Of the many rooms which used horns or high-efficiency transducers the TAD Reference One loudspeaker ($60k) sounded utterly remarkable. TAD's designer Andrew Jones put on a heck of a demo that featured Audionet electronics of Germany exclusively and yet another computer manipulated hi-rez playback system. The genius behind TAD lies in their Coherent Sound Transducer (CST) technology whose success is derived from a unique concentric driver that works from 250 Hz to an exhaustive 100 kHz! The sound was HUGE size-wise and three-dimensional due to the room, setup and the sheer physical distance one sat away from the loudspeakers. Cabling throughout was Robert Lee's fabulous Acoustic Zen. Ultimately, what killed it for me was the size of human voices. They were simply too large to be convincing. A minor glitch  to an otherwise stunning performance.



When Carlos Sanchez, Ingo Schultz and I walked into the TEAC Esoteric room and saw the new Avantgarde Duo Mezzo ($45k) right beside their own excellent sounding MG-20 loudspeaker ($7,500), we found it rather unusual. Why? Both are extremely good at what they're designed to achieve sonically and for the smaller MG-20 that turns out to be plenty when budget constraints ultimately determines your purchase power. Point duly noted, the Duo Mezzo put on a performance, that for the first time, made me forget about last year's dismal performance of their reference system and every other unimpressive demonstration as well. Resolution, dynamics, presence, involvement, transparency and most of all, musicality was as good as I've heard anywhere (and that says plenty considering the places I've been). Yeah, getting a horn to sound right might prove too difficult for most. This may be true, but when that rare commodity called synergy finally does arrive, I seriously doubt if there's a more truthful and satisfying alternative.

This setup in particular, because this brand of loudspeaker always sounded average, proved for me and these ears once again that horns are the best transducers available today for the home period! Yes, they're big, obtrusive and a bear to setup properly. But once you get past that...heaven awaits  







Ok, what are the odds that I would fall immediately in love with sonic purity coming from this room and not even realize (until writing this report) that I had heard the same Audio Consulting of Switzerland series of electronics at a previous show where I also voted it as the Best at Show? (read my '07 Rocky Mountain report here). What's more amazing was that I referenced the sonic purity in this room as rivaling the sound I heard nearly two years back at the Denver, Colorado event. Weird. Looking at the components it easy to see how one could forget them as they’re as nondescript as I've seen from something so sonically impressive.


The sound that came from the Audio Consulting of Switzerland room that featured products from Jean Hiraga and Hanns Acoustics stood out so far from the competition that it made everything else sound decent or merely ok. And let it be known this year's High End show produced some incredible sounding demo rooms. So many in fact, that on day two, Ingo Schultz and I were debating who, at that point, had gotten our early vote. Surprisingly, there were only three top sounding rooms of the many we heard which proved worthy of mention (Ingo and I did not walk the show together on the first day). My vote: First Place: Audio Consulting/Hiraga/Hanns. Second Place: A three-way tie between Esoteric/Avantgarde, Ascendo/Behold, and the Crystal Cable Arabesque/VTL combo. Third Place went to TAD/Audionet.


I'm not sure what Ingo's second and third place choices were but he clearly thought the TAD/Audionet room was the best he heard thus far at the show. I would have placed it in my crowded second place vote had it not been for the issues I had with the voices being too oversized. I asked Ingo if he sat and listened at all to the Audio Consulting of Switzerland setup and he said "only briefly," but didn't think it was that good. "Well, this time we're going together to get another opinion," I challenged. "I want you to sit where I did and then tell me you don't think this is absolutely the finest sound coming out of Munich today." Ingo agreed so he, Carlos Sanchez (who was fighting jetlag and couldn't hear or care less), and I were off to listen once again to the Audio Consulting of Switzerland room.


As soon as I walked into the room and closed the glass and metal steel framed door behind me, I knew I had walked into a very special place. And I still can't fully explain why I felt that way. The reduction of AC noise would explain some but not all of the magic. The room was as packed as when I left it the previous day. I asked Ingo to sit anywhere in the front and just listen. He obliged. Shortly thereafter an extra pair of seats became available so Carlos Sanchez and I joined in.


In short time, Ingo's looking at me in total disbelief while even Carlos is on full sonic alert with an incredulous "what the $#%#" look on his face. Ingo wasn't too far behind with his own looks of amazement. A full hour or more passed before we could make our way out of the room. I’d even exhausted my sampler CDs made from the Nova Physics Memory Player used as my reference when walking shows like this. No question about it, this was the best I've ever heard my music sound coming from anything outside my own system, and just maybe with even a greater sense of natural sheen surrounding the musicians. There was a sense of tonal rightness and a truth of timbre I had not heard before from any system, my reference system included. This gave every song played a much higher believability quotient. 


Ingo says he now wants the entire system in his home as his new reference. I feel as though I've got a lot more going for me with the system I already own, but there's certainly something going on in that room that had both Carlos and I scratching our heads for answers. It's got to be that damn battery power thing once again. This time however, Ingo, Carlos, myself, and EVERYBODY in that room heard it. Even now as I write this I cannot forget the quality of the sound that emanated from that space.