by Keijo Tanskanen

I’ve said several times before that in Finland the best Hifi act of 2006 was the launching of the Hifimaailma magazine. I really respect the people who had the courage and the ability to do this after the SanomaMagazine’s stupid decision to close down the historical Hifi magazine, the content of which had become ever so very poor. The guys behind the 2006 Hifimaailma launch are Teppo Hirvikunnas, Samu Saurama, and a couple of journalists. All the hifi enthusiasts in Finland should be thankful to them!

However, launching the new magazine wasn’t enough. The very same guys also decided to arrange an event, which would ambitiously focus on the highest quality of sound and the cinema. Actually, this event was to become a successor of the annually held Hifi showcase arranged earlier by the old Hifi magazine. With this kept in mind the event was named as Helsinki HighEnd & Hifimaailma showcase and it was held in the Radisson SAS hotel in Helsinki. I naturally had to go and check out what kind of an event it was! Apart from the main event there were also at least three separate open doors events which I also visited.

Unfortunately there was a crucial lack of time. Although I arrived in Helsinki approximately at 9.45 a.m. and I had reserved four hours for the visit, I soon realised that there wasn’t enough time to see it all. It was impossible to meet all the presenters and see every room. Nevertheless, I tried my best and visited at least the most important High-End stages. I suppose I managed rather well in meeting my goals, although the time spent in every stage could have been longer. Fortunately, I had Mr. Olavi Eloranta with me. Olavi is a friend of mine and a guy who has really a long history of High-End enthusiasm. He helped me during the rush hours when it was difficult to move from one room to another.

I noticed a couple of important things during and after my visit. Firstly, this event seemed to be well organized which also showed in the event’s brochure. Secondly, Mr Hirvikunnas welcomed personally all the visitors who wanted to stop at his stand. Thirdly, I recognized that the quality of the presented audio systems was typically high. So, the objective of presenting something special for the visitors seemed to be met. In addition, although the rooms were only traditional hotel rooms with a slight amount of or non-existing acoustic treatment, the quality of the sound was generally higher than at the previous events that were organised by the old Hifi magazine. Lastly, I noticed that the old truth “small speakers for smallish rooms” still seemed to be a valid recommendation.

Although I had planned my visit quite well, I missed some rooms. For example, I should have visited and Soundata’s High-End stands but I just couldn’t and I must apologize for that. Additionally there were several rooms where the equipment was from the “grey zone” (not clearly High-End but rather high quality Hifi), which would have deserved more attention than what I was able to give this time.

It is not fair to pass harsh judgements on the presented audio systems because of the hotel environment, too short listening sessions and too few listening samples. The evaluation is hugely dependent on the quality of the musical material and even on the genre of the music. That’s why I’m not going to go into details but rather try my best in describing my rough feelings regarding the systems. With this said, I’m going to discuss the systems which worked best from my point of view and which I considered to deliver features that clearly rose above the conventionality.

Below you can see a series of photos that I prepared from the event. I have also added some text to the photos in order to underline things that I consider to be especially worth mentioning. However, I do have to emphasize that if there are no comments attached, it doesn’t mean that the sound of the system was poor!

Here is a long chain of Amphion’s little ones! Amphion has also gained international success.

It is a bit questionable if this is High-End or not. Anyway Arcam systems and Amphion speakers have usually a very good sound which is the main criteria for the High-End.

AudelecHifisystems had a big room and a lot of good stuff! Above is Musical Fidelity 550K monoblocks.

Canton has had quite a success with their new products. Canton Vento Reference 9 DC (two-way) and Vento Reference 5 DC (three-way) are very high quality speakers that can be purchased at a reasonable price.

This is absolutely not High-End but interesting Hifi: A budget-class Project Vinyl player including USB!!!

A very nice Project vinyl player including Sumiko Bluepoint cartridge.

I did not have time to listen to this set. My apologies! Additionally, Mr. Antti Heinonsalo seemed to be very busy with his customers and that was why I didn’t want to disturb him this time. I really hope that I could check this system in the near future.

It was great to see Mr Pekka Ylitalo at this event. AudioPori had reserved three rooms and each room had of course a different set-up. The system above: McIntosh MCD 201 CD player, MA 6900 integrated amplifier, 275 amplifier and Marten Duke & Ellington combination. All the AudioPori’s rooms had Corfac2 cables and power cords. This system produced a very promising sound. The system was naturally one of the best systems of the showcase.

In this room the digital source was the Trigon Recall CD player and the analog source SME 20 with the SME IV tonearm and the Micro Benzin Ruby3 cartridge. Amplification was taken care of by the TRV 100 preamp and TRE 50M monoblocks. RIAA was Trigon’s Advance. The sound came out from the fast Marten Miles speakers.

The third Audio Pori’s room had Consonance Electronics: Ping multisystem, Turandont CD player and Calaf integrated amplifier. The speakers were System Audio’s Comet and Explorer.

It was delighting that Mr. Ratilainen had come to Helsinki from the middle of Finland! Many enthusiasts had great expectations regarding the Audioshop Ratilainen’s presentations and I think that their expectations were met at least partially. The equipment in the first room was the Sugden Masterclass CD player, the Melody ab22 integrated amplifier and WLM Diva speakers. All the Audioshop’s rooms had Zu cables. This system produced one of the best sounds of the show: the sound was effortless, compliant, and well in balance.

Another Audioshop’s room had the Zu Druid Gredurina speakers. Their companions were the Sugden Masterclass CD player, the Audionemesis’ DAC,preamps, and monoblocks.

The third Audioshop’s room had a budget-class system: The Sugden Masterclass CD player and the integrated amplifier, which drove Amphion Ion 2 speakers.

AVI Arminen has brought Reference 3A Veena speakers with Consonance electronics: Reference CD 2.2 Mk II, Cyber-10 signature integrated tube-amplifier. The vinyl player was Project RPM-10/ Base X with a Ortofon Kontrapunkt B cartridge. RIAA was Project Phonobox SE II. Mr. Arminen had also taken care of the electricity: The power filter was Monster Power HZ 2600. The cabling was from Van Den Hul.

The music must not be forgotten! FgNaxos had a room for CDs. There was a good selection of classical and jazz music. I think that at least Olavi found something!

Gradient presented a new 1.5 speaker, which looks very modern. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to listen to them.

This was a great idea! (a Finnish hifi enthusiast society) presented three systems in a relatively large room. Each system had its own specific showing time. I got really annoyed because I was able to listen to only the Dunlavy system. Anyway, the sound was very good when listening to it near to the back wall; at least as judged by the piece of music that I was able to listen to. I consider this system to be among the best ones of the show. The old SC-IVA is still a very good speaker!

The presented systems:

1. Densen Beat B 400XS CD player, Densen Beat B-330 preamplifier, Densen Beat B-250 amplifier, Dunlavy SC-IVA speakers, Dunlavy speaker cables, DIY interconnects, Supra Mains Block, and DIY power cords.

2. Derek Shek D2 DAC, DIY 300B tube-amplifier (Kai Widell), DIY PHY-HP speakers (the baffle cabinet).

3. Gradient presented a different stereo sound system, which comprised a mono signal in the centre speaker and differential signals in the side speakers (I don’t have details about this set-up).

Hifihuone presented a great system: The Lindemann 820S CD player, the McIntosh C220 preamplifier, the Lindemann 850 amplifier, a Finite-Elemente stand, Marten Bird speakers, Nordost Valhalla interconnects, Nordost Valhalla speaker cables, the Nordost Thor power conditioner, Nordost Valhalla and Shiva power cords. One can say that on the basis of only seeing the equipment list it would be easy to predict the sound being one of the very best. Well, although this isn’t true every time, this time it was! Actually this system produced the fastest, most dynamic and transparent sound uncovering only a hint of “ceramic” tonality, I’ll rate this system to be the best of the show!

The Highend Studio enterprise chain had reserved four rooms for their equipment and I visited three of them. I’ve already earlier had the chance to listen to the X-718 and X-719 two-way speakers, Horn D-2 and BE-20 three-way speakers in good rooms. The experiences of them have been very positive. So, I decided to pass the Usher room this time. Instead, for the first time I decided to listen to Ocelia speakers for a while. I think Highendnews must get better acquainted with these speakers in the future. This system consisted of the Ayre C-5xe CD player, the Ocellia Quaero 300B integrated tube-amplifier (Western Electric tubes), Ocelia Calliope .21 copper speakers, xxxx cables, and the Usher SR-4 Walnut rack.

The new Penaudio Serenade was presented in the Highend Studio’s “second” room. The front end was: The Ayre CX-7e CD player, the Ayre AX-7e integrated amplifier, and Crystal Cable cables.

The “third” Highend Studio room had the well-known Martin Logan’s. The sound was of course among the best ones. The system consisted of the Ayre C-5xe CD player, the Ayre K-5xe preamplifier, the Ayre V-5xe amplifier, and Crystal Cable cables.

Kruunuradio’s Jari Råback presented a pure Naim system: The CD 555 player, the Supernait integrated amplifier, Allae speakers, Snaik (?) interconnects, NAC A5 speaker cables, and a Fraim stand. The sound seemed to have numerous individual features but in the end it was far too generous for my taste.

Another Kruunuradio equipment: The Primare’s CD31 CD player, the PRE 30 preamp, the A32 amplifier, PMC OB1 and GB1 speakers, and Supra cables.

Mareksound had a room complex where several systems were presented. The High-End on the photo comprises the Classe's CDP-102 CD player, the CP-700 preamplifier, and CA-400 monoblocks. The equipment was place in the Spectral HE-1203 rack. The power filter was Nordost Thor and the cables were Nordost Valhallas. I also made a short visit to the corner of the room where the home theatre equipment was showcased. Although this system was far from neutral it was impressive and delivered much punch for the effects. Unfortunately the photo is not available.

Soundworks’ Juha Silvennoinen had brought brand-new Dynaudio Sapphire speakers into the MrHifi’s room. The front end was Plinius electronics: The CD101 player, the Tautoro preamplifier, the SA Reference amplifier, Stereovox cables, the Shunyata Hydra 8 power filter, Shunyata power cords, and a Finite Elemente rack. The sound was very clean and open. Because of the size of the room and the careful set-up there were not any significant bass problems, although, the bass speaker was relatively big. I noticed also that the front chairs suited better for the listening purpose. In the front, the soundstaging and transparency features were better than in the back of the room. Although, the system produced clearly one of the best sounds in the showcase, I had a feeling that these speakers could do better. I think I have to listen to them more carefully in the near future.

This room produced one of the most positive surprises! The Profel’s active speakers seemed to have a very high quality sound that suits well for small rooms. I did not ask about the front end equipment because the representative was busy and I had to rush to the next room!

This was another nice surprise. Oy Scanteknik Ab represented Elac FS906-XPI and 310.2 JET speakers with Densen electronics (the B410 CD player and the B150 integrated amplifier) and Cardas cables. The sound was airy, dynamic, high speed, and well in control but the tonality was a bit hard. On the whole, the system was very promising and showed that Elac is a serious competitor in the High-End markets.

There is a lot of Finnish Hifi experience around this table! Starting from the left and front row, the guys in the picture are: Olavi Eloranta, Reijo Multanen, Ilari Setälä, Pekka Ylitalo, and Janne Lähdemäki. This kind of a relaxed discussion is surely one of the most important reasons to organize Hifi and High-End events!

On the whole, the event was a positive experience but also crowded, which might have disturbed some visitors. I predict that it is in everyone’s wishes that this event would become an annual tradition!