Brussels, Europe's on-and-off capital, hosted two HiFi shows this year. In a country that's already divided in twain by a language barrier whereby the northern part speaks Flemish (Dutch) and the southern part French, some animosity between shows is no surprise. It is a shame though that in a market that's not exactly booming, ego plays such a big role. Divided we stand, united we fall? Let's hope not. In the best spirit of solidarity, we attended both shows unbiased.

The Courtyard hotel is the venue had chosen as its staging ground, a roomy hotel with plenty of parking space and a pleasantly airy and light décor. The first room was filled with NuForce, with the Reference 9SE amps serving the new S-9 speakers. Too bad for the exhibitor that the speakers arrived very late and weren't loosened up enough yet to impress. However, he was fully confident that later during the show, the full potential would be unleashed. Cheers to that.

Young entrepreneurs are always welcome - especially in the audio trade. Crafty is one such daring young Dutch company. In Brussels, they showed their own Azumi loudspeaker, a simple, well thought-through design with a fresh look and presented at a very attractive price. The Azumi was demoed in combination with the 15wpc Trends TA10 T-amp. The combination sounded pure and simply musical. In fact, it impressed us en ought to where we ordered a TA10 on the spot.

Greatech of Germany and µVac miniature amplifier fame proudly presented their expansion to the range - an iPod docking station. Biggus dealus you think. Think again. It's a wireless docking station using the 2.4Ghz adaptive frequency-hopping technique. Combine this with the company's wireless amplifier and the fun can begin. The µVac line has grown to include a matching phono stage. At the show Peter Gruendig demonstrated the setup in combination with a pair of ultra tiny, wonderfully veneered loudspeakers. These micros manage to go as low as 30Hz. Yes, that stopped us cold in our tracks as well. Any surprise we made an appointment to review all of these goodies? The trend to make affordable, small, great-looking and -sounding gear has definitely matured.

From Italy came a new Paolo Beduschi loudspeaker, the Vivaldi - fine woodwork and veneer for the subwoofer section, lacquer for the mid and treble system. The sleek speaker is topped off with a super tweeter. In combination with a Jadis CDP and Beduschi's own prototype integrated amplifier, this is another promising product from Italy.

Dutch speakers by Daluso powered by Reimyo were next, with the XXL loudspeaker using a SEAS woofer and coaxial mid/tweeter in an aluminum cabinet 6 to 8 mm thick. Designer Ed Doggen managed to incorporate the reflex porting in such a way that the overall size remained as small as possible. No need to remark on this setup. Reimyo means miracle after all.

Van Medevoort, another Dutch designer and manufacturer, had their complete range on display. Ad van Medevoort is now fully dedicated to 'digital' amplifiers. However, digital should not sound digital in his view. With his extensive experiences tuning and modifying digital gear, it is no wonder that his amplifiers in fact sound somewhere between solid and hollow state - the power of transistors and the smooth roundness of tubes. Son Vincent is now the second man in the company.

Belgium is the homestead of Aqua Blue, better know for their website Here you can find everything needed to roll your own, from turntable to loudspeaker and anything between.

Just a stone's throw away from Brussels begins France where Jadis is from. Their tubed CD player and the big amplifier provided the signal to either the Mobile Fidelity OML-1 or OML-2 loudspeakers.

Here we have pressed foam snippets as artistic room damping material. Cheap and effective if you like color.

This time Brussels sported a static -- well, almost -- display of Clear Audio and Prima Luna. Mr. Prima Luna aka Herman van den Dungen has found a creative way to satisfy all those hair brained regulations to protect innocent children from hot tubes. You can have a coke eating away your stomach lining but not a naked tube. Okay.

Anyway, the Dialogue Two arrived and on working display was the new Clear Audio Double Matrix LP cleaning system. The 'double' denotes a clever scheme that enables a record to be cleaned on both sides. At once.

Final loudspeakers from Holland now offers a complete range of electrostatic transducers from the small model 90i suited for home theater multi-channel applications to the 74" tall 1000i model from the Reference series. We made an appointment to review the latter with its 38Hz to 25KHz coverage at 86dB sensitivity.

Vaessen Audio Design uses the geometry of the egg as blueprint for its loudspeakers. The strength this natural shape offers inherently comes in handy when you need to build a rigid housing for loudspeaker drivers. On display was a mock up of the upcoming model.

There can be no show without Peter Lyngdorf. Lyngdorf Audio now embraces less costly systems as well. The setup Peter used here -- consisting of the Lyngdorf TDA 2200, the Room Perfect module, SDA 2175, CD-1, W210 corner woofer and Dali Ikon 1 speakers -- came in at 12.500 Euros. Striking -- though we have heard it before-- was Peter's demo of how we perceive sound. He switched off the corner woofers so we could hear just what the Dalis covered - a shimmering, tinny, almost transistory radio sound. When the corner woofers were switched on again, the room once again filled again with a big, rich and detailed sound that seemed to come exclusively from the Dalis.