Hifi Pig’s very own Millennial Scribbler, Harry Smith, gives us a younger view of the Audio Video Show Warsaw 2019.

High End Munich is probably the biggest show I’ve ever been to. A very close second is the Audio-Video Show in Warsaw, arguably one of Europe’s biggest dates in an audiophile’s calendar.

Split between three venues, one of which is a 58 000+ capacity football stadium, the show is an exposé of the finest the Hifi Industry has to offer for fans of AV, Head-Fi or more traditional Hifi setups.

What I like about this show is that there is a great mix of people whether it be industry-insiders, enthusiasts of all ages or families proving the point that Hifi still attracts all kinds of folks.

Seeing as there is going to be plenty of coverage courtesy of the rest of the Hifi Pig team, my report is going to focus on my four favourite rooms followed by Head-Fi and AV and a few extra snaps of the show.

My Favourite Four Rooms

Gryphon

Gryphon… what more can I say? One of the most surprising and impressive systems I’ve ever heard hands down! Rune Skov gave a fantastic presentation showing off their flagship Kodo loudspeakers along with their in-house amplifiers and new Ethos CD Player. They are imposing and are for someone that wants to make a statement. The 38 drivers brought rich mids, chest-thumping bass and a microscopically precise top-end. During the presentation, Rune jumped from genre to genre across multiple audio formats. “Jubilee Street” by Nick Cave was a highlight for me. Not an artist that I’ve paid much attention to but definitely one that I’ll listen to again. “Ouverture” from the soundtrack of “Whiplash” was another impressive track showing that the system had the gusto to perform orchestral Jazz.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a HiFi show if somebody didn’t ask to play “The Chain” By Fleetwood Mac and I can say that it was the best I’ve ever heard it. The guitars were bright and appropriately jangly, the drums had real power behind them and the well-known bassline stood up to everything else. Granted, at close to £400 000 for the whole system it isn’t on the affordable side of things but I couldn’t recommend them more to an audiophile with that kind of money and they would definitely look good next to your Rolls Royce Phantom and superyacht. It couldn’t have been put any better by the man himself: “when you spend this kind of money on a Hifi system, it has to perform outstandingly with all genres and formats of music. Not just your favourite 8 or 9 albums.”

Primare

A Scandinavian tour de force! The Swedish expression “Lagom” perfectly sums up this system. Simple and well-balanced with nothing too over the top to upset the harmony between all the working parts.

The system featured a pair of AudioVector R3 Avantgarde speakers from Denmark driven by Primare’s very own amplifier, pre and DAC with cables from the lovely people at Cardas. It was a wonderfully transparent portrayal of the music and was perfect for the size of the room.

Primare’s newest product they were showcasing was the new NP5 Prisma Network Player bringing all the Prisma functionality of their other products including Airplay 2, Spotify Connect, Roon and Bluetooth to any system at a very affordable price point. (and a 50% discounted price for owners of their PRE60, NP30, I32 MM30, and PRE32 MM30 models.) The Prisma also offers gapless playback, a very welcome addition for many NAS drive users of which there are many nowadays.

Klipsch

This was actually the first room I visited at the show and definitely set the tone for the whole day. Showcasing their flagship Klipschorn AK6 running through amplification courtesy of Quad they packed a big punch performing really well on acoustic tracks.

But what surprised me the most was the sheer number of different products Klipsch had to offer. Want a soundbar? They make that! Want an all in one speaker? They also make that! Need headphones? Guess what! They make them too!

There was a great continuity across the whole range with a retro but somehow futuristic look. What a great way to start the day.

Devialet

I know many audiophiles have fallen out with Devialet since their recent-ish move away from traditional Hifi and focusing on All-In-One systems. Myself, I’m a fan of the Phantoms as they offer an all-round great listening experience in one package. I listened to their new “mini Phantom”, the Reactor. They were in a stereo setup using a rather unique tripod design stand. I was impressed by the sheer amount of sound they delivered for their size and they filled the medium-sized room easily. A little bassy for some but incredibly enjoyable to listen to especially for electronic music. I can definitely see these flying off the shelves in the run-up to Christmas.

AV & Soundbars

With the recent advances in flatscreen TV technology, more and more people are upping their home cinema game with 50” plus screens, surround sound speakers and big subwoofers becoming a staple in many cinema enthusiast’s homes. I’ve noticed that the go-to setup for the majority is a soundbar. Teamed up with a subwoofer it is a compelling choice for most.

In the Harman/Kardon room, they opted for the nightclub scene from the first “John Wick” movie to show off their Citation tower speakers and soundbar. If you don’t know which scene I’m talking about Youtube it! Dubstep club music in the background putting the subwoofer to work, the constant barrage of gunfire and bone-crunching punches from Keanu Reeves delivered an incredibly immersive, cinema-like experience.

Dali’s offering in the soundbar space, the Katch, looked the part with a sleek elegant design and multiple mounting options thanks to the leather straps giving it the ability to be wall-mounted beneath your TV. It wasn’t anything revolutionary in term of sound quality but was quite tight and detailed giving enough bass without the aid of a sub. It’s a worthwhile upgrade for the living room especially if you don’t want to sink thousands on an all singing and dancing Dolby ATMOS multi-speaker setup.

Another popular demo for soundbars was the first of the new generation of Staw-Wars movies “The Force Awakens”. The dogfight scene with the Millennium Falcon was a great showcase of Dolby Atmos technology. Having over a dozen drivers firing at once emulating the roar of engines and laser cannon fire was quite a spectacle. The Sennheiser AMBEO definitely took advantage of this. The sound was so immersive and very wrapped around the whole room. To get such a big sound/ cinema experience from one (granted very big) soundbar was impressive. At over £2000, it is definitely a big purchase but brings the cinema to your home in one package.

Head-Fi

There was a special area at the show dedicated to Head-Fi. I was surprised how similar the layout was to the Canjam London show I was at earlier in the year but I also got to discover some brands that I’ve never heard about and experience some unique tech.

Ifi

Ifi were showing off their ZEN DAC, a digital to analogue converter/ headphone amplifier that supports formats such as PCM and DCD to 44-bit/384kHZ, DSD256 and MQA all in one package with both 3.5mm and 6.3mm outputs. At only around £130 it could be a worthwhile purchase for a newbie in the high-end headphone game. Pair this with a pair of entry-level cans and you’ve got yourself a well-performing home system or desk system for under £300. The sound was easy to listen to and was quite well balanced and it has an extra bass button if you feel you need a boost.

Lucarto Audio

On the other end of the affordability scale was Polish brand Lucarto’s Songolo MA300BSE a huge dual-mono valve power amplifier. With a power output of  8Ω: 14W / 28W continuous class A it sounded warm and deep with plenty of character. I found myself listening to track after track with what I think were a pair of Audeze LCD headphones sounding particularly good on acoustic tracks like Harvest by Neil Young.

Feliks Audio

Another brand from Poland was Feliks Audio, celebrating their 20th birthday by showing off their range of hand-crafted tube amplifiers. It was a very busy stand but I had a chance to have a listen to the flagship Euforia (20th-anniversary edition) amplifier that has a compact design that felt and sounded very high quality, with a smart grey paint finish to match.

Dali

Well, we now know they can build a stylish soundbar and have been well established in the speaker game for a long time but what about headphones? Their IO-6 Active noise-cancelling headphones looked the part and boast 30h battery life, a big number considering the inclusion of ANC that did a great job of blocking out all the background noise from the show floor. Sound-wise they worked fantastically with all genres but a big talking point for me was the track Stimela (The Coal Train) by Hugh Masekela because of the way the IO-6 reproduced the vocals with such clarity along with the atmospheric synths and slow powerful funky bassline. Not an easy feat over Bluetooth!

Meze Audio

I’ve heard the Meze Empyrean headphones plenty of times at Hifi shows and I own a pair of Neo 11 in-ears but the combination of the Empyrean’s open-back design and hybrid magnet array with a top of the range Cayin HA-300 tube amplifier was glorious. Hooked up to a laptop running Tidal listening to go-to Hifi Pig demo tracks like “Giorgio By Moroder” and “Contact” by my two favourite robots, Daft Punk, was an experience. Such an impressive high-end home listening setup.

Grado

Grado have been going since the 1950s and have become many people’s go-to for open-back headphones. Having already used the midrange SR325E before I thought I knew what I was in for when stepping up to their top of the range PS2000e. I didn’t… Hand-built in Brooklyn they oozed quality and paired well with the Cary Audio CAD-300 SEI tube amplifier and Vincent CD-57. It was incredibly similar to the Meze cans that I listened to just before in the way that they sounded so immersive and open.

RHA

Scottish brand RHA brought a few of their Bluetooth offerings to Poland. I’m actually currently writing the review for the T20 Wireless earphones which should be out very soon! Keep an eye out on the headphone review section of the website for the full review.

Astell & Kern

I got to try A&K’s flagship the SP2000 an absolutely bonkers looking, heavy copper ‘iPod on steroids’ that supports most formats and streaming services. There was a selection of high-quality files preloaded on to the 512 GB internal storage that all sounded precisely detailed.

All in all, it was an absolute blast to go to this Hifi show and experience the city of Warsaw for the first time, but it definitely won’t be the last. Until next year Audio Video Show Warsaw!

Harry Smith

Mrs Hifi Pigs Best Presented Rooms At The AV Show Warsaw

A Photo Tour Of Warsaw Hifi Show 2019

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