Zagreb AV Show 2019 Show Report
Remember, the Quad S5 is a true stand-alone three-way speaker with very serious carbon fiber drivers and a ribbon tweeter, so the price, after listening and viewing, seems a bit low.
We've been listening to Brexit I in a relatively large room (of course, bigger than the usual mini-rooms in which systems are often demonstrated), and were surprised by the coherent sound, the striking weight and expressive nature the system provided. The naturalness of the ATC sound, with the fundamentals of the enriched REL subwoofer, is additionally emphasized by the volume and the size of the sound stage. All in all, a surprisingly great sound from such a small speaker, plus it is a relatively affordable system too. If you ask me, this room demonstrated one of the best systems at the Show, especially considering the price/performance ratio.
For the headphone lovers, there were Meze Classic headphones and NuPrime DAC 10H preamp/DAC.
After the Croatian premiere in 2017 at the Zagreb AV Show 2019, the Slovenian manufacturer of air bearing turntable system Holbo with tangential arm, is here at the Show again with tweaked and improved deck with air pump. In the meantime, Holbo have established a distribution network in the markets of Europe, Asia and the USA, which speaks a lot about quality and technological level of the deck.
In short talk with Mr. Bostjan Holc, the man behind the turntable, we learned the turntable is available for 6,500€ up and that the special care has been taken for low noise and vibration form the air pump. As before, the supporting electronics were provided by Slovenian distributor Canyon Audio. Canyon ensured the turntable to sound as good as possible thanks to MIR phono stage from Serbia, excellent Italian Lector ZAX 70 integrated amplifier (reviewed in hifimedia magazine few months ago) and Spendor Classic 2/3 speakers, with Oyaide cables and connectors.
Slovenian manufacturer and distributor Ubiq Audio Lab showed two different systems, both featuring their own Ubiq loudspeakers. System One consisted of SM Audio Design Nimis turntable with Helius Omega tonearm and LPS Benz. Behind this enterprise is designer Mirko Smolić, local audio and vinyl enthusiast from Istria. High quality analog signals were transferred to Serbian NAT Audio super high-end tubed amplification system: NAT Phono Signature, NAT Symmetrical Preamp and one-of-a-kind power amplifiers – Transmitter monoblock.
It is single-ended mono block power amplifier, reference pure Class A, single – ended type with zero global feedback. Based on Philips (or equivalent) QB5/1750 type of tube, Transmitter provides two different modes – high power setting of 120W or moderate setting of 40W, both of pure direct heated triode type. With power of 120W in single – ended configuration there is a capability to drive almost any type of loudspeaker.
Input and driver tubes (6N1P-VI and 6N6P/6N30P) are made by military standard, indicated as N.O.S. (new old stock) grade of the highest quality. Hand made wide-bandwidth output transformer (custom designed for NAT) ensures wide bandwidth 8Hz to 100 kHz as exceptional. Transmitter may drive any load from 1.5 Ohms to over 32 Ohms.
Ubiq's Ubiquitous monitor loudspeaker, wired with Wireworld Eclipse 8 represented almost ideal partner to highly musical NAT electronics. Constructor Igor Kante told us a few details about speakers – 85dB/W/m sensitive speakers in rather small cabinet hide top of the line Mundorf AMT Heil tweeter and special paper cone midrange with retail price of 860€. Therefore, it is not hard to believe the finished speaker is going to retail about 18,000€, right after the world premiere in Munich HIGH END Show in May 2019. Since the Ubiquitous is a three-way speaker, the woofer is cleverly hidden on a back panel. The crossover is rather simple (first-order) without any caps (as pure as can be). While listening a collaboration of Duke Ellington and Satchmo, recorded on a vinyl, proved the analogue is alive and kicking with first rate sound. Open, detailed, natural, fast and seductive. Further listening of Sara K. only confirmed initial impression. Extraordinary.
The other system in the room comprised Metrum Adagio DAC, Ubiq poweramp, Ubiquitous EX monitor (rather huge for the usual concept of monitor loudspeaker) and Wireworld Silver Eclipse 8 cables.
Huge event for the Show was the Croatian premiere of Magico loudspeakers, which took place in the Media Audio room. Big Zagreb hall was populated with heavy weapons with Magico label on them. The star of the show was certainly Magico M3 driven by PSB Audio BHK Signature 300 Mono Amplifiers (18,000€/pair) and BHK Signature Preamplifier (7,000€).
Bascom H. King's amps combine a pair of vacuum tubes on the input with a double set of parallel MOSFET outputs capable of 300 watts in 8 Ohms, 600 into 4 Ohms and more than 1,000 watts into 2 Ohms. The source was Ayre QX-5 Twenty DAC (11,500€) and Roon Nucleus+ server (2,500€), while analog duties were delegated to Clearaudio Innovation turntable (8,750€) with Universal tonearm (from 4,400€) and da Vinci V2 MC cartridge (4,700€). Power was filtered and conditioned by Audioquest Niagara 7000 (8,995€) and PS Audio DirectStream Power Plant 12 (5,850€) while Cardas Audio Clear Beyond XL (form 9,000€/2m) and Clear Beyond Interconnect (4,200€/1m), Audioquest Firebird and Hurricane and PS Audio AC12 were employed for connecting duties.
Another demo system in this room consisted of Magico A3 (12,650€) driven by PS audio BHK stereo 250 power amplifier, BHK Signature Preamplifier and again DirectStream Power Plant 12. Short term listening proved the hype about the speakers. The sound was detailed, huge, strong and heavily controlled. The room was not actually helping the sound, but still, one can taste the magnificent engineering and precise and accurate sound. How actually loudspeaker manage to follow the music is rather impressive.
In adjacent room Danish school of sound was represented by the statue of Audiovector QR5 (review in next issue of hifimedia) with Gold Leaf AMT 2 tweeter. Audiovector stands right next to other famous Danish manufacturers, as a family company established in 1979 committed to technological and design enhancement from the very first day of existence.
The QR5 (3,000€) is the largest stand-mount speaker in the series, a three-way designed to play in stereo and home cinema environments. The speakers were supported by Ayre DX-5 DSD and Prima Luna electronics.
Big room with "small system" – it was the presentation by TD Elektronika. They displayed Dynaudio Evoke 20 (1,400€) loudspeakers, Marantz CD & Amp Series 10, Astell&Kern SP 1000M, Pathos InPol Ear, selection of Denon & Audio-Technica headphones, V-Moda Crossfade BT Codex Edition and Polk Signature E Series loudspeakers. Visitors had the opportunity to listen EISA awarded ND8006 (1,200€) network CD player and PM8006 (1,200€) integrated amplifier.
The American company Grado Labs has built great popularity among good sound aficionados. The recipe is clever and simple one: high quality of handmade products with affordable prices. This family-run Brooklyn company (New York) has been producing headphones and earphones for the last 66 years and is today synonymous with quality and reliable Hi-Fi products. In Croatian market, Grado Labs has been present since 1994 thanks to Audio Centar, and during the Show, visitors were able to listen to some of their most popular models (SR60e, SR125e, SR325e and RS1e). The partner the Grado headsets was British company Exposure Electronics whose beginnings date back to 1974. On their demonstration, they used their excellent XM HP headphone amplifier (1,460€)), which includes more than good USB DAC and MM stage and 2010S2 CD player (1,150€). The Test Exposure XM HP amplifier was also published in the hifimedia magazine. On silent display was Exposure power amplifier 3010 S2 (2,150€) with transparent cover.