by Keijo Tanskanen

A new high-end tradition can be told to born in Finland: Tampere High-End event was arranged third time. Because Olavi Eloranta and Ari Kilpeläinen came with me a bit wider analysis could be done this time. We got a license to start our visit a bit earlier than official opening time. Without this kind of flexibility we could not have been able to do visit at Hifiklinikka and at TL-Audio during the same day.

The place, a manor house in Hatanpää, was the same as before. This time no attention was paid for the room acoustics. This consciously made sacrifice was allowed because of lack of time and resources. So, it was not a surprise at all, that rooms affected quite intrusively to listening results, especially for the balance of bass, but still good or even very good listening results were achieved. For next year’s event Hifihuone will try to have a better place. The atmosphere was again very relaxed, from which approximately 550 enthusiasts could enjoy. Again, this was very well done by Hifihuone, other demonstrators and organizers!

Although I have made my personal definitions to the writing, all the sound quality descriptions of each system are based on our notifications made in mutual understanding. Once again, I must clarify that it is not reasonable to give any hard judgements or very deep analysis because of nature of the event. For example, a deeper analysis would require much more time, the same listening room and the same records. The photos and the short comments are shown below.

Photos and comments

We started from Hifiguru’s room where two separate set ups were demonstrated. First system consisted Burmester 069 CD player, Burmester 032 integrated amplifier, Acapella 5th Avenue speakers, Bertram cabling, Transparent Power Isolator with MM power conditioner, Transparent Power Link XL and MM power cords and Acapella Fondato Silenzio base for the amp.

I had listened to Acapella 5th Avenue only six weeks ago. So, I was quite well prepared to the sound of this set up, and exactly the same strengths were noticed. The sound was extremely airy, very well balanced and it delivered a very dimensional sonic picture. The system had also a great amount of speed on attacks. Vocals were very natural-like and especially articulation of singers impressed me. So, choral music seemed to be just right one for this system. In spite of the strengths I could notice the same subtle lacks as before. My wish list included for example a bit more accuracy in focusing, a bit more extensive frequency response and a bit more punch and dynamics. Despite of those misses the over-all sound was excellent and served very well for large number of visitors. In my opinion this set-up belonged clearly among the second best group of the show.

The second Hifiguru’s set-up consisted BelCanto CD-2 CD-player, BelCanto DAC-3, BelCanto Ref-500 monoblocks, Magneplanar 1.6 speakers, Transparent Ultra MM2 cabling, Transparent Premium AES / EBU digital interconnects, Transparent Power Bank 6 power isolator, Transparent Reference Power Link, Power Link XL and Power Link MM power cords and Acapella Fondato Silenzio bases for CD-2 and DAC-3.

Well, I knew already that Magneplanars work greatly in many kind of listening rooms. So, it was not a surprise they did it again! The sound suffered less from lacks of room acoustics than in the case of traditional speakers. This system delivered a very good and balanced over-all performance. Beside of these strengths I naturally noticed slight lacks here and there as well. For example “panel-like” gentle limitations in dynamics and in punch of bass were quite easy to hear, and so were slight softening and roundness on over-all sound. Anyway, I was again impressed what this kind of entry level high end system can deliver, the system got the second best group place of the show!

Hifiguru had also an extra table where Clearaudio Innovation vinyl player, BelCanto Ref-1000 Mk2 monoblocks and S-500 amplifier were presented.

The first Hifihuone’s room had McIntosh MCD301 CD/SACD-player, McIntosh MA2275 integrated amplifier, Tannoy Glenair 15 speakers, Kimber Silver Streak interconnects, Kimber 8TC speaker cables, Nordost Brahma and Vishnu power cords.

This set up worked well with narrow spectrum music, like sonatas. The sound was coherent, but it was quite hard to find any other great benefits. Also the sound suffered a bit from horn-like sound. When compared to the other set ups of the event this system could reach only a basic level and delivered less at least for us.

This room included Genelec 1039A active speakers, Lindemann 822 CD/SACD player and Lindemann 832 preamplifier. Interconnects were balanced microphone cables.

The sound was quite impressive and controlled. Also the sound had plenty of power and dynamics and the clarity was good. Anyway we noticed some kind of hardness and flaws in immediacy and tonality. Also the soundstaging features seemed to be only in an average level. We classified this set-up into the third group which delivered a bit more than the basic level.

Hifihuone had paid most of their attention to their third room where McIntosh MCD500 CD/SACD player, McIntosh C2300 preamplifier, McIntosh MC501 monoblocks and Marten Coltrane speakers were demonstrated. Also cabling was impressive: Kimber Select KS-1121 and KS-1136 balanced interconnects Kimber Select KS-3035 and KS-3038 speaker cables (bi-cabling), Kimber PK10 Gold and PK10 Palladian power cords, Nordost Valhalla power cords and Nordost Thor power filter.

We listened only to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s rock music in this room. Despite of listening to only one performer we became confident of the sound quality. But the sound was not perfect, for example there were some signs of over-sharpness and hardness. Instead the system had numerous excellent features, like a lot of speed, great transparency and clarity and quite wide frequency response. Because we did not listen to wider spectrum of music samples it was impossible to make deeper analysis of tone colours and neutrality. Anyway, our listening experiences were so impressive that there was no question about qualifying this set-up among the best two of the show.

The smallest speakers were demonstrated in this room. The system consisted of McIntosh MCD201 CD/SACD player, McIntosh C220 preamplifier, McIntosh MC275 amplifier and Gradient Laura speakers. Cablings were from Kimber: Kimber Hero interconnects and 4PR speaker cables.

Despite of quite affordable price this set-up delivered sound which was acceptable. Of course bass response was strongly restricted and abilities to reproduce reality had also obvious limitations, but still the sound was OK. We ranked this set-up to the third group.

Santtu Engineering was in Hatanpää manor as well. Santtu demonstrated the following set up: Oracle Delphi MkV vinyl player (included turbo power unit) with SME IV (MCS-150 cabling), Benz Ruby 3 cartridge, FDIV-attenuator, Santtu-Cello interconnects for RIAA, Ensemble Fonobrio RIAA with mediation done by Vishay 102 resistors, Ensemble Dynaflux interconnects to preamplifier, Ensemble Dirondo CD player, Santtu-Cello-SME interconnects, Ensemble Fuoco integrated amplifier, Ensemble Figura speakers, Ensemble Megaflux speaker cables, Ensemble Powerlink power unit, Ensemble Powerflux and Megaflux power cords, Finite Elemente Pagode Signature stand, Grand Prix Audio carbon legs and carbide balls.

There were a lot of stuff and a lot of sound in the room. Santtu played mainly vinyls, but despite of this (by help of this?), we could notice that the listening results were excellent. This set-up delivered excellent immediacy, purity, speed and control. The sonic picture was restricted, but this is what Santtu typically and consciously sacrifice for other more important features. In my opinion soundstaging features will not be necessarily against the other features, but I also understand Santtu’s aims very well. In our opinion this set-up delivered the best sound of the show, besides the Hifihuone’s Marten Coltrane set-up.

AH-Hifisystems demonstrated brand new Focal Diablo Utopia speakers with stands. The front end consisted Primare’s electronics; CD31 CD player, Pre 30 preamplifier, A33.2 amplifier, R20 RIAA, Pro-Ject Xtension with Ortofon RS212D tonearm and Ortofon Rondo Bronze cartridge, VdHul Orchid interconnects and VdHul Inspiration speaker cables.

The sound was very promising although there were balance and accuracy problems in bass (speaker and room combination was quite far from perfect in this case as well). Anyway, there were numerous signs of the high quality sound, excellent clarity and balance in midrange and treble, very good tone colours and coherency. Additionally there were respectable amount of punch in bass, especially when taking account that Diablo Utopia is only a two way speaker. On overall this system worked very well and earned easily a place in the second best group.

Well, there was also a video room where Loewe’s “High End” televisions were demonstrated successfully. Again, there was no doubt of price and quality relationship!

This year’s event delivered nothing special, but still the demonstrations were good enough for beating the ordinarily arranged events, which will typically suffer from lack of time, room space and spirit. Of course our following visits at Hifiklinikka and TL-Audio during the day gave more (the reports are coming soon), just because of room acoustics and more deliberate demonstrations. Anyway this year’s Tampere High-End mainly fulfilled the expectations. Let see what will happen next year. I am quite sure that the clever guys behind the event will find something new and even better!