Hifiklinikka Open Doors, March 21th 2009

by Keijo Tanskanen

After visiting at Tampere High-End event we took a course to Kangasala and Hifiklinikka. Because no-one of us had visited there before we were quite ambitious to have new listening experiences especially from the reference set-up which included Avalon Eidolon speakers. Hifiklinikka’s listening room was told to be a good one with enough space which got our expectations even higher. Still a demonstration of several set-ups practically forces using insufficient speaker placements which realized also in Hifiklinikka. These slight limitations were noticed during the listening sessions but not as much as one could easily imagine. Our stop took quite a long time which usually means the existence of uncommonly good sound. In this manner this visit was not an exception.

Reference set-up
SME 30 Vinyl player with Benz-micro LPS cartridge
Audio Research Reference phono stage with Transparent Opus RCA interconnects
Audio Research CD3 CD player with Transparent Opus XLR interconnects
Audio Research Reference 3 preamplifier with Transparent Opus XLR interconnects
Audio Research Reference 210 monoblocks with Transparent Opus speaker cables
Avalon Eidolon speakers

The other set-ups
Kari Kuismanen, the founder and manager of Hifiklinikka, demonstrated also two Conrad Johnson based set-ups and one Plinius based set-up. Each of them had Avalon speakers: Avalon Indra, Avalon Ascendant and Avalon NP2.0. The cablings were mainly from Transparent. Because our focus was on the reference set-up I will not describe the systems any more detailed. The few music samples, which we listened to with these set-ups, gave anyway quite promising listening results, but did not analyze the minor set-ups’ sound profoundly.

At the beginning of the first session Kari liked to play couple of his favourite music samples, especially vinyls. It did not take much time to notice that we were faced with some sonic milestones which were unreachable on any stand at Tampere High-End event. For example the system delivered exemplary airiness, comprehensiveness and you are there (they are here) effect when choral music was played. The over-all balance and the tone colours were excellent as well, although the highs and transients seemed to be a bit polite. Despite of the insufficiencies in the speaker placement the soundstaging features were admirable and gave also plenty of live-like feelings. Because Kari’s music samples did not have much dynamics and energy in bass we had to make a deeper evaluation of these features with my test CDs. Anyway Kari’s music samples worked just great.

Then it was time to take my widely used test CDs on work. When the source delivered music having wider frequency spectrum and more dynamics, we managed to find a bit more prominent cons on the sound. Fortunately the very positive sonic features which we noticed during the first listening session were still prominent. Anyway, powerful punches of big drums and fat double basses lost some of their speed, impressiveness and fullness. Also tone colours of bells, cymbals and hi-hats lacked their last bits of realism and delivered slight softness and unreal beauty instead. I suppose these kinds of notifications are quite easy for experienced enthusiasts, but quite challenging for less experienced ones. You may wonder what might cause the slight cons. Previously mentioned lacks on speaker placement was surely one thing which affected negatively at least to the treble performance. Besides, although the system consisted of several components, we were quite convinced that the speakers made the strongest finger prints to the sound on a cons side as well. Avalon Eidolons are marvellous speakers in some audible features, like in soundstaging and in midrange neutrality, but they just could not quite compete with the other reference speakers (there are
upper Avalon models as well!) in dynamics, bass and over-all control. For audiophiles who mainly listen to peaceful music, Avalon Eidolons may well be among the best choices in their price class.

We did not give much place for hard criticism just because of the nature of open doors events. But even in a critical evaluation the sound had inarguably luxuriates in over-all performance, like in soundstaging and clarity. Still if you are searching speakers for explosive and bass rich music I would recommend other reference speakers than Eidolons. To make a final decision needs always a possibility to give your own weights to strengths and weaknesses which every system nevertheless will have. We finished our visit and evaluation, and naturally our final comments included much more positive issues than negative ones. For example the system delivered huge amount of clarity, airiness, details and righteous tone colours. Personally, despite of the noticed lacks, I can summarize our feelings of the visit in four words: We really liked it!

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