow them to properly demonstrate the Naim Statement system.
Exceptional delivery and without doubt a stunningly accurate audio system. Credit must be given to Naim for their approach.
So with all this in mind, the reader feedback, cost as a consideration and my own opinion, the stand-out room of the Australian Audio & AV Show for 2014 goes to Kyron Audio. Highly commended are the rooms from Pure Music Group, Brodmann Acoustics and Naim Audio.
But here's the kicker. For under $20,000 and with the law of diminishing returns in mind, by comparison the ultra affordability of Osborn Loudspeakers flagship range means you'd likely be hard pressed to find a better value loudspeaker on the Australian market. There's no surprise Greg Osborn has sold over 3,500 pairs of speakers in 16 countries, including to the Sultan of Brunei! It just goes to show that our Aussie Hi-Fi brands are certainly more than capable on world level.
So as we wind up coverage for the 2014 show, we look to next year, wonder which city the show may be held and just what show organisers, Chester Group, may deliver. One thing is absolutely sure, the show in whichever format it may be reincarnated needs to appeal to a broader audience than just Hi-Fi enthusiasts. The future of the industry depends on it.
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Tags: benq synergy audio visual mcintosh rega cambridge audio advance audio definitive technology kyron audio deqx pure music group naim osborn au audio show 2014