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I wasn't planning to attend. A rare chance to see friends in Milan at the same time spontaneously changed that. For one brief 'hifi business' day, I found myself roaming the hallways of the Quark Hotel. Quite unlike last year's report which, as my first of this event, was deliberately comprehensive, this one isn't. Rather, it strategically overlooks most rooms I covered last year to primarily focus on new companies. Well, at least new to me. I also spotted certain new products by familiar companies I found promising. Those are included too.

How big was this show? Somewhat smaller than last year's. That was my impression and also confirmed by regular exhibitors. However, I let you do the counting of exactly who was there with the floor plans below.

The most exciting new company also alphabetically makes our first place - Absoluta from Fiesso d'Artico run by president Giulio Salerno. Italian to the core, high style is an innate ingredient of their lineup and the display below drove home a large variety of hot-swappable premium finish options.

The Partenope integrated amplifier is a 73/125/195wpc into 8/4/2-ohm affair with a 3Hz to 2MHz (+0/-3dB) frequency response. Bandwidth is the first speculacious indicator that these aren't your run-of-the-mill hybrids. The S/N ratio of 116dB drives home further that point. The line stage has 12dB of gain, the output stage 26dB and the phono stage 40dB for MM and 60dB for MC. 28kg make this quite the heavyweight on the scales, too.

The matching preamp is called Talia and combines tubes and bipolar transistors in a "DC-coupled wideband tube interface" circuit that is auto-balancing to allow for both single-ended and balanced signals. Phase inversion is available by remote and power supply regulation is stiff, with two-stage regulation for each stage of each channel.

For just amplification, Absoluta offers the Tersicore stereo amplifier and Janus mono amps. Both are "infinite slew rate" designs with "current mode circuits" and 5Hz to 400kHz bandwidth. The Tersicore offers 100/200/350wpc into 8/4/2 ohms, the Janus 150/300/500 watts per side. Fit 'n' finish are of the highest order and internal construction appears beyond reproach.

To demonstrate that their wares weren't just airbrushed fashion models but had gumption too, Absoluta ran Triangle Electroacoustique's triple-decker top Magellan towers. Since I only had a day to make my rounds, I mostly refrained from any listening. That'll be for whatever reviews materialize.

With swooping cosmetics, sleek finishes and comprehensive features, Absoluta made quite a splash. Considering how small our high-end audio community really is, it's questionable of course just how far this splash went. Reproducing it here for more global consumption at least insures that those numbers increase a tad.

Whenever industry veterans congregate after hours or have a friendly hallway run-in, one of the first questions invariably is "did you see anything really exciting?". What's fished for is some new breakthrough technology, some radical implementation or similar. Just as invariably, the response which this question triggered was "no!". In short, to the jaded types, a launch like Absoluta's no longer registers at all.

What never factors into such hit 'n' run commentary are aspects like business stability, ability to supply in a timely manner, reliability, desirability from a consumer perspective and more. Technology is merely one part of a rather bigger picture. It's often simply the most obvious. The other stuff—often a lot more vital to success—can't be assessed at a show. Associated commentary then often gets skewed in terms of real market impact. Being jaded by time spent in the trenches myself, I still discovered things I felt were exciting. Was Absoluta one of them? Absolutely.

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