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Australian Hi-Fi & AV Show 2018 Report By Greg Borrowman
Australian Hi-Fi & AV Show 2018
Australian Hi-Fi show surprises!
Show Report By Greg Borrowman


   This year's Australian Hi-Fi & AV Show, which returned to its home base of Melbourne in 2018 after being held in Sydney in 2017, had quite a few surprises in store — including several world-firsts — for the thousands of Melbournites who braved the variable weather to visit the show during its three day run. The surprise for foreign visitors was the fact that the show took place just four days after another hi-fi show had just been held in the same city.


Takatsuki TA-S01
The biggest surprise at the show for Melbournites was that they were the first in the world to hear the first amplifier ever built by Japanese valve manufacturer Takatsuki, the TA-S01. Of course it was a valve amplifier or, to be precise, a single-ended integrated amplifier using TA-300B valves... made by Takatsuki itself.



"We first heard this amplifier in March this year in the listening room of Takatsuki with the design team,' said Bryan Fletcher, of Finn Bespoke Technology. 'It was actually quite a surprise as we were visiting the company to find out more about their valves and knew nothing about the existence of their amplifier. When I asked what amplifier they were using, and they said it was their own development which wasn't released yet. The dynamics, tone, and speed of the amplifier were all very impressive, but at the time, the power transformer they were using was only set up for 120-Volt mains. After convincing them to built a new transformer with both 120-Volt and 240-Volt taps we had to wait for several months while Tamura designed and built those transformers, just in time for us to show the amplifier to the world for the very first time, here at the Australian Hi-Fi & AV show. The amplifier we're demonstrating here bears the serial number 1."

The Takatsuki TA-SO1 has three unusual controls on its front panel. One is labelled 'Harmonic Content' and is reportedly used when you want to adjust the tone of the amplifier to be the same when switching from one pair of speakers to another. The second control is labelled 'Coupling/Bypass Capacitor' and our best translation of the explanation of what it does is currently that it 'Changes the sound', so we'll have to get back to you on that one, but apparently it allows you to switch between different types and value of coupling capacitors. The third control 'Bypass Power Capacitor' adjusts the level of bass. You can also adjust the bias of the 300Bs fitted to the TA-SO1 using a front panel bias meter in concert with inbuilt bias adjustment circuitry. No power output level was claimed for the Takatsuki TA-SO1, but since it's a single-ended design, we'd expect it would be around 9-watts per channel. The frequency response is rated at 5Hz to 60kHz (+/-3dB) and the output transformers, which are made by Japanese company Tamura, have taps for 2, 4 and 8 Ohm loads.



Space Optimisation Improved
Visitors to the Australian Hi-Fi & AVC Show were also the first in the world to hear the results of Scottish manufacturer Linn Products' recent MkII improvements to its 'Space Optimisation' technology. What is Space Optimisation technology? According to Nigel Ng, of Advance Audio, Linn's Australian distributor, it's technology that allows you to get the best sound in your room. 'You can have great speakers, but Space Optimisation technology will make them sound better in whatever room you're putting them in.' But according to one show-goer, who wanted to remain nameless, what Space Optimisation technology meant to him is that: "I can put the speakers where my wife says they have to go, yet still get perfect sound quality at my listening position."



Linn's improvements to its Space Optimisation are many. One of the biggest and best is that you can now do all the required programming with a phone or a tablet: there's no longer any need to use a computer. Almost as big a change is that whereas you previously could model only regularly-shaped rooms, you can now model rooms of any shape, including ones with recesses and nooks and crannies, specify the materials the wall surfaces are made of, plus tell the program where all the windows are and their size. You can even have the system compensate for the effect your room's temperature and humidity have on the speed of sound in that room. Best of all, you don't have to know anything about programming to use this Mk II version of Space Optimisation. Rooms are created by just 'drawing' on the screen surface.

The first product to incorporate Space Optimisation Mk II is the Linn Selekt DSM. It's available as a dedicated streaming source to drive an existing system, or can be configured with an amplifier output stage so it can directly drive speakers. Whatever configuration you choose, you can also optionally upgrade the internal DAC architecture to Linn's 'Katalyst' D-to-A conversion. "Delivering a tactile and beautiful musical experience, Selekt DSM will make any system sound better, and help you fall in love with music all over again," says Gilad Tiefenbrun, of Linn. "We love the clarity of digital music, but we also love the tactility of physical records. It's easy to feel we've lost touch with the immersive experience of playing a vinyl record — the LP selection, the arm-lift-lower, the anticipation during those first pops and clicks. Selekt DSM revolutionises our physical interaction with digital music; every aspect is precision engineered for a tactile and enriched listening experience."



Ares Cerat Symphonia L.E.
Although they've previously been demonstrated at industry and trade shows in Europe, Aries Cerat's Symphonia Limited Edition loudspeakers made their public debut at the Australian Hi-Fi Show. The Symphonia Limited Edition differs from the standard edition by virtue of its exterior being coated with 'liquid carbon' and 'liquid copper' finishes, plus the crossovers, internal cabling and transformers have been upgraded. The high-frequency transducer in the Symphonia is a customized aluminum foil ribbon loaded with a specially-designed and unique-shaped horn that Aries Cerat says dramatically alter the parameters and performance of the ribbon.



The midrange driver is a 100mm diameter titanium driver (also horn-loaded) that has a magnet that weighs 11kg magnet. The bass drivers are baffle-mounted, but they're rear-horn-loaded to maximize output in the listening room. "Although the Limited Edition speakers look absolutely stunning because of their exterior finish," says Campbell, "the entry-level version of the Symphonia gives around 95% of the performance of the Limited Edition at around a one-third saving in price." In Australia, the Aries Cerat's Symphonia Limited Edition retail for $195,000.



Eggleston Andra Viginti
Eggleston's new Andra Viginti (A$65,000 per pair), which are not only the first Eggleston speakers to use a slotted bass reflex port, but also the first to use a midrange-tweeter-midrange (MTM) driver array, made their Australian debut at the Melbourne show. Designer Jim Thompson says the slotted port enables the enclosure to behave as a sealed box down to the port tuning frequency of 30Hz, and that because the tuned frequency is so low, the resulting group-delay phase shift occurs in a region where the human ear is effectively insensitive to phase errors.



The Eggleston Viginti sports two 254mm carbon-fibre coned bass drivers, two carbon-domed 152mm midrange drivers and a 25mm Beryllium dome tweeter. Eggleston's Australian distributor, Reference Audio Visual really had the Andra Vigintis singing at the show and the buzz in the hallways suggested they'd win the popular vote for 'best sound' at the show, possibly tied with Bricasti.



Bricasti M21
The biggest surprise in Bricasti's room was not so much the new Bricasti M21 Platinum Series DAC/Preamplifier, which was released earlier this year, as the fact that the person demonstrating it was none other than Bricasti's founder and designer Brian Zolner, who'd made the 10,500-mile trek from Massachusetts to Melbourne to help out local distributor Deborah Sloss, of Studio Connections.



The new M21 is perfect for anyone who's not sure what type of digital conversion process they like best — 20-bit ladder, 24-bit delta-sigma or DSD–because the M21 allows you to choose whichever one you want, whenever you want, due to being switch-selectable. 'The M21 uses precise analog gain control for its execution of direct DSD functionality and driving amplification,' said Zolner. 'It features a true hard-wire bypass analog attenuator, so setting this control to 0dB means you can use it with your own external preamp if you'd prefer. The M21 design is all about offering maximum flexibility for users.' In addition to handling all types of digital inputs, using whatever DAC method you like, the Bricasti M21 is also network capable, comes with a built-in renderer and is Roon ready. In Melbourne, it was driving a pair of Bricasti M28 monoblocks and a pair of Tidal Piano Diaceras — speakers that, regrettably, are no longer available.



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