Ian Ringstead’s thoughts on the Audio Video Show 2017 in Warsaw.

I’d never been to Poland before so visiting the Polish AV Show was a great excuse to explore Warsaw and sample the culture. I’d heard fabulous reports about the show being second only to the Munich High End show in terms of size and quality. They weren’t wrong.

I’ve reviewed a few Polish speakers and the people I’ve dealt with are really friendly and helpful. The Poles have a proud tradition as a nation and since the end of communist oppression they have come into their own as an up and coming nation. I visited the city before the show started in order to discover the delights and walked around the castle in the old city centre. What I hadn’t realised was that in the Second World War the city was completely flattened and hardly any buildings were left standing. The castle was completely rebuilt in the 70’s and 80’s and is a shining example of the poles optimism and tenacity as a nation to not be down trodden.

The Poles confidence and inventiveness really comes through in whatever they do, and none more so than in their hifi. What impressed me was the number of home brands at the show, a lot that I hadn’t heard of before. As well as new products there was a plethora of DIY equipment and vintage hifi. You have to remember that the Poles didn’t have access to products or ideas from the West for many years whilst under the rule of Russia. Like Cuba, ingenuity was the mother of invention and the home market was prolific with new ideas.

The show was spread over three venues, the Golden Tulip Hotel, Radisson Blu Hotel and the National Sports stadium. I started at the Radisson Blu where there were eight floors of exhibitors. The ground floor hosted TAGA, a company I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing speakers for and their full range of speakers and electronics were on show. They have just launched a new range of valve amplifiers and were doing a demonstration on the Saturday of a valve amp with comparisons being made between different valve sets (tube rolling) which is common among valve fans.

Rather than bore you with a comprehensive list of exhibitors I’ll highlight the products and companies that impressed me. Buchardt Audio were showing some nice stand mount speakers and a prototype of a new model the S400 that sounded rather good. The Poland DIY room played some proper music rather than the standard jazz and female vocal all the time. They had numerous designs of speakers on show made from scratch based on classic designs that all sounded great. ElinsAudio Manufacture are a new company who have in just three years produced a valve pre amp, power amp and an integrated. They have already won awards in Poland.

 

A company new to me was Eryk S Concept that had a superb pair of large floor standers called the Wind playing. They were beautifully made and sounded sublime. In fact, one of the best sounds at the show for me. They are likely to retail for about £15000. They also do amps, one was called the Fire, at £5000 and smaller speakers. A company to watch out for. Along the corridor was Grandinote with their amps which Stuart and Linette have reviewed and they sounded great playing Handel’s Messiah. Megalith Audio had an amazing turntable made by Tentogra called the Gramofon that had me in awe of its size and build quality for about £7000. It was about a metre wide and could hold several arms.

 

RT Project were another Polish company producing DACs which are both transistor and hybrid with tubes as well. Nomos Audio Vintage were an interesting company as they specialise in classic vintage audio equipment and will refurbish it for you or customise to your specification. I am a huge fan of vintage audio owning some myself and thus is a great way of rejuvenating equipment and giving it a new lease of life for several more decades.

Goldnote were showing their beautiful products and do complete systems which are fabulous to look at and listen to. Luxman had a selection of their range on show and the distributor had an enviable collection of vinyl with which to demonstrate the range on.

 

The National stadium had a vast array of product on show covering all bases from AV, smart technology, gaming through to budget hi fi and right up to true high end. The venue was very large and packed with families which was great to see as our shows generally are poorly attended in comparison. The Poles definitely take their hobbies seriously and embrace all forms of interests. I concentrated mainly on the high end and was pleased to see Wilson Audio, Audio Research, Dan Dagastino, Sonus faber, Air Force turntables amongst the top brands. Mark Levinson and JBL had a room dedicated to their top end items but unfortunately it was timed dems and the queues were very long. I was particularly impressed by the Wilson Audio speakers driven by Dan Dagastino amps in various combinations. The Sonus Faber tended to be used with Audio Research valve amps and sounded very smooth.

They were the usual record stalls and I must confess to buying a few albums myself. You have to don’t you.

Back at the Golden Tulip, where we were staying, was some really top end equipment. Stax had all their gorgeous electrostatic headphones on dem via a Jadis valve amp and laptop. They sounded superb as always and if I was an ardent headphone user I would definitely have a pair. Lampizator were showing their new reference Pacific DAC and it sounded fantastic with some interesting electronic music on a large set of speakers.

In one of the large suites Sound by Hari were demonstrating a pair of very tall and imposing speakers that retailed at £200,000. Of course they sounded great, but so they should. A question of millionaires only and large mansions apply. AVM whom I became familiar with at Bristol this year as they are now imported by PMC had the full range on static display along with dems of specific components.

The room that impressed me most at the Golden Tulip was Swiss company Boenicke Audio. I’ve heard their speakers a few times now and I am deeply impressed. They had the baby W5 playing which sounded fantastic. I could not believe the sound staging and bass for such a small speaker. With their flimsy looking stands they are £4000 which seems rather expensive until you hear them and realise nothing else comes close to them price wise or size wise without spending rather a lot. Along with the Eryk S Wind speakers easily the best sounds for me at the show.

So there we are. The list of brands at the show was immense, almost rivaling Munich but the great thing was that the show was aimed at everyone, not just audiophiles. I would certainly go again and recommend it to anyone who enjoys music, good sounds and seeing a new country that is thriving on passion and innovation.

Ian Ringstead

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