Zurich 2014

High End Swiss 2014: Norman, on the scene


By Norman Williams

[Editors Note: Norman has been calling me for the last several years. I’ve never met him, but he is one of those most-rare of birds, a wildly extroverted audiophile. When the mood strikes, he’ll call, and he’ll cheerfully regale me with stories of far away places and brands both strange and exotic. By happy coincidence, Norman wrote to me very recently about the audio show he was planning to attend in Zurich — High End Swiss 2014, which ran from the 17-19 of October. I knew Norman wasn’t interested in a room-by-room/blow-by-blow show report, but I very gently requested a sort of highlights-reel, and to my shock and joy, he actually said yes. I separated this out from the RMAF coverage, so as to not have it get lost. This is his multi-part report! Thanks, Norman!]

Overall, the 2014 show was noticeably smaller this year and there was even a passing rumour I hear that there may not be a 2015 edition. Ironically, there was no Montreux show this year that could explain the stolen thunder, but by and large Swiss brands were largely absent. I saw Soulution, Klangwerk and Illusonic, but can’t recall seeing too many more. Heil AMT was absent due to illness. Next year, the Montreux show returns, so not a great omen for a continued Zurich, but I was assured by a spokesman there that they did indeed plan on having a 2015 staging.

German brands were out in force but perhaps the most interesting one (for me), Fischer& Fischer Speakers (Michael and Thomas), only had a passive display of 3 speaker models. As you may or may not know, they are the highly regarded stone cabinet speakers (special slate construction) … talk about inert cabinets! The secret is the unique slate quarry the source from, where that slate has innumerable air pockets trapped within the dried stone and which resists transmitting resonance. “Normal” slate would not cut it, but maybe concrete could compete on that parameter but would have other compromises. The new model, 2nd from top “only” weighs 300lbs each, so possible to be manoevered by a single person with a trolly.

Notable rooms off the top of my head included Ypsilon gear, the Rowland-Trenner&Freidl room, and your favourite Grimm Audio room. The Klangwerk/Illusonic room was also a nice surround sound experience, unfortunately I did not stay for long and didn’t manage to get back and dive deeper here.

As mentioned before, the likes of regulars like Boenicke, Nagra, SoundKaosColoTube and Piega were missing, so Revox, Eternity Joe, Illusonic, Klangwerk, Soulution, Vovox and Weiss were repping the home team and even then, only Revox, Klangwerk, Eternity Joe and Illusonic had their own people there manning the equipment and explaining their products. I barely peeped inside the Revox room.

As a general rule, most of the rooms had good sound, taking aside the outsized energy of big speakers in some small room. If that bass boom is discounted, I was generally pleased with the sound produced in most all the rooms.

More soon!