July 25, 2010

KLIAV 2010 - My Favourites

I'd like to share with you the systems that stood out for me during my visit to the just concluded KLIAV 2010.

The judgement of the performance of the systems on demo would be dependent on many factors, such as the timing - I was at the KLIAV2010 on Saturday from 12noon to about 6pm, in some rooms there was a heavy crowd impeding any reasoning listening - such as the Linn room, where many visitors crowded in front of the Linn stack asking questions or just ogling at the equipment; the LS3/5A Club room where I could not even get past the crowd to get to the listening area (sorry to Jo Ki, I did not even say hello to him, seeing that he was ever busy with the demo); and the Ayre/ATC room, which was used for a private listening session when I was there. Other factors affecting one's perception would be the selection of music by the exhibitors (put on a slow and quiet number, and you are sure to empty the room), and the suitability of the venue for the equipment in question - some rooms were too small, others too big, for the systems in question. Some so bad that the systems were fighting each other - such as the Clearaudio-Wadia-Naim-Proac system and the dCS-Audio research-Goldmund-Wilson Audio system which were in adjacent rooms, the bleeding of sound from one to the other was so bad that it was hard to listen at all. However, the most significant factor of all would be the listener's taste.

Well, then, here are my personal choice of 5 hifi systems that I especially enjoyed listening to in my visit to KLIAV, in the sequence I heard them.

TAD with supporting cast from Bryston and Torus
I missed the launch of the TAD R-1 loudspeakers at AV Designs a few weeks ago. After hearing the TAD system with the R-1's little brother, the CR-1 (Compact Reference-1), in the show, I understood where all the raving from my friends came from. The sound was balanced, musical, incredibly detailed, and so big that it had no problem filling the huge room. Despite the CR-1 not being a floorstander (to call it a bookshelf would be a total misnomer) it had excellent bass, the bass weight was probably slightly diminished due to the really large space, but that was really nitpicking. Well, I suppose that is why the R-1 is there.

Audio Note - FM Acoustics - Avantgarde
I always liked the Audio Note - Avantgarde system in the past KLIAV shows. This year, the twist was the inclusion of FM Acoustics to the mix. And I have to say that I never heard it so good.

Other than it being played a little too loud sometimes, I was in awe listening to this system. Dynamics, speed, impact. The sound was so alive! To top it all, it had bass to die for despite the small room and that the big speakers were placed close to the corners. I think that is the advantage of having active bass bins in your loudspeakers. Despite all these 'yang' characteristics, the system also sounded smooth and grain less.

Metronome - Jeff Rowland - Dynaudio
Natural, balanced, poised. This system got out of the way and let the music speak for itself, that was the impression from my short listening session. It was a system that one could just listen to on and on.

A system that nary put a foot wrong anywhere.

This was really a complete Naim system, which included all the cables that strung the system together, from power to signal transmission. All the hallmarks of Naim that I heard of were there. The sound was quite exciting, and foot-tapping good. The system had excellent details and dynamics, but may not be the last word in refinement, but Naim is not about that I believe.

I never had a chance to listen to a Naim system at length, and this one caught my attention.

Pathos - Parasound - EgglestonWorks
Ok, I admit I have a bias on this one, as I am also using EgglestonWorks speakers. The Andra III sounded familiar, but also much better than my The Nine (but of course). The system was playing some blues when I visited. The sound was rich, with very good body and quite analogue sounding. The system played with a good 'bounce' and was lively from excellent dynamic contrasts. The 'raw' spirit of the music was conveyed truthfully.

There were also many highend AV systems on demo. There were 2 that stood out for me.

One was the system put up by AV Designs, based on Pionner, JVC, Bryston and PMC, if I am not wrong. Sorry, no photo, just the entrance shot, the room was too dark and the audio/video too captivating.

The other was from Swedish Statement, based on Vivitek, Vitus and huge Adam loudspeakers.

I had a fun afternoon, hope you had too.

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