Copenhagen HighEnd 2018 Show Report
Danish company Gato Audio presented their DIA-400S NPM Class D integrated amplifier with DAC. The amp is good for 400W into 8 Ohms and 800W in 4 Ohms, the 24-bit/192kHz DAC will accept Bluetooth, USB, Optical and iPhone / iPAD inputs.
The speakers in use were Gato's smallest, the bookshelf sized FM-8. At 300mm high they are good looking and easy to place unobtrusively. The 38mm and 150mm drivers are custom made and the crossover includes controls for allow fine tuning of focus and detail.
Buchardt Audio are a Danish speaker manufacturer, their S400 was on show in white. It's a standmount two-way with a passive radiator hiding at the rear in place of a reflex port. The speaker is priced at $1,895, the customized soft dome tweeter has a deep aluminum waveguide, there's a 6" mid/bass, the passive radiator is 5" x 8". The great thing about a passive radiator is that it should reduce compression and eliminate those occasional chuffing sounds some hard worked port make. The S400s are a 4 Ohm speaker with 88db sensitivity. The bass/mid is long throw aluminum coned driver said to be capable of good bass and from what I heard I'd agree.
Audio Note were being represented by Audio Consult Aps, the system was setup with AN.E/SPe HE speakers with silver voicecoils and a sensitivity of around 98dB/W/m. Amplification was via the AN Soro Phono SE Signature giving 10W class A from the parallel single-ended EL84s. CD was the AN 3.1x/II which is non-oversampling using the AD1856 DAC chip. There's a ECC88 tube output stage. On show was also the AN TT1 with AN ARM Three with the AN IO MC cartridge.
There was an interesting demonstration where the Canadian cellist Vincent Bélange who is an AN "ambassador" was playing his Cello along with a version of his CD Pure Cello where his cello was omitted from the mix. We could therefore contrast in real-time Vincent's live playing with the remaining recorded instruments. It was difficult to tell apart the recorded and live playing. It was an interesting demo which has been present at a number of shows and this long test was offered by the likes of Audio Note.
Danish dealer HiFi-freaks.dk presented Marantz electronics and Polk Audio speakers. The 100W Marantz PM-KI Ruby was powering the speakers with the Marantz SA-KI Ruby CD/SACD player as the source. Both items were priced at 32,999 DKK. These are Marantz designs which have been "breathed on" by Ken Ishiwata to further enhance their performance.
There was a whole phalanx of Polk Audio speakers on display. What was particularly interesting was the Signature S60e. The S60e is based on the S60, they both have a 1" tweeter and three 6.5" bass/mids. HiFi-freaks collaborated with Polk to come up with the "e" version of the S60, this can be thought of a European voiced version. There are changes to internal bracing, dust caps and the crossover.
Grimm Audio were especially caught my interest. The sound I heard in their room was anything but grim. Indeed it was one of the stand-out sounds of the show in my view. The Grimm LS1 speakers are priced at €17,000 and €6,000 for the optional bass units so that's €23,000 for a pair including tax. These however are more than just speakers. They are active with 120W Hypex NCore amplifiers, the basses get Hypex 400W amps, there's a USB input, 24-bit/384kHz with DSD128 capability. The LS1 will reach down to 20Hz. It seems like there's a lot packed into such a small package but it doesn't end there!
The LS1 on its own goes down to 40Hz, the optional and probably very desirable bass unit is needed for 20Hz ability. There's even an LS1s-dmf at €10,000 for the best bass; dmf stands for digital motional feedback. The 70s work done by Philips has been brought into the 21st Century by Grimm.
The speakers are optimized via DSP; there is in-built digital-to-analogue conversion, full amplification, and remote control. All you need to provide is the source. What might look expensive at first becomes much more reasonable when you realize what's included. When you hear the LS1 you'll most likely come to the conclusion I did... that it's a more than reasonable price.
Grimm positions their LS1 as very low distortion, linear amplitude and phase response. There is both a studio and home version, these "system speaker" designs are intended for both studio and home use. Having complete control over the technology and resulting sound is a great approach and one that removes just about all audiophile "tweakery nervosa". Grimm know what sound you're going to achieve, you'll know what sound you'll achieve – assuming your room and speaker positioning is up to snuff. This really is a very sensible approach given today's technology.
What can I say about the sound? It simply sounds so right. I don't want to reach a really solid conclusion on the basis of a hotel room demo but I'm confident the LS1 is at least worth strong recommendation for auditioning. As for studio versus home; don't assume these are cold and analytical. To my ears they are clean, neutral, refined and "right".