As last year -- and in exactly the same spot -- Greatech from Germany showed these cute back-horn single-driver desk top speakers with what is one of the smallest valve amps extant (it sits in front of Nipper).

Gryphon Audio Designs too occupied the same space as last year. In fact, most exhibitors did, making it easier for regular attendees to find their favorite brands quite instinctively. The flip side of this equation is that if a company opts to show the same statement products on active display year in, year out, certain opportunities to sample other models are missed. How to fully optimize trade show exposure really is far more science and art than one might think.

Hanns Acoustics sells in Asia as Amari and offers very high-value analogue components which took pride of place this year in the Audio Consulting | Hiraga exhibit. The affable and pointy-eared Joseph Cohen of Prana Wire and Lotus Group USA has become the US importer. Joe continues to display most excellent taste in the products he picks for distribution.

Hegel showed with Amphion and brought their new H100 integrated amplifier with USB controller. As our review of Hegel's top preamp and amplifier reported, the company's SoundEngine feedback technology is something unique and effective to achieve class A-type sound without the wasteful inefficiency. Don't let the conservative styling fool you. There's very serious engineering hiding below them covers.

HiFi Sound & Design uses a ceramic enclosure for its Obelisk 1 speaker whose walls are about 2cm thick, with Seas Excel drivers. The totemic/Norse visual impression was nicely underscored by the fire offering in the middle. And speaking of the middle, here was another solution to minimize upper-frequency front-wall reflections with a quite inoffensive acoustical treatment. Still more to come on that subject.

Hiraga of course is Jean Hiraga, the legendary French/Japanese writer for the original La Revue du Son and l'Audiophile who first introduced Western listeners to Pacific Rim audiomaniacs who were already experimenting with low-power SETs and hornspeakers way back when. The inset shows Hiraga with Esoteric's president and right-hand man.

The next inset shows Jean Hiraga and Serge Schmidlin of Audio Consulting, the later an ardent reader of Hiraga's early writings and findings, much of which find themselves implemented in the Swiss electronics.

Hiraga's speakers are assembled in Lyon 150km outside Geneva, placing his operation within reasonable driving distance from Chardonne. Through Serge, Jean inquired during the show as to my interest for an informal half-day listening session if the two brought by a pair to Switzerland for an afternoon. Given the size of these speakers and the narrowness of my room, copaseticity remains to be seen but I'm obviously all ears. This won't become a formal review under such circumstances but rather, a kind of reverse RoadTour report. To clinch the deal, Serge will bring his new entry-level battery-powered transistor integrated with transformer volume control. Stay tuned for more on that.

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High Resolution Technologies is a joint venture between Kevin Halverson of Muse Audio and Michael Hobson of Classic Records. Their first two products are $89 and $249 'inline' USB DACs called Music Streamers who derive their power from the 5-volt power line inside any USB cable. Shockingly, this product is entirely manufactured in the US. It puts a fat lie to the notion that competitive pricing can only be achieved by offshore sourcing. A Pro version will bow next. Kevin didn't promise significant performance advantages but simply said that he doubled the output voltage to 4V for mastering purposes and that no home audio cables run the mini XLRs he will put on the Pro.

HMS is short for Hans-Manfred Strassner, a no-nonsense engineer plying the German cable and power delivery trade. Here he is seen delivering a lecture on the basics to dispel certain audiophile myths.

In his booth, Strassner showed the new suggestively named Energia Definitiva whose net decoupling and component-specific filtering techniques promise better sound. Because EU Schuko plugs are bidirectional, proper AC phase can be restored by inverting how a power plug is seated. The Energia Definitiva automatically recognizes correct power polarity and a remote control allows complete and programmable system power-up with integral soft-start function. If you wish to hear your system properly warmed up at 18:00 when you return from work, this HMS device can fire it up for you at 17:00. Very clever.