High End 2018f

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The last time I saw Ken Stevens, owner of Convergent Audio Technology (CAT), was about a decade ago, right here in the MOC in huge Ascendo suite. The sound was among the Best of Show way back when, so it was quite a nice surprise to see him and his legendary components here at High End 2018. Also in the room was Vermeer Audio, formally the famed French digital manufacturer Audio Aero, (who were also a part of the magic in the Ascendo suite years back). Vermeer Audio was proud to show besides CAT once again but this time, they were located in a small, somewhat cramped space located in the HALLE. Smart, adapted by introducing the newly updated Model Two Universal Control Center ($24k) all in one tube preamp/DAC. Our own Dave Thomas and Mike Wright reviewed the original Model Two back in 2016 and both raved over its sonic supremecy (read that review here). CAT was showing off their $15k JL-5 Black stereo amplifier, using KT-88s in pure triode and rated at 120 watts per channel, thee JL-5 Black is the smaller, more affordable – but almost the exact version of the company’s Statement ($60k) monoblocks. Keeping the price of the system down they opted for the smaller and less expensive Magico A3 loudspeaker ($9k) available. They did not disappoint as the overall performance was immediate, detailed but rich and communicative. 

I left this suite and started my trek upstairs where the bigger more established setup were located….

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As expected, the upper rooms had eye popping electronics from all over the globe. Some familiar and some I’ve never seen or heard of. This dear readers is what makes the High End so viable for one’s business and important to visit even as a hobbiest. Here’s a few products that I simply took photos of as time wasn’t on my side to sit and listen. However, I couldn’t help gazing at these setups…..

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Wadax Audio of Madrid Spain, has spent 30 years of intense R&D to bring their products to compete against the best available. From the looks of this show, there’s plenty to choose from, but strictly in terms of appearance, this is some beautifully built componentry. Wadax introduced MQA sourced material to their new and gorgeous looking Atlantis series 2-chassis’d DAC, Transport and Music Server. Due to time constraints, I never got a chance to come back to this wonderful looking setup to do any serious listening. Unfortunate for me.



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Had no idea that Van Den Hul made their own amplifiers, preamps and AC conditioners. Just thought they made phono-related products. What’s more surprising is to find they also manufacturer what they call “The Extender” which their websites describes as: The Extender produces no sound and is also not a supertweeter. You cannot measure or hear any sound coming from The Extender. The Extender emits a signal which communicates direct with the brain. Limited loudspeakers performance, colored acoustics or even some ear defects are hereby bridged. I have not a clue what the Italian-made Diapson Dynamis loudspeaker sounds like normally, nor could I tell what sounded like with a pair of Extenders resting on them. However, I became interested as the idea and the very look had me quite intrigued. Hmm…

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The Bohne Audio BB18’s of Germany boast a staggering 99dB of sensitivity, which is quite impressive when you look at its high-frequency ribbon driver. Used in conjunction with the Trinnov multi-channel room correction/preamp, I was quite impressed by the seamlessness and overall sonic impressions of this particular room.


 
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Japan’s YS Sound mono amps ($200k!), driving a pair of Swiss-made Zellaton Statement loudspeakers ($150k), produced a sonic experience that could make their outlandish price tags justifiable. The Zellaton’s do not do the dynamic dance that horns do, but in their own intimate way, the can provide a level cleanliness and transparency that is ever-so electrostat-like (with body), that it’s actually amazing to witness. Makes one wonder more and more about those YS Sound amplifiers.




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Frederik Carøe of Duelund Coherent Audio, Denmark, was proud to show me something he’s plans on introducing in the not-too-distant future. At last year’s show, right in the very same room in fact, Carøe was showing off his very first Duelund 8″ driver. This year, he’s introducing, what he describes as “an Organic Horn” enclosure based on the above illustration. Knowing Carøe, I put nothing past him when it comes to excellence in design and substance. His Duelund capacitors have garnered legendary status the world over. If anything at all, he’s got my attention!

   


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What makes shows such as High End so great is that you can walk only a few feet away the Zellaton suite and begin listening to something entirely different and just as exciting: as in the new statement Thrax Audio Spartacus 300B Triode mono amplifiers. This, the company’s new statement design employs six 300B tubes to produce a whopping 50 watts of pure Class A power per chassis. Mated to a pair of Thrax Lyra monitors ($19,500), nestled onto a pair of Thrax Basus subwoofers ($40,500), the sound was flowing in the most ultra relaxed and endearing manner I can recall hearing from these products. Must be these new Spartacus amplifiers. Wow.  


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