Hifi 2018 in Helsinki

By Keijo Tanskanen


Despite the change of the name, this year’s event was a continual of the traditional Finnish high-end/hifi events in Helsinki. Besides the dominant audio stuff, plenty of video equipment was represented. Once again, the event was held mostly at the same time as Habitare and Antique event and also in the same building complex, Messukeskus. This concept, of course, makes it possible to have some new potential audio/video customers to vistit in the event.
Previously, I have continuously criticized the environmental issues of this kind of events. But when one looks at the possibilities and the resources available, it is very hard to find realistic alternatives. So, we have to accept someinadequances in the demo rooms and logistics, for example.
This time there were over 20 rooms, hotel and conference ones, which were equipped with the audio systems. Additionally, there were plenty of stands for advertising and more minimalistic demoing. Traditional was also my very limited time for the show: I “ran” through it in two hours!? This meant that it was not possible to have proper listening experiences in every room. Because of this, I concentrated on the most interesting ones, based on my personal pre-evaluations and experiences.

Notifications and photos

During my tour, I did not have any remarkable delightnings in any room. However, there were plenty of “apples and oranges” performances. I understand very well those serious enthusiasts who felt disappointed after the visit. However, it must be taken into account that we are making sonic evaluations of the mass event, which has been set up in a hot haste. The demoes of the events can only rarely reach the sound quality of home setups, on which years of careful job has been done.


Hifihuone demoed new Sonus Faber Sonetto V speakers. The front end had plenty of stuff, for example MSB The Discrete DAC, a new product as well, and McIntosh amplification. For my ears, the sound was very “Sonus Faberish”, in other words, musical, well balanced and tonally rich. Besides these goodies it seemed to have slight restrictions in dimensionality and rapidness. But, taking into account the affordable price of the speakers, which is a tad below 5 k€, the room inadequancies and probably insufficient burn-in time of the speakers, the listening results were ok. Hifihuone had also brought plenty of music into their room! During the visit I bought an excellent George Duke: Follow the Rainbow vinyl (Speakers Corner Records). I can truly recommend it for fusion likers!

Kruunuradio demoed new Focal Kanta N3 speakers fed by Naim electronics. I must confess that I have continuously liked and praised the Focal speakers. However, this presentation was not the very best ones I have heard. Nevertheless the setup showed clearly the hints of the potential of the system and its components.

Taipuu Speakers room delivered extensive and dynamic sound when they demoed their four way speakers. There were some room dependent problems in balance, especially in the low end, but fortunately not very intrusive ones in the spot. This time, the treble of the four way speakers was fast and sparkling, which was a bit different in comparison to the previous demoes. The over-all performance belonged clearly in to the best ones of the show.

Hifi Studio has started to import Estelon speakers. Based on this demo, the decision was right! Estelon Classics YB sounded great when it was fed by Vitus audio electronics. The sound was punchy, open and delivered a quite immaterial sonic view. The setup was one of the best ones of the event. If I was forced to dig out a positive surprise of the show, this might be the one.

The event’s show stopper was a very expensive MBL setup, of course. The MBL X-Tremes speaker system fed by pure MBL front end was demoed in the Audist room. The big and extensive sound was expected to be heard and so it was. For example, the organ music was delivered in a way which clearly reminded real listening experiences in churches. However, there were some balance and organization problems in the sonic picture, which I believe were caused by the room and very restricted time for setting up, at least mostly.

The best sonic balance of the show was achieved in the Knif Audio & Sound Factor room. Knif Rauman No1 speakers were fed by EAR electronics and also Knif amplifiers. The room had also exceptionally plentiful acoustic treatments, of such a kind that I have met only a couple of times in the shows. The sound was extensive, smooth and pleasant, but possibly even too soft. A bit more drive and dynamic mercilessness would have been nice to have. Nevertheless, the presentation was very good as a whole and clearly among the best ones of the show.

New Kef R11 speakers were demoed in Audiokauppa’s room. The speakers were fed by Cambridge Audio electronics. The sound was resolving and open, but possibly a bit colorless and dry. A bit more effort for setting up, acoustic treatments and positioning might have improved listening results in those manners. But the demo was ok even by this configuration.

Mareksound demoed Avantgarde Duo XD loudspeakers fed by XA stereoamplifier. I did not book the sources exactly, but anyway vinyls and digital ones were used. The sound was good, much like I have experienced with Avantgarde speakers demoes before. One could easily find the dynamic and control potential of the system. Also the smoothness of the frequency response was quite ok into my listening chair. However, the sound might be a bit in the clinical side lacking some fullness, richness and final revelations.

Stars & Stripes rooms have usually had plenty of personality in their presentations. This time demoed were Vrel loudspeakers fed by Tektron and Spec amplifiers and Ayon CD10 Signature SACD-player. Usually, the brothers have done very much to create also good acoustics into the room. This time, nothing special was done!? However, the sound suffered surprisingly little from very echoic and poor room. Music flowed quite immaterially and openly, but not very controllably and powerfully. Besides the inadequances of room acoustics, the demonstrators told me afterwards that the Pektron tube amp, which was used during my visit, was not quite as good a match for the speakers as the Spec amplifier, which was used later on the show.


The short conclusion of the event might be that it was ok. As I already mentioned, personally, I did not have much new and shaking from the event. Visually, MBL setup was impressive, sonically only limitedly. The domestic Knif Audio and Taipuu speakers were both worth of some praising, but sonically, they did offer nothing new for me either. But, probably I was only in a bad mood during the day. Quite clear is that the event will have a continual during upcoming years and actually this is what really matters.