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My six favorite sounds of the show were to be found with the systems of

• TruLife Audio /Cessaro
• Hørning Hybrid/Tune Audio
• Audio Research/Magnepan
• Soulution/Sonus Aeterna
• Nagra/Verity Audio and
• Thorens/Tonian Labs.

For those into statistics, that breaks down into three horn systems (Cessaro, Sonus Aeterna, Tune Audio) and five valve systems (ARC, Hørning, Nagra, Thorens, TLA). If I were to conclude anything from that, it would be that a/ Soulution makes some damn fine transistor gear and b/ that the stunning 12-inch PHY HP driver implemented with a ribbon tweeter in the Tonian Labs speaker was my favorite conventional dynamic two-way. Curiously, Musical Affairs too had a PHY-based speaker in attendance but its performance was seriously lackluster by comparison.


While highlighting specific rooms, a special mention must go to Costas Kekemenis of Aphrodite's Vision, a successful Greek audio importer who set up a room with three alternating systems. Two were built around Verity Audio (with AirTight and Nagra electronics respectively), one around Thiel Audio with simaudio Moon electronics whose vice president of sales Costa Koulisakis was in attendance as well.

* The one thing I sorely missed at the Athens show were the many software retailers of the Milan show. I had to make do with the airport shop for the obligatory new albums. I limited myself to Yiannis Parios' latest—not good—and a 2009 remaster of a young Yiorgos Dalaras singing Rembetika and Demotiko songs to sparse accompaniment (very good).

With show hours from 10:00 to 21:00—yes, this was the first show I've ever attended which formally extended to 9PM in the evenings all across the board—Kekemenis had apparently inexhaustible energy, exceptional attention to his visitors, a true grasp on the finer points of audio, endless and musically relevant anecdotes and most importantly, a very civilized approach to presenting the hobby. Where the majority of exhibitors plied the trade with the usual boom, sizzle and silly show-off tunes you'd never listen to for pleasure at home nor at such volumes, Costas practiced the opposite despite the obligatory infrasonic mayhem and Taiko drum tattoos intruding from other exhibitors.

If there was an award for highest consummate professionalism and applied audio intelligence for an exhibitor, it undoubtedly would have gone to this man whose various systems we'll encounter later in our alphabetical coverage. Costas also is a well-known film maker. His tie-in of shooting styles, specific lenses, their effects on the images and story telling and how all this relates directly to the tonality of various audio gear and the resultant listening experiences would have been the envy of most reviewers struggling for meaningful ways to describe the indescribable. Spinning a young and still magnificently potent Yiannis Parios on the famous Jacques Brel tune Ne Me Quitte Pas was the final icing on this cake. Bravo! Now we're off in earnest with the Latin alphabet.

Importer Orpheus had seemingly brought his entire warehouse but the center point of attention was this mondo rig centered on the big Acapella Campanile MkII horns from Germany powered by beefy Burmester electronics. It's not often that a show affords the visitor an opportunity to listen to such ambitious speaker systems—KEF's Muon and Verity's Lohengrin II were other cases in point—but Athens made it happen as though there was a collective consensus to pull out all the stops. Again, if you could handle the excessive amount of smoking all over the place—Greeks apparently are very addicted to tobacco—it was real fun to attend this event!

Accuphase teamed up with Klipsch Palladium speakers.

Acoustic Energy danced the tango with Electrocompaniet.

Adam Audio
's semi-active Tensor Beta did the deed with Burmester.

Advance Acoustic
from France brought the entire farm and while I didn't count, they quite possibly had all of their 20 different electronics models on display. Sacre bleu!

The MDA 503 tube DAC looked particularly scrumptious with its circuit schematic display, variable outputs and six digital inputs (alas, no USB or Firewire).

's ATM 300B stereo or ATM 211 monos did the heavy lifting on Verity Audio's smaller models in a Stillpoint rack.

's Anssi Hyvönen explained the gestation of the €900/pr Helium 510: "I strongly believe good sound can be a great source of enjoyment for all people and not just the hobbyist. I have for a long time wanted to come up with a speaker that one can connect to anything and still convey the musical message. I strongly believe that timing is very closely related to how the sound affects the human sensory system. Therefore we at Amphion follow the same basic principles regarding timing properties with our most economical product as we do with our most expensive.

"In order to show how well managed sound can enrich a regular person's life, I have for a long time wanted to offer a speaker which can be used ina broader context than just hifi and home theater. I think the fact that flat screen TV sound is pretty annoying even to non-hobbyists, the time has come to persuade regular people to invest in a small DVD player/2-channel amp like this and a pair of good quality speakers for a package price of no more than $1500 - 2000. Because there are surprising number of listenable cheap electronics available, the speakers must fulfill the following criteria:

• Pricing must be realistic - €900/pr
• It must work relatively close to the wall - controlled dispersion + adaptable bass output
• It must create a true 3D sound field from just two speakers -  low crossover of 1600Hz and new wave guide offering even dispersion to create a surprisingly accurate 3D image with especially unheard of depth at this price point
• Speakers must be aesthetically pleasing enough to integrate with living environments - the Helium 510 has classic timeless proportions and invites the customer to place it in the prime real estate of the living room, not modify their decor to insure it matches the speaker
• It must be pleasing and effortless to listen to even at moderate or very low levels  to persuade a normal person to spend close to a thousand
euros on a pair of speakers. They must feel they will gets lot of useful hours from their investment. Listening to music or watching movies intensely is not sufficient. Watching TV or listening to the radio in the background must be included. Due to very advanced acoustic design, the Helium 510 drivers integrate perfectly even at very low listening levels. The controlled dispersion creates an audible sound flow all over the apartment.
• The speaker must work with all kinds of electronics. This has been one of the hardest parts to get a handle on when constructing speakers like we do. I would compare our way of building a speaker to Japanese cooking where one chooses the ingredients perfectly and then balances them harmoniously. Any small staleness in the signal chain easily spoils the harmony. I think we have managed to find a nice balance between openness and warmth in the Helium 510 and it seems to work well even within the most modest of signal chains without getting fatiguing."

Angstrom Research kept it Italian by showing with the big Sonus Faber Cremona Elipsa.

The meters of Audio Research's mighty Reference 610T monoblocks delivering a whopping 300 watts into 8 ohms from 16 x 6550s showed just how much power Magnepan's 85dB MG 20.1 sucks up without getting excessively loud. Not for the faint of wallet, this system nonetheless demonstrated very effectively why pure planars without dynamic wooferage enjoy their devout following.

Valves and panels reoccurred in the exhibit between Atma-Sphere and Sound Lab.