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The ground floor had a special circular array for newcomers. Here Georg Arsin of Rike Audio showed off his €380.000 four-piece Edzard amps, total weight 200kg. Whilst chatting with him, Avantgarde Acoustic designer Matthias Ruff stopped by to categorically declare the Rike Audio capacitors the industry's very best and to express a great desire to hear these statement monos for himself. Matthias is a very clever designer. His unexpected endorsement spoke volumes.

These 50-watt SETs run a Siemens/Telefunken 3Cm input, KR Audio 300B driver and KR1610 output triode with special paper-in-oil Rike capacitors, silver output and interstage transformers, novel bias circuitry and a hi-tech material sourced from the Fraunhofer Institute* to attenuate parasitic mechanical vibrations (the big black layers). A mono volume control is set into the casing of each output transformer.

The power supplies are external. The above photo shows how massive they are squatting on the floor.

Here are two capacitor specimens.

* About the Fraunhofer IFAM Dresden operation, I picked up a profile flier to educate myself. They carry out fundamental and applied research to develop new sintered and composite materials as well as cellular metallic materials derived from powder metallurgy. This includes particle and fiber-reinforced materials with tailored properties, nanostructured materials, friction/sliding and high-temperature materials. Doesn't it seem timely that the best of hifi should begin to incorporate the most current hi-tech materials?

Another newcomer was Le Son from Switzerland's St-Aubin-Sauges. When CEO Yves Galley handed me a glass-etched business card, I knew just how serious these folks are about tech and presentation. Prestige for the ear but also the eye they call it. Since one of the three principals arrives from the Swiss watch industry, fit'n'finish and design pursue unusual perfectionism. On interface smarts this means custom software for smartphone or tablet control like Devialet. Currently the team is readying the LS001 streamer/DAC and LS002 amplifier. The streamer will output via USB and LAN and support hi-rez PCM and DSD with four DACs in twin dual-mono mode. The power supply runs more than 30 voltage regulators and the fully discrete mirror output stage operates in class A sans global NFB. There's a 3Vrms/1Ω headphone output and the RCA/XLR line-level outputs create 3V/75Ω and 6V/150Ω respectively.

The LS002 amp can operate in 100-watt stereo, bi-amp or high-power paralleled mono mode and is described as using a "single-pole concept for minimal phase shift, extremely short signal path, mirror-like topology, a high-current massively filtered power supply and firmware/control upgradability via USB port and Bluetooth. Inputs are on 10kΩ RCA or XLR. Bandwidth is 1Hz-350kHz."

Le Son avail themselves of hi-tech materials like this lava-rock porous aluminum foam for heatsinking and thin chemically milled metal grids "for strong shielding against EM/RF interferences whilst preserving the product's transparent casing".

With Nagra Audio, Orpheus Labs, CH Precision and Soulution, the small Swiss nation already enjoyed a very solid footing in the extreme high-end sector. But clearly there's more to come. This includes other hi-tech companies which currently operate elsewhere but told me they're considering to relocate manufacturing to the white-on-red cross. CH for hi-end prez?

Of course just like the economic crash in Cyprus, my crystal ball knew all this when I relocated to Switzerland five years ago. Absolutely not. Dumb luck was more like it!

Stratos Vichos from Lab 12 of Athens/Greece previewed his headphone amp in the same newcomer area.

Next to him I got to meet another Greek, Konstaninos Papachristou from Black Pearls Audio whose Birth 100 I'd previously reviewed. He'd tracked down a grounding error that had caused the hum in headphone mode I'd reported. Testing this with a small Grado headphone, I now indeed heard nothing—except for the hall's constant background din—until the volume control was past 2:00 o'clock. By that time headphones would melt your ears. Problem solved!

After upsetting the market with their Venere range last year, Sonus faber kept the floodgates open to introduce the new Olympica series made entirely in Italy and again in leather and walnut. It is named to honor Andrea Palladio and the Teatro Olimpico. The launch of this range is scheduled in two phases. Munich introduced the 2-way Olympica monitor and floorstanding 3-way Olympica II and III towers. Further models will bow at the end of summer.

With these Olympicans, Sonus for the fist time relies entirely on their very own drivers. "As is usual for us, for the diaphragms natural materials such as a silk dome for the tweeter and cellulose mixtures for the midrange and woofer prevail. The 29mm dome tweeter contains DAD technology and a neodymium magnet derived from the development of the Aida. The 150mm midrange cone is made of a proprietary mixture of cellulose, kapok and kenaf. The 180mm woofer cone is constructed from a sandwich of cellulose pulp and rigid syntactic foam." The bass alignments for these models use hyperbolically shaped ports. The monitor sports 87dB sensitivity and an F3 of 50Hz. The II goes to 88dB and 40Hz, the III to 90dB and 35Hz. All models include tuning ports.

Soulution Audio introduced their new 711 stereo amp—whose pricing of course is anything but 711 —and the matching 701 monos. Advances in circuit design are said to have taken the new stereo amp beyond the former monos.

Since pictures speak a thousand words, no comments are required about this power supply and the 3mm thick board following.

Whilst Soulution is outrageously priced, what you're not getting are mostly empty boxes with a shiny 2" faceplate.

When its four ex-Goldmund principals were absorbed by Devialet, the future of Swiss speaker brand Stenheim looked uncertain. Into this vacuum has stepped Jean-Pascal Panchard, formerly of Nagra and long before that with his own hifi retail venture. Having set up shop in the Kempinski a short foot walk from my digs at the Schlicker, he showed the existing Alumine monitor and Third Way sub/stand with a new roller-bearing interface. This streamlines the cosmetics and minimizes resonance transfer. By giving the base a counter slant, the final side profile has become slightly concave just as Gryphon's tall line sources champion.

Forthcoming for Stenheim are the Modular and Reference lines. The former will add to the Alumine monitor one or more active bass modules styled and sized to create a unified modern look. The Reference line will pursue its name. Stenheim's original engineers remain involved whilst Jean-Pascal takes over all the time-consuming business and marketing matters. This creates a win/win for all concerned.