Hifi Pig’s third show report from the XFI Premium Audio Show 2019 in the Netherlands.

Takumi Audio

The Takumi TT Level 2.1 turntable was the star of the show in the first room of Sunday morning. It uses a “Cardanic” (gimbal) suspension 9 inch tonearm with a thin wall titanium armtube, close tolerance ceramic main bearing. The subplatter is made of Aluminium and the 30cm platter is acrylic. The turntable includes vibration-damped feet that are height-adjustable and comes with a  clear hinged dust-cover and a POM record-clamp. The included cartridge is an Ortofon 2MRed. However, whereas as standard the Takumi is supplied with a 2Mred cartridge from Ortofon it can be upgraded to an 2MBlue or Quintet which Takumi modify by taking the body off and adding further damping.

It was nice to see the Graham Slee phono 3 phonostage being used in this system with other components being the Moonriver Audio amplifier from Sweden. Speakers used at XFI were the Stirling Broadcast LS5/5A speakers built under license from the BBC and in collaboration with Derek Hughes.

The sound in the room was nice and accurate without being over the top and the chap, whose name I sadly missed, in the room had a neat trick to show us when he tipped the turntable up at an acute angle with no perceptible effect on playback.

Audiolympic

The larger of the two speakers you see, and which we heard playing in the room when we first went in, are the Audiolympic Deltas. The Deltas are a 4 way active design with Active Room Correction and which have a “sealed spherical enclosure”. They are quite an imposing speaker standing 134cm in height and weighing in at 80Kg. Inputs include 2 x SPDIF, 2 x optical Toslink and AES/EBU and they are controlled by the included remote. The tweeter is a 26mm Beryllium AirCirc motor design, the mid is 120mm, the woofer is 180mm and the sub is 320mm. Amplification is of course onboard and digital conversion is handled by the 2x Sabre Pro ES9038 chips. The speakers have been developed specifically to be time correct with no overlap in frequencies. Prices start at €19 900 and go up to €33 200 for the Delta reference. These were a nice sounding speaker playing Johnny Cash with me getting the impression that they were very monitor-like in their presentation – which is no bad thing in my book.

The smaller speakers (The B) are, like their bigger siblings, handmade and cost €13 800 with an additional €3 300 for the active sub. The speakers are again active, though this time a two-way design but they also use Active Room Correction. The tweeter is a 26mm Beryllium model and the woofer is 180mm. We had a brief listen to the smaller speakers and the presentation, for me, was similar but just that tad tighter overall and in many ways I actually preferred the smaller speakers.

A big well-done to Audiolympic on their excellent signposting and set up of their room!

YN Audio

In Room 44 (the second room by YN Audio) we had PureCable, Daudio speakers, including their brand new M2 (complete system with amp, DAC and DSP control centre, sub and satellites. The brand new S2 passive speakers from Daudio were also in the room and they also played their M1 speakers which also represents a complete system. We spoke to Daudio about their speaker design and Jeroen had the following to say:

“They are not just ‘open baffle’. Probably you also heard it yourself, there is something different with the Daudio speakers. What we strive for is a completely open sound and at the same time a very musical, relaxed sound. No stress. This is mainly achieved by two design approaches: firstly small baffles relative to the drivers, giving the best radiation pattern, secondly a special crossover technique, developed over the past 15 years. It is a combination of soft overlap in the crossover region and carefully controlling the phase relation between drivers. In the horizontal plane the sound of the individual drivers arrives at the same time at the listener’s ear, regardless whether it is the direct sound or the indirect sound coming from the side walls or wall behind the speaker. This gives the relaxed and spacious sound of our open baffles”.

Interesting, as we actually own a gordian mains conditioner from Lab12 (a special Hifi Pig edition) and YN Audio was using a gordian that had been modified by Absolare. This version is a special made one with some more exotic components and different internal wiring and designed for highe-end systems.

The streaming was covered by the brand-new x-odos xo|stream pro digital transport. It comes with the same AES/EBU coaxial output module and retails for €4 980, though additionally you can add internal storage and rip using an USB CD-rom drive.

When playing with the passive Daudio S2, the B.audio B.dpr (DAC and preamplifier) was used. This is the same DAC as the €11 900 B.dac but with analogue volume control. It retails for €14 500 and you can add an analogue input for a further €1 590.

There were two amplifiers in the room with the LAB12 powered by KT150 tubes to deliver 65Watt and retailing for €4 299 playing when we went in …you can choose to go for KT120 which saves you a few hundred Euros. The second amp was the B.audio B.amp solid-state power amp. It delivers 120Watt @ 8 Ohm and can be bridged to do 300Watt. It weighs a healthy 20kg and retails for €14 900.

This was a very, very good sounding room and as Daudio suggested it never felt strained or trying too hard. A real treat for a Sunday morning, though I’d really like to hear some of these components, particularly the speakers, in our system and pushed hard with some of our torture tracks.

Bowers and Wilkins

Sadly for us, we arrived at the Bowers and Wilkins room whilst the rep’ was mid-way through a demonstration and so we didn’t get a chance to hear the system at all, which is a shame as the new active speakers (the smaller standmounts) were fantastic when we last heard them.

Sound Emotion Room 1 and 2 (Colab)

First of all a massive thanks to Nune Popovic of Way cables for sorting a nice cold, ice cole tin of Jupiler beer for us which really blew away the cobwebs of the previous evening’s shenanigans and settled us in for a somewhat extended listening session in this excellent sounding pair of rooms.

In room one amplification was provided by Electrocompaniet feeding a pair of the Italian-made Magika MK2 by Italian brand Audel. You can take a look at their construction in the sawn-in-half cabinet sitting on the floor. The speakers are a 2-way integrated bass reflex with the cabinet being made of multiple layers of laminated birch ply-wood. The tweeter is a 12soft dome and the woofer a 5 1/2″ “New Curv Cone” model. Frequency response is a claimed 40 Hz – 25.000 Hz and the crossover point is 2.4KHz and they have a 87dB sensitivity. The speakers cost €2990 which I thought was very good value.

The turntable we first came across at Munich earlier this year and is the Holbo Holbo at €6 490. It is an airbearing turntable with integral linear tracking airbearing tonearm which Holbo says is very simple to adjust and operate, with VTA being adjustable whilst playing records.

Cables in the room were by Way Cables.

The sound in this room was chilled and very Sunday morning with a subtle and yet detailed delivery that was fast and tight and quite honestly punched well above its pricepoint – the speakers particularly.

Room two, which was actually put together by Colab of Belgium,  had the Electrocompaniet ECI-80D (€2 490) amp making its world premiere, the same Holbo Holbo turntable and the Audel Malika Mk II floorstanders (€5 500). Cables were again all by Way Cables with the RCAs being the €799 Silver 4+, the Silver 3 ANA+ speaker cables (€ 1 649). The wonderful looking rack complemented this system beautifully and is by Larmo and I want one!!

We heard some Santana in this room and what struck me was the really fantastic tone to the guitar. A lovely sounding system for, in Hifi terms, was not a massive outlay.

Music 2 Audio

Music 2 Audio had two rooms at XFI with the first being picked out by Linette as one of her favourite rooms in her Birds’ Eye View and it was indeed a very cool room, though there was little information about the kit being used.

The system in this room was an Octave V-40 SE with 6550 tubes, BHC Acoustics model 1722 loudspeakers, Dr Feickert Volare turntable, Jelco TK-850 M (10 inch) tonearm, Van den Hul DDT II cartridge.

If there was an award for the coolest and most homely style of room then Music 2 Audio would have won it. Loved the lava lamps.

The second room also featured Trafomatic and Blumenhofer Acoustics as well as a Dr Feikert Venti front end. The amps in this room were the Trafomatic Glenn Monos. Loved it.

Driade Loudspeakers and Bryston

Driade are a Dutch loudspeaker manufacturer and the speakers we got a chance to listen to were their model 2s. They use a Kevlar Hexacone 7” bass-midrange cone and a 25mm silk tweeter diaphragm. They are a two-way bass-reflex floorstander that are 88.5dB sensitive and have a claimed response down to 34Hz.

The speakers, when we were in the room, were running from the Bryston 14B³ power amplifier and associated electronics. The amp has 2x Balanced Inputs (XLR or TRS), 2x Single Ended Inputs (RCA) and delivers 600W into 8Ω and 900W into 4Ω.

Music playing in the room was Leanard Cohen and the sound felt at first polite and laidback but once you actually started to listen more closely the sound was actually very good with bags of detail and headroom.

Aries Cerat

Aries Cerat is one of those names you know well but always manages to surprise you when you hear their products and at XFI this was no exception. For XFI Aries Cerat introduced us to their all-new Genus SET Integrated amplifier and for Aries Cerat this is a relatively compact design, having a footprint of 520mm x 530mm. The Genus SET will give users 25W in Class A and 40W in Class A2 despite it having only two gain stages. The input/driver stage is an 0.7W single-ended amplifier built around the Siemens E280F super triode and is loaded with a c-core bifilar-wound interstage transformer. This smaller amp uses Aries Cerat’s own AC link coupling technology which uses a secondary winding on the first SE amp to modulate the biasing circuits of the 813 output stage. Each of the four tubes has their own power supply which are fed from a 800VA toroidal transformer and each of the PSUs have their own choke filtered capacitor bank. Output stage power supply units use top-spec film capacitors which have a current surge spec of over 1000 amps.

The output tubes (813) are directly heated triodes and use triple passively filtered filament PSUs. Bias of driver and output tubes can be done on the fly using the onboard bias meter allowing users to tailor the sound to their own individual tastes.

Price for the Aries Cerat Genus SET Integrated is €15 000.

Speakers in the room were from Ilumnia which are very interesting in that they incorporate a floating woofer. Yes, you read that right; the woofer floats and you can actually see the space through it as it moves with the music. Tom from the Belgian company told us “We developed them together, my brother and I. But it’s my brother who should take the credits for the invention of the electromagnetic suspension.  We found it to be difficult to translate the technical design into end-user comprehensive information, but the main characteristics is that this driver is extremely linear (read without distortion) compared to other drivers. 99,7% to be exact. This is because we eliminated the mechanical suspension (spider and surround) and replaced it with our electromagnetic suspension. So the cone floats free in the air in an electromagnetic field.  It’s not that we improved the best drivers with let’s say 2 or 3%. We are talking about at least 20% less distortion at max output compared to the best drivers available.”

The platforms for the electronics are from Stacore who we first came across a couple of years ago in Munich when they were on the Newcomers stand – we knew they would be successful even then.

The source in the room was from 432 Evo who we have covered elsewhere in our coverage of XFI.

This room gave up a beautiful and musical sound that was massively wide and spacious with equal measures if subtlety and power.

Hepta Design Audio and Temporal Coherence

Now, these were a very interestingly designed loudspeaker from Temporal Coherence in the form of their Pyramide which is on the right. Pyramide is an active 3-way loudspeaker system including an active 3-way cross-over filter, electronic compensation of the loudspeaker properties, 4 power amplifiers (two in a bridge configuration) where distortions minimised for human hearing and there is impedance compensation for the loudspeaker units. The response is said to be 16 – 35000 Hz (± 3 dB) and they are time optimised. Temporal Coherence has an interesting philosophy and so it’s possibly best to let them tell us what they are all about “‘Temporal Coherence’ is an innovative company, continuously searching for the best technology to realise the deepest, emotional experience of music. We don’t take the easy route when others yield better results. Design and production are done in The Netherlands with the utmost care to achieve the highest quality. The exclusive systems of ‘Temporal Coherence’ distinguish themselves on many aspects from the traditional audio components. A number of the most important differences are  • The ‘systems’ approach • The ‘360 degree’ radiation-concept • The unique design with its special purpose • The great attention for the temporal behaviour of the reproduction system • The reduction of the distortions which are annoying for the human ear”.

Whatever their concept and philosophy the results were an engaging, enveloping sound that was very pure sounding.

Ilumnia

More from Ilumnia speakers in this room but this time with EAR electronics. These are the Vocalis speakers that use an 8″ paper cone and a 1″ ring dome diaphragm tweeter. More of the great sound of the Ilumnia speakers as previously outlined with thuse going down to 42Hz.

DSPeaker

The speakers in this room are from Indiana Line who we have seen a good few times at the Munich show and so it is great to see this relatively inexpensive brand being seen at other shows too.

However, the main feature of this room is the DSPeaker Anti Mode X4 preamplifier and DAC. In simple terms, the X4 is a DSP DAC that automatically correct the behaviour of your loudspeakers and subs to best perform in your space with the user having control of other filters and tone. The preferred sound signature can be altered even in real-time and different settings can be stored in memory for quick recall at any time with most functions being accessed with the supplied remote or using the control wheel located at the front panel. There are two stereo RCA and one stereo XLR analogue inputs to provide SNR+THD of -104dB. There are a total of six SPDIF inputs and the USB Audio 2.0 input support up to 192kHz and DSD64 / DSD128 (on USB).

To get this kind of performance in less than ideal conditions and from such inexpensive speakers is pretty remarkable, though there are still purists out there that will decry anything that uses DSP or drifts from the analogue domain. My thoughts are that if the tools exist then why not use them to get the best out of a system you can.

Voxativ

I’ll not go too much into the detail of the kit in this room as we have covered Voxativ a lot on our travels around the shows in Europe and beyond. However, what I will say is that up until this point this was the sound of the day for me…but not immediately. It was kind of weird because as I sat down and started to listen I thought the system sounded a little weak and perhaps thin, but after about ten or fifteen seconds I became drawn into the sound which enveloped me. There is a wonderfully natural tone to this system and a very dynamic sound that goes much lower than you would think possible from these speakers. The bass is also wonderfully tight and correct with it starting and stopping in an instant and with none of that overhand or bass-bloat that I find so annoying in lesser systems. Add to all the above an enormous amount of detail that is conveyed to the listener and great imaging and you begin to understand why this “Born In Berlin” brand has such a name for itself!

Hexagon Audio

This Netherlands based distributor had Aqua Acoustic Quality, Graham Audio speakers and the LP 12 and Lejonklou playing when I was in the room.

Lejonklou was the new name to me and they are based in Uppsala in Sweden, which does seem to be a hub for audio. I say the company is new but in actual fact, they have been in existence for over ten years, which in audiophile time can be a lot longer than some companies survive. The company is headed up by Fredrik Lejonklou whose philosophy seems to be pretty refreshing with their website saying “As I want as many as possible to experience the joy that a really good HiFi brings, our products are not priced according to the idea of maximising profit. Instead, our prices are related to the cost of development and manufacturing. I also believe in upgrading older products to the latest specification, whenever possible. My firm conviction is that an exceptional product should be taken care of and benefit from all the progress being made, instead of becoming obsolete and ending up on the dump. We keep track of each unit’s exact version and history. Such information is shared on request.” Lejonklou makes a range of preamps, phonostages, power amplifiers, and accessories and are a name I will be keeping an eye out for in the future

Boenicke Audio

Boenicke Audio need no introduction to regular readers of Hifi Pig as they seem to be at pretty much all the shows we attend throughout the year and we have reviewed their products in the past. What always amazes me is how Sven Boenicke manages to get such a big sound out of such comparatively small enclosures. These are the company’s W11 speakers that feature a 10″ carbon fibre long-throw bass driver that is tuned down to 27Hz, though bass output is user adjustable to best suit the room they are being used in. The interesting thing readers will notice on the speaker is the custom made 16Ohm wood cone mid-driver with a paper (yes paper) voice coil former with Sven saying this sounds more “natural and uncoloured than any other material previously used”.

Whatever the design and marketing behind these speakers, I’m always impressed with how they sound with these being fully in control of the bass and offering up a nicely thrown but natural soundstage – odd I find myself wanting to use the word “natural” I thought to myself…

MORE FROM XFI

XFi 2019 Show Report Part 1

XFi 2019 Show Report Part 2

XFi 2019 Show Report Part 3

XFi 2019 Show Report Part 4

Bird’s Eye View Of XFi 2019

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