• Bob Carver tube power amp.

Visiting high-end audio shows can be an eye-popping experience

Auto & Audio August 06, 2017 01:00

By Kingsley Wijayasinha

3,725 Viewed

Last week I had a chance to visit the Thailand High-End Audio-Video Show 2017, which was held at BITEC.

Getting to BITEC on a Sunday with major shows going on (there were also mega home and infant shows held last week) was a tough mission, but I got to the second floor where the audio show was held in safe and sound confines.

It was much quieter up here, which was a good thing to start with since the products on display were all in their own room to make music.

Despite the favourable room size and dimensions – each company had its own exhibition room that was much larger and symmetrical than those found at hotels.

Unfortunately, the sound insulation between each room wasn’t up to standard, and in many occasions, you get distracted by the sound from the adjacent rooms.

I was there on the final day and missed the clinic held by Michael Fremer, who is a well-known audio critic (and supporter of vinyl over digital music).

And despite the small scale of the event compared to the home and baby shows downstairs, the value of the exhibits in each of the rooms can be eye-popping.

I’ve discovered that these days, amplifiers costing over Bt1 million is a common thing, and top-notch speakers can easily set you back Bt3 million.

But for those who aren’t planning on purchasing anything, visiting high-end audio shows like this can help you understand what are the capabilities of the various top-end systems.

Most of the rooms feature mix-and-match systems depending on products sold by the same distributors, and many of them sound amazing, while some may not be up to expectations.

The Chord Electronics room featured electronics from the mentioned brand driving Vivid Audio Giya G1 speakers, which has attracted the most attention at the show with its unorthodoxically natural design. The sound is also attractive, delivering nice vocals.

The simplest room featured a pair of Harbeth speakers with BMC CD player and Audio Analogue amplifier, teaming up to deliver a natural sound.

Next were French powerhouses Focal and Micromega, as well as Naim of Britain delivering a very high-end sound with a large scale from the mighty Utopia speakers.

The Wilson Audio room is always one to seek, and the Alexia loudspeakers are driven by VTL amplifiers.

My favourite sound of the show belonged to Esoteric (CD) Classe Audio (pre-amp, monoblock power amp) and PMC speakers delivering excellent imaging with a deep soundstage.

Meanwhile, one of the most crowded rooms was the McIntosh room. The American brand had gained audiophile status ages ago and has been loved by a large number of Thai music lovers for over half a century.

Like Mercedes with its star logo, Mc’s trademark is the blue meters in the transistor power amps, which can cost up to Bt2.4 million a pair. But the 275 tube power amp is also another Mc classic and is still in production after so many years.

AMG turntable from Germany was in a room partnered with Jeff Rowland pre-amp and monoblock amplifiers driving Focus Audio speakers.

A rather new brand that has a real good sound is Daniel Hertz. The Swiss brand had a great-sounding bookshelf, the M10 priced at Bt150,000.

Bob Carver, who has been making waves with outstanding amplifiers since the 70s, also had some interesting new products in the market, particularly red monoblock tube amps that fully hand-made.

While I was unable to afford anything at the show (although I would have been interested in an Audible Illusions Modulus L3A preamp priced at Bt170,000), it offered me a chance to compare many of the styles each brand has, as well as have an idea of what the best audio systems can do.