In the weeks leading up to High End, many companies send out press releases describing the products they’ll be unveiling at the show. I try to look at every press release, though I sometimes miss a few. But the one that jumped out at me the moment it arrived came from NAD, announcing the Masters M66 streaming DAC-preamplifier. The M66 is priced at €5999 and will be available this fall.
Last year I spent a week visiting Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries (DALI), one of the world’s largest manufacturers of hi-fi speakers. DALI had invited a group of journalists to Denmark to tour its factory and gain detailed insight into the design and construction of its flagship Kore loudspeaker.
Since its founding in 2010, Estonia-based Estelon has focused on making sculpture-like speakers where form and function appear to be on an equal footing. According to CEO Alissa Vassilkova, this form-and-function approach has been guided by her father, chief designer Alfred Vassilkov. From the beginning, his goal has been to make speakers that look and sound beautiful. Estelon’s latest speaker is the Aura, which was announced a few months ago. As far as I know, High End 2023 was its first public showing. It sells for €17,500 per pair.
Holland’s Crystal Cable is well known among audiophiles for its thin, attractive interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords. It’s the sister brand of Siltech, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. But although much younger, Crystal Cable has enjoyed astonishing success during its 19-year history.
Have you ever looked in the window of a bar and watched people dancing? Without hearing the music? It’s creepy to watch, sort of like human versions of those weird-ass birds of paradise you see on nature shows, doing nutty dances while the female bird watches intently from a nearby twig. We’re not far removed from the simpler animals. We build fences to protect our territory from intruders. We dress up and work out to attract mates.
As I’m typing this, I’m in Munich, Germany, and it’s one day before High End 2023 opens. The show will run May 18 to 21.
Audio Show East 2023 took place over the final weekend in April. The event was organized by Signals Hi-Fi, a well-known British audio store located in a converted church in Trimley St. Mary, Suffolk, England. This year marks the store’s 30th anniversary. The show was held in the modern facilities of Trinity Park on the outskirts of Ipswich. This large showground normally plays host to vast agricultural shows for farmers and traders, so access and parking were a breeze for hi-fi manufacturers and punters alike.
The past two years have been great for me, as a reviewer, having had the opportunity to audition a good number of fine turntables, from entry level to the top of SoundStage! Access’s purview. (You can find my turntable reviews on SoundStage! Access almost every month.) For this posting, I revisited my reviews for the past two years, selected the finest examples of the science and art embodied in high-value turntables, and summarized my findings in reverse order of preference.
It’s a bit of a cliché. This sport of audio is all about reproducing music, and audiophiles tend to blather on about how important the music is to our world. But walk around most audio shows, and it’s all about the gear, the equipment. There’s often a marketplace for used or new records, but it’s the equipment that takes center stage.
I’ve known Don Rhule, the Canadian distributor for Kimber Kable and Quadraspire, for over 30 years. We originally met at a car stereo shop that we both used to frequent. The shop was a touch sketchy, but the proprietor was a fun character, and to this day we like to joke that we used to have the same fence. People tend not to get it, thinking we mean that we were neighbors, having shared the same backyard fence. We then explain the joke and laugh uproariously.
It’s rare for me to sit down in front of an unfamiliar system and melt into a puddle. But that’s what happened to me in retailer Filtronique’s larger room. I’d just sat in front of hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of Nagra gear playing through a pair of Wilson Audio Alexia V speakers, all fully wired up with Siltech cables.
Unlike Friday, when I drove to Montreal on the morning Audiofest opened and couldn’t find parking anywhere near the Hotel Bonaventure, where the show is held, on Saturday morning I woke up at the hotel and began making my rounds the moment the show opened.
How can a country with as small a population as Canada incubate so many high-end turntable manufacturers? When I say, “so many,” I actually mean “three.” First off there’s Oracle, the granddaddy of Canadian record players. I recall seeing an Oracle ’table for the first time in the early 1980s—I was absolutely transfixed by its baroque, crystalline construction. Its successor is still in production as the Delphi MkVI. Oracle is at the Audiofest this year, but I’m not here to talk about them.
I’m fairly certain that whenever most people think of MartinLogan speakers, an image of an electrostatic panel comes to mind. Probably one of the company’s classic hybrid speakers with a dynamic woofer at the bottom.
I’ve attended the annual Montreal audio show for over 20 years. Usually, I arrive the day before the show opens and leave late on the final day. But to be a little more efficient with my time this year, I decided to arrive on the morning of the first day. That was a mistake.
On Friday morning, the first day of the 2023 Montreal Audiofest, my daughter, Toni, and I were sitting at breakfast in the Hotel Bonaventure’s Le Bisco restaurant. Audiofest has been held in the Hotel Bonaventure for how long—a decade now?
I’ve known about Kharma for a very long time. I’ve seen their speakers reviewed in magazines and encountered them at shows over the years. And it’s always been the beautiful, raked, “entry-level” Elegance models that sprang to my mind on hearing the Dutch brand’s name. For one reason or another, I’ve never had the opportunity to sit and listen to a pair, but 18 months ago I began a conversation with Vivienne van Oosterum, the daughter of Kharma founder, Charles van Oosterum, that ultimately led to a pair of Kharma’s Elegance dB7-S loudspeakers (US$31,250 per pair) being deposited on my driveway, in mid-December 2022.
Since I’m mostly* unable to spend paycheck money on this hobby, I tend not to hold on to extra gear for very long. Freeing up old and unused gear on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace is a great way to meet like-minded local enthusiasts, but it also allows me to fund other, later purchases. It was with both these thoughts in mind that I listed my Ortofon 2M Bronze ($419, all prices USD) moving-magnet phono cartridge for sale, even though it saved my butt for a few weeks recently.
Some favorite sounds, a new Pink Triangle, and a little Atmos . . .
I can’t count how many times I have attended the Bristol Hi-Fi Show during its 34-year history, but it’s well into double figures. This has long been one of my favorite shows on account of its cozy hotel environment and the camaraderie I find here. Due to its compact layout, I often bump into people without even trying.
Birthdays in Bristol
Three leading audio companies were celebrating significant anniversaries at Bristol. Linn, Naim, and Rega were all founded in 1973 and hit their 50th anniversaries this year. Meanwhile, Wales-based Leema Acoustics celebrates 25 years in 2023. It’s testament to the engineering, marketing, customer focus, and passion of these companies that they have managed to prosper in such a globally competitive market.
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