Lisbon Audioshow 2016 report

Taking place from 1990 in Lisbon the Audioshow has always been highly regarded both by the Portuguese hi-fi fans and the numerous representatives from the best brands that every year go to Lisbon attracted by the difficult to resist combination of a beautiful city, wonderful weather and some of the best hi-fi gear from all over the world. The 2016 edition did take place for the 4th year at one of the most selected hotels existing in Lisbon: a 5-star hotel installed inside a palace that was built at the beginning of the 20th century for the family of a big cocoa dealer and that in this moment is a national monument. All these reasons, together with the huge amount of visitors (over 5000 along the three days of the event) have given origin to some of the foreign visitors qualifying the Audioshow as one of the best high-end shows in Europe after the Munich High-End show. High praise indeed a gratifying compliment to Jorge Gonçalves, the show organizer since the first moment of its inception.

Outside view of the hotel where the Audioshow is taking place since 2013 – a five- star hotel that fits inside a building that is a national monument!

There were several really impressive (and expensive!) systems on demo but the combination of the imposing, even If gorgeous, Martin Logan Neoliths, acolythated by two Constellation Audio Centaur II monoblocks and the Virgo II preamp from the same brand. Analogue sources varied between magnetic tapes played by a Revox B-77 tape recorder and vinyl records reproduced by the fabulous TechDAS Air Force III. On the digital front the CD transport Metronome Kalista was combined with the top reference converters from the same brand. Cabling was all Transparent Audio Opus. Cost no object is the least one can say and listening results were at the level of this qualification.

Another magnificent system: Gryphon Trident II speakers, Gryphon Diablo 300 II integrated amplifier, Melco N-12 H60 media player and Gryphon Kalliope D/A converter. The size of the room was making due justice to the extreme dynamics of this combination that were complemented with a huge soundstage. As it was to be expected, the room was always fully packed.

Lawrence Dickie is a remarkable speaker designer and the Giya G4s with its beautiful and curvaceous body combine in a way that few speakers achieve beauty of forms with a lively and puncheous sound that belies its very convenient size. They were playing in combination with Hegel electronics: H20 power amplifier, CDP2A MkII CD player and HD30 D/A converter.

The Sennheiser Orpheus, a.k.a. HE-1, can be in this moment the most expensive headphones/headphone amplifier combination existing in the world – the price tag is situated very near 50k euros! The combination valve amplifier with no less than 8 very rare ECC803S tubes contributes to the velvety and extremely open sound character that did give origin to permanent long queues of enthusiasts waiting for their turn to listen to these wonderful music reproducing transducers.

The new PL500 II from Monitor Audio caused quite a stir at the show. Seen for the first time at ISE this was their debut in terms of “playing” at a public venue. Imposing in size and beautifully finished these speakers mark the first incursion of the brand through the High-End territories and with a price a bit under 20000 € they may cause some damage in some established names. Accompanying electronics were as follows: Pass Labs X350.5 power amplifier, Esoteric K-01X CD player with external clock from V-Acoustics.

The Reference Ultime speakers from Stenheim did fill the enormous room where they were playing (around 150 sqm) with such an easiness and aplomb that have the kept the room always full. Electronics were also partly coming from Swiss lands, in the form of the M1 monoblocks (biamped with specially developed crossover), L1 line stage and P1 phono preamp from CH precision. Sources included the impressive Rui Borge Pendulum turntable that took most of the time on all presentations, and from time to time the Aurender W20 streamer and MSB Select DAC where fulfilling their jobs on the digital front.

The new Diamond 3 line from Bowers and Wilkins is causing quite a stir on the market. The brand had on demonstration the gorgeous 803 D3 in black finish amplified through Classé electronics: 2300 power amplifier and CP-800 MkII preamp, together with the Rotel RCD-1570 CD player and aria music server. Orchestral works had such a sense of realism that visitors looked around just to make sure that they were not inside a concert room.

The Air Force III is the newest member of the Air Force family of turntables from Japanese manufacturer TechDAS and benefits in more than one way from the experience the company gained building its Air Force I and Airforce II models. The Air Force III uses a precision CNC-machined aluminum chassis that weighs 18kg to support a high-mass 9kg aluminum platter via an air-bearing that suspends the platter 30 microns above the chassis. The tone arm used was the ubiquitous SME V with the Koetsu Red cartridge. It’s difficult to find words that express in real terms the enchantment that embraced all the ones who have listened to this superb analogue source. Full system was combined of 2 x 802 D3 Bowers & Wilkins, 1 x CP-800 CLASSE preamp, 1 x CA-2300 CLASSE amp (2x300W), 1 x mighty TRINNOV HiFi ST2, 1 x ROTEL CD RDC-1570.

This was one of the big surprises of the show. The V-Acoustics Ultra Precision Master Clock generates a highly stable and with almost zero phase noise 10MHz external clock signal to be applied to CD players/transports and DACs. Sophisticated digital techniques were used by its Portuguese designer and the box has a monoblock construction using a superior strength aluminum alloy that also provides high EMC immunity. It has already been highly recommended in several circles inside and outside Portugal and was staring at the Monitor Audio PL500 II /Pass labs setup.

Interest for high-quality headphones is growing up day by day and on this setup there as a chance of listening to highly coveted wonders like the Pioneer Master 1 Reference, the Audeze LCD-3 and several others, connected to the incredible headphone amplifier P-700u, from Luxman, equipped with the famous LECUA volume attenuator and balanced outputs.

The Wilson Audio Sabrinas should be the most ubiquitous high-end speakers to have been launched around the latest months since they have a reserved presence in almost high-end systems demoed in shows all over the world. In this case they were combined with the Audio Research Galileo GSi75 integrated amp (what else?) and proved once again that the title given by Jorge Gonçalves on his review published a few months ago was more than justified: they are meant to play together!

What a beautiful piece of engineering the Kronos turntable is. In this case we have here the Pro version, with production limited to 250 units worldwide. The two platters rotate in opposite directions and the rotational speed is controlled by two high quality motors driven through a dual channel pure class A linear DC supply feedback controlled by optical sensors. The cartridge in use was a ZYX Premium Omega, installed on the latest version of the Kronos Black Beauty tonearm. Enough to say that it looked like the sound was coming from heaven!

Louis Desjardins himself did come once more (this was the 4th time) to Lisbon and did bring with him some very special records, including Sheffield Labs direct cuts and Mercury originals. But what was more interesting was listening to him disclosing some details regarding the new turntable motor power supply that he will show at the Munich High-End Show. Trusting his own words, it will produce flabbergasting results when combined with the Kronos turntables.

These intriguingly looking speakers are the result of the work of Italian designer Giuseppe Gabbarini and they are so new that there is still no complete information about them. Suffice to say that they make use of the open baffle concept with two 12-inch subwoofers and a rather unconventional horn loaded top speaker for the medium range. They were amplified by a pair of Jeff Rowland 625 SII monoblocks and the music was provided by the Diesis Neptune music server, making for a terrific combination in terms of reproducing classical music.

The French brand Apertura has a range of beautifully looking speakers. The Oniras are one of them and allied those good looks to a vibrant and very detailed sound that was praised along the packed corridors. Amplification was in the hands of the Burmester 035 preamp and 956 Mk2 power amplifier. A Transrotor Dark Star turntable provided the analogue sounds, amplified through the Trigon Advance phono stage and the digital source was once again from Burmester in the form of the 113 DAC playing digital files.

The Focal Sopra Nº2 loudspeakers were playing inside one of the most beautiful rooms facing the river Tagus. Electronics were by Naim and the packed room was a proof that the full bodied but highly transparent sounds were really appreciated.

Tannoy speakers made a nice combination with Unison Research electronics. In this setup we had a pair of Tannoy Definition DC8Ti combined with the Unison Research Sinfonia integrated amplifier and the Unico CD Due from the same brand. Analogue source was the Pro-Ject Xtension 10 Evolution with the phono stage Phono Box RS/power supply Power Box RS Phono.

Rui Borges keeps astonishing vinyl lovers with the mechanically intricate and beautifully made turntables. The latest achievement from this Portuguese manufacturer is the Pendulum turntable in which he uses a complex combination of parts made from different materials and some of them machined by himself. The most interesting design characteristic of the Pendulum is that the motor (a DC version with external power supply) plinth pivots on a pair of point-contact bearings. A long arm with an adjustable weight fitted at the end works like the pendulum of a clock controlling in this way the tension of the belt. And it’s quite easy to ear the really important changes on the sonic reproduction when even minor adjustments take place at the pendulum’s counterweight.

Conrad Mas from Avid did bring to Lisbon its latest novelties in the form of the Reference Series. In this setup we had the Reference Three stand mount speakers on its first public demonstration combined with the Reference line of electronics presented at the last Munich High-End Show: Reference preamplifier and two Reference Mono power amplifiers. Specifications were still quite scarce but the performance of the system did raise quite high expectations on the side of prospective buyers.

Audio Note Tomei integrated amplifier use two 211 output tubes connected two of their famous transformers using a combination of both silver and copper wire. A 6463 input stage drives an in-house designed and manufactured 1:2 copper/silver wired driver transformer on a double AN-Perma 50 nickel C-core. Most of the components belong to what the brand designates as Level 4 quality level and this includes tantalum resistors and Elna Cerafine electrolytics. Output power is 18 watts per channel in class A.

The Model One speakers from Ubiq Audio manage to combine really nice aesthetic design with a very pleasant sound performance, even when combined with a high quality but definitely not high-end amplification form Arcam: C49 preamp and two P49 monoblocks. But of course that the Chord Hugo TT DAC on the digital front did contribute in a no insubstantial way to the final results.

Peter Lyngdorf keeps himself quite active with his own brand of electronics. Pictured here we have the TDAI2170 integrated amplifier and the CD2 CD player. One of the most interesting characteristics of the former one is the inclusion of the latest version of the RoomPerfect acoustic correction software.

OLED TVs are one of the most coveted products even if still only at the reach of just a few high-heeled buyers. LG had a magnificent display of their latest models and the 65 inch one did cause quite a stir, translated to a number of almost firm rates that the proud exhibitor restrained himself from disclosing.

No need for too many words: vinyl records keep attracting more and more attention to all kinds of customers and the room from Audio Team managed to gather quite a lot of them in an almost permanent way, so much that there were needed several attempts until it was possible to take a photo that would show enthusiasts and record covers.

Analogue Works is a newcomer to the Portuguese market. Here we have the One Twelve turntable with a plinth of birch plywood and feet with weight dependent dampening material to minimize interference for improved audio performance. The driving motor is a DC model from the renowned manufacturer Premotec and is driven by a Revolter power supply.

Stax had on demonstration its latest range of electrostatic headphones (earspeaker is the name Stax prefers) and matching exciters/amplifiers. Here pictured we have the combination of the SRM-353X headphone amplifier and the SR-L500 headphones, sold together is some kind of pack. The diaphragm is made from ultra-thin film on which stainless fixed electrodes have been implanted to give origin to an extremely flat response along the audible range and very high resolution in terms of detail reproduction.