The Frankfurt High end show

 

Small Review and many impressions.

 

The review focuses on speakers, because on a show it is very difficult to hear fine nuances so although I would have loved to review the other stuff, it simply would not be accurate.

 

Already like this it is a fragile review but itís the best manageable without asking everyone to get out,

 

While I do the listening !!!!!!

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The general atmosphere I captured is one of a too big show, too many rooms. Very badly orient able, so easy to get lost or so easy to miss many rooms on a floor.

Knowing what the exposants pay just to be there, I find it not very acceptable, but that is the name of the game: EXPOSURE .

 

You need to be in the catalog, you need to attract people with eye catchers and since I didn't even manage to see all 3 Floors in one day, and that was on the day reserved for professionals, meaning few people.

I only managed to do 2 floors, but I did them thoroughly.

I got a good listen in many rooms, in decent conditions and I had a few surprises, pleasant and unpleasant off course.

 

What really hit me is how popular phono is, almost every room has a record player connected. And almost everyone plays with tube amps (not everyone but 1 in 2 which is a lot)

 

And contrary to the VAD high end show in the Benelux, this was a most pleasant surprise.

 

On another note, attendance is well down, mainly because high end is killing itself by overpricing or the race to being the most exclusive most expensivewhich doesnít identify to most people.

 

I heard big systems and small systems, and the rooms are all more or less the same, the rooms are SMALL, and one must be careful where he sits,

not close to the wall as there its usually over bassed, the problem is then there is only the next row available as the row in front of that its too close!!!!!

 

The first room I walked in was the Harman Kardon room, and they where demonstrating the new JBL system, with Mark Levinson amps & cd player, well I didn't like what I heard, as so often the chosen demonstration disc is unbearable unless you want to get stressed!

So I asked for a CD with voice and bass and they chose a very good blues cd. Then I had to ask for a bit more volume, and they put it very loud, but that didn't matter, because if those speakers cannot handle blues correctly (live blues) then they cant handle anything correctly.

It sounded ok, but not good enough.

Lack of bass slam weight on the JBL 38cm woofer because the enclosure is too small and the horns are louder! Slightly aggressive mid's but just simply not good enough, so for comparison they had the new home theater set next to it. And I asked for the same song to be played at similar volume next to it, this goes through a dvd and home theatre amp from Harman Kardon itself the 850.

At same volume normally the horn should have been better, even that this set probably costs about 1/10 it shouldnít be even comparable.

Guess what, yes the small slim new system was better, the bass was much deeper, not so dry & controlled but live blues needs a fat bass, this one was too fat.

The mids and highs where as good and less aggressive, not by much but where not even talking of equipment of the same pedigree.

Official explanation (because they too heard it); " this is an active bass unit with active eq correction and the room has horrible bass response, so thats why it sounds better "!!!!!!!

 

Beusendorf present a new line of speakers, the general concept is nice but I am very critic on others people's work, I wish i could say the same for my own.

The general concept is a very slim design with a cheap 25mm dome tweeter in front, full rectangular and the bass -midranges on the sides.

The result is:

Astoundingly great on piano, really amazing, there is a loudness effect, the upper midís are missing this is very pronounced when voice is playing, and therefore this speaker needs a midrange in the slim front.

I discussed this with the designer, and he really doesnít agrees, end of discussion.

 

Something funny at the Japanese Reimyo, they where playing and at the same time a opera singer was singing along, and indeed it was difficult to hear the difference but that is not a valid criteria just a funny one, it was a good singing performance and nice speakers and good amps.

300B SE using original Western Electric 300B tubes and drivers penthodes probably the WE 310A, unfortunately this room was mostly empty.

I particularly liked the wooden isolators they used for keeping the cables of the floor. (I wander if that really helps)

 

Many high end sets didn't sound good, no magic at all (the super cables useddidnít help either) and to my big surprise, I walk in the Marantz room, not expecting anything. And the sound was excellent. Then I inquired what speakers they used, it looked like Sonus Faber .......... and it was. Sound was excellent .All Scan Speak drivers and Mundorf filter components used.

 

 

Also finally I got to hear the flower pot speakers (excuse me) the Acapella Horn Speakers. Giant speakers the biggest model is active and uses a column full of speakers for bass to accompany the horns (3 way horn), sounded good but not exceptional.And funny thing is everytime you get to listen to high sensitivity speakers you get to listen to trumpets and only classical.

I missed the real speed and bite of the horn .

 

 

They play music with whistles and bells, not really music with emotional content so i'll return and get a 2nd listen to it.

Well the 2nd listen confirms that this is not a great system, probably the horns are at fault, these flower pots are just thin plastic and are prone to amplify the noise or resonances of their own inner walls. And the result also depends on the filters and the run time and motors used and I suspect its all cheap stuff.

 

The other flower pot company, Avantgarde, with their huge Trio system is certainly not convincing, and I really wanted to be convinced.

The bass horn is not good, and the rest neither .

I asked for a good blues record as that contains good variety of tones.

But from memory of my youth when I was more dealing with PA systems. I can tell you that the now unfortunately murdered mr Martin from Martin audio made superb horn system that made my hair stand up, and was clean and powerful, gosh I miss that.

 

I finally got a chance to hear the Manger units, and i was very disappointed, there is something wrong!

Difficult to describe, a kind of heavy distortion probably around x-over frequency 250Hz and an added problem with the rectangular shape that produces standing waves at a given frequency anyway I will never recommend them. After all the hype maybe I was expecting to much.

 

 

 

 

I also had the chance to hear the Full-range units of Aer inhorn speakers from Opera through tube amps and they are better then Lowther! Thatís for sure. They also demo it in a simple bass reflex cabinet, but then it really lacks in bass and the overall image suddenly is smeared. So the ECONOMIC version is really shitty and the back loaded horn is excellent but $$$$$$

 

16000 euro for the big horns !!!!

 

 

One of the big surprises I had was in a room with simple looking speakers from Triangle. A new model that uses 2 (cheap) bass units,17cm drivers mounted in parallel.

One mid range unit, also 17 cm and that one has a phase plug and a stiff suspension, above it sits a nice horn tweeter (also a cheap one).

All connected to another simple looking tube amp, a PP 6L6 type, and sound was excellent, the speakers clearly impressing me. Huge 3d soundstage and good bass, excellent midrange, bass is not the best but the mid and highs are excellent while on the soft side, and for the budget the sound really exits the speaker, excellent 3D soundstage, wide and deep, and quite clean performance

 

I also had a chance to hear small speakers Uvola, egg shaped, and they sounded very nice, decent bass and really good sounding .The 11 cm bass-mid is off course limited but for normal purpose they produce good 3d and good emotion and for surround are ideal as they donít look like a speaker.

Quad again is reintroducing the electrostatic panel. Sound is quite good, even excellent. Good enough bass and very clean mids and highs. I think they are right to do that, if the old panel was good then the new one surely is much better.

Bunzow elektro acoustic, presents new electrostatic panels. Also available to the diy market, complete with high voltage transformers ect at reasonable prices. We got the distribution for the Benelux. I believe they have a future for many applications; example rear speaker in home theater, as a simple panel mounted on a hinge that you swing open for use.

 

KR enterprises is back as KR audio , its the same bullshit again under a different name .

I find it easy, they give warranty's then they say no, the warranty is with KR enterprise, not with KR audio we are an entirely different company, to me the tubes look the same, the amps look the same and the marketing story sounds the same. Mr Krone died at the age of 68 and his wife continues to run the business. (The ethics didn't change)

 

Audio Note was disappointing, nothing new under the sun, and no improvement either, nothing to take photos off really, and quite empty, they even put a note on the door: "Please come in "

 

On the image side, I was extremely impressed by the Italian Sim 2 retro DLP projector. This one clearly had super image, off course they used a Faroudja line processor up-scaler but never the less the image was super. I never liked classic retro-projectors, crt or lcd and this one is 100x better.

Even in many rooms big projectors where not as good, Tag Mclaren had a huge projector and that was not on par, and they used the up-scaler as well (their own) The Speakers at Tag Mclaren sounded much better when they didn't use the processor to correct the EQ, unfortunately they donít see it my way.

Or rather they donít hear it my way!

And to cap it off in simple stereo they sounded great, in 7.1 not so good.

 

M&K sound was also exhibiting, they are my competition in Belgium for studio monitors, and they did a good job, they make good monitors and they are suitable for audio.(and they didn't change anything because you never know)

They use mainly Dynaudio and Vifa parts.

 

JM lab was very present with beautiful speakers, the mnf quality is awesome, the sound quality is very good, slightly over bassed for the rooms there, but good.

 

Phonar akustik uses a midrange that is slightly smaller then the bass unit.

I cant follow but the result is good, so I guess they did a good job.

 

Isophon used to make superb speakers, I didn't get a chance to listen carefully but I donít think they lost there ability .

 

The Mosquito speaker from Audiostones looks impressive but sounds disappointing. It uses fairly cheap speaker parts, this is amazing to me as the housing looks very expensive.

 

I also got to listen to the high efficiency of the big Dulcet system from Audio Consulting, they use Supravox speaker units and I am curious but the sound was not my cup of tea. They claim 98dB/w/m seems realistic to me, but not coherent and aggressive mid-highs turns me off.

 

On another note, I heard for the 2nd time the big system TRIO and liked it more. Although the basses are not so good, I know why I didn't like them the day before.

They claim, 109dB/w/m;this may be ALMOST true, if they have 103dB they already have tremendous sensitivity.

Why didn't it sound so good, well because they play to quiet. And with transistor amps at low power say 50 milli watts, there is plenty x-over distortion ect. This time I asked for the volume to be pushed and on classical it was excellent, again as soon as we go to blues where it should excel, it deceives. Mostly due to lack of a good dry bass, there is enough bass but its not good, its not dry and clean and fast, its wooly, its fast but not precise.

 

I also got a good listen at the Ceratech home theater set.

Its very elegant and quite good, for home theater I can recommend it, good sound, good bass, good 3d and not aggressive.

 

In another room i was very impressed with the sound .

Mr Brinkmann made an excellent speaker the Capra.

The speaker used magnetostatic speaker elements from stage accompany for the tweeters, with a modified front plate for better 3d imaging and wider dispersion. The bass and mid units are from a German company called Podzus Gorlich I believe, they makes these already for 20 years and use a kind of Styropor for membrane.

Thatís their trade mark and they did sound excellent.

These speakers have excellent impulse response, and very good headroom.

Probably also with 12 or 18dB filters which help when dynamics are important.

The same Bass units are used by Expolinear with their own magneto static units sold also as RTC I think (not sure).

I also heard another 2.5 way speaker with Thiel, 2 C2 95T with a tweeter C2 23 is my guess and this speaker didn't have much volume. It is relatively shallow, oval in shape but sounded great. Or maybe I should say it has the sound I like!

It's made by L'ensemble and the model is the Falcon.

I didn't ask the price but for many of us DIY you can probably build this for a fraction of the sales price.

 

I also got to hear the Lumenwhite speaker fromLiving Sound.

Didn't really like it. Probably more a choice of filtering, because I know the sound the units are capable of. And I fell from my chair, so to speak, when I heard the price = 38000 euros .

 

Then I had the pleasure to listen to another dB wonder, the Odeon horn speaker, but i donít catch on to these either.

 

And then the pleasure of another Thiel Eton speaker from Audiaz, 2 Eton 17 cm used as bass units, 1 17 cm Thiel ceramic bass midrange used a s midrange and the Eton Magnetostatic tweeter. Very good indeed (and reasonably priced compared to the competition at 10000 euro/pair. It was the Aurea model, they could do better on the enclosure but you cant have everything, can you ?

I also had the pleasure to listen to another Full-range miracle by Dynavox , although this one was assisted by a super tweeter, the unit a cheap 17 or 21 cm paper unit in a simple bass reflex housing.

It all looked cheap and sounded bad to me, but the public was impressed, especially for the price, 1995 euro/pair. Cost you probably less then 450 euro to build with the same finish.

 

Bandor was also present with their new line of speakers, and a novelty their new subwoofer with their new 30 cm speaker.

And it sounds very good indeed. They use an active system, tube amps and vinyl, very nice . They demonstrated on EAR PP amps, they need alot of power for the Bandor drivers, because its a mini driver with a long hub, very light alu membrane and alu wired voice coil (for lighter assembly) and probable to big an airgap. Hence the low sensitivity of 84dB/w/m. The designer finds that the 4 ohm version sounds better then the 8 ohm one, because its lighter.

 

Another big surprise awaited me in the room of Monster cable, they demonstrated new amps and new speakers, the sound was very good, for home theater. This is an excellent set, excellent integrated subs in the design, the active sub serves as a base for the speakers. Where the ingenious part is that the subs have gold plated small tabs on top through which the signal is carried to the satellites. The spikes of the satellites carry the signal over to the speaker units.

This gives you 4 active subs, placed in the corners for awesome bass response.

Especially in the small rooms of the show!

Medium sized cabinets but excellent bass response. The top speaker is probably a 2 way system that is 12dB filtered and has enough headroom. But as usual in home theater it is the center speaker that lacks, most are just not good, and this one is no exception. All voices are over bassed and therefore difficult to follow the conversations in the soundtrack. (Star wars)

 

Donald North audio presented the DNA sequence, double d'Appolito meaning 4 peerless CSX176 around another peerless horn tweeter in a sealed enclosure. The bass driver, a 38cm monster from the car subwoofer scene mounted in an open enclosure. Naturally the bass short circuited and therefore although not bad sounding the bass was poor even though the bass unit was working overtime.

 

Finally I visited another Belgium compatriot from the same town as me.

Mr Koen Vaessen also had a stand there exposing his Box as he calls it, he gives an excellent demo, he uses excellent music and he is 1 of the only ones using the excellent Shanley CD player. So its offcourse one of the better sounds of the show.

Small description of his Box; 2 Visaton alu 13cm cones produce excellent bass and very good midrange.

Visaton itself produces many kits with these units, again a guarantee that they are excellent and its not just coincidence .

He does the shape as he has an artists view on it and it can be a bit more then just a rectangular box.

Just look at his reference model the Aquarius.

Stunning looks, very good sound, it has impressive bass and very good slam and people like it.

He is growing and attended many exhibitions world wide with these speakers.

 

Garrard was also there with very good looking turn tables.

I wonder if this really is such a big market, Thorens was also there but they showed real cheap stuff, whereas Garrard showed good quality solid simplestuff.

 

 

Also present where Avalon. I hadnít heard them yetand in the small rooms they didnít impress me. But I must acknowledge their success, it is big amongst the people who buy my amps here in Belgium.

 

 

One of the upcoming great brands is the Chinese or Taiwanese Usher brand.

They look great, sound great and are excellent value compared to the competition.

They use identical looking chassis to the top brands like Sonus Faber but the units are made in house and are also available for the DIY market.

 

And know because the magazine is called Tube Audio.

Some pictures of Tube Audio!

 

Thatís all Folks.

 

  copyright Benny Glass