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After a 4-year lapse, the
Doelen Spring Hifi Show in Rotterdam has been restored to it unique former glory. Previous incarnations ran parallel to a music student contest between various conservatories of our country. Winners of these competitions often grew to become established artists who were and are regularly seen and heard in Dutch and foreign venues. Besides these competitive performances, our spring show always also issued a special event CD whose program the recording artists then performed live. This made for great live/canned comparisons for those so inclined.

A few years ago, the heart and mind behind the show stepped down. All his successors' efforts to organize his formula of live and recorded music plus hifi displays proved challenging to duplicate on any part-time basis. Organizing a show means endless phone calls and meetings. If that's not a full-time affair, you're limited to after hours, lunch breaks and weekends. To not see 'his' baby suffer any longer, 2009 saw the return of leading man
Tom Gosselaar; and the European Trombone Festival coinciding in the same venue, our Doelen concert and congress center in Rotterdam/Holland. For the traditional CD accompanying our hifi festivities, the 2009 issue was based around the launch of a new line of custom-made 4-octave vibraphones. More on this most remarkable instrument anon.

Though not the biggest show on earth, our spring gathering has always been one of the friendliest, most relaxed and musical affairs of the year. This year, Tom added a series of presentations by national and international guest speakers. So the bootstrap Dutchies ended up with some 35 distributor and dealer exhibitors, the five leading Dutch hifi (e)magazines, two music magazines and -- to our surprise -- even yours truly on the roster.

The Doelen complex in the city center is one of those architectural phenomena whose exterior belies its interior immensity. Besides being Holland's largest and acoustically revered chief concert hall, this complex also offers a large variety of smaller halls and rooms all ingeniously connected by large sound-proofed glass doors and spread out over 4 floors. Though admittance for the Trombone Festival and Hifi Show was separate, once inside both events were mutually accessible.

We arrived a bit later than the 9:00am curtain call and found the entrance already brimming with audio enthusiasts. We did not count the "hey, 6moons" greetings but being exposed on the web has its -- mostly very benign -- consequences. After we unpacked our camera gear for a first round, we immediately ran into
Siltech's Edwin van der Kley. After the usual exchange of pleasantries about the good things in life, Edwin brought his latest cable adventure to our attention. Playing in the upper segment of this category, they are now manufactured of single crystal wire, of course in his signature gold/silver mix. After attempting to craft cables from amorphous metals, the current technology of super-long crystals proved out not only sonically but also in production consistency. Amorphous metals are a valid material but once cables extend beyond a certain and not even exotic length, it becomes nearly impossible to control the gauge of amorphous conductors and hence, their performance stability. While chatting about crystals, Siltech's sister company Crystal Cable was to demonstrate their new Arabesque loudspeaker whose cabinets are fabricated entirely of glass. Edwin invited us for an extended demo later on.

In the central hall of the complex, a number of local dealers had set up displays of their products. On static display, much attention focused on the
Michell Engineering Orbe turntable next to a GyroDec. It was amazing to witness people seriously listening to a set of Quad 2905 ESL speakers in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of this constant foot traffic din. Demonstrations with all manner of A/V gear did not deter these listeners who stoically inhabited their own little world. Bravo.

Vincent was one of only few brands to shed audio's black uniform code. A stack in shiny orange lacquer put an appreciative smile on any onlooker's face. One wonders why manufacturers so seldom go for bright appearances. Isn't our hobby a happy one?

With the undeniable return of vinyl, the market for vinyl cleaning machines is naturally booming. Next to the more or less traditional models based either on the Keith Monk principle or the noisier high-vacuum cleaners, the show also presented the
Audio Desk Vinyl Cleaner. This system holds the LP in perpendicular fashion and once activated, rotary micro fiber barrels clean the grooves assisted by ultrasonic vibrations.