Hifi-High End 2020
By Keijo Tanskanen
Hifi-High End Vantaa, which was arranged quite successfully during the two last years, was reorganized and moved to Pasila into the brand new Sokos Hotel Tripla. Although the basic features of the Hotel facilities remain more or less the same, there were a couple of improvements noticeable: there were more space and the rooms were acoustically a bit better than usually. Also, the location near Helsinki Centrum, and especially a railway station, were definite plusses. Our experienced group, which consisted of four persons, was not able to visit all the rooms. Instead, based on the pre-analysis, we went through only the most important ones.
There were at least 26 equipped rooms in the show, including two Hifiharrastajat Ry rooms, which we had to pass. The listening results did not get much higher than the experiences we had in the previous good events. However, a slight improvement was noticed, nevertheless, which was realized by relatively long periods of listening in the best rooms! If one begins to listen to the music rather than continuously analyzing it, it must be a good sign!
When we have a global disease problem, like today's Corona virus, it will affect the number of visitors clearly. Taking into account this, 712 visitors is some kind of success in two short days in Finland. After all, the fact is that only the enthusiasts, who have serious relationship to audio and music, will be visiting this kind of shows.
In a technical manner, there were not much very new in the show, However, Solaudio demoed their new speaker Fusion Gen 2 which has a new AMT tweeter, minimalistic crossover design with selected high-quality components and D'Appolito Aperiodic ventilation. Ataria demoed a new and superbly small Fischer&Fischer Klein loudspeaker. Because of the size, even the crossover had to be located outside the loudspeaker, in a separate enclosure! The demonstrators said that Kline uses components of the same quality level as their bigger loudspeaker models use. Last but not least, Hifihuone demoed a new Marten Oscar Duo two-way loudspeaker. The demonstrator highlighted the fact that this time Marten had succeeded to have specific bass-mids cones which meet accurately to their requirements, instead of more compromised common off the shelf cones. The results were easily recognizable!
The photos and the comments of the performances are shown below.
The 9 show stoppers - in an alphabetic order, not in a rank order!
Ataria room was equipped with shiny Bryston electronics and tiny Fischer&Fischer Klein loudspeakers. They sounded unbelievably good, given the size of the loudspeakers. One may wait for some kind of ghetto blaster sound from these kinds of loudspeakers, but the listening results were actually very different. The sound was surprisingly smooth and accurate, even the bass was controlled well, at least at typical listening volumes. Also the soundstaging was surprisingly big and immaterial, not at all like restricted "foot list" sound!
Hifihuone delivered one of the most generally applicable demos of the show. The set-up consisted of McIntosh electronics, MT2 vinyl player, MCD600 CD-player, MC352 amplifier, which fed Marten Oscar Duo loudspeakers. The choice of the loudspeakers was a jackpot for the room. The tonal balance and colour palet was excellent - nothing seemed to be exaggerated or obtrusive. This was the setup which imperceptibly conducted us to concentrate on the music instead of system analysis! The sound was very pleasant and open, but also well controlled and revealing enough at the same time, which was confirmed finally by my test CDs as well.
Hifiklinikka has had a good reputation for their show demoes, continuously. Usually, their demoes have been based on the very high quality vinyl front end and dynamically very faithful loudspeakers. So was it this time as well! When we were in the room, the demo system consisted of New horizon GD3 vinyl player with Shelter 301 cartridge, Transrotor Phono II RIAA, Fezz Audio Mira Ceti amplifier with KR Audion 300b Balloon tubes and Horns Mummy loudspeakers. The listening results were excellent in the sweet spot but suffered a bit outside of it (the loudspeakers seemed to be quite directional). The sound was immaterial, dimensional, vivid and fast, but had still a bit horn-like touch.
Only a few seconds of listening was enough to make us convinced of the quality of this setup! The room was quite spacious and the loudspeakers clearly benefited from it. The setup was done very carefully, which was easily recognized from the listening position. Linn Klimax DSM Katalyst was a source, using Melco N1ZH music library. Amplification was done by Bryston 4B3, which fed Audiovector R8 Arrete loudspeakers. This was another setup which really made us listen to the music, instead of analyzing the system! The sound was smooth, extensive and revealing. No striking lacks were noticed, but possibly a bit more low-end authority would have been welcome, nevertheless. This was probably the best Hifimesta's performance we had ever met. Very well done, indeed!
Mareksound demoed again Avantgarde Duo XD loudspeakers and XA stereo amplifier with a different kind of sources. One could easily notice the dynamic potential of the loudspeakers and systems. Sound was also quite dimensional and extensive but lacked smoothness and accuracy to some extent. Listening results were also very dependent on the position of the seat.
This time, MrHifi had success in their both rooms. In room 1, beautiful Rosso Fiorentino Volterra 2 loudspeakers were driven by Pathos Kratos stereo amplifier and HiDac mk2 DAC. Unfortunately, the music source remained unknown for me. However, by those very extensive music samples listened to, it was clear that the sound was good and the low end was even impressive. Rosso Fiorentino flagships would be definitely very interesting to listen to!
In the second room, Mrhifi demoed Accuphase electronics, DP750 CD/SACD player and E800 integrated amplifier, and PMC Fact.12 Signature loudspeakers. The room was rather big and suited very well for the loudspeakers. The sound was big, dimensional and surprisingly well controlled and extensive. Those classical music samples we listened to were delivered very well. It would have been nice to have a bit longer listening and deeper analysis, but unfortunately, we had a time limit against us.
Solaudio demoed their brand new Fusion Gen2 loudspeakers which were actually sold already! The loudspeakers were fed by Bryston electronics: BCD-3 CD-player, BDA-3 DAC, BDA 3.14 streamer, BP17 3 preamplifier and 4B 3 amplifier. We stayed quite a long time in Solaudio's room and got a rather deep analysis of the sound. The listening results were very good as a whole and included a lot of plusses. The midrange was warm and natural, the bass extensive and well controlled, highs clean and sonic view open and big enough. However, being critical, we would have liked a bit more level on the highs and just a tad more resolution and authority. I think this is, at least partially, a nature of the loudspeakers. Knowing the taste of the owner of them, this kind of sonic nature is perfectly suitable for him. I mean, it is really so that wishing of this kind of behavior from a loudspeaker strongly depends on a personal taste, As a whole, this was an excellent demo!
Sound Factor demoed impressive Kii Three BXT active DSP loudspeakers, the volume level of which was controlled by Kii's own control unit. Digital signal was converted to analog by Mytek Pro Brooklyn DAC+ which was fed by Innous Zenith Mk3 1T streamer/server. I had listened to these loudspeakers last year and already and guessed quite well what was coming up. The sound was big and powerful, well controlled, and of course smooth, but only in the sweet spot or near it. No digital signal processing can do smooth frequency balance everywhere in the room! Also, the nuances and details of the music seemed to be performed in a different and a bit questionable way. Therefore, I cannot stop thinking of what kind of performance would have been achieved by other kind of philosophy, which would have been based on acoustic treatment of the room and getting the right pair of passive loudspeakers into the room. Of course, this is naturally speculation.
Our group was very homogenous in our general performance evaluations: there was nothing very trouncing or surprising presented. However, taking into account the circumstances, once again, the listening results were good and much better than at the average Hifi events in Finland. Some rooms were even so good that we began to listen to the music, really! On the other hand, there were also a couple of rooms which offered only traditional HIfi, meaning not very attractive, rousing and extensive sound. But, once again, the listening results in general are more or less dependent on the taste of listeners. So, a slogan " Go and get your own opinion!" is still valid.