They made their way in decent numbers to the leafy suburb of Albert Park and ambled good-naturedly through the plush foyer of the Pullman Mercure hotel in Queens Road, to reach the Hi-Fi Show’s exhibition area.
Judging by the mood of the showgoers permeating throughout the show on Friday 1st July, which was overwhelmingly positive, the first of the three-day event, this was going to be an enjoyable event for visitors and exhibitors alike.
Reports from friends and punters attending the show on Saturday and Sunday, along with debriefs from a good sampling of exhibitors, the show went off exactly as the organizing team from StereoNET had hoped it would.
Which means, good numbers in attendance, happy showgoers and most importantly a decent collection of brands on display to titillate even the most hardened of audio veterans.
The International Hi-Fi had targeted the general public as well as traditional audiophiles. While the latter can be relied on to straddle a barbed-wire fence to reach any audio show, the latter are notoriously difficult to attract.
Anecdotal evidence culled from exhibitors, says the average age of visitors to the show was on average ten to fifteen years younger than those at most hi-fi shows. Further evidence that publicity for the show had reached the general public and a harbinger that 2017’s show will be bigger and even better.
In total, the International HiFi Show attracted 52 Exhibitors from Australia and overseas, and more than 135 brands being showcased. The theme of the displays and readily apparent to those attending was one of freshness and genuine discovery. Especially given many of the makes and models are so new, most have yet to arrive at Australian Hi-Fi specialist stores.
Hotel rooms present a unique set of acoustic challenges to those exhibiting. And it’s the same for shows held in hotels all over the world.
The Pullman Mercure rooms weren’t about to do anyone any acoustic favours. But after three sweeps of all the suites, it was clear the majority of exhibitors had put a power of work taming their rooms. An attention to detail that had one focus: to ensure attendees got a genuine aural snapshot of the sonic prowess of the gear playing in the various rooms.
The level of equipment and the subsequent sound quality throughout the show was commendable. But some auditions, as any show, stood out.
The Entertaining Environments suite was unmissable. And with a system nudging $330,000 playing, the room was constantly filled with people eager to hear the system featuring the Raidho Acoustics D-5.1 Reference speakers that made their Australian debut at the show. Also noteworthy was the Strato player, part of the Kaleidesscape’s new range and the world’s first 4k UltraHD high-dynamic range movie player. Most left so impressed with the dem, they made a bee-line to their nearest Lotto outlet after the show.
Audio Active’s Sony audio-video display featuring a Sony Hi-Res video projector beaming hi-def images of the Hollywood blockbuster Oblivion had tongues wagging for all the right reasons. The sound and vision combined to present detail after detail previously missed, even though we’ve watched this movie several times before.
Equally impressive for its sheer range of models and outstanding design, was valve amplifier specialist, Melody. A chat with the owner Mr. Wang and his son Alex, revealed the range is inspired by Italian industrial design. It showed with model after model sporting scads of brushed aluminum and genuine wood side panels. Mr. Wang said many of the models were fitted with Western Electric valves and made the point that WE were building unique valves for several of the Melody amplifiers.
For many attendees who had not been exposed to genuine high-fidelity sound, the Melody room impressed. Arrays of glowing valves, the mighty JBL Everest speakers and a well presented room, it set the tone for what you could expect from the rest of the show.
Those seeking life like veracity from an audio system found it in the Convoy room where a Music Hall turntable fitted with a Garrott Brothers MM cartridge was feeding Classe electronics and JBL’s new 4367 studio monitor loudspeakers. If prizes for immediacy and presence of sound along with astonishing levels of micro and macro dynamics were given out, this system would be a serious contender.
Adjacent to the JBL room was Convoy’s Bowers & Wilkins demo that had all of this speaker brand’s hallmark qualities of flat frequency response, scads of detail and low levels of distortion. Convoy also made a splash with its current crop high-resolution Bluesound networked, streaming audio models.
Just up the aisle from Convoy, Audio Active was putting on a convincing demo of the positive effects Isotek products have in reducing air and mains borne pollution in an audio system. When the Isotek products were used in the system, noise and distortion levels plummeted. Everyone seated in the room heard the results first-hand.
Qualifi was highlighting a select range of Marantz, HEOS and Thorens models at the show, opting for quality rather than quantity. The HEOS models were all new and all hi-res audio devices. One of the system sources making beautiful music in the room was the Marantz SACD 14 player. Qualifi says the model is ongoing but a new Marantz SACD14SE player will be released very soon.
The show was crammed full of high quality two-channel analogue audio systems. The Magenta Audio and Lenehan Audio room had presented some curious acoustic anomalies according to Magenta’s Mike Kirkham and Tony Wong. But after some judicious applications of acoustic panels, the system we heard was playing and sounding sublime.
Attention to detail included PS Audio’s P10 personal power generating station used with PS Audio’s acclaimed BHK amplifiers and Directstream DAC driving the Australian Lenehan Audio’s recently updated ML1 loudspeakers.
Close by, the Pure Music Group room didn’t disappoint with its demo of a system comprising the stunning new TechDAS Air Force III turntable, Antipodes Audio DX music server, Mola-Mola Makua preamplifier with phono and dac modules onboard, Mola-Mola Kaluga monoblocks, Guader Akustik Berlina RC-7 Mk11 speakers. Argento cables were used throughout the system that sat on a curiously named Paralyse Audio KEO audio rack.
On passive display were the Australian Elektra stereo, solid-state power amplifier and Pnyx valve preamplifier. Designer, Arthur Rappos was on hand to talk about his world-class electronics. So how was the sound in the PMG room? The room was constantly packed and most left the room piling accolades on the system’s alluring sound quality.
We would have stayed and listened for hours but the Quad room beckoned and didn’t disappoint. We heard enthralling sound played back by a pair of Quad 2912 electrostatic speakers driven by what else? Quad monobloc valve amps and preamp. For newbies and Quad devotees alike, the Quad system was mesmerizing.
Just down the hall, we followed a crowd into the hugely successful Radiance AV room. The system used a laptop to feed a gorgeous looking Chord Electronics DAVE Digital preamp/dac, equally sublime Chord SPM1200MK2 power amplifier driving a pair of a white, luxuriously finished Kharma Elegance Double Seven Signature speakers. Cabling throughout was supplied by Analysis plus.
Along one side of this large room, Radiance had several Acoustic Signature turntables on display ranging from a couple of entry level to mid-priced models. Fit and finish of higher-end turntables throughout the show was so high it sent shivers down the spine. Acoustic Signature’s models are paragon’s of German engineering at its finest. I spent an hour and a half talking to Radiance owner Goran about these turntables and the brand’s accessories particularly the tonearms that have detachable 9, 10 or 12-inch arm wands.
And speaking of turntables, we marveled at the class of the Australian designed Helix 1 turntable running with Thrax electronics and Lyra speakers. A collaborative design led by Mark Dohmann, the Helix 1 looked and sounded like an ultra-high end turntable should.
Australian speaker brands proved to be highlights of a high-standard show with VAF Research, Wyndham Audio, Whatmough and Osborn each giving attendees world-class exhibitions of their extensive ranges.
The younger show goers thronged to sample HEOS and BlueSound networked, wireless streaming models, Dacs and of course headphones. There was a huge range of the latter culled from Beyer Dynamics, Sennheiser and Audio Technica and all on working display.
Most impressive was the sound quality coming from the Bricasti electronics in the Studio Connections room. The designers have a pedigree including work with Mark Levinson and Lexicon. The range is select and includes three new models, the M12 Source Controller, M1SE Dual Mono DAC and M28 mono power amps. This was one of the show’s best-kept secrets and a dem that wasn't to be missed.
In closing ...
Melbourne lived up to its ratty climate serving up spiteful winter weather throughout the 3-day show. This didn’t faze show visitors who not only attended the show in healthy numbers, but they stayed there enjoying the friendly environment and world-class displays for hour after hour. And whilst the jury is still out on the results of the bewildering Australian Federal election, the consensus about the show is already in from visitors and exhibitors.
Succinctly, the International Hi-Fi Show is a success and here to stay.
The 2017 Melbourne International HiFi Show, incorporating the Australian Record Fair, plus the Smart Homes, AV & Technology Expo has now been announced.
First and foremost – huge congratulations on executing such a well-oiled, outstandingly attended Hi Fi Show!! Absolutely exceeded our expectations on every level…
Almost impossible to believe that was the shows inaugural year!! Credit to yourself and your team..
Martin Ireland, Sennheiser Australia
On behalf of Audio Active, our concerns about another HiFi show failure were quickly dissolved by the quality and quantity of attendees at your show both supplier base and visitors. Clearly StereoNET has its finger on the pulse of the industry and we will be certainly looking at participating in future StereoNET organised shows. Well done Marc and the team.
Paul Clarke, Audio Active
The 2016 International Hi-Fi show was without doubt the best show I’ve been involved in during my time in the industry. The partnership between StereoNET and the Pullman Mercure hotel was great, we felt supported throughout the show and logistically it was a masterpiece.
Gareth Weller, Synergy Audio Visual
The inaugural 2016 show was a delight for VAF. In its first year the show set a standard that now puts it amongst the best hi-fi shows in the world. A great achievement, and a great vibe for attendees and exhibitors alike. Bravo!
Philip Vafiadis, VAF Research
Thank you for a great show! We, PureAudioProject, enjoyed every single moment of it. This year we did 9 shows in USA, Germany and China, and going to Australia was not an easy task for us from Israel. This show provided us with a most unique show experience. So many nice people entering the room with a smile, relaxing and enjoying music and staying for a long time. This was so different from the typical rush rush rush atmosphere at many other shows ... and what was even more noticeable is the average age in the room, probably 15 to 20 years younger from what we are used to at other US/Europe shows. You are a young spirit country and we hope to see you all next year!
Ze'ev Schlick, PureAudioProject