10 August, 2012

Show Report: 2012 Hong Kong High End Audio Visual Show

I know the price of the Range Rover and the Meridian, but the girl?

Revised August 12, 2012

Show Report: 2012 Hong Kong High End Audio Visual Show 香港高級視
聽展 (August 10, 2012)

Attention: -click all pics to enlarge 點擊照片就會放大

General Observations As usual, I could almost reprint last year's show report (click here for my 2009-2011 show reports) for this year's. Year after year, the show is much as usual, with the exhibitors occupying their usual rooms on the upper floors. As a matter of fact, I have written this article using last year's template.

That said, this being the 10th anniversary, the presenter AUDIOTECHNIQUE obviously had put in even more than before. If you ask me, it is not at all a good magazine for those who want a critical and independent viewpoint (that would be me!), but it is a good source of information. The magazine has done good work in presenting the show, which is a must for many audiophiles. Admission had been raised from HK$50 to HK$80, but it's still much lower than in the West. For this, you get a SACD too (they offer LPCD in a package too, but those are known to deteriorate fast). Some people had complained about the price increase, but I think it is more than fair, as they have held the line for all these years.

As usual, more interesting were the smaller rooms in the foyer, where there were more new stuff than usual. Overall, sound was better than last year (I think I see LESS CAS, which was responsible for the generally poor sound last year).
As usual, the best sounds came from LP sources, followed by CD replay. Despite use of expensive stuff, CAS had the poorest sound overall. BTW, do you believe all the hype about CAS? Not me.

The coverage below is in no particular order, divided into categories and by merit only. But I shall start with a spectacular failure:


Spectacular Failure (Large Room)

The dubious award this year goes to Eventus Audio's flagship Neo, driven by equally expensive Soulution. Sound was absolutely awful, not just unbalanced but, worse, completely artificial. Eventus has long been the subject of much hyperbole by this most hyperbolic of magazines, but it has never impressed me. To be fair, Eventus has done a little better (but not by much) in past shows, and I'd say the same about Kharma, Marten etc. Still, absolutely no excuse for this kind of execrable performance, and at stratospheric cost! Perhaps they have tweaked too much? Some of the magazine's writers write all kinds of 嘩衆取寵 absurd things on the importance of tweaking, and this is what you get!

This setup illustrates the sins of modern hifi: the more you spend, the more you do not get what you are paying for.

Good Try (Large Room) 

I have heard big Wisdom loudspeakers (Musical Fidelity HK) before to good effect at the loft of our friend 沙田麥, but nothing prepared me for the monstrosity that is this flagship LS-4. In the cavernous room, it was driven by little known electronics, including professional equipment. The fellow here was explaining that over 15,000 watts were used! Sound (泰迪羅賓) was decent, considering how difficult these monsters are to drive. The brochure listed STS subwoofer - I don't know whether it was used. My last row spot had obvious room mode, but you're excused. Good try, but this is the kind of thing I'd avoid. You can get sound just as good from something much simpler (like Tannoy).

As usual, Ernest Audio (Tara Labs Far East), under Ah Ming's skilled leadership, got good sound out of their large Rockport. This year, for a change, they showcased a new smaller model, Avior, to good effect. Here finally was a room that breathed naturally. Electronics were the usual VTL.

I missed the Avantgarde Trio with bass horn this year. What we got instead was the YG Anat III Signature Professional. I have heard this previously in their showroom. I must say Tony did a good job. Partnered with CAT, AMR and Dr Feickert.

Over the years in HK I have known many French JMR loudspeaker lovers, and they have always sounded musical. The new dealer Audio Extreme did a nice showcase of the flagship Concorde Supreme, driven by little-known (French?) 3D-Lab electronics and North Star digitals. I was glad to run into my friend Carl, who was helping out.

Excel always get good sound out of Vivid, and this year even a small pair Giya G3 driven by D'Agostino Momentum monoblocks was musical. In another room, the Crystal Cable loudspeaker was driven by mouth-watering Dartzeel monoblocks.

Naim has always gotten reasonable sound from CAS in this show, and this year was no exception. While we are on Radar, I see they have just acquired Constellation Audio, which I did not get to hear. Note their setup is really quite near-field, and used only part of a large room. Not Large room, strictly speaking.

Could have been Better (Large Room) 

(Distributor Jadis Electronics) usually did reasonably by show standards. But, in their big room, this year's Wilson Alexandria X2, partnered with Wadia and Boulder did not sound as good as last year. Zellaton did better but not as well as it should with Ayre electronics. Another medium sized room also showed an all T&A system, to reasonable effect.

Distributor Dah Cheong year after year mostly played their lackluster Chario in their big room and their Cabasse efforts too were not a complete success. But they really ought to be playing their Tannoys a lot more. This time, I did not get to hear Tannoy's. But I was surprised to find an announcement on a Tannoy Canterbury Gold Edition! New material, cryogenic treatment, and additional "refinements", to be delivered early 2013. News indeed!

It was exciting to see the huge PMC BB5XBDA flagship, but sound was coarse. What do you expect! They were driven by Audionet, not one of my favorites. Metronome and Acoustic Signature were the sources. Richcoln needs to get a handle on the show; remember the poor demo of Devialet last year?


Good Try (Medium and Small Room)

HK-based Volent has been making a name for itself in the high-end. I missed an audition arranged previously by my CAS friend Momei. The sound was decent in the small room, where I ran into two of my friends, who were apparently listening intently, and totally smitten!

Also from HK was FM Acoustics look-alike YS Sound solid state amplification, not to be confused with HK's other YS Audio (tube products). Sound driving Kharma was surprisingly acceptable, better than Kharma's own room by far, though that is not saying much!

I have never taken to Matisse Asia, but this year's demo of Verity Audio Lohengrin was better, thanks to the analogue source, the beautiful Artemis Lab turntable! Artemis' tubed products were used, including the newest models.

(Distributor Hit Audio) did not use Zu speakers this year. Instead they featured the MOST intriguing Violin loudspeaker, from China (CES report here; curiously, its own site is unstable). Sound with the Line Magnetic tube amp was OK, but not as good as last year.

KEF LS50 is all the rage. This demo was not bad but I am sure it has more to give.

has always done well by Elac at the show, and this year was no exception, despite being partnered with over-priced and over-rated Acuustic Arts.


Driven by Linn electronics, Danish Raidho delivered a very clean and smooth sound, enough to stand out amongst the huge number of European me-too speakers on offer.


Good Display

Usually, the center of the large entry hall is occupied by earphones and lifestyle products. This year is no exception, but it is unusually good for once. I particularly enjoyed the display of DMA. The Tascam's look good, but what really caught my eyes was the hilariously named Schiit Audio!

Serendipity! I re-discovered my friend Richard Cheong, formerly of Dah Cheong. Thanks to him I learned that Mike Moffat of Theta fame is behind all the Schiit! No pun intended!

I will be watching all the Schiit intently!


Not too Good

(Distributor First Impesssion) continued to disappoint. What happened to the tried-and-true combination of Avalon + Rowland? Is there nothing certain in this world anymore? It seems Italian Audia electronics is not a good match. Watch the first impression you give!

Kharma's own room was quite terrible. Coarse!

TAD Reference series should have done better too!

The same German Physiks loudspeaker that I heard to good effect at my friend oozz' small abode did not perform well in the show.

Estelon belongs to a growing and increasingly boring group of loudspeakers that feature ceramic drivers. Sound was not optimal. I took a pic as an example of modern blandness.

Sound in the Square Wave room was not good but I took a pic because of the alarming name - that would be the last thing you want in your system.


Photo Gallery 

From top to bottom:

  • My old friend/foe andyshum is now dealer for Swiss high-end Holborne turntables and Anheim loudspeakers; Sonus faber Aida on display.
  • I wish I could get to hear the new Micromega digitals.
  • Neumann now makes home theater stuff!
  • I am dying to hear Soundsmith's strain guage cartridges! But not Focal's frightening crossovers.
  • The small Pathos look beautiful.
  • Through a Focal cabinet darkly.
  • My friend JC would love the Davone. Still silent.
  • New Tannoy's look sleek!
  • Ah! I'd love to hear the Transrotor's and the EAT!!


Hong Kong Convention Center is expanding, as is literally the "land" surrounding it. A huge landfill project shall transform the waterfront.



HKTDC Our Trade Development Council has a nice shop in the Convention Center. I spotted this so-called "tube" device! Light bulbs! And a nice radio.


Star Ferry The ferry is dear to our hearts and is one of HK's greatest heritage. As a child, I grew up riding it between Tsim Sha Tsui, where we live, and the City Hall in Central, where father often took us to watch Chinese Opera. The TST and Wanchai piers and the boats themselves have luckily remained unchanged all these years.

After the show, I took the ferry to TST to attend the concert by the Asian Youth Orchestra. The waiting area of the Wanchai pier is like prison, but it smacks of nostalgia! It is always calm on the ferry, where everyone enjoys a moment of repose, hard to come by in this most hectic of cities.



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