High-end cabling was everywhere and taken really, really seriously too. Nordost was proving exceptionally popular, although MIT and Chord Company also featured strongly. Many rooms sporting were also sporting Quantum power products, often in series. Although the seriously big money Odin cables were nowhere to be seen, there was enough Valhalla speaker cable running across floors to restart a couple of economies.
It wasn’t just big ticket items making a fine sound. One of the nicest affordable sounds was coming from the Supportview Pro-Ject room, with the CD Box SE and the 6 PerspeX turntable (with an Ortofon Rondo Red cartridge and a Lehmann Audio phono stage), feeding into the Pro-Ject Pre SE preamp and tiny Class D Power Amp SE monos, all driving a pair of Canton Kronos SL580 (In the nearby Vila Galé hotel Supportview were also making some surprisingly decent sounds from the very inexpensive Cambridge Audio Azur 650C CD player and 650A integrated amp, running a pair of Q Acoustics Q50 floorstanders). Just to prove how tiny those Power Amp SE's really are:
Naim Audio kept the cost deliberately under €10,000 (if you exclude a healthy amount of the company’s Fraim stands and Chord cable), while showing off its excellent new DAC. With a CD5 XS, 152 XS preamp and 155 XS power amp, all feeding into the tiny yet remarkable Neat Motive SE 2 floorstanders, the system sounded excellent and still cost less than some power cords.
The company with the widest selection on show in a single room was the distributor for Arcam, Audiolici, Audiovector, Bladelius, Chord, Focal and many more; Topaudio. Demonstrating a Chord/Focal system at one end of the huge Galé room, the other was showing off the new Bladelius Embla silent-running memory player. This was not playing when I visited, but shows great promise.
Perhaps the wildest demo seen in years, Cenestesia's room was made up of no new products – a Michell Gyrodec Silver 25 turntable with Techno arm and Sumiko BPS cartridge, an Audio Research CD8, driving an ARC LS26 pre and Reference 210 powers, a MartinLogan sub and a pair of Wilson Sophia II. So, what was so wild? It was outside in a tent with the interior looking like something approaching a Bedouin camp. Despite canvas walls and ceiling, the whole system worked incredibly well, and also holds something of a record for having the most eclectic mix of music at the show – anyone who plays Singin’ in the Rain back-to-back with Beethoven’s Appassionata Piano Sonata deserves praise.
There was more too, like the excellent sounding and locally made Rui Borges turntable, and the stunning sound of Micromega's CD30, PA20 preamp, PW400 power amp into ProAc D18 floorstanders, and were still only scratching the surface. Ultimately, for a small show in a small part of the planet, the level of professionalism and interest in audio puts us English speakers to shame. The rooms may have been quiet on the Friday, but were packed out on the Saturday, filled with people of all ages and interests, all passionate about music. We could learn a lot from one of the finest, most friendly shows on the planet!