Zurich 2014

High End Swiss 2014: a Swiss 1-2 with Eternity-Jo and Rowen

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HE_Swiss_Logo_14By Norman Williams

Eternity-Jo tube amps in combination with Rowen speakers featuring their exclusive LMT (linear motion technolgy) tweeters.

This is my 2nd time hearing the LMTs and they are very reminiscent of Dr Heil’s AMT, but work on a very different principles. No folding ribbons, more like a rattle in an intense magnetic field. Beautiful airy sound, just like my beloved AMTs. I dont know that much about Eternity-Jo, but like Tron Audio and Colotube, they seem to be among the most prominent boutique tube exponents in Switzerland. Nagra and Holborne strike me as much bigger setups.

Not much time spent in the room, but what I heard was pretty enjoyable. (That is “Jo” in the picture).

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Zurich 2014

High End Swiss 2014: Grimm Audio, Klangwerk and Illusonic

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By Norman Williams

Grimm Audio

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Regarding the Grimm/Weiss room, I went in with no expectations and was a bit tired. I had heard from Scot that they had great sound and I completely agree. It was a very soothing, even rejuvenating,10 minutes spent relaxing and just listening to music wash over me.

Grimm powered speakers were the LS1 (upfiring woofer) with Christian Wenger manning the room. Weiss component is the MAN301 music archive network player, but the Macbook was actually playing direct.

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Klangwerk and Illusonic

Another Swiss partnership on display.

I know both Christof Faller, the Managing Director of Illusonic, and Markus Thomann, the co-owner of Klagwerk, and like them a lot. They seemed to make a great natural pairing, both aesthetically and sonically. With the Muro, Klangwerk definitety has the right gear to build a complete surround speaker setup and paired with Illusonic, they offer you the immersive audio experience in a truly turnkey manner.

The guys were very busy at the time with other showgoers, so we had no time to catch up, but I loved what I was hearing as usual.

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Zurich 2014

High End Swiss 2014: Avantgarde Acoustics

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By Norman Williams
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The Avantgarde Acoustics room was well attended and presented a veritable “wall of sound”. Delightful, really.

That is the Trio with the giant bass horn playing, while the Zero stood proudly to the side looking at big brother strutting his stuff. The Zero (fully active all in one speaker system) seems to be the BIG new story, but I didn’t manage to hear it play either in Zurich or in Warsaw, as the big brother was on show both times. Pity!

AG had their own electronics powering their gear in this large conference room.

I spoke with the rep there and told him how my pal with a Duo got MUCH better sound switching to a Job 225 amp with Sweet Cord, remarking that finally the powered bass module kept up with the horns. The gentleman said it was not that surprising, given that the bass internal amps only power to 150hz and the external amp does the heavy lifting after that. Thus, moving from a quality flea watt tube amp to a quality, medium to high powered SS amp would indeed give such a remarkable improvement.

So good advice to all the AG owners out there: if you use tubes, make sure they have decent power (or more likely current drive)!

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Zurich 2014

High End Swiss 2014: Audio Note UK

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By Norman Williams

HE_Swiss_Logo_14I must confess that I did not spend too much time actually listening in this room, as the nudie show was much more interesting. Audio Note UK was keen to show off what lay underneath the hoods and I was happy to oblige with photographic evidence.

Thus, I went snapping away while the seated audience in the rather large room appeared puzzled by my actions. What I did notice was quite lovely and in a later show, I even heard a similar AN setup jamming quite well to heavy metal music. Strange I know, as AN is normally firmly placed in the “pipe and slippers” camp by yours truly.

This room also featured the Tim de Paravacini Ear/Yoshino V12 (I think). Gorgeous design but it was a static demo.

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Zurich 2014

High End Swiss 2014: KEF

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By Norman Williams

HE_Swiss_Logo_14Interesting room where they were showing off the speakers now available in more colour combinations by an actual KEF representative from the UK.

When I told him I much prefer the LS-50 to the Blades, he seems genuinely puzzled and said that he had heard similar comments before and all he can say is that they must not have been set up right (Zürich 2012 with Soulution amps, I think). He emphatically said that if he had set them up, there would have been no such equivocations as he thinks the Blades and Blade 2s are far better. Dunno, as they failed The PTA resolution cricket test on “Roadhouses & Automobiles” while the LS50 passed with flying colors! However, given how emphatic he was. I will give it a 2nd chance when next I meet the Blades.

The floor standing KEF Reference speakers did sound good in that small room though.

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Zurich 2014

High End Swiss 2014: Fischer & Fischer Speakers and Mudra Akustics

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By Norman Williams

HE_Swiss_Logo_14Thomas of Fischer-Fischer did not speak a lot of English, so I passed a lot of the time speaking with the extremely pleasant Michael Mudra (whose firm actually does the manufacturing — he poses in one of the pictures) and he explained the tech behind them.

We also spent lots of time cracking jokes and sharing stories like long-lost pals (we only just met). The most unfortunate thing was that these were all static demos, but luckily I heard their flagship model (SL770, circa $45K) 2 years ago in Zurich 2012. The key tech points, apart from the inert slate enclosure, is the use of a modern AMT tweeter for the high frequencies and the proprietary conical drivers they make. The cones are composite materials bonded together and are soft to the touch in front and hard and rigid at the back. Michael says they could not find any supplier on the market up to the standard they demanded, so they had to develop them internally.

They were showing the newly released third in the line speaker (SN/SL-570~$28K) and the 2 smaller ones (~$18K and $9K).

The runt of the litter (SN/SL-270) does not use an AMT driver and is really for a small room. I surmised that the sweetspot between size/mass and SQ for a smaller room like most people have in the real world would be the 470 and he explained that is not necessarily so. If the room has decent size, the 570 may actually be easier to integrate, given its higher sensitivity of 90db vs 89db and it lower X-over point of 100hz insetad of 140hz for the 470. He did confirm they both had the same house sound sonic signature though.

Mudra Akustic makes power conditioners and regenerators. Both firms will be in Munich next year and perhaps Warsaw too (as Warsaw is getting quite a buzz in Europe).

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Zurich 2014

High End Swiss 2014: Audionautics, Manger/Lindemann, ActivAudio

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By Norman Williams

Now hows about some lifestyle offerings? Lifestyle with Quality that is!

HE_Swiss_Logo_141) New player! Audionautics is a Swiss/British audio starup, using special Alpine wood to make a line array driver in a WAF & apartment friendly “monkey coffin” configuration. Small midrange drivers chosen after extensive testing and ability to mate ith the Heil accordion HF driver that is placed one down. Woofers to the inner sides. Any wood decor is possible. Style with (sound) quality. I wish them well.

2) Manger and Lindemann. First off, I must say this gear combo seems a match made in heaven, not only for the high quality sound from both reknowned brands, but the actual finish of the products. They blend so well, one could believe they came from the same design house. Danliela Manger and Herr Lindemann were there in person manning the room. Elegant people, elegant sound and elegant, matching design. If the price is not an issue, then there is nothing not to like.

3) ActivAudio. Open baffle metallic construction is no longer the only game in town. They have learned WAF and found out that SQ did not need to suffer. They are still techies though, as attested to by their data sheets.

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Zurich 2014

High End Swiss 2014: Ypsilon, Backes & Muller

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By Norman Williams

Ypsilon

HE_Swiss_Logo_14A very refined and appealing sound from the Ypsilon room. I spent enough time to hear a classical song and was impressed. I gave the thumbs up to someone who looked like the owner of the company and asked for confirmation of it being a French brand and he said no, GREEK! Again we exchanged thumbs up. No chance to get back but the speakers were excellent and the electronics all seemed top-notch.

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I forgot to mention that the Backes & Muller room was one of my favorites, and as they had a big seminar room, they had greatd, balanced sound from some nice looking gear. Most notable is the fact that they had a new digital/analog preamp driving their active speakers. They do a new preamp every 15 years or so and strive to have it aesthetically “different”. This unit seemed like it was covered in acrylic permafrost and came from the wrong side of Castle Black’s wall in “Game of Thrones”. However, this “Wildling” combined with the big active speakers made beautiful classical music.

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Zurich 2014

High End Swiss 2014: Norman, on the scene

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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!

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