Calling all audio buffs!
It's been 10 looong years since Sydney's hosted a high-end HiFi show. For various political and practical reasons, there has not been a forum for large-scale public exposure of high-end audio in Sydney, barring the monthly meetings for the members of the ever-growing Audiophile Society of NSW (ASoN) of which I am an Organising Committee member. The Super-Fi show therefore was a welcome high-end oasis of audio in a Sahara desert calendar. The ongoing and relentless flow of audio enthusiasts was testament to this fact as streams of people with eager and anticipating faces queued down the serpentine stairs of the North Sydney Leagues Club. Indeed, after years of starvation, deprivation and pent-up cold turkey for interaction with like-minded audio freaks, the Super-Fi show hit Sydney's audiophiles with over-dose intensity.

The scenario was carefully set:
As we know, most HiFi shows are hotel/motel affairs where the usual proliferation of manufacturers, importers and dealers is allotted a cramped display environment through which punters flow from room to room at their leisure. The Super-Fi show was to be a little different. A very select group of only three of Australia's top high-end audio dealers combined forces to showcase the very best (read most expensive) of upscale audio which Down Under has to offer. The environment was a large conference room with - bless the organisers -- a bar offering complimentary drinks. Hourly sessions were held from 11am to 8pm on both days, with each system getting its turn in succession. All three exhibitors were reasonably happy with the sound quality achieved in unfamiliar and acoustically untreated environs. What nobody knew? What would the punters think.

The main attractions:
System 1 from Sydney's own Len Wallis Audio of Leafy Lane Cove. L
en Wallis himself, Nigel Macara -- head of distribution -- and Dominic Baker, designer of the JMLab Grande Utopia, introduced the audio demonstrations.

Source: Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista CD player
Amplification: KW preamplifier and KW monoblock amplifiers
Loudspeakers: JMLab Grande Utopias
Cables & Accessories: a variety of cables from Musical Fidelity and Audioquest.
On Silent Display: the new Musical Fidelity M1 turntable, with Len Wallis playing DJ.

System 2 from Joe Riediger's Audio Connection of downtown Leichhardt. Phil Powell from Audio Connection and Silvia Hadel from MBL introduced the system.

Source: Clearaudio Reference turntable, MBL Reference transport and Reference DAC
Amplification: Reference preamplifier and 9008 monoblock amplifiers
Loudspeakers: MBL Radialstrahler 101E speakers
Cables & Accessories: Nordost and Transparent Audio, rack by Gryphon
On Silent Display: various models from Germany's MBL, Italy's Pathos Audio and Canada's Magnum Dynalab.

System 3 from Reference AV in Melbourne, house of Steve Eleftheriadis and son David.
The system was introduced by Steve, Bruce Candy from Halcro and Caelin Gabriel of Shunyata Research.

Source: Basis Debut turntable, DCS digital playback front end (5 chassis!)
Amplification: Halcro preamplifier, 4 Halcro DM68 monoblock amplifiers in biamp configuration
Loudspeakers: Eggleston Works Savoy speakers
Cables & Accessories: Shunyata AC and signal cables and AC treatment via multiple Hydras, Grand Prix Audio and Soundations racks
On Silent Display: select items from Balanced Audio Technologies, Soundations racks and the Rosa speakers from Eggleston.

Foyer Stand: The amiable Rob Woodland from Eichmann Technologies International held a passive display of the extensive range of cables, connectors and resonance control goods the company is now world-renowned for.

A home theatre anteroom was available for audiophiles wanting a break or for those that arrived late for a session. This room played a continuous selection of DVDs on a large screen that displayed one of the best images I have ever seen. The culprits were a Barco CineVersum 110 HD2 3 chip DLP projector and a Krell DVD player. The rest of the system was made up of Krell Showcase amplification and the JMLab Electra range of speakers, with video and audio courtesy of Total Home Entertainment in Melbourne, a retail satellite of Reference AV.

To the organisers' surprise and delight, all sessions were standing-room only. The crowd was a mixture of familiar audiophile faces aka the usual suspects, and a far larger proportion of audio enthusiasts, music lovers and the young and the curious. Refreshingly, there was a healthy representation of women and some very well-behaved youngsters amongst the audience. During a session I attended, a young boy sitting close to me who looked to be approximately 10 to 12 years of age seemed entranced by a classical piece being played at the time. Suddenly he straightened in his chair and began waving his arms in sympathy with the music, oblivious to the people around him. As the piece reached its climax, his agitation grew more fervent and he poignantly reminded me of the transcendence of musical bliss. Lost in his ecstasy, he was in front of the whole orchestra - il maestro!

Comments regarding sound quality varied, much as would be expected. Over the event's two days, I briefly spoke to a small cross-section of attendees and preferences were randomly split between the three systems. Bearing in mind the conditions vis-a-vis room size, acoustics and the large audience, I will focus only on the positives and very briefly summarize the strengths of each system:

The Musical Fidelity/JMLab system sounded hugely dynamic, with ample detail and precise imaging within a vast soundstage. Much like the speakers' imposing physical size, music sounded big. The MBL system threw a superbly airy and large soundstage as you would expect from its omni-directional design parameters. It also sounded powerful and dynamic with terrific timbre of wind instruments (a solo sax piece sounded glorious). One unanimous consensus: As far as looks and design were concerned, this system was a definite winner. The Halcro/Eggleston setup had uncanny accuracy. In terms of image size, presence and detail, a violin piece sounded almost like the violin was in the room. Male and female vocals were outstanding in their 'thereness'.

The Super-Fi show was a resounding success. Preliminary figures show that close to a thousand audiophiles and enthusiasts attended over the two days. Those are quite outstanding numbers when you take into account the limited advertising prior to the event, the relatively small local audio community and the fact that Sydney-siders were compelled to vote on a Local Government election that weekend. Even of more importance is the fact that such a high attendance flies in the face of the Home Theatre Revolution and those who claim that two-channel audio is dead. It rather looks like high-end audio in Sydney/Australia is certainly alive and kicking!

As the old show business motto goes: "Leave 'em begging for more". That they certainly did. Will we see this event again next year? Quite likely.Was all the hard work and expense worth it? Put it this way: If the young maestro boy had been the singular attendee over the whole weekend, it certainly was in my book!

Thanks for the event must go to Steve and David Eleftheriadis; Joe Riediger and Len Wallis and their respective staff members; Rob Woodland; the local and overseas special guests; and the Audiophile Society of New South Wales

Digital photography by Gregory Au, ASoN member and professional photographer, and Edgar Kramer.