Hifi and High-End Tampere 2014

By Keijo Tanskanen


Foreword

Hifihuone has organized plenty of Hifi and High-End events in the area of Tampere. This autumn’s event was held in their central office. This solution offered many benefits, for example listening surroundings were well-known, services were easier to carry out, less work was required to do and there were fewer risks in equipment handling. So, instead of tens of rooms and equipment, Hifihuone concentrated on four rooms and nine setups. The setups were carefully chosen and covered a wide brand from PRaT to midrange High-End. Actually, the equipment showed excellently how different kinds of approaches there may be in audio!

I visited the rooms already in the evening before the official opening day. This meant that I could not listen to all the systems. I missed Hifimesta’s room totally, because of the ongoing installations. Additionally, I left the Hifi Guru’s setup out of listening, just because the demonstrator was not totally happy with the room-speaker co-operation. Also, MG 3.7i was said to be presented in the near future in Hifi Guru’s excellent and much more suitable listening room. Otherwise, I could listen to the rest of the equipment. Because of the time limits and my personal interests, I paid my special attention to the two setups, setup 1 and 9, which in my pre-evaluation had the strongest stamp of high-end.


Setups and listening

Setup 1:
McIntosh MCD1100 digital source (CD-SACD-DAC)
McIntosh C50 preamplifier (including RIAA!)
McIntosh MC452 power amplifier
Transrotor Dark Star vinyl player with Konstant power supply,
Lyra Delos cartridge and Kimber TAK-Cu-interconnects
Marten Django L loudspeakers
Jorma Design Unity signal cabling
Quantum Qx4 & QBase8 power filtering
Nordost Frey & Heimdall & Blue Heaven power cords

The room had only slight acoustic treatment. This strengthened some spatial feelings and airiness of the sound, but not in a teasing level. The bass region included few noticeable peaks but they were surprisingly low. So, the room was acoustically quite ok and referred well to the kind of environment which ordinary living rooms have.

The setup offered nice and comprehensive sound. Somehow, the music flowed attractively and easily without any strain. Especially, I liked the treble performance with its extensions. My music samples were clearly reproduced in a balanced way avoiding several lacks which would immediately wean listeners from listening.

With the live records, the sound was actually surprisingly punchy and open enabling reaching some live-like feelings, which actually is very important for me. For example, Pink Floyd’s The Wall Live CD sounded convincing. Naturally, the setup had its limits as well, for example in control manners. But these were quite subtle and at least partially caused by the vivid listening room.

 

Besides the digital source, I tried also the vinyls. Transrotor vinyl player with its peripheral devices delivered as involving sound just as high quality vinyl players usually get. It is just so that with a high quality vinyl player, which also is well tuned, and high quality records, it is possible to have some kind of naturalness which is extremely difficult to have with digital sources. At least, the reproductions are different having partially separated strengths. So, at my start, I had both, digital and analog goodies for my ears!

 

Setup 2:
Sonus Faber Guarneri Memento speakers
Musical Fidelity M6CD CD/DAC
Musical Fidelity M6Si amplifier
Nordost Heimdall 2 signal cabling
Kimber PK10 Palladian power cords

This setup was located in the same room as setup 1, but had a bit less favorable listening position. I have praised several times before Sonus Faber Guarnieri Memento speakers. So, I don’t get much into their evaluation this time. Still, they look like art and fed by high quality and suitable front-end, they can deliver really beautiful and credible sound. This setup proved that once again, although hided slightly some parts of the full potential of the speakers. One may criticize that the price of the speakers is high. Yes, it is, but so is the sonic deliverance and finish. The choice is yours!


Setup 3:
NAD Masters M12 preamplifier (including DAC)
NAD Masters M22 power amplifier
Pro-Ject X-tension 9 vinyl player with Ortofon MC Quintet Black cartridge
Primare R32 RIAA
NAD Masters M50 digital source
NAD Masters M52 2 TB Vault Raid 5
System Audio SA Explorer Master and Ranger Master speakers

Also this setup was located in the same room as setup 1. The location was opposite to setup 1 and worked nicely. SA, NAD, Primare and Project are well known brands for cost effective Hifi solutions. Their products can typically deliver very high quality, which in my opinion comes quite close to real high-end products. This setup was a good example and also an evidence of this. I listened to both, digital and analog sources with excellent results. System Audio Speakers had a very good match to the room and spitted out the music smoothly without any extra muscularity. The only real problem was the use of NAD front end. I just could not learn to do things correctly in so short time. But naturally that was only my problem!

 

Setup 4:
Aurelia Aniara DSP-speakers
Naim DACV1 preamplifier, including DAC
Naim NAP100 power amplifier
Naim Unitiqute2 music station (CD-player, streamer, tuner, amplifier)

 

Setup 4 was located in a very small listening room. Despite that, it could deliver nice and open sound! This was a proof of the concept which claims that one should get small speakers into small rooms. Naturally, the DSP of the speakers helped also getting well-balanced listening results. Naim front-end was compact and worked reliably.

 

Setup 5:
Totem The One loudspeakers
Naim CD5 XS CD-player
Naim NDX source
Naim Supernait2 integrated amplifier
Naim Unitiserve
Naim Fraimlite stand
Naim cabling

This was another proof of the previously mentioned speaker-room concept. The setup delivered also a nice and well-balanced music reproduction which was also quite faithful for PRaT philosophy. The setup is a real choice for those enthusiasts who has a very small room and who like to concentrate on the flow of the music instead of paying attention to the sonic pictures, spatial ambience and micro resolution.

Setup 6:
Lyngdorf CD-2 CD player
Lyngdorf TDAI-2170 amplifier (including room correction)
AE Reference 1 speakers
Chord cabling
IsoTek power filter

I could not listen to this setup. Anyway, I have experienced for example the Lyngdorf products several times before. I can really recommend them, especially into the challenging listening rooms where their benefits will be much more important than the forced lacks of the DSP. I have also no doubts concerning AE Reference 1 performance!

Setup 7:
Yamaha CD-S3000 digital source (CD-SACD-DAC)
Yamaha A-S3000 amplifier
Gradient Revolution and Helsinki 1.5 loudspeakers
Kimber Select KS-1136 interconnects
Kimber 8TC speaker cables
Kimber PK14 power cords

It would have been fascinating to listen to this setup, but as already mentioned, it was impossible in my time of the visit. All the components are anyway well-known for me and may surely deliver good sound reproduction in a proper environment.

 

Setup 8:
BelCanto CD3 transport with Transparent Ref AES/EBU
Devialet 400 mono blocks (including RIAAs)
Clearaudio Performance DC vinyl player
Magneplanar 3,7i loudspeakers
Transparent Super MM2 speaker cables

As described above, this room was very echoic and challenging. So, I did not listen to this setup. Magneplanar 3.7 i was presented in much more favorable circumstances at Hifi Guru from which I have written another story!

 

Setup 9:
Computer based music server
Genelec 1238A active loudspeakers

The Genelec speakers were located in the same very challenging room with setup 8, but Genelec benefits from a room correction. Additionally, I had a possibility to influence the settings of the speakers. By help of those, I got better listening results than I expected. Actually, this setup delivered the best sound of the show, and I would bet that it would have, even if I had experienced the missed rooms as well! This time, I could really enjoy from the punch and resolution features of the speakers. More or less, they had been sacrificed for the maximum frequency balance in many previous events. Now, by accepting a bit less smooth frequency response, the performance was more in balance as a whole, at least in my opinion. The excellent dynamics and dimensional sound staging were verified by the live rock music samples. They were delivered in a way that comes quite close to my reference level. The bettered treble performance was also delightful to notice. Now, the setup delivered the sound of cymbals and tiny bells and their resonant releases almost in an exemplary way. So, the demo showed very nicely the potential of the speaker and the whole concept.


Conclusion

As you may guess, the visit was rewarding. Especially, the deliverance of setups 1 and 9 were delightful, partially even surprising. The concept of the event was clearly carefully thought and surely served audio enthusiasm which is located in Tampere and in its neighbouring area. Hopefully, this kind of events will also have successors. Thanks for the kind and flexible hosts!