Setting off to the Warsaw show feels like going on an adventure. We went last year so we know what to expect, it’s the second biggest European show after Munich so there is a lot to cover but Warsaw, unlike Munich, still manages to keep that intimate and cosy feeling. The show is split into three, distinct zones, almost three shows in one and with three days to cover it all it is possible to do one area a day and still have time to nip into the city and see some of the place you are visiting. 

Warsaw is a place with a defiant spirit, having been rebuilt after complete annihilation during WW2, it’s a place that gets on with things, in spite of the terrible things that have happened there throughout history. There is sense that Big Brother is watching you, but the people are welcoming and friendly, with your local Taxi or Uber driver happy to fill you in on the sights along the way. Oh, and by the way, those Taxis/Ubers are ridiculously cheap…Warsaw is a great city to walk around but if you get too tired/lost/cold you only ever seem to be about 12 zloty from your hotel (less than £3). It is also very cheap to eat and drink and, if you are of the vegetarian/vegan persuasion you will be amazed at the choice that you have. We were not expecting it, but we ate better in Warsaw than we have anywhere in the world. Before I visited Warsaw, I expected a cold, grey city. OK, so it’s November so yes it is cold and it does start getting dark at 3pm in the afternoon. It’s a very real city with plenty of grit and history…but that is what I like about visiting somewhere, I like to get to know its real side.

So on to the show. What should you expect? With 173 rooms this year spread over the three venues, there is something for everyone. There is some very exotic Hifi that you have never seen or heard of before. There is some very, very high end gear but also some that you will expect to cost the price of a house, that doesn’t. There is also a lot of very affordable gear, like Polish brand TAGA Harmony, that challenges the pricing of main-stream Hifi back home. British brands like Chord Electronics, Harbeth and PMC are well represented with their Polish distributors putting a lot of effort into the show alongside the more familiar faces that we know from the UK.

There are brands like Lampizator that have grown out of the strong DIY culture that Poland has and has had for many years, born out of the necessity of not being able to have access to Western brands, the Polish people just made their own. It’s the same with music and there is a strong love of Jazz. Everyone listens to it, from the Punk girl that we met in a vegan eatery, to the taxi driver, to the barman at our hotel, Jazz is everywhere. Perhaps the only niggle that I have is that there is not a wider variety of music played at the show.

Not only very well organised by Adam Mokrzycki and his team, the show is very well attended. This year there were over 14,000 visitors, including over 800 kids under 16 (for whom it is free to attend). You notice a lot of couples and families and people are genuinely enthusiastic about being there.

So here are just a few of those 173 rooms and pieces of gear that particularly stood out for me, for the full coverage check out our main show report.

Radisson Blu Sobieski

We, along with several of the other international press representatives, were stopping in the Sobieski so it made good sense to start here. After the minor cock-up of thinking the show started at 10am when it was actually 1pm, we took a brisk look around Warsaw Old Town including Mr J Darko’s tour of the most beautiful parks in the city. The Sobieski part of the show is very much a classic hotel-style show, with rooms over 8 floors. It is very well organised using one ‘wing’ of the hotel and a separate lift and stairs so that the rest of the hotel can get on with things without the show interfering. We had learned from the previous year that Friday, although not just a press day, is the quietest and therefore the best day to tackle the Sobieski, leave it until Saturday and you will have that ‘Hotel-Hifi-show-fighting-through-the-coridoors-and-the-doorways’ problem to deal with.

Always worth mentioning at a show are the Gold Note guys. They always have an impeccably set up room that sounds great and oozes Italian style…plus their gear is gorgeous.

A new speaker/electronics brand to me were Polish company Manron with their made to measure, Audio High End system. They were playing some electronic music that I did not know, but that sounded amazing. It was a small room but the sound was exceptional, tight, fast and just the way I like it…plus their speakers were quirky and unusual looking, which I liked too.

Probably one of the most gorgeous turntables I’ve ever seen was in the Megalith Audio room. Made by Tentogra, we were expecting a painfully high end price, but it was actually only 7000€, which doesn’t seem to bad in the greater scheme of things! There was a stunning blue version playing in another room too, one to watch out for.

Pylon and Fezz are a great speaker and electronics partnership. The Polish brands once again impressed with a very nice sound and extraordinary value for money…the speakers were the Pylon Pearl 20 floorstanders at around £250, which is great value in anyone’s book

Closer Acoustics were yet another Polish brand that caught my eye and ear. They were showing their full range Vigo loudspeakers (the larger pair in the picture) paired with their new 300B Provocatur valve amp.They were using a classic Thorens TD124MKII turntable and got my vote for a cool bit of re-purposing an old style sewing machine table as a stand for it.

The very elegant aluminium Fram speakers from Krakow based Ancient Audio were very impressive. The Maxi active floorstander is no means a big speaker but the sound was huge from them. I can’t recall the price but again it was a lot less than you would expect from the sound and the finish.

We have had the pleasure of reviewing the RDAcoustic Evolution and Euphoria loudspeakers from the Czech Republic. We did spot a few copycat designs at the show but RDAcoustic remain distinct from the competition with their looks and quality of sound.

The Golden Tulip

The Golden Tulip is another hotel venue, just across the road from the Sobieski, though this venue has just eight, generally larger and rather high end rooms. It made perfect sense to escape over here on the Saturday morning when most visitors to the show arrived, spend the morning listening and then head off into the city centre again for a welcome lunch.

The Sound by Hari room was one of my most favourites. Unashamedly high end (the speakers on their own are just shy of 180,000€) it featured a lovely combination of a lovely Vertere SG1 turntable with Swiss, FM Acoustics electronics (always a fantastic combination). The speakers were complete stunners, huge beasts which still remained elegant, MAAT loudspeakers by the Italian brand Sigma Acoustics. This was a sublime room.

The other real show-stopper for me in the Tulip was the Lampizator room. Fikus was on his home turf showcasing the new Pacific DAC. Lampizator is the embodiment of what is cool about Polish audio brands and his gear paired wonderfully with the Sveda Audio speakers. The room was constantly packed with people queuing out of the door.

The National Stadium

The National Stadium has a much more corporate feel to it than the hotels, it’s just a short (free) shuttle bus trip from the Sobieski but again not expensive if you want to get a taxi over. There are a lot of very slick rooms in the boxes that overlook the stadium and the corridors are prowled by unfeasibly beautiful young women wearing the names of big brands and handing out leaflets. There are quite a few AV rooms here but they are grouped together so easy to avoid if that is not your bag.

I’ve been hunting down these distinctive Natural Sound speakers for some time, after hearing them last year at the show and then not being able to find out more about them. The pair on show were the Samurai, and to me they are some of the most beautiful looking and sounding that I have encountered…if we didn’t have our beloved Avantgarde Acoustic Duo XDs, I’d be seriously considering a pair of these. What really makes them special is the air motion tweeter in a horn, I like them a lot…and they are 20,000€, which is a lot less than I thought.

And then to the other Natural Sound Skybox which featured these, pretty unusual huge Soulsonic speakers, you can’t really see but they feature a ribbon tweeter down the edge. Again stunning sounding.

I’ve heard the Zeta Zero Omni-directional speakers before, but this Warsaw show they have to get the award for the best demo…which used some really mad, Japanese music and filled the room using either one speaker or two, the effect was pretty incredible.

Chord Electronics can always be relied upon to belt out some decent tunes. As a great contrast to a lot of the other music being played, and a fitting tribute to Malcolm Young, who had passed away the night before, they belted out ACDC using Chord gear including the new Blu MkII transport and Dave DAC. They were using Audiovector floorstanders and a couple of stacks of REL subs….it truly rocked!

More great British brands in the form of PMC and Cyrus were also delighting the crowds in their green lit room featuring their big MB2 SE speakers paired with Cyrus gear when we were in there (the Cor amp was also in use during the show), with some of their smaller speakers next door.

There is also the headfi zone here, which is about the size of Headroom at Indulgence, so another show within a show…click here to see pictures.

So basically, if you haven’t been to the Warsaw show yet, get your trip booked for next year. If you are a punter you will have a great time and see and hear loads of new gear, if you are a brand/manufacturer you will get your products in front of an enthusiastic and engaged audience. The show is exceptional and (no, I am not being paid by the Warsaw Tourist Board) the city is interesting, engaging and cheap. Make the Audio Video Show Warsaw 2018 number one on your list of shows to visit next year.

Linette Smith

 

 

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