Welcome to the second instalment of Hifi Pig’s show report from the Munich High End show 2013 where we’ll focus on another handful of the rooms we were able to visit and listen to.
We’ll start this chapter off with a look at the Nola room and their Baby grand Reference Gold loudspeakers.
Nola are based in Holbrook in New York and make a wide range of loudspeakers for home audio and for two channel listening. The company’s flagship product is the 2 boxes per side Grand Reference VI but here we were listening to the Baby Grand Reference Gold Loudspeaker. They are handmade and crafted in the USA.
When we entered the room there was a guy on the telephone (to someone in Switzerland by the sound of it) and no music so we had to wait a good while for him to finish his conversation before he decided it was time to put on the music.
Front end electronics were, as you can see from the photograph, Audio Research.
The Baby Grand Reference Gold is an interesting looking loudspeaker. It has two 220 mm magnesium bass transducers which incorporate massive Alnico ring magnets and also incorporate solid copper phase plugs that have been gold-plated. The woofers are housed in a cabinet but the rest of the drivers are open baffle.
There are four mid drivers and four ribbon tweeters in the open baffle part of the Baby Grand. The speakers use a Unison three and a half way crossover using silver/gold/oil polypropylene capacitors hand wired on three crossover boards which are mounted internally. The speakers are 89dB sensitive and cover a claimed 20Hz to 100kHz frequency range.
It has to be said that these loudspeakers look exceptionally well made and the finish was superb. They are also quite imposing at 62 inches in height.
What did they sound like? Given the guy in the rooms rudeness I really didn’t want to like these loudspeakers but I did…a good deal. They do very deep and very nicely controlled bass. They also do very nice mids and top end with the characteristic feel that open baffle systems have. The ribbon tweeters I feel add a great deal to the mix and the upper frequency range has a great feeling of space. Soundstage was very good – deep and wide. I’d love to hear these playing well produced techno!
All the Swissonar products are handcrafted in Switzerland and it shows – they look amazing and just exude quality. When we walked into the room the larger of the two speakers were playing. These were the BACH 10 (Bass Adjustable Coplanar Horn) which features a 2 way coaxial and coplanar with Tractrix horn. Sadly these were turned off just as we sat down to listen but we needn’t have worried as they switched to using the smaller BACH 8e.
The BACH 8e is an interesting little loudspeaker – it has an eight inch driver with the Bass Adjustable Coplanar Horn, uses Mundorf caps and resistors and is 94dB sensitive. The first thing that strikes you is the bass that comes out of this little unit – it’s taught and tangible and certainly not overblown. The speakers sit fairly close to the floor bet manage to project great height and presence. I liked these a lot and look forward to hopefully getting a pair for review.
The amp being used was the company’s VSOP (Vaccum State amplifier with Operational Phone preamplifier) which kicks out just 8 Watts at 8Ohms via its four 6V6 output tubes. You can actually choose to have fitted the phono preamplifier or DAC.
The amp was been fed by a Thorens TD 124 which is breathed on by Swissonor somewhat (new main platter, new upper platter, new tonearm board and the company’s TA10 10” tonearm. Interstingly the TA10 is actually a new design of the original Thorens TP14 arm.
Next came the Auralic room. We stood and chatted to one of the guys looking after the room and he told us that the room had taken two days for them to tune to their liking – it showed. The sound in the room was natural, unforced and very, very musical.
Kit playing when we were in the room was the Taurus preamplifier and the Merak monobloc amplifiers. The Merak amps can kick out 400 watts and can deliver 16 amps peak current and yet they are 90% efficient. The ‘source’ whilst we were in the room was the company’s Vega digital audio processor fed with a DSD stream.
Beautiful understated looking hifi equipment which has clearly been well thought out. I for one look forward to hearing more of their kit!
Onix is an interesting brand, it’s flagship range is designed and made in the UK whilst its other ranges are engineered in the UK and built in Taiwan. We had a good pole around the kit on show before we went in to listen and it all looks very well made indeed.
The kit in the listening area was the OC103 Media CD player, the OP101 Preamplifier and the OA102 power amplifier.
The OC103 CD player uses a Phillips Pro II drive inside a frame of aluminium which is suspended on three points and like all the flagship range looks very, very purposeful. It’s also a USB DAC.
The OP101 preamplifier uses two oversized R-Core transformers and Alps potentiometer.
The OA102 amplifier has balanced and unbalanced inputs which are gold rhodium plated, great looking speaker binding posts and delivers 2x 300W into 8 Ohms and 2 x 600W into 4 Ohms. It weighs 60Kg.
I sat down to listen and nearly walked straight out as the sound was far too loud for the room and the bass frequencies were booming and bloated. The guy running the room had the good sense to realise this and turned the volume down to a reasonable level and this fixed the problem. The sound was very good indeed once this issue had been fixed and I noted that the mids and top were beautifully reproduced.
Again, this is another product I’m looking forward to getting a longer listen to.