Australian Audio & AV Show 2012
by Tom Waters
The Australian Audio and AV Show in Melbourne last year only whetted the ears a bit – we were ready for more! Enter the Australian Audio and AV Show 2012 in Sydney. The involvement of Next Media and the Chester Group ensured credibility and attracted some big names to this event.
This year the show was held in the Sheraton on the Park from Friday 19th October through to the Sunday 21st October. The rooms seemed larger in the Sheraton than the Marriott last year, as did the hallways. So moving from room to room was comparatively easy. And the many lifts ensured people weren’t left waiting for long. Registration and payment was on level 1, as well as the Next Media booth and a few other rooms (such as Marigo Audio Labs, Dynaudio, Paradigm, Yamaha, etc.). Most of the exhibitors were on levels 5 and 6.
It was great to see so many members of the Sydney Audio Club in attendance at the show. I was there all three days and bumped into many SAC members, often many times. Our new Events Coordinators (Paul Bryant and Steven Polley) and I visited many rooms – sometimes the same room multiple times when we found something we really liked! Combined, we made many new contacts and renewed many old contacts. We received, and certainly appreciated, the keen interest of the many distributors, manufacturers and dealers that may present their equipment in our club meetings in the near future. (In fact, there were so many that I am still updating our contacts in the club’s Contacts List. That’s not a complaint!)
As before, there were far too many rooms for me to write about each one individually. Instead, I would like to mention a few rooms that I thought were the highlights of the show (I just know I’m going to forget someone, there were so many!). In no particular order:
- Once Analog (Vince Hamilton) and Lenehan Audio (Mike Lenehan) joined forces to produce some lovely sounds. The synergy of Vince’s turntable and Mike’s speakers blended nicely indeed.
- You could sense the wonderful potential in the Voxativ Ampeggio speakers – but like many systems they would have fared better if they were a bit further away from the front wall (that applied to many systems and rooms though to be fair). And I sensed that the horn and driver needed more distance to properly meld – the listening position was just a little too close.
- Kyron Audio won Best in Show again. It tied last year with SGR (who unfortunately didn’t exhibit this year). Last year I thought the Kyron system was beautiful sounding though not the last word in resolution. This year, it had both! I spoke extensively with Kyron designer Lee Gray and he said that since last year’s show they had spent considerable time reworking many things including the DEQX settings. It certainly showed. At nearly 190K for the entire system they aren’t cheap, but Kyron Audio is working on a less expensive system aimed at around the 40K mark. I can’t wait to hear them in our club someday (hint).
- The huge Wisdom LS4 speakers in the Total Q room threw a huge soundstage, huge dynamics and huge images. It was, well… huge. But like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, make sure you look behind that curtain… huge sub-woofers! The main panels go down to only around 80 Hz. A “Best in Show” contender.
- The Zensati room had some uber high-end gear making very good sounds. Evolution Acoustic speakers (from Knox Audio), Technical Brain amplification, CH Precision CD player, Bricasti M1 DAC and of course, lots of Zensati cables.
- The TAD Compact Reference CR1 speakers are large stand mounted speakers made by the separate high-end branch of Pioneer (Technical Audio Devices or TAD). They rival Magico for sound quality and build quality. Immediate and transparent without harshness. A “Best in Show” contender.
- The National Audio Group showed the Analysis Audio Omicron speakers in bright red. The speaker has a planar magnetic woofer and direct coupled midrange/tweeter. Transparent and open sounding. Also showed the new Synergistic Research Tranquillity Base to great effect. Electronics by AVM.
- The Magnepan 3.7 sounded good in the McLean Smarter Home Entertainment room. And Bill McLean, ever the gentleman, was there to field all the questions and play the music.
- One speaker manufacturer that had previously eluded me was Osborn Loudspeakers. Greg Osborn showed some great sounding speakers at very competitive prices. I was quite impressed.
- The Audio Marketing room showed the diminutive Focal Electra 1008 Be speakers driven by Krell. They sounded very nice indeed in what was probably a suitably sized room for them.
- The Krispy Kables room showed Verity speakers, Aurender, Esoteric K-03 and Shunyata cables. The new line of Shunyata Z-Tron cables were contributing to the great sound. Not only are they better than the previous line, they are less expensive. In the audiophile world, prices can be insanely dear. So to find a stalwart company like Shunyata reversing that trend, well, my hat is off to them.
- The Advance Audio room showed the small new MBL 121 Compact speakers and the Burmester B80 (or B100?) speakers to great effect. The Burmester system also showed the very new Burmester 113 D/A Converter with Bluetooth and USB input. The MBLs, being omni-directional, seemed to suit the room and sounded good wherever you stood.
- The Audio Active room showed the Vienna Acoustics Mozart SE driven by Luxman – it sounded very sweet yet resolving. They suffered from some bass boom likely due to being too close to the front wall, but I could overlook that and still enjoy the wonderful sound. I’ve heard Vienna Acoustics speakers a few times now and they always impress. They have a knack of allowing your brain to stop analysing everything and you just sink into the music.
Unfortunately I missed hearing the KEF Blades in the Advance Audio room, in spite of my frequent trips there. I would have loved to hear them again. I believe they were powered by the impressive Gryphon gear I saw there (Gryphon Mikado Signature CD player, Gryphon Pandora preamp and Gryphon Antileon Signature Stereo amplifier). And yes, I love Gryphon gear too!
And somehow, I also missed the Von Schweikert room where they were playing the VR-33 speakers. I have never heard these speakers and it sounds like I missed out on something good – others in the SAC said that they sounded very good.
There were many other rooms that also impressed: Decibel HiFi (Icon Audio), Duntech (playing the Senators), Convoy International (B&W) and so on. As well, other club folk said that they really appreciated the Tannoy Definition DC10A speakers, the KEF LS50s speakers and the PMC speakers.
The show was well attended, although down on the numbers from last year in Melbourne. My impression was that the busiest times were Saturday morning and late Saturday afternoon. Some rooms had queues of people waiting to get a glimpse – two such rooms were the TAD room and the VAF room. It’s great to see and hear home-grown products (like VAF, Osborn Loudspeakers, Kyron Audio and others) hold their own on the world stage of audio.
We once again owe our thanks to the Chester Group of the UK and Next Media for organizing this show. And thankfully, the show for next year looks certain. It’ll be in Melbourne (The Intercontinental – Rialto I believe) around the same time of year, likely the 18-20th October. Leave a space open in your diary and remember to book early..!
Part 2 - by Steve Polley
Yes, this time around it was Sydney’s turn to host the Australian Audio & AV Show for 2012. The Sheraton on the Park as the chosen venue proved to be a good one, though we won’t talk about in-house food & drink prices. The feedback to me by many of the exhibitors was that the Sheraton (as opposed to the Marriot Hotel the previous year) was better suited for this event. Many complimented the ease of being able to unload from the delivery docks, straight into the lifts and up into the rooms to setup their systems and displays. As this was less taxing than anticipated, more time was available for them to tweak the sound and dust the gear.
Better for visitors also as the rooms did feel larger, so there was a little bit more space for listening and moving about, though that could also have been from overall attendances being down on last year, according to some exhibitors, with Sunday being the quietest day. There were at times waves of crowds, moving in and out of rooms which were funny to witness. Often when talking to a presenter, the room would fill up, only to be empty again in no time. Some rooms were consistently full, such as the TAD and Kyron rooms and queues often resulted.
Being able to experience so many different systems in one place is really the biggest draw card for me and of course to be able to meet and chat to new distributors, wholesalers and retailers with the hope they may wish to present at future club meetings. It was also great to be able to catch up with those that have supported our club in the past and to give them a polite nudge about presenting again sometime soon, with something bigger and better of course.
A few big brands that were at the Melbourne show were not present in Sydney, which was a shame. Let’s hope they return at next year’s show which is back across the border, so start planning your trip.
With SGR absent from the Sydney show, the odds were high that Kyron would win “Best in Show” again. They were sounding as impressive if not better as I remembered from last year and still looked strikingly different to anything else at the show. That’s not to say they had no competition. I think overall, most gear sounded very good and liking or dis-liking something really came down to an individual’s preference and / or room issues.
So bear in mind, the environment the systems were demonstrated in weren’t ideal for critical listening. Most speakers were placed against the wall and others were in an almost near field position, so any views I have reflect this. Auditioning at these events should be considered more as a preview, to later follow up on any discoveries that had sparked an interest.
So my approach was to just enjoy the sights and sounds on offer from the various brands and the companies that represent and promote them and not get caught up in critiquing the sound too much.
There were a couple of rooms I remember for one reason or another;
- Attempting to drive to the venue on Sunday, I found many city roads were closed for some bike race (thanks Clover), this created a stressful morning but luckily the first room I collapsed into, being Sonus Faber and Audio Research, was just what I needed. The sound from this combination was so relaxing, smooth and comfortable; it was like the music just massaged my tension away.
- I recall stepping into the ZenSati room and thinking it resembled an audiophile’s Christmas Hamper (for those with countless coins), stocked full of impressive gear with lots of very expensive cables scattered around the floor behind the gear, it bear a resemblance to a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Evolution Acoustics speakers looked and sounded great but lacked fullness for my liking, though that could have just been the track.
- The new JBL’s in the Convoy room is a fine example of how NOT to demonstrate hifi. Big speakers in a small room with high volume levels do not make a good impression. I’m positive these would sound great if given the chance to. I don’t know if they wanted to show off the “effortless compression driver horns” or not but as ear preservation was my first thought, I walked out and missed seeing what else was on display there, pity.
- Convoy regained some points with me for their other room of Classe and B&W 800D’s. Many were saying the performance of this system was understated and I agreed. I’m sure if placed in a bigger room, they would have shined. Here the real excitement for me was seeing and hearing my new pre amp I’d purchased but couldn’t have until after the show, as it was the only one Convoy had in the country at the time.
- After very much enjoying the DynAudio Confidence 2’s at the club’s September meeting, it was great to hear the Confidence 4’s driven by the big Bryston mono block power amps powering the larger Dyn’s. The control and detail the Bryston gear is capable of are the reasons why they are loved by so many. The Dyn’s looked and sounded just as impressive.
- VAF was another one of those rooms that always had a crowd in it. Not surprising, the performance of their speaker range makes them great value for money. Demonstrations were mostly focusing on the i90’s and i91’s. In just a 30cm cube, single driver box, the sound the i90’s produced was amazingly good, which I preferred over the larger i91’s. I would have loved to have heard their largest floor standing speaker, the i93 but didn’t get the chance to, so we’ll need to work hard at getting a pair to a club meeting sometime soon, let’s hope.
- There were many rooms where I spent more time chatting than sitting down to listen, such as the Radiance and Magenta Audio room. Here I caught up with the guys from Sydney Hifi while gazing over the Karan amps and Unison-Research speakers, which were sounding great for the size of the room. Other lengthy chinwags were with Krispy Kables, who are keen to present at the club next year with some of their lovely sounding gear and Advance Audio Australia, catching up with old acquaintances while the beautiful and expensive Linn system played away beside us.
And of course there were the many hallway congregations when bumping into SAC members and forum buddies making their way between rooms and floors. Overall, it was a great event and a lot of fun; I think I spent as much time socialising as I did listening. Enjoying good music and good company, yea, it was a tough weekend.
I’m hoping to be able to attend next year’s show, which is some time away yet but thank goodness we have our monthly club meetings to fill in the gap while we wait for it.