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For class D done different, SPEC of Japan are your men. Their choice of Kaiser Kawero! speaker re-confirmed that president Shuzou Ishimi and general engineering manager Tsutomu Banno have their ears in the right place.

SPEC are expensive and don't give you a lot of power (50-60wpc). What they do give you are deeply tube-educated sonics. That reads all wrong on paper but is exactly what this gear sounds like.

Unison Research showed in the Marriott which on the day I visited was dead as a door nail. Well, not quite but relative to the MOC's traffic, it was a very low-key sideshow. Whilst a few exhibitors I queried claimed that the quality of their traffic was far higher—by which I assume they meant that folks spent a long time in their rooms listening—I wonder how much of that translated into hard success when the event was over. Throwing a party might be fun while it lasts but what about after?

The Marriott presence was spread over a few rooms each on four higher floors and four additional larger suites on the 1st. Having successfully boycotted this outboard venue in years past as an unnecessary time rob from proper MOC business, I'd have to categorically opine that unless you already had good distribution to merely require an affordable place to meet, I'd not recommend to anyone showing here. I certainly won't go back.

Which doesn't imply I didn't hit gold. Audiopax and Rethm not only had been on my list, they were showing together. The Saadhana speakers of Monaco dealer Soundgalleries—that would be the real Grace Kelly Monaco—were the actual pair I'd reviewed a while back. The amplifiers were much updated versions of the Model 88 I used to own in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico many years ago.

For my kind of music I thought the sound spectacular. And yes, Jacob George's Indian speakers sound best when driven from superior valve gear. Whilst my Nelson Pass SIT amps measure and behave very much like single-ended triodes indeed—their circuit is actually simpler still and lacks an output transformer—sonically they didn't quite get the same magic from these 100dB widebanders with active isobaric bass systems when I wrote them up.

Spending some time with Silvio of Audiopax, I learnt that the company had weathered the passing of its gifted founder Eduardo de Lima and actually come up with original new circuits very much based on Eduardo's pioneering work. "We knew that for a year or two, everyone would sit and wait and watch whether we'd still be around or not. So we had to tighten our belts and hit raw survival mode. Now that we've stuck out the drought and proved our resilience, business has commenced again and we're quite positive about our future." Based on the sound here, I'd say they really deserve it.

Or as Jacob put it in an email back from India which arrived just whilst I was penning this page, "and yes, ideally I do agree with you. It would be so much better if the show was all under one roof at the MOC both for the visitors as well as for the exhibitors. There would be so much more traffic. However, the cost of one of the proper upstairs rooms is - well, substantial to say the least. But we talked about it and are hoping to move to the MOC next year if all goes well and both Silvio and I pick up some sales during the course of this year. Even he thinks that what is holding back companies like ours is the fact that we are manufactured in developing countries. It is not enough to be just 'as good' as the competition made in Germany or Japan or the USA but we actually have to be better if we are to be taken seriously. Just the way women have to work a lot harder to prove themselves in a male-dominated society."

Given their illustrious past as the founders of our European civilization and law, I don't know whether present economists would rate Greece as a developing country again but Ypsilon the brand certainly would suggest the contrary. This is seriously engineered seriously priced kit.

The novelty for the show was the Phaethon integrated, a 100wcp class A two-stage affair with tube inputs, Mosfet outputs and transformer volume control in 1.5dB steps. I told their Andy Hassapis to put my name in the good book. On paper the Phaethon hit all the right notes.

Zellaton with their unique drivers ran off Analog Domain Isis power and to drive home seriousness of purpose, do check out those outboard crossovers behind the white towers.

Illusonic from Switzerland believe that traditional 2-channel stereo is intrinsically limited or flawed but can be easily enhanced or augmented when masterfully expanded to 3-channel or even 2+ sound.

To prove their point/s, they'd set up three of Raidho's fabulous super monitors from which they proceeded to demonstrate pure vintage stereo, enhanced stereo and finally 3-channel playback all from basic 16/44.1 Redbook material. Forget Mickey Mouse ping-pong effects or any other hokey and cheap surround-sound trickery. This was a far more subtle and intelligent application for the 2+ mode. 3-channel mode meanwhile got radically different. Whilst I could hear the effects immediately, I admitted to the presenter and other visitors present that being 'brain-washed' or actually conditioned by 20+ years of stereo consumption, it'd take me longer than a 10-minute demo to jump the 2-channel ship.

That's because I wasn't certain that I preferred the 3-channel reading whilst already sitting smack in the center of the sweet spot. This of course doesn't imply that with some relearning and rewiring of my grey-matter stereo matrix, I'd not soon relate to old-fashioned 2-channel as stripped back and bleached by comparison. But at least for these ears it would definitely involve some de-conditioning first. Very interesting stuff!