06 August, 2010

Show Report: 2010 Hong Kong High End Audio Visual Show 香港高級視聽展

Show Report: 2010 Hong Kong High End Audio Visual Show 香港高級視聽展

(video clips added August 11, 2010)
(last revised August 8, 2010, revision in brown)
click pics to enlarge 點擊照片就會放大

August 11, 2010
I just loaded 3 video clips of the Friday concert for your perusal. Enjoy!

August 7, 2010
I went again after yumcha, in the hope of somehow catching the Cabasse, kin of a holy grail. The sound in quite a few rooms have improved quite a bit, but the weakest rooms and the "pecking order" remained quite the same. New material shall be in Brown.

August 6, 2010
The show this year is much as usual, with the exhibitors occupying their usual rooms. Overall, sound was reasonable, perhaps better than before due to apparently lower attendance. Many attendees turned up early to buy the two-ticket package, which includes 1x LPCD and 1x SACD/CD. After these were sold out, only the hybrid SACD discs were available. However, inside the venue there seemed a lot less people than before. Same was true of August 7th.

As usual, for me and my friends, we hit the software counters first. Much to our dismay, this year there were no bargains CDs. In the past years, we were able to get discontinued Everest, Vanguard, Pope, Chesky, Harmonia Mundi etc for a good price. For the regular stuff, discount was small, the most generous being Silk Road, where I got my Lola Bobesco Brahms CD (talent) and Ida Haendel CDs (Hanssler) for whlee. Not so this year. In disappointment, I went to Encore and saw the 活動布景版 LeeHC and gang. Under his bad influence, even I bought 2 LPs, rare for me in HK (I buy my LPs in NYC). There I was also surprised to see jules hitting the CD bin. The coverage below is in no particular order, divided into categories by merit only:

Good Try

I give Dah Chong credit for even exhibiting not one, but two legendary Cabasse speakers. On Friday as in the past I only got to hear the dull Chario.

But on Saturday Dah Chong finally gave airtime to the Tannoy Kingdom (which I never got to hear previously at these shows) . The Kingdom sounded powerful and rich, but even placing the two close together could not eliminate some bloating of the bass. Nonetheless, a 15 inch-er plays better than anything less at a big show, period. I thought I was not going to hear the The flagship La Sphere, but I checked one last time and my efforts were rewarded. There they were! This is the latest incarnation of the legendary Cabasse sphere, a breakthrough in engineering and art in its heydays, The eyeball in this model looks more like a globe. It comes with active crossovers and own amplifiers. Although the music played sounded like "Euro-trash" electronic music, the layered mid-bass and extended bass have a fluidity missing in many larger brethren. These I'd have to hear again with better material. I have little doubt of their true excellence. Thanks to CKL2 (phcklee) we have a youtube clip. Also, don't miss the smaller but ravishingly beautiful iO2 on silent display!At the entrance, there's a neat rack packed with Cyrus. I always ran into the dapper Richard Cheong when I exited the show. This time he has a gweilo kneeling for mercy!

The sound of the Trio, with basshorn, as always remained good in the room of Avantgarde HK. On Friday I did not dwell on them too much as I have only recently visited the showroom and gave a detailed report. I like their silent display of a lot of Ortofon, wonderful commitment to vinyl!

On Saturday though, accompanying Robin the Hairy Scot, we attended not one but two of the Trio sessions, and there he was, Masaki san!! Both featured the Trio + basshorn. It should be noted this pair of Trio is brand new, just out of the box! Click on the pic to enlarge. You shall note on the floor the limited edition Ginga turntable. On top of the right rack is the (sit tight) new Kondo Overture EL34 integrated amplifier, which Masaki introduced together with a new Kondo preamp G-70 (below the integrated). Both sessions utilized the AMR CD777 + Kondo G-70 preamp + M7 phono. The first featured some US ss monster mono-blocks. Sorry, I never would get to like the bland Livingston Taylor, no matter what it's played on. But a Paul McCartney 1991 unplugged CD perked up our ears. The voice didn't seem familiar but the rhythm and pace, as well as the varied hues were richly conveyed. Finally, Mr Chuong played an African percussion LP on the Kondo TT. Now we were talking. Tight rich bass, true timbre. The best vinyl playback of the past used to be HiFi Duck, but this year, this was the best sound of the show easily! Then came a switch to Gaku-Oh 300B monoblocks. Richer sound, but the Carmina Burana LP did not quite have all the requisite weight, though it did convey like no other playback the huge mass of choral forces singing and whispering. Robin asked the salesperson for the price and said to me these were at least worth the money (compared to much modern trash) . I agree.

(left) The large Adam loudspeaker (active woofers) sounded quite nice for a change (I don't usually like this company). I wish I had heard a high-res file on the Bladelius rather than analogue on the EAT. Notice that EMT preamp? Mouth-watering with 2 meters!

(right) It's common knowledge by now that Sonus Faber is now not what it was. At the show, SF Asia has a tiny deserted room with SF and ARC. Perhaps everyone prefers the old designer, Franco Serblin, whose Ktema speakers were well admired. Sound was fluent and comforting. Now, what are those large beautiful panels in the back?? They are treatment panels, and are they beautiful!

German Physiks can be very good, as we have heard at oozz' place. This flagship at the show sounded quite realistic with Cantonese opera and drew a huge crowd. Good job.

Wellwick always managed a clear and engaing sound at this show, with Elac, Densen etc. Both Harbeth + Manley and NAD + PSB = normal music.

Could have been Better

Vivid Audio Giya did not sound as good as before in Excel's room. No wonder, Krell was doing service, ah, dis-service. What happened to darTZeel? That would be a better match!

Traditionally, HiFi 德 always managed good sound at the show. But this year, sound was too soft. The new Rockport to my eyes do not look too good. The brightest thing in the room was 阿明's hair! Sound was noticeably better on Saturday.

This year's MBL was a smaller variant, not enough to fill up the room. For some reason, the Wilson Sophia 3 + Boulder combination, despite a deep soundstage, was not as crystalline sounding as before.

Radar was too ambitious for dividing their large room into 3 sections. I only heard the Proac driven by flagship BAT, playing 24/96 files (that lousy Livingston Taylor again) through dCS. Not bad, but should have been even better. I wish I had caught up with Naim, though the cheaper one-box Uniti is what I'd like to hear.

(right and middle) Meridian Sooloos was played, but at small volume. Those active speakers look nice! I wish they had played the 808.

(left) For anyone who remembers Elephant shows of the past, this is just a ghost of the past.

Swiss Soulution had been heard to better advantage before, and should sound refined. Partnered with Eventus it was reduced to nothing special. These speakers in the past gave OK sound but are not worth the price (if one wants Italian, Franco Serblin's new Ktema line trump them in both sound and looks, see above).

TAD had their new heavy non-monitor speakers, but sound was not too good. I suspect their own electronics are not as good as claimed.

Could have been Worse

Traditionally, Audio Space sounds none too good, but this year they have a pair of Tannoy around and sound was better, though still quite sluggish. I noticed their "LS3/5A" sells for $13800. No wonder second-hand market is thriving!

For me, Matisse Asia always produced highly artificial sound with their Verity. This year, things were just a little better on Friday with a Nagra hard-disc player around! Blue! But I recognized it for the red strip in the control. I wonder who brought it? My vote for most desirable item of the show. On Saturday this Nagra was gone.


What happened to the trusty combination of Avalon + Rowland? Sound was pale and not worth describing. Wake up! The thing that salvaged the room for me is the display of the Project line. Cute boxes! Of the turntables, the one I like the most is the cheapest red and round Genie.

Also dozing was the Dynaudio Consequence SE, though I suspect here the Musical Fidelity Primo line was not up to the task of driving them properly.

Not sleeping but should be are Lansche Audio speakers, terribly coarse driven by Sim electronics.

Burmester, as usual, expensive non-music. “...you can choose to not believe, but you have to know..."

More pics

I always take a pic of EAR. Don't you forget this brand! Who's going to sell me an Acute CDP to complete my line (I have the 912 +509)? This time around, the Bauer DPS look a lot better with a simple arm.

More people

I followed our friend from Tsingyi inadverdently. Here's another one.

And this blurred picture, well...(you have to click on pic to see the frightening details)... 我最喜歡這一張,doctorjohn 的照妖鏡 (一向以來揭了不少妖精的假面具) 照到了一些 HiFi 精正在蠶食一個年青人。 問題是,此人正卻在享受著呢!

The Concert that was too long
I went to the 1:30 concert on Friday to hear 阿陶, but I got more than what I bargained for. First up were the 香港鼓藝團, youngsters led by 銭國偉. I hate to be a spoiler, but in absolute terms the performances were too long, reasonably tidy but lacking in real flair.

The same can be said of The HK Police band , which though accomplished somehow cannot quite shake their serious (and morbid) demeanor (too many anthems and sessions at 浩園). The jazzy Summertime arrangement definitely did not suit them. The trumpet solo of the main theme sounded not languid, but funereal, though they got livelier later. The pipe band (click on pic, standing on the floor) was a lot more energizing, waking up my neighbor from stupor. Yes, hifi shows can be tiring!

Finally, 阿陶 appeared. How nice he was. He sang three songs and his voice was a little lighter than the closely miked recordings. We sat in the last row and the effect was a little muted. The incessant clicking of cameras spoiled the tranquility. Did anyone really tried to listen rather than take pics?

A concert then only for those who never went to concerts, which unfortunately comprise the majority of audiophiles. For serious concertgoers, it was not satisfactory, distracting, and too long.

Video Clips of Friday 1:30 Concert

今年場外買票的人多,但場内卻是空前地少人,證明主辦人的 CD 是賣得滿堂紅的, 可是秀就不太受歡迎。這不變得有點掛羊頭賣狗肉, 長久下來,會行嗎?不過,這樣也好,好久沒有逛得那麽舒服了, 大部分房間居然可以坐下來聼聼,這是前所沒有的。

反正就那麽一回事, 當然沒什麽驚喜。

記得先前那被 HiFi 精蠶食的年青人嗎?他已在 HiFi 的七彩漩渦裏消失了!

Here is another good write-up of the show, from computeraudiophile.

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