Switzerland’s Boenicke Audio specializes in speakers, so its new E2 integrated amp comes as a bit of a surprise. Also surprising is the power rating: 400wpc, which is a lot of power for such a compact class-AB amp to produce. Its coolest feature is the volume knob, which fits flush with the front panel but can be spun easily by flicking a finger across the top of the amp. Price is expected to be about €14,000. Boenicke demoed the E2 with . . .
. . . the Nautilus W5 speaker, which combines a 3" more or less full-range driver with a side-mounted 5.25" woofer and a rear-firing ambience tweeter (of unspecified dimension, but it looks to be a 3/4" unit) nestled just above the binding posts. A first-order crossover divides the signal between the drivers. The basic version runs €4000 per pair, while the €5000/pair SE version uses upgraded crossover components.
Sigma Acoustics MAAT speaker (€157,000/pair) looks frightening, both for its size and for its complex driver array, which includes two 16" woofers, five 5" midrange drivers, and two 27cm (10.6") AMT tweeters stacked end-to-end. Despite the speaker’s size, it can reportedly be driven by practically any amp thanks to its rated 102dB sensitivity and 8-ohm impedance. Where’s the fifth midrange? It’s concealed . . .
. . . behind the grille cloth, firing to the side instead of forward to add ambience. Despite the unusually large and complex driver array, the MAAT sounded smooth and well-integrated.
Gauder Akustik’s new DARC series is named not for its sound (which definitely wasn’t dark), but for its Dynamic Aluminum Rib Construction. Each speaker is built using a vertical stack of CNC-machined aluminum ribs, held together with top-to-bottom bolts, and with a compliant damper rib between each aluminum rib. “Aluminum used in a traditional cabinet design rings like a bell,” company founder Dr. Roland Gauder told us. The DARC 5 (€40,000/pair) demoed in Warsaw incorporates two 7" woofers, a 7" midrange, and a 20mm (0.78") diamond-dome tweeter, all fed by a crossover using ultra-steep tenth-order (60dB/octave) filter slopes. Jumpers on the back allow attenuation of bass and/or treble by 1.5 or 3dB.
The Döhmann Helix 2 turntable is a simpler, more compact version of the original Helix 1, and at $25,000 versus $37,000 for the Helix 1, the new model is much less costly. The Helix 2 is a “single box” turntable, with the power supply and drive motor integrated into the plinth; the Helix 1 separates the three components. The entire assembly sits on a Minus K (negative compliance) suspension said to have a resonance of 0.05Hz, about eight octaves below the lowest harmonics in music recordings. Unlike the Helix 1, though, the Helix 2 supports only a single tonearm.
Thrax Audio, of Bulgaria, showed two new integrated amps in Warsaw. They share the same basic functionality and options, but one uses tube amplification and the other uses transistors. Both start at €10,500, and offer several optional internal modules: a phono stage (€900), a DAC (€2000), and a streamer (€900) compatible with Tidal, Roon, and MQA, among other services and formats. The solid-state Ares at left is rated at 120Wpc, while the tubed Enyo at right is rated at 50Wpc. Both have a fully complementary (balanced) circuit topology.
Holophony speakers take the NOS (new old stock) concept familiar to tube amp fanatics into the speaker industry, using NOS drivers built in the 1950s and ’60s but never sold. All of the drivers have light paper diaphragms, allowing the speakers to achieve relatively high sensitivity ratings ranging from 90 to 97dB. All of the company’s four models employ a . . .
. . . 4" cone tweeter. The largest model is the Number 1 (€12,480), which adds an 8" midrange and a 12" woofer. The black fabric seen here is just a felt covering; there’s nothing behind it but wood. The three other models include the Number 2 three-way (€8960), Number 3 (€5760) two-way, and Number 4 (€2990) two-way.
Poland’s Closer Acoustics debuted at the 2017 Audio Video Show with new speakers and tube-based electronics. The speakers stole the show, though, in the company’s generally packed demo room. The designs are based on full-range drivers from the French company EMS (Electro Magnet Speaker). Two models were on display: the larger Vigo EX (€12,000/pair), with a 12" full-range driver, and the smaller Allegro (€6500), with an 8" full-range driver. The Vigo EX features . . .
. . . a field-coil driver, which uses an electromagnet instead of a permanent magnet; the standard Vigo has a driver with a conventional Alnico magnet. The Vigo, Vigo EX, and Allegro all employ complex transmission line-like internal baffles designed to break up internal standing waves.
Polish manufacturer Avcon makes speakers, amps, acoustic-treatment panels, and racks. The company’s Nortes speaker (about €6000/pair) is built from numerous layers of plywood, CNC-machined and then glued together to achieve a stiffer, less resonant cabinet. A 12" SEAS woofer holds down the bottom end, with a 6" driver covering the midrange and a ribbon driver handling the treble. The same construction showed up in . . .
. . . this prototype turntable from Shape of Sound, another Poland-based manufacturer, which stepped up to this impressive model from the stylish but relatively simple Scalar turntable demoed at the 2016 Audio Video Show. Avcon makes the plinth using the same glued, CNC-machined plywood construction. Shape of Sound also makes its own tonearms. Price is projected at €4000 for the model with a single 10" arm, and €4500 for a model with two arms: one 10" and one 12".
Encore Seven, another Polish manufacturer, puts an unusual angle on its tube amps by tilting the tubes down, which gives the amps a lower profile. The Classic integrated amp shown here uses a quartet of EL34 tubes, wired for single-ended, class-A operation and used in parallel pairs to achieve a power rating of 15Wpc (half what EL34s would be expected to deliver in a class-AB, push-pull arrangement). The Classic includes three stereo unbalanced RCA inputs, and is projected to sell for €2500.
Yayuma Audio showed what was probably the most surprising new technology at the Audio Video Show. The PONA processor is named for Pure Original Natural Audio, and also for its creator, Yayuma chief engineer Jurek Pona, who is pictured here. We’re still struggling to comprehend what the PONA does, but we gather that it somehow aligns the waveform of an audio signal’s current with its voltage. The processor connects between a preamp and an amp. Eleven microprocessors control the PONA’s all-analog circuitry. At €25,000, the PONA is quite expensive, but a less-costly model . . .
. . . the ASP Baby (shown here in prototype chassis) is projected to sell for less than €5000. Baffled as we were by Jurek Pona’s explanation of the technology, we were sold on its efficacy; it seemed to broaden the soundstage and increase the clarity without introducing significant coloration, although the bass and treble seemed slightly enhanced. We were able to use the PONA’s remote to do a blind test, and there was no question the processing made a significant difference.
We couldn’t gather much information about the Monolith Audio power conditioner, including the price, either at the Warsaw show or later on the Internet, but we were captivated by its cool styling. The top LED readout shows the wall voltage. Side-mounted AC sockets provide power for six components. The unit here includes UK-standard sockets, but a model with European-style sockets will also be available, and the unit will eventually be available in a more conventional-looking black chassis.
German manufacturer Genuin Audio offers a wide variety of audio components. The star of its 2017 Audio Video Show demo was the Drive turntable, which starts at €7950 for the turntable alone; it’s also available with optional Point tonearm (€3390), Sting cartridge (€2490), and Pearl integrated phono stage (€2750). Separate torsion bar suspensions for each directional axis (X, Y, and Z) float the platter and tonearm. The optional integral phono stage . . .
. . . is not the low-cost, limited-capability type of circuit typically built into turntables. It offers 32 rear-mounted DIP switches that allow precise resistive and capacitive loading adjustment for MM and MC cartridges.
Genuin Audio also showed its Pulse loudspeaker (€12,500/pair), which is a time-coherent design with the 1" silk-dome tweeter, the dual 3.5" midranges, and the 10" woofer all vertically aligned to be the same distance from the listener’s ears. A crossover network is said to deliver time/phase-coherent signals to the drivers; we assume it’s a first-order (6dB/octave) network, but the website shows a complex network with 36 separate components instead of the six that would be required for a basic first-order, three-way network. Apparently there’s a lot of fine-tuning going on. The side-firing ports let the user tune the bass to the room by plugging some of the ports and/or placing the ports to fire to the sides or into the center of the room.