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If there were awards for best temporary sound room, Martin Gateley of kaoseventshis main trade show exhibit company—and soundkaos his speaker company would have bagged it. To appreciate that, remember that the M.O.C.'s ground floor is open. It's here where makers go who don't want to pay for a big room upstairs; couldn't get one; or prefer not to host an active exhibit where a display table or small open area becomes sufficient to be seen, chat and hand out fliers. Even so show management does offer small fully enclosed spaces with one door and no windows. The absence of the latter means you're liable to walk right past these ground floor rooms because you can't see what awaits inside. And given that this floor tends to specialize in more affordable gear, that's a real shame.

Klutz Design's Michael Hollesen behind window at left

Given his professional background in designing/building trade show exhibits, Martin rolled his own room with strategic glass on two sides, wooden flooring, wooden slats on the ceiling and printed walls which doubled as informative displays. Above you can see his source rack of Bakoon Japan DAC, preamp, Macbook and Lumin streamer. That stack looked out over his outside headfi setup of Bakoon HPA-21 current-mode headphone amp, Audez'e LCD-3 and Klutz Design CanCan stands. So successful was Martin's room visually, sonically and on sheer feel-good vibe that his bunkered-in neighbor begged him to build theirs next year.

But Martin also got punished for going this extra mile. Having submitted his blueprints to show management well ahead of time, the fool who checked his plans overlooked that those clearly specified a ceiling (and who'd build a sound room without one?). Due to building codes, distance between enclosed spaces and bureaucratic red tape, Martin was presented with a last-minute choice: forfeit his mandatory ceiling or spend another €1.100 to install sprinklers. One other manufacturer was likewise abused. The show's own rooms of course all got by without sprinklers. Live, groan and learn!

Bakoon's Akira Nagai in the corner wasn't part of the wall display but a living and breathing presence.

At Munich Martin teamed his Wave 40 tonewood speakers done up for a change in Walnut sides and stands plus a prototype Maple subwoofer with Bakoon's new AMP-12R about which Soo In Chae of Bakoon Korea had emailed me the following in mid April:

"Speaking of new products, I now have to reveal the AMP-12R and EQA-12R to you. Over the past months we have completely redesigned the output circuit of the AMP-11R and the replacement 12R now employs new output circuits borrowed from the AMP-51. You may consider the new AMP-12R a preview of the AMP-51 and AMP-91. We consider this a huge step up from the AMP-11R. As its exterior design and rack remain unchanged, we plan to offer upgrades for existing customers by changing the entire PCB boards inside. Here is a photo of the first prototype PCB board of the new AMP-12R."

Clearly my personal AMP-11R had to go back to Korea for the upgrade. Here is the two-box AMP-12R in black on its custom ball-bearing rack fronting the new soundkaos subwoofer with outboard amplifier and a display for the French Absolue Créations cables which amongst many others wired this and the next exhibit.

Here is Soo In Chae watching Martin about to manipulate his playlist from the iPad remote.

Here are Soo In Chae (Bakoon Korea) and founder/engineer Akira Nagai (Bakoon Japan). Going forward there are plans to merge both companies for one unified product line.

In collaboration with Sweden's Klutz Design who for the occasion have authored a custom leather-clad headphone stand with stitching in Bakoon's trademark orange, Bakoon and Audez'e are about to issue a special combo package of Bakoon HPA-21, Audez'e LCD-3 and CanCan stand. Price TBA but it will obviously be lower than buying these items separately. To my ears this probably makes for the best headfi system money can currently buy. Think ca. €5.000 for the lot, source excluded.

Here is that triple decker which I was told will sell/ship packaged in one box whereby Audez'e handles US customers, Klutz Design Europe and Bakoon Asia.

Next we witness the benefit of windows, with onlookers glancing inside whilst four listeners are already in The Zone as Martin wrote so provocatively next to his entry.

With a Franck Tchang acoustic resonator built into each Wave 40 speaker, it was natural that Martin should have asked the resonator man to fine-tune his room. Except that Franck opined "you don't need my help, it sounds very good already". And it did indeed. My currently favorite speaker—I'd reviewed a pair and lived with it numerous weeks after to feel withdrawal when it finally left for the show—gave a most excellent showing of itself. Whilst the Vox Olympian will energize spaces well beyond the Waves and operate on another scale, the far smaller rooms most of us call home make the Swiss eggs preferable not just on price.

About which—price that is— Hong Kong importer J. Lam of Audio Exotics whom I'd visited and profiled a few years ago apparently was very impressed with the sound as well. When asked to consider representing Bakoon as well as soundkaos however, he reportedly wasn't interested in Bakoon because their electronics were too cheap. If you thought that my earlier rap about nouveau-riche bling was an indictment of hifi manufacturers in general, this is the real crux of the matter. Dealers and distributors would rather write one €50.000 sale than hustle ten €5.000 ones or pursue one hundred €500 transactions. Can you really blame the makers—who after all are paid not by the eventual end users but by their lazy middlemen of dealers and importers—for giving 'the market' what it clamours for?

Sven Boenicke roaming the hallways with his forthcoming W5 desktop speaker
  After my Wave 40 review, Gino Colombo of Colotube had stopped by my place in Villeneuve shortly prior to the show to hear his amps with the Swiss eggs. As a result he decided to not bring his personal pair of custom speakers Sven Boenicke had designed specifically for his amps as shown last year. He wanted to demo with soundkaos for a change. This gave attendees the opportunity to hear this compact two-way with Enviée widebander and Raal ribbon in a rather bigger space and driven by valve gear (Colotube C3g preamp, 300B SET monos).

Though Martin had also made one of his subwoofers available in case the greater cubic volume there asked for some bass assist below 40Hz, Gino opted not to use it as the room's innate response didn't require it. Why that subwoofer hid behind the display for the duration rather than sit silently on the side lines for folks to see was beyond me however.

Whilst my favorite rooms of the show all used tube gear, in this case I clearly preferred the Wave 40 on the wide-bandwidth ultra-quick transistor gear from Bakoon. Tube man Sasa Cokic of Trafomatic Audio who trawled the byways of the show with comrade Mica Despotovich in tow agreed. All that means is that like my favored SIT amps from Nelson Pass—and others I haven't personally heard yet—there nowadays exist solid-state amps which can suit even diehard valvers.

As with Kevin Scott's speakers, I was simply thrilled that other folks now had opportunity to verify my own review/report findings on these products to form their own opinion. For those with real-world budgets, the combination of Bakoon AMP-12R and soundkaos Wave 40 speaker (in my space with Zu Submission subwoofer) would currently be one of my top recos. Munich simply confirmed it.

My new wide-angle lens also allowed me to document one important aspect which routinely gets lost in show report commentary. In many instances the types of systems described are suitable only for spaces significantly larger than the average living room. Whilst it's fun to read about such gear, what's relevant to you and I isn't found there. That's where hifi shows completely miss the boat. They tickle and tease you with unrealistic dreams rather than demonstrate what's relevant on cost, size and simplicity.

It's perfectly clear why makers would wish to show their biggest baddest best. It's simply counterproductive to the ongoing health of the industry if the majority of what's demonstrated is beyond the reach and realistic aspiration of the public. Unless of course one believes—perhaps rightly so—that the few sales of the terribly dear stuff are what keeps the industry afloat. In which case manufacturers must overwhelm us with bling and overkill in the hopes of landing that bespoke Asian, Russian or Dubai account. To conclude this page, the moral of the ground floor story is that excellent sound can be made here amongst the plebs.