This year, Hi Fi Centre hosted Listen Up Vancouver!
Best of Show
Totem Element Earth Loudspeakers
Devaliet D-Premier Amplifer
Laptop with Hi Resolution Recordigs (Electronica was excellent)
Transparent Cable (Mid-Range)
Best of Show (Budget)
Fidelity Acoustics RFM-3 Loudspeakers $7500/pr
NAIM Mid-Level Electronics
IPod Source (uncompressed 44.1)
Honorable Mention (Scale)
Vienna Acoustics The Kiss $16,000 pair
Ayre KX-R Preamplifier
Ayre MX-R Monoblock Amplifiers
Ayre DX-5 Media Player
Transparent Cable Reference Level
Laptop Source (Hi-Res and 44.1)
Worst Demo (Sound - Why?)
B&W 802 Diamond Loudspeakers
Classe CP-800 Preamp
Classe CTM-600 Monoblock Amplifiers
Best Attended Demonstration ("Cost No Object?")
Wison Audio Sasha W/P Loudspeakers
Wilson Audio Watch Dog Subwoofers x2
Wilson Audio WATCH Dog Controller
Dan Dagostino Momentum Amplifiers x2
Classe Audio CT Subwoofer Amplifer (Large)
Richard Gray Power Company Powerhouse Power Conditioner
Transparent Cable Opus MM2 Speaker Cable and Interconnects (even to subs..)
For a single dealer show, it was well attended, around or over 300 folks, great manufacturer rooms and demos (great material!), laptops and IPads everywhere - literally no CDs, BRDs, etc., lots of nice service (Starbucks running the coffee bar, catering providing bite-sized appetizers, and wee drams going round as the show closed: ran just one night 5pm to 9pm, but could of definately used another day. It was hard to catch all the rooms, and a re-visit was definately necessary to choose the right gear, and get the questions answered.
The tie for most anoying aspect of the show was the aweful clicking/ticking sound the Ayre KX-R pre-amplifer made at each volume step, and the unbelievable bad source material chosen for the B&W/Classe demo, which was in the best-sounding (built/room treated) showroom by the B&W representative.
The Ayre/Vienna Acoustics room had a wonderful sense of scale, and while overloaded (the larger The Music speakers would likely have been more appropriate..), showed a step towards hi-fideltiy reproduction. I could not tell if the wide-bander was an issue, but while lush, there was an element of mid-fi type distortion here, not just in the lower octaves. Still it was approaching high fidelity. Transparent Cable was promoted here, and elsewhere at the show. It would of been nice if the Ayre rep. had also a chance to speak, who stayed outside, but the demo was run by a nice genteman from Vienna, and another from the USA, of Transparent Cable, who spoke a bit in the beginning.
Someone else might want to comment on the Wilson Audio / Dan Dagostino room. Dave Wilson was to be present, but instead was sat-in for by his marketing / sales manager, who took over the show, literally, and turned it into a typical sales presentation. It would of been much more enligtening to have heard Dan Dagostino speak, who was present with his new Momentum amplifiers. I got a chance to speak briefly to him, and ask about a few things, but it would of been nice to have heard him talk about his movment through amplifiers with Krell designs, and into the design of his new baby.
When returning the next day to re-hear the Wilson/Dagostino system, another customer and I were ushered into a small soundroom with Sasha loudspeakers and Mcintosh gear, for a sales pitch, when the Wilson rep talked to my new friend, and discovered he had a Naim system, rather than give us a chance to properly hear the D'Agostino amps, which we had arrived to do. Truly a pity, as I would consider buying these on impulse, given a chance - they look fantastic for tube lovers with the bright glow of their distinctive meters, in a darkened room. A real pity. How often do you get a chance to have a room with a legendary amp designer, and his new toy product.
Perhaps it would have been nice to hear this new amp with a higher-resolution speaker than the Wilson Sasha W/P, and certainly without an active-crossover in the game.
Now, the budget best of show was definately the Fidelity Acoustics RFM-3 loudspeaker with NAIM gear, and an IPod source. This room had a wonderfully envigorating sound that made one listen for a very long time indeed. I had a chance to listen to smaller models, but the RMF-3's were my favourite.
I should re-iterate the point I made earlier about the Kiss/Ayre and scale. Unlike other speakers that gave a "hi-fi" presentation, they threw an almost orchestral perspective, and especially on an uncompressed master recording of Prince, live-in-studio (44.1/16) they literally came alive. I have never heard guitars sound so good and interesting - not at any blues club, on stage or off. Not at any gig, whatever the venue. Compared to very good headphones, however, the Kiss speakers couldn't property convey the complexity of full orchestral music, or the human voice. They simply crapped out, however politely. Compared to most home audio systems, however, they would be a godsend.
The Totem Element Earth Loudspeakers (in white) with the Devaliet D-Premier combo was absolutely the best sounding demo, bar-none. They delivered a level of detail together, in Hi Fi Centre's absolutey worst sounding room, I might add, that was literally stunning, and quite natural and relaxed. It was at lest a bar or several above the other rooms. Not life like, but so interstesting in bringing out what is on the laptop - one can imagine that with a system like this, hi-fi is progressing! The driver assemblies for the speaker were handed out, and it was a pity the larger Totem Element Metal Loudspeaker ($12,995) was on static demo (they said it was too much for the room).
A customer made the comment about this sytem that it lacked a level of hi-frequency extension and detail he loved, and felt vieled, but it could be that the Totem's are voiced for near-field listening. Front row, center, where I listened, the sound was absolutely wonderful!
If I had to buy a system for someone, who is new to hi-fi, I would make it a Devaliet D-Premier amplifier, and a black Totem Element Metal (if it is as good or better than the lower-priced Element Earth). It reminds me of the beauty I would hear with Matrix B&W 805's driver by an all-YBA stack of gear - so good it could make you want to break out in tears, literally.
I should mention that I had been impressed by the B&W 802 diamond/Classe setup previously, with other recordings. The demo just had terrible source material at inappropriate levels. These speakers can literally rock, and are perfect for studio monitors.
On a similar vien, Wilson Audio sound seemed to be king of the sound reinforcement world, should they tackle it, or a customer would pursuade them. I could imagine these speakers at a wedding or dance party, and larger scale implemtations would work well at a high-end dance club / trendy / pricey discoteque. The level of detail, high and low frequency extentsion and overall sound are really suitable for sound reinforcement duties, bettering products like Mackie that are typically used, but somehow lack the fidelity that other manufactuers of hi-fi provide. They seem to offer a slightly exagerated, very toe-tapping, happily flamboyant perspective that is perfect for a party, but just may not offer the level of detail one might hear with Quads, or well designed and implented speakers like the Fidelity Acoustics products.
I guess it depends on how you like your music, by Hi Fi Center in Vancouver definately offered a chance for locals to "Listen Up" and guage their interest in hi-fi.
I was such a nice party, that taking photos, and notes was strictly out of the question, given the time limitation, and festive friendly atmosphere, so a full show report was not possible this year. If you are in the Pacific Northwest, it's definately an event to attend, and Hi Fi Centre has some great and experienced fellows, they are worth a visit if you are in the mood to see and hear.
Next year at least I will take notes on all the rooms, and note the equipment used, extensively, and take a few notes.
Worth a trip to Vancouver, definately.