2012

Highend 2012_chapter One: Heavy Weight Loudspeaker Systems: Cessaro, Chario, Isophon, Lansche, Mbl, Nola, Ocean, Siemens, Sonus Faber, Tad, Tune, Yg



CHAPTER ONE

THE HEAVY WEIGHT CONTEST  


DOES SIZE MATTER IN HIFI?


I know this is what you have all been waiting for. Yes, I and many others have shown you how they look.


But how do they sound?


I have my own recollection of how each and every system sounded. Yet all I can offer you here is a brief (and pale) idea recorded by my faithful microphone directly in loco, which I must admit is a poor surrogate for the true performance they can achieve under ideal conditions.

You will even be able to hear all the extraneous noises: doors slamming, people talking and laughing, the sound of the system next door in the background, and the bad acoustics of most of the rooms. And that's because images were edited but sound was not. No processing at all other than the one imposed by You Tube. But they were all treated equally. I always try to be fair. 


Hélas, this might not the best that could be done even though it is much better than anyone else did. At least you’ll have a fair idea of how some of the best systems sounded in Munich under the same conditions with the music (awful selection of demo material most of the times) being played at the time I came into the rooms.


Every hifishow should have an official CD with tracks everyone had to play to demonstrate the systems. Some Hi-Rez files sounded so well even a deaf would buy the system on the spot...


All I allowed each system (for copyright reasons) was no more than one minute (and sometimes the tracks are clipped and not in sequence to make them commercially worthless).

ln an American Idol contest one minute is all they have too. And the best not always wins, right?


However, considering I used the same microphone all the time, you might consider it a fair common reference, right? 


Keep in mind that, under hifishow conditions, it does not mean the best sound always comes from the best system. Not even that the best recording corresponds to the best sound live. There are too many variables: room acoustics (full, empty?), music quality, sound volume, recording spot…


We will start with the heavy weights.Like in boxing, the big guys do impress the most, but they don’t fight so well sometimes and are often slow and boisterous too (some like to crank up the volume and distortion creeps in...). Meaning they don’t (and as a matter of fact they didn’t) necessarily sound better than the middle weights that will come next in my report. 


Depending on the room and the programme material used, some of the “middles” (and even some light weights!) offered the best sound experiences at the HighEnd 2012 (at least to my experienced ears...).


Does size matter in hifi?

Listen for yourselves and let me know what conclusion you came to…


(Watch the videos in full screen up to 1080p depending on your Internet speed. Use headphones for better results)


      Comment: Sound too loud. Audible distortion: amplifier clipping? Very good imaging and space recreation.     


Comment: Powerfull sound. Poor listening conditions. Slight uppermid emphasis. Superb articulation and detail. Tigh bass and clean mids.


   


Comment: Not just another pretty face. A big girl with a natural musical smile. Very good sound overall. Lifelike piano.


   


Comment: Superb plasma tweeter. Expansive sound, maybe too much so (recording?). Excellent transient attack. Very good presence. A very captivating sound.


    Comment: Do you have to go to extremes to listen to music? MBL thinks so. And they might be right...    


Comment: Sounds as it looks: big and lifelike. Very good sound. Clean and articulate bass. Voice presence is impressive.


   


Comment: It sounds more like a PA than domestic Hifi. But if you are looking for a full range system, this is it: it goes looow...


     


Comment: An easy piece to play. An old fashioned good sound: pure with fine timbre and tonality.


     


Comment: The Aida is a superb loudspeaker by any standard. But they were demonstrated in a wide open space (with a lot of reverberation), full of people talking, and walking in and out. Driven by Dan' Agostino amplifiers they sounded good. But I have listened to the same setup at a much higher level of performance:


 


As a good example listen to the duo Aida/Dan D'Agostino performing Illinois Jacquet music at Imacústica/Portugal. The same system, a much better performance. Keep in mind that the listening conditions (the room) are very important. And a good choice of music helps a lot...


   


I am sure you've missed TAD Reference One as being part of this selected pick out of the pack. Well, TAD REF1 is small enough to be considered a middle weight, although heavy enough. But its performance is of the highest kind. Maybe it has also something to do with Andrew Jones' demonstration skills (and HD files!...). But, boy!, do they sound always good anywhere, anytime, be it in Vegas, NY, Lisbon ou Munich?! One of the best sounds of the Highend 2012. That's why I couldn't wait to tell you. Now you know: what a great sound!


   


Comment: Another easy piece to play. Lifelike jazz piano sound. Very good reproduction of cymbals. Both the loudspeakers and the amplifers are just plain ugly. But they sounded prety good nevertheless...


   


Comment: Excelent sound. Vibrant and full. Good presence. Coherent with all frequencies in perfect phase. Good timing, pace and rythm.