On the way to the Munich Hiend 2019 show we stopped in Brighton U.K. for a few days so we could enjoy some time with the Audio Note folks and check out the factory and, in general, see if, you know, there was any There There [hey, most factories are kinda, you know, boring…]. What a blast. These people are more crazy wacky mad scientists than anything else. Thank goodness they are extremely successful at it…
In this video you will see mostly Peter Qvortrup, Audio Note founder and CEO, and Neli Davis, my partner in Audio Federation. The Chinese importer, nicknamed ‘TH’, also makes an appearance.
Audio Note U.K. is a high-end home audio technology research and development company that also builds and sells products. They make everything from resistors and capacitors to turntables and cartridges to cables and speakers to amplifiers and digital-to-analog converters.
Audio Note is years, if not literally decades, ahead of everyone else when it comes to advanced audio reproduction technology and, ultimately, quality of music reproduction in the home. This is because, as we know from other industries, innovative R&D takes courage and investment not found in larger companies (too much CYA bureaucracy), nor smaller companies (can’t afford it), and the vast majority of same-size companies find it more convenient to just sit on their laurels raking in the money while putting out yet another version of last year’s products with a new-and-improved name tag on the front.
Through aggressive trickle down, products range from several hundred thousands of dollars down to a few thousand.
Finally managed away some of the clutter here and got the main system photographable.
I am finding the empty VXR rack in this unusual silver post, black shelf configuration strikingly elegant. [It isn’t so bad with gear on the shelves, either! :-)]
Sharp eyes will notice that we have shims under some of the feet and bigger shims underneath each speaker… the house here is SINKING into the San Francisco bay [about two inches so far, with 13 feet more to go].
We’ll have a number of videos about uncrating and setting up the HRS VXR shortly on our YouTube channel.
Oakland. End of July. Hot. Air-conditioned Hotel. Music.
In general, all the rooms sounded pretty good. You know, comparing to the last couple of decades.
However, there is a stark difference between the systems that sounded good and the systems that sounded like music that sounded good – but many people seem to not differentiate between the two. And at this show it was easy to detect the difference – in the frequency range, say, 1000 Hz to 3000 Hz, did the notes sound round and full like real notes, or brittle and artificial?
Anyway, makes a big difference to me in that I may be entertained for a few minutes by just about anything, but for long term listening I really don’t want another irritating thing in my life. I want my stereo to contribute positive vibes [yeah, man], to soothe the savage beast abused by a world run amok. Yep, that is what I am looking for in a nutshell. The rest is just details -how to get there. Important, FUN details, but need to keep an eye on the ball here.
I heard, and believe, that there were only 3 CD players and 3 turntables at this show. Nobody wanting to read memory sticks anymore either. Out of 20 rooms or so. Interesting trends.
As for the show being smaller this year… yes, but the people were there and rooms were crowded almost the entire 3 days. I can’t think of a room that didn’t have its fans. So a very positive show.
I recorded rooms in 24×96 audio and added it as a soundtrack to the video of each room. Also did a quick, 50 minute two-part tour of the show which is pretty entertaining [well, I think it is, anyway :-)].
Sorry about the Audio Note U.K. room in Part II – they played Animals “House of the Rising Sun” which YouTube blocked worldwide – so I had YouTube remove the sound during that portion of the video. Sounded GREAT, though, with the new Meishu Tonemeister and the speakers a tiny bit further from the corners.
One of the rooms that sounded like music was the Voxative room – two little single driver monitors and a box [with amp, pre, DAC, and streamer]. That was it. For about $8K or $9K. If we omit the rooms that I have a natural affinity for (and whose sound still kicked butt): Audio Federation, True Sound (Audio Note) and Old Forge Studio (Acapella dealer), the Voxative room was my favorite room at this show.
My impression of these speakers and the associated electronics is that there are a high-performance, audiophile-grade, clean sounding, efficient, fairly linear – not polite but not aggressive either. The highs were reasonably well done and had at least some body and roundness to them – unlike many other rooms at this show.
I liked this system more than the big Voxative system in Munich. It is now on my list of favorite little systems / speakers: Audio Note “J” and “K”, PranaFidelity “Fifty90”, Acoustic Zen “Adagio”, old QUADs, little Magnepans…
Old Forge Studio
This was the first time I have heard the Sound | Kaos speakers. They are another of those modern marvels – those “how do they get so much sound out of such a little box?” speakers.
The sound here was approachable, full, musical, amazingly complete top to bottom. Of the three reasonably-priced [IMO good sounding] small systems – this was the most laid back. The True Sound / Audio Note U.K. room in the middle somewhere, and the Voxative more upfront and lively. Not to say that this was “laid back” nor that the Voxative was “aggressive” in a general sense. Far from it. But first order approximation of the differences between the three?… yeah, this is how I would characterize them.
True Sound | Audio Note U.K.
I thought the sound here was really excellent this year. There was the addition of the new TT3 turntable and Meishu “Tonemesiter” integrated, along with pulling the speakers out [I know!] 6 to 8 inches from the corners. The bass was still present, and there was a delicacy and adroitness to the sound that was fun to follow with the mind as well as enraging, as AN always is, the heart.
Speaking of Audio Note, Peter Qvortrup, CEO, Founder and Visionary of Audio Note was also at the show and was primary pundit, along with Constantine Soo and RGA, on a panel discussing anything and everything.
Due to several rather strange yet ultimately should-have-known predictable scheduling issues, we showed with the Acapella “Campanile 2” speakers from last year driven, however, this time driven by 18 watt SET 300B Audio Note Kegon amplifiers [instead of the mega-watt Acapella La Musika amplifiers]. On the other hand, we used the EMM Labs DV2 DAC with volume control [put to good use by Hermann Winters from the back of the room] instead of the Audio Note Fifth Element / Fifth Force DAC. Even though the La Musika is a hybrid amplifier, one could still think of this as last year’s system, but moving the solidstate part of the system from amplification to DAC duties.
It worked. We love our Kegons! And the EMM Labs digital performed admirably [esp. considering it was 5 days new].
Margules and Lyn Stanley
Margules’ rooms sound pretty good at these shows. I do think they play too much “audiophile music” and they think we play too little [we are next door to each other at this show :-P].
Is it just me or does her SACD really sound better than the $100+ LP in this video clip? [it seems louder so a little hard to tell, but even so…]
There was much talk at the show about the relative quality of Lyn Stanley as a singer – but heard she sold something like 1000 LPs at Munich this year. This was the first time I had heard her CD. I am not much a fan of close-mic’d female vocals music [except Pop Pop by Rickie Lee Jones :-)] but this seemed kind of average to me for that genre [which means I expect we’ll hear it a lot more at shows in the future].
The rest of the rooms were interesting, and as I said they had their fans. Perhaps there will be a part II of this report where we will talk about them…
Let’s see… what will we bring to this show next year….!!!
Next up: Capital Audio Fest (and maybe RMAF, but this would be as happy attendees only).
These videos here are of a whirlwind tour (in two parts, for a total of 50 minutes or so). I missed the Voxative and Unisinger rooms on this tour – unfortunately – but got both in dedicated videos later.
We went. We exhibited. We photographed and videod.
Never saw so many people amazed and confused by an 18 watt amplifier driving these speakers to more than fill up the room with gorgeous music – more as in Neli and Hermann and RGA like it loud enough to chase me out….. again [I went up to Nick and Lee’s for some sane volume listening 🙂 Luckily, Peter Qvortrup wasn’t in control of their volume, yet, otherwise I’d have to hightail it somewhere else yet again 🙂 [though he plays fun music…. not to say RGA doesn’t … 😉 … but seriously, I am so bored right now with the music Neli and Hermann (and I) play at shows … we HAVE to do something]] .
Showed the Acapella Campanile 2 again this year, but driven by Audio Note Kegon 300B amplifiers, and we used the EMM Labs DV2 DAC with volume control for D to A duties this year.
And… now we have a boatload of gear here that we need to assemble back into some kind of semblance of what passes for normality.
As we continue to become settled in our happy high-end audio dramatic comedy of a life here – we are making a few changes and additions. We put up background curtains in front of the mirrored fireplace, and added more padding under the carpets, to reduce the liveliness of the room a little bit and improve overall aesthetics [if not livability, that is the only working full-length mirror in the house! :-)].
We also setup a 3×3 Harmonic Resolution VXR rack [which we videoed, step-by-step. Should be up on YouTube in a few weeks] but when we got to where it was time for us to start putting back the platforms (shelves) on the rack, we realized that we were going have to take it all apart to take down the Acapella Campanile 2 speakers and take them to the California Audio Show in a few days – so maybe we should take the rack back apart again, now, and wait until after the show to install it in its prime position (the rack is about 650 lbs. We weren’t able to just move it out of the way… Neli may be strong enough [seriously]… but I have a few more hours to put in at the gym.)
All I can say is…Damn but we are getting good at putting up and tearing down VXR equipment racks :-/
3×3 HRS VXR rack with silver posts
I wanted an all silver rack. Neli wanted an all black rack. We think this black rack with silver posts should look pretty awesome too. Whew! Another messy divorce avoided here in the Bay Area.