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Round up the usual suspects.
By now in its 4th installment, the High End Swiss show organized by the same crack team responsible also for the Munich show has developed quite the loyal support from the industry. Most manufacturers or domestic dealers book the same room year after year. This provides the returning visitor with a familiar walk-thru. With a nod to Marc Mickelson's website, my own audio beat this year was one of crass novelty. If I'd seen or covered it before, I moved on. This led swiftly to the following discoveries.

Rounding up the unusual suspects. Taking the place of Sven Boenicke of the eponymous Swiss speaker house who didn't attend this year, Martin Gateley's Wave 40 under the soundkaos banner demonstrated how tone woods, minimized enclosure storage, verkackte assembly and widebanders are venerated also on the Green Isle (Martin is a Swiss transplant to the UK who might be returning to the land of cheese, chocolate and watches soon; and hey, we've got the better weather too).

His ovoid speaker centers around a widebander designed by Armin Galm, an in-demand transducer engineer who does a lot of work for Backes & Müller. What's a gifted contract designer of drivers to do with his spare time? Dream up his ideal widebander without any commercial pressures of course.

The Enviee 8 is an Alnico-powered 8-incher with a 51.2Hz resonant frequency and 10.8g of moving mass. Flux density is 1.2T, sensitivity 95.2dB and power handling 50 watts. In Martin's speaker the driver is low-passed around 7kHz to hand over to a Serbian Raal ribbon. This eliminates the Enviee's 'hot zone' around 9kHz where it gets just a bit fresh to Martin's ear.

The enclosure is a clamshell of Maple sides with Alpine Spruce front and rear. The front sports concentric ripples machined into its surface but the handcrafter's nightmare doesn't stop there.

The entire enclosure is mostly decoupled from the driver by hanging off a cylindrical cross member mounted to the stand. One single bolt pulls the driver from its magnet into the front baffle from the center of the stand's top whilst the enclosure's two halves get simultaneously joined along a central longitudinal seam.

You can't do it with the optional tripod version where feedback solicited thus far shows particular popularity with the younger generation. But you can with the single stem version that had my attention (I've clearly gone conservative in my grey years). Do what? Rotate the entire cabinet freely around its stationary driver. I don't know why you would—the ribbon probably shouldn't go sideways—but you could. It's one clever way to reduce interactions between driver and enclosure.

There's a very short curved line inside the 'box' which terminates in a sizable opening to one side. A few final design decisions remain. One of them is whether the whizzer stays. It's no longer required for treble duties yet Martin explained that the driver behaves more linear with it. Whilst the minimalist network is essentially sorted, some experiments on parts choices remain. And Martin still wants to try shellacking the baffle like a guitar as well.

He demo'd his nearly finalized prototype with a stack of Bakoon gear for which he became the Swiss importer. He also ran Schiit's newest full-width DAC since Bakoon hasn't released theirs yet to exploit the AMP-11R's current-mode inputs. Martin let on that first production pairs of the Wave speaker might come together as early as December. Whenever they finally hatch, I've signed on for a review loaner. This story will thus unfold in stages. Based on first impressions, this definitely was my most exciting show discovery in the esoteric sector.

New to me as well was Joe Jouhal's JoSound. That's a UK speaker company incorporated last year which is based in the Channel Islands. JoSound revolves around Jordan and Voxativ drivers mated to solid bamboo enclosures. I was most keen to hear the JO33 with Inès Adler's transducer as I'm quite familiar with it from her Ampeggio speaker. Alas the designer hadn't liked its interaction with the small hotel room. He'd thus opted to demonstrate instead with his smallest model JOC30 fronted by an affordable Musical Fidelity source and Trafomatic Audio 300B integrated. That speaker runs a single 102mm aluminum Jordan cone in a shallow oval enclosure with twin ports. Claimed bandwidth is 30Hz to 20kHz but efficiency for that stunt drops precipitously to 85dB.

Squatting quietly on the sidewall were the 96dB efficient JO33 whose J-shaped enclosure with the O-shaped head—hence JoSound—conceals a quarterwave transmission line exiting on one side bottom rear.

Pricing across the line gets quickly heady. It starts out at a solid 8,741.14 Swiss for the small Jordan pair, then achieves alpine lift-off at 29,501.34 for the Voxativ model. And that can be further gilded with the field-coil driver version to hit a Himalayan CHF 45,890.97. Living in the low lands by the lake is more my speed but there are wallets of all sizes. The woodwork of JoSound was certainly inspiring enough to make you wonder whether a Voxativ by JoSound—it used to be by Schimmel—could be around the bend.

Swiss Colotube had followed up their maiden mono amp model with a stereo version. This still sports the proven Emission Labs 300B and 5U4G rectifier but...

... omits the monos' direct-heated big driver bottles for JJ ECC99.

As the Swiss importer for Metrum Acoustics these folks already had production samples of Cees Ruijtenberg's Hex DAC which goes not postal but dual octal on its paralleled industrial chips, outputs fully balanced and offers optional USB.

A quiet looker unit in the wings lent itself to a quick head-in-the-sand shot to show off its assets.

There are dual coax inputs, dual Toslink, USB and AES/EBU plus RCA and XLR outputs. If the Hex is an Octave on steroids, this non-oversampling but 24/192-ready converter should be one to watch.

Following in the show-report footsteps of Doug Schneider, Roy Gregory and our own Aussie contributor John Darko—I'm quite late to the party but this type of outrageous find can't be highlighted often enough until people actually act on it—the small KEF LS50 with its Blade Uni-Q/Tangerine waveguide driver really was the dog's bollocks as our friends in the UK like to say. Whilst the svelte Blade flagship model has spilled all the ink and pixels—it was playing on Soulution gear when I entered—it was this far smaller box with the curvy baffle fronted by affordable Arcam gear that had my undivided attention. So I asked for a demo. The big rig was muted, the ordinary one fired up. Forget ordinary! This sounded warm, ballsy, spacious as sin, coherent and had sufficient testicular fortitude (well dawg again) to be a bona fide music maker well above its £800/pr sticker station. Don't let size fool you. This is a seriously capable speaker with more hi-tech engineering thrown at it than its exterior gives away or smaller companies can levy at their very best. This was my realsization or everyman highlight of the show!

This leaves us with an entry in the openly baffled category compliments of Swiss Technologies' activAudio brand. You'd perhaps not expect guts and glory face on but...

... once you changed your viewing angle, it was clear how these dipole speakers from designer Harald Rupf were letting it all hang out on the other side.

Popular with DIYers who often start with a plain sheet of 4 x 8' Ply, the open baffle approach also has commercial champions like Jamo for example. And now Swiss Technologies via fully active drive and DSP crossovers with slopes up to 96dB/octave.

Here the Swiss demonstrated more vroom for your boom in an alignment dubbed RUpol said to be a further development of the classic I-L-U-Pol and RI-Pol principles practiced by Axel Ridtahler and Siegfried Linkwitz.

The sound at the time of my visit—we'd gotten to the hotel on opening day whilst this exhibit was still opening boxes—had been too undeveloped yet to give any indication about the true potential of these designs. I thus included them here more as novel eye candy for the many fans of OBs and especially those with a lust for bass and SPL.

Which brings us to my very final entry of Xilobis whose name to my mind conjured up Alien voyages to forbidden planets until its very friendly proprietor explained the origins as a contraction of Greek for wood, made in Switzerland (the final 'is') and something I duly forgot.

The point for inclusion is, this gent had very clever modular furniture assembled from Ply and string whilst using single ball bearings for stacking couplers. You really ought to visit his website to appreciate the cleverness of his assembly method which rejects glue, screws and nails and see just how flexible it is. Think Ikea but far more nicely finished if just as 'Scandinavian' in overall appearance.

And there you have it, my seven most noteworthy discoveries of High End Swiss 2012. Short but sweet.