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Stereonet Australia (Melbourne) Audio Show 2023

Keith_W

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I was the unofficial and self-appointed reporter for ASR at the StereoNet Australia (SNA) audio show today. Obviously, at the show I am unable to take measurements, so I will provide subjective listening impressions only, along with some points of discussion. I took this attitude to the show: (1) I was forgiving of boomy bass because of show conditions and limitations of where I was able to listen. I was not forgiving of lack of bass, because I was able to move around enough to ensure I was not in a null zone, so it meant that the speaker was not producing it; (2) I listened first and asked questions later to avoid colouring my judgement, but this was not possible with all products because I already knew some of them by reputation and even seen the measurements; (3) I was there to enjoy myself and socialize and not on a special mission from ASR so this report isn't as detailed as it should be.

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Sound Gallery is a premium hi-fi dealer in Melbourne. They had one of the larger rooms and had the Wilson Audio Sasha and Linn loudspeakers on display. They were driven by D'Agostino and Gryphon electronics. When I went in, the Wilsons were playing and the place was absolutely packed. Wilsons sound like Wilsons - what I liked was the tactility of the bass, it feels like a punch to the chest. What I did not like was the overly bright top end. The room had enough people in it to act as living bass absorbers so it had fewer issues than some of the other rooms. It was a good demonstration of Wilson's capabilities ... if you like Wilson. I don't. I did not have a chance to hear the Linns.

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I did not get the name of the speaker, I think it was Klipsch Heritage. It was easily the worst system in the show. It sounded like a PA system, all smeared together with poor stereo separation and with its only redeeming quality being able to go loud. The room was one of the larger rooms in the show, and it was empty - thus proving that everyone else thought the same.

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This is Kim Ryrie from DEQX giving an explanation of the new Pre-8 active crossover / room correction / DSP-in-a-box (similar to MiniDSP). This is definitely a product that will be of interest to members of ASR, so I will post a separate thread. The system was belonged to Alan Langford (Alan and Kim are the founders / engineers of DEQX) and consisted of his own 3-way DIY speakers, a pair of subwoofers, and Purifi Class D amps which he DIY'ed, stuffed into spare DEQX boxes and will not bring to market. Every year there are at least a couple of DEQX based systems in the show (given that DEQX is an Australian company), but this year only DEQX themselves were exhibiting the product. The sound was superb, as you would expect from an engineer who knows what he is doing.

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This is Bill McLean (a well known local dealer) showing off Magnepan speakers driven by Sanders Magtech amps and REL subwoofers. He was using DBX digital room correction (you can see the mic in the corner). A pleasant surprise was that more and more exhibitors were using DRC to overcome the limitations of the rooms. The Magnepans were not as directional as I thought they would be, and they still sounded balanced even when I deliberately moved around the room. I visited quite a few times, they did an excellent job with the demo with seamless integration with the sub. I don't know how much of an objectivist Bill is, but he certainly talks like one, e.g. "DBX is used by pros for correcting bass in concerts, we should be using it more at home". The glowing cable is decoration, not speaker cable.

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This was another pretty empty room ("empty room" is my euphemism for "everyone thought it sounded awful") featuring Microphase speakers, an Australian hi-fi brand. I didn't like them, I thought they badly needed a subwoofer and there was an obvious tilt towards the treble.

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Sonus Faber and McIntosh are quite popular here in Australia and there was absolutely nothing wrong with this demo. It was mostly free of room issues, and sounded lovely. Every room like this (these were identical hotel rooms) had an audibly boomy bass around 100Hz or so and this room was no exception, but this room was less boomy than others. It was probably because of the huge gaggle of people in that room - I walked in and claimed the sweet spot since the room was half full and I was lucky to see it vacated just as I walked in. When the track I requested started playing, I turned around and the room was packed.

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I did not get the model numbers of these Martin-Logan speakers driven by Anthem and also featuring digital room correction. I was amazed by the sound of the little bookshelf, and even more amazed to learn of its price - AUD$3500. They were able to convincingly project scale and do low bass very well.
 
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Keith_W

Keith_W

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Class A Audio is another Melbourne audio dealer, and they were showing off TAD speakers driven by Vitus preamp and stereo power amp. I did not hang around and ask for the price, because if I were to buy bookshelfs, I would pick the KEF's or the Martin-Logans. They were OK, but did not have the same scale and heft as those other speakers.

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Pitt & Giblin speakers are another Australian hifi company, one that I have never heard of before the show. The midrange/tweeter is a compression driver behind a horn, and it has a woofer. They suffered from poor room acoustics and some horn coloration (which sounded like a bit of midrange shoutiness) but they were overall OK.

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OAD is a speaker and amp designer/manufacturer based in Melbourne. They were the talk of the show, and they were being favourably compared with Kyron (another Australian designed open baffle speaker, but with DEQX active crossovers and costing >A$100k). These speakers cost A$8000. These sounded quite remarkable even though I was a bit disturbed by the choice of what appeared to be a "full range" driver on one of their speakers. I did not get to speak to the designer as he was busy. They are definitely a company I will keep an eye on, hopefully I will get to meet the designer and have a chat with him.

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Hulgich Audio is another Australian speaker manufacturer based in Adelaide. I met Nick, the owner/founder/designer/manufacturer and spoke with him. He has a very measurements-based approach to design. I asked to see the polar plot and other measurements, but regrettably he did not bring them with him, and he is reluctant to publish them. The speakers looked stunning in their gloss wood veneer but again there were room issues.

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March Audio was there with their Ukkonen and Sointuva speakers, and I managed to hear both. Powering the amps were monoblocks manufactured by March using Purifi modules. These are remarkable speakers, truly one of the better demonstrations at the show (some other speakers which I knew were objectively good somehow managed to disappoint). I am not a fan of the painted finish of the Ukkonen, but the Sointuva had a lovely wood finish. March himself is a soft spoken gentleman with a lovely wife, which was a bit of a surprise to me because he comes across differently on forums.

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The Audio Note room was a bit of a surprise. I have a prejudice against Audio Note and I was expecting horrible sound. These did not sound as horrible as I thought they would. I did not hang around and ask for the price, because if I did it would probably reconfirm my existing prejudice against Audio Note. That amp on top is not the Ongaku, I was told "it is similar but it is $100,000 cheaper than the Ongaku".

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Yamaha NS-1000. In one word: horrible. Bloated bass, screechy top end. I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

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Raidho was one of the more controversial systems at the show, at least with the people I discussed them with. Half enjoyed it, the other half found it underwhelming. I thought it didn't sound bad at all, until I looked a little closer:

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Oh. I changed my vote to "underwhelming". I would pay $4000 for that sound. Definitely not >$220k.

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The Revels driven by Mark Levinson was one of the speakers I knew to be objectively good, to sound underwhelming. The room was again, almost empty. The bass was bloated (which I forgive), but the top end was overly bright as if the designer had chosen the wrong target curve. I am sure there must be some kind of issue, but I don't know what the issue was.
 
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Keith_W

Keith_W

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This Dali / NAD system was my surprise of the show. It gets my vote as one of the best demonstrations. It is their new flagship speaker, driven by NAD Master series Class D amps with Purifi modules. The sound was surprisingly articulate and linear, with very few room issues. I was told that the baffle was carefully shaped to help achieve a smooth polar response.

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The KEF R3 Meta is the bookshelf I would buy if I was in the market. They sounded great today, no wonder they rank so highly on Spinorama.org. It was a really impressive demonstration of what the speaker was capable of - more bass than any bookshelf has any right to go, coherently sounding, and layered.

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I was expecting to like the Dutch & Dutch 8C's (demonstrated without BACCH) but I found them really underwhelming - the second disappointment of the day of a speaker I know to be objectively good but performing below par. They sounded muffled, lacking in bass. Maybe something was wrong.

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And it would not be a hifi show if there wasn't something weird. There wasn't anything weird about the Wilson-Benesch ACT speakers, in fact they sounded wonderful. What was really weird were the amplifiers driving them:

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Alieno Audio amplifiers. The demonstrator claimed that these are 300B, single ended, output transformerless, output capacitorless amplifiers which "use the current from a solid state amplifier" but are "not a hybrid" which puts out 250W of Class A power into 8 Ohms. This is quite simply an unbelievable claim. They certainly had enough power to drive the Wilson Benesch speakers above, so I believe that it is making more power than a typical 300B. What I do not believe are the claims about the amplifier topology. Perhaps someone in ASR might come up with a plausible explanation (besides "marketing") about how such a thing is possible!
 

Galliardist

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Thanks for showing what I missed - I was considering travelling down for this but as it happens, covid finally caught up with me this week.

Seems like I missed less than I might have expected.

On DEQX, that's been on my radar for a while but they haven't actually had anything to sell for what seems like years now. Did they say anything about when the products might be available? Or how high the price will be for any of the new range?
 
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Keith_W

Keith_W

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Thanks for showing what I missed - I was considering travelling down for this but as it happens, covid finally caught up with me this week.

Seems like I missed less than I might have expected.

On DEQX, that's been on my radar for a while but they haven't actually had anything to sell for what seems like years now. Did they say anything about when the products might be available? Or how high the price will be for any of the new range?

They did. See separate thread.
 

Galliardist

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Ilkless

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Thanks for sharing. I must say I find the Pitt and Giblin a fetching design and well-priced for what it is. Love the smooth elliptical cast waveguide, 15" woofer, the woodworking, Hypex UcD and DLCP. Colour me intrigued.
 

Mart68

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Great report and photographs. Thanks for taking the time, it's a lot of work I know.
 

AudioJester

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Thanks for sharing. I must say I find the Pitt and Giblin a fetching design and well-priced for what it is. Love the smooth elliptical cast waveguide, 15" woofer, the woodworking, Hypex UcD and DLCP. Colour me intrigued.

Yeah, hypex fusion amps, they also have some measurements - seems like an objective approach to their dedign, and they look gorgeous. Kind of a properly designed klipsch
 

Ilkless

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Yeah, hypex fusion amps, they also have some measurements - seems like an objective approach to their dedign, and they look gorgeous. Kind of a properly designed klipsch

The grail speaker I had for our home is a Genelec 8341A, but I'd honestly be willing to sacrifice a bit of smoothness in FR and dispersion for total effortless dynamics, and 35Hz is plenty enough for me.

Plus, I feel like the centre of gravity for the hi-fi market in South-east Asia is long overdue for a shift towards Australia, rather than just China/Japan/Europe/USA.
 
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Keith_W

Keith_W

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View attachment 320315

Class A Audio is another Melbourne audio dealer, and they were showing off TAD speakers driven by Vitus preamp and stereo power amp. I did not hang around and ask for the price, because if I were to buy bookshelfs, I would pick the KEF's or the Martin-Logans. They were OK, but did not have the same scale and heft as those other speakers.

Hello all, it has been pointed out to me that I identified these speakers wrongly. These are Audiovector speakers and NOT TAD's. Please accept my apologies.
 

naviivan

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I went to the show on Saturday afternoon so it meant I didn’t get to see everything.

OAD, audionote, Class A (accuphase/ ayon / audiovector) and hifi collective (new epos speakers + AVM amp) had a sound that i could forget about the equipment and listen all day.

DEXQ just blew am away how right it sounded. i could hear every part of the music clearly and nothing sounded bad on it. It would be my dream system if I wanted to dissect everything i hear. I don’t want that many boxes for my audio system and run so many speaker cables. Taylor swift’s Cruel Summer usually sounds like a mess in audiophile systems but it sounded amazing.

I missed a few because i ran out of time or rooms were too full (Pitt & Giblin was one of them).
 

Bjorn

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Thank you for sharing. Haven't been to Australia yet. How big is the show and is the attendance good?
 
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Keith_W

Keith_W

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I went to the show on Saturday afternoon so it meant I didn’t get to see everything.

OAD, audionote, Class A (accuphase/ ayon / audiovector) and hifi collective (new epos speakers + AVM amp) had a sound that i could forget about the equipment and listen all day.

DEXQ just blew am away how right it sounded. i could hear every part of the music clearly and nothing sounded bad on it. It would be my dream system if I wanted to dissect everything i hear. I don’t want that many boxes for my audio system and run so many speaker cables. Taylor swift’s Cruel Summer usually sounds like a mess in audiophile systems but it sounded amazing.

I missed a few because i ran out of time or rooms were too full (Pitt & Giblin was one of them).

If you are in Melbourne you should pop over and have a listen to my system. I implement everything DEQX does and more.
 
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Keith_W

Keith_W

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Thank you for sharing. Haven't been to Australia yet. How big is the show and is the attendance good?

Here is a word from the organizer: link

He said 60 rooms and "thousands" of visitors. I believe those numbers, by my estimate there were probably 700-1000 people at the show at any one time, and I was only there for one day. I got that number by counting how many people were in the rooms multiplied by the number of rooms, I think each room had a minimum of 10 people, with some of the larger rooms having 30-50 people. Even the "empty" rooms had 4-5 people inside.

I have been to many hi-fi shows in Australia, and this one was the best. I did not go to last year's show, by all accounts it had an even bigger attendance than this one. This time you could actually enter the rooms, last year there were so many people crammed into some rooms that it was impossible to enter. It appears that the organizers deliberately chose not to have such a high attendance.
 

stvnharr

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I attended the Melbourne Show on Friday. This was a good day to go as attendance is less on a weekday. Last year I attended on Saturday and it got crowded very quickly after opening. I attended with 2 friends, both EE's, one in the audio biz and one retired. Our collective impressions were quite similar to Keith's in his opening post. The three of us noted a lot of poor, in our opinion, music selection, music played way too loud, and sound that was a not the best. And often it seemed that many rooms exhibited all three qualities.
We also noted the amount of equipment with 6 figure price tags. And we noted that there was little correlation of these high price tags and the resulting sound in the room. And on Friday there were quite a few rooms that were just empty of people.
One other thing we noticed was that there were many room proprietors who did absolutely no presentation of what they were showing. This seemed odd to me as presenting the audio products is what the show is all about. Perhaps that aspect improved as the show moved through the weekend, but it was not very present on Friday.

I used to live in the US, and attended RMAF in Denver from it's start in 2004 until 2011. I lived in the Rocky Mountain area and attending the show was easy. It was always a great show, though it tended to differ from year to year until about 2010 when it became very high-endie. But even then, there were exhibitors with products in all price ranges. There was something for everyone somewhere. And every room proprietor talked about his products and then presented what they do. It was always a really great show!

Lastly, at one of the last RMAF shows I attended there was a DEQX room. And the proprietor gave a great presentation of the HDP-4. I believe that was the unit though it has been quite awhile ago now. It was quite impressive to me. So, it was a little disappointing to go in to the DEQX room at this show and find there just was not much. And to read Keith's separate DEQX thread is even more disappointing. It is a pity that it is all now going to be just too expensive.

Oh, and one last note.....The new speakers in the Audio Note room do not yet have an official price, as they are still developing. But the room proprietor told us that they expected the speakers to come in at $120,000. And I don't care whose dollars those are, it is a lot for a 2-way speaker.
 
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