X-Fi Audio Show in Veldhoven
Many audio enthousiasts dedicated last weekend to the X-Fi High End Audioshow. This show took place in Veldhoven, The Netherlands. Throughout the years the show has grown into one of the biggest audio event in the Low Countries, with participants from Holland and Belgium but also with international developers showing their finest creations. Our interview with Alex Peychev, founder of APL HI-FI (Bulgary) and our interview with Velissarios Georgiadis, founder of TruLife Audio (Greece) attest this fact.
We also made a video report of the show. This movie can be found here. Unfortunately our time at the show was limited. Therefore we were not able to visit all rooms. Rooms that were on our checklist but that we unfortunately didn’t visit: Hanze Hifi (as a proud owner of a revised Thorens TD124, it’s always fun to meet like-minded people), Metrum Acoustics (Dutch manufacturer of NOS DAC’s with worldwide reputation), Latham Audio (colleague reviewer Tini Van den Broek would like to review one of their new products soon), Alpha Audio (would have been nice to meet colleague trade press), Hifi Corner Trading (I used to be a customer in their store in Antwerp), Hifi Supply (I am one of their online customers)
Below you’ll find a short description of the rooms we did visit, including some pictures of each room.
At the entrance our attention was brought to the booth of Trptk, a new music label for high end audio & video. Visitors received a free demo cd of the label on the spot. This cd was released especially for the show. Some of the songs on the cd were even recorded exclusively for this event, while other songs on the disc had a prior release elsewhere. For all fans of the label or for those who would like to play this sampler at a higher resolution: this sampler can be downloaded on the website of Trptk in FLAC (max 352.8 Khz/24 bit) or in DSD (max 5.6 Mhz/1 bit). This gift made for a nice start of the show and is a welcome addition to my music collection.
Connaisseur AV is a Belgian distributor of high end audio equipment in the upper segment. A selection from their wide range of brands: Accoustical Systems, Alluxity, Audio Alchemy, Aurender, Estelon, Furutech, Gauder Akustik, Kronos, Kuzma, Purist Audio Design, Solidsteel, Stillpoints & Vitus Audio.
At the show Connaisseur AV had two rooms, one large & one smaller (116 & 118). In the smaller room they showed a set with Estelon loudspeakers and Alluxity components. The sound was – just like the room size – presented on a “small” – but very pleasant – scale. In the large room their colossal equipment was playing: a Kronos Sparta turntable with an Accoustical Systems arm & cartridge, a Vitus Audio SP103 signature phono stage, a Vitus Audio SIA025 signature integrated amplifier and a Vitus Audio SS025 signature stereo power amplifier. Both amplifiers were used in a bi-amp setup, where the SIA025 took care of the low frequencies and the SS025 took care of the high frequencies. They were connected to a set of Gauder Akustik RC-7 loudspeakers with diamond tweeter. All power was done with Furutech Nanoflux, the flagship product in the Furutech range. When we visited to room Trentemöller was playing with a reproduction on a very high level. I think of terms such as: intriguing, spacious, effortless, energetic, impactful, analog.
Colab is also located in Belgium – Meise to be more specific. Owner Pierre Costers used the opportunity of the show to promote two of his top brands: APL HI-FI and TruLife Audio. For this occasion he invited the founders of these two brands to the show. It is unfortunate that these brands are not very well known in our regions, because they both offer very high quality products in the upper segment.
TruLife Audio is based in Greece and is specialized in tube amplification. Their product line contains the renowned phono preamplifier named “Argo” and the equally great line preamplifier named “Athena”, both used as demo on the show. TruLife Audio also makes power amplifiers like their flagship the “Zeus” KT88 Push Pull Stereo Power Amplifier, and power conditioners like their “Prometheus” AC Line Power Conditioner, also presented at the show. TruLife Audio builds everything by hand. CEO and founder Velissarios Georgiadis is clearly passionate about what he does. As a musician, at a young age he was already repairing guitar amplifiers. Later, he took over the company of his father. At that time the company specialized in transistors, but Velissarios’ passion for high end audio and tubes soon transformed the company into a high end tube amplification manufacturer. Velissarios tells us that he works about 12 hours per day to realize his dream: a quest for the ultimate sound.
APL HI-FI is located in Bulgary and makes everything from source to loudspeaker. This company also produces hand-made, but goes even further: the finish of every product can be custom made, depending on the preferences of the customer. Also, every component is made on demand. To illustrate this: the solid state power amplifier that was used for the demo was finished only just in time for the show. The following items were presented at the show: APL Hi-Fi Gravitas NB-M Speakers, APL Hi-Fi DSD-MR DAC, APL Hi-Fi DTR-MR CD-SACD Transport, APL Hi-Fi HAS-SR Solid State Amplifier & APL Hi-Fi PSD-M10 Carbon. CEO and founder Alex Peychev is closely involved in the development of every component. The vision of his company is “No Boundaries”. To fully understand this vision, and to hear how Alex Peychev implements characteristics such as naturalness and realism into his components, you would have to hear a complete setup of APL components. At the show this was not possible, but if you get in touch with Colab this can obviously be arranged.
The combination of TruLife Audio valve preamplification and power conditioning, with APL HI-FI solid state power amplification and loudspeakers, and the Kuzma turntable with EMT cartridge and Tri-Planar arm, gave a very natural, realistic, effortless and free-flowing musical reproduction. It was a very pleasant stay in the Colab room. And when I saw the number of visitors in the room, I am probably not the only person with that opinion. This was an excellent sound, and one of my favorite rooms of the show.
Iemke Roos Audio BV
Iemke Roos not only aims at the consumer but also at the professional audio market. The company is distributor for Genelec, Fostex, Bricasti and Symetrix among others. At the X-Fi 2016 another brand was in the spotlight: Audio Technica. In the room visitors could listen – with or without their own source – to a variety of Audio Technica headphones and they could also listen to a couple of Audio Technica direct-drive turntables, also by means of an Audio Technica headphone setup. I like the no-nonsense approach of the brand a lot: headphones, cartridges and turntables that deliver very well at a fair price. I think the pro audio background of the company has got something to do with that. I was able to listen to two headphones:
- the Audio Technica ATH-MSR7GM (that sells for 249 euro) is a headphone with a very good price/quality ratio, a neutral character, stunning looks and a very comfortable fit.
- the Audio Technica ATH-AD2000X (that sells for 1.035 euro) is an open headphone from the top segment, with more headroom, definition and resolution than its smaller brother.
Since everybody listened through headphones, it was dead quiet in the room. Such relief!
B&W Group Benelux
In the Utrecht foyer and in room 80 B&W presented their new product line, the D3 or “diamond 3”, as crown piece of course the B&W 800 D3. The marketing departement did their homework, with beautiful panels surrounding the room and a presentation on full screen. This presentation did not only cover the production and development of their recent creations. It was also dedicated to the history of the brand, with attention to some of their “cult” loudspeakers from the past. According to the representative of B&W these loudspeakers are still good, but the new D3 is improved in many ways. For instance, the new D3 sports a “Continuum Cone” instead of the Kevlar variety found in older models, and for this series a new bass driver has been developed, made from Aerofoil. The diamond tweeter remains unchanged. Even though an auditorium is not the ideal place for critical listening, I must say that James Blake sounded very “room filling”.
Grimm Audio is a Dutch manufacturer. They have a product line for both the prosumer and the consumer, but have gained most experience in the professional world, where they deliver systems to recording studio’s all around the world. Closer to home Grimm also has big names on their portfolio: Wisseloord Studio’s, University of the Arts in Utrecht and Concertgebouw in Amsterdam are only a few examples. When we visited the room of Grimm Audio there was a fragment of The Wall by Pink Floyd playing. I must say, this sounded about perfect on a set of their flagship loudspeakers for the consumer market, the LS1be. They are active loudspeakers with built-in DSP, DAC & have the possibility to hook up analog equipment as well. Further, they sport a subwoofer with digital motional feedback that minimizes distortion by a factor 30. A couple of terms to describe the sound: very accurate, exact, flawless and very transparent. Such perfection is highly regarded by professional mastering and recording engineers, but would also work very well in a private home environment, although I missed a bit of “rawness”, the reproduction was a bit too polite for my taste. Probably this has got something to do with the DSP. Or would it be the imperfections that I am used to hear on almost every other setup, and that disappear completely with this “near perfect” reproduction of the LS1be? Anyway: this was a top sound – one of the best I’ve heard at the show.
This room took us on a journey through the history of the brand with a couple of “cult” classics such as the set of beautifully revised ESL 57’s and the pair of Quad II monoblocks. Also very intriguing: the new Float QA electrostatic headphones. For me it has been proven again: vintage equipment is great!
Active loudspeaker that are visually miles ahead of the competition: simply gorgeous! Equally gorgeous was the room decoration which was by far the most colorful, flourishing & cozy rooms of the show. It’s clear there is a woman leading this company. Although she claimed that she had nothing to do with room adornment. Why do I doubt this, Daniela Manger?
I’ve read in a review about the Bespoke of Reflector Audio: “The best loudspeaker enclosure is when there is no enclosure at all”. If this is indeed the case was not conclusive during my short visit to the room. What I can say about these “loudspeakers without cabinet” is that they are “special”, to say the least. Such inventive ways to build loudspeakers can only be welcomed, right?
Dutch & Dutch
The name reveals the origin of these loudspeaker manufacturers: The Netherlands, indeed. They serve both consumer as well as prosumer. The 8c loudspeakers that were demonstrated at the show have a very high WAF and apart from active amplification, also have a DSP and DAC on board. Dutch & Dutch strives for an optimal, neutral musical reproduction in such a way that nothing gets between the listener and the musical experience. A philosophy I can only applaud.
Hear Everything Audio
Hear Everything Audio is distributor of Guru Audio, C.E.C., Russel K. and Merrill Audio. They are also dealer of Music First Audio and Bespoke Audio. In this room a set was playing with a pair of Russel K. Red 150 loudspeakers, a C.E.C. TL0 3.0 cd transport, a C.E.C. DA 0 3.0 DAC, a Clearaudio Ovation turntable with Clearaudio Concerto MC cartridge, a Merrill Audio Jens phono stage, a Merrill Audio Cara SE preamplifier, Merrill Audio Veritas monoblocks and Merrill Audio cables. Hear Everything proved with their friendly setup that high end audio reproduction doesn’t always have to cost a fortune.