See Which way to the future? for photo gallery
THE KLIAV show, as always, is a cornucopia of many things, and to the casual visitor, the kaleidoscope can be quite disorienting. However, I was pretty specific about what I was looking out for on my visit this year – new ideas/approaches on converged products and how far practical computer-based audio has come, compared with previous years. I found myself being absorbed by it all.
With half a day to spend, I had no real game-plan, apart from starting right at the top and traipsing down to the final exhibition level. It was all too easy to get carried away in the heat of what is essentially a trade show – any measure of serious listening is hampered by crowds and less-than-friendly acoustics.
Despite that, I recalled several setups that stood out, like the McIntosh/Opera Grand Callas system by Audio Perfectionist. Notably, I found myself becoming less and less critical of the hi-fi side of things and just listened, always hallmarks of a well-thought out rig. Judging from the number of people that thronged the room, I’m guessing that others shared the same sentiments.
Digital front-ends and solutions dominated the six or so levels of the entire show. However, specific converged products were rather thin on the ground – I assume punters are still adopting a wait-and-see stance in particular towards future-proofing standards and backwards compatibility.
Even the more established products didn’t seem to find much prominence – Linn’s Majik DS and Audiolab M-DAC amongst others were not receiving any airplay when I visited the respective exhibitors’ rooms. I even spotted an Olive HD player – sadly, it was left in the corner. I would have loved to have sampled some real-time performance.
It wasn’t all big money that impressed, though. On the contrary, I enjoyed myself the most at Tropical Audio’s room, which was deceptively simple, yet engagingly effective. I reckon the Quad/Harbeth combo went a long way towards eschewing the logic for uber-systems and to strike home the point of system synergy.
In similar vein, I got up close and personal with what could likely be glimpses of the future available now – Audioengine’s A5+ and Aktimate’s Mini+ active speaker systems just needed a source to complete the playback chain.
What was interesting is how much maturity dock-based systems have gained as part of the computer-audio brigade in such a short span. The Mini+ was pretty impressive and played quite the engaging foil to my iPhone-playing Lossless music. It appears to be a viable alternative to separates-based offers around the price range and will have you re-assessing your fiscal priorities. So yes, I’m probably looking at things from the viewpoint of someone with mortgages to pay, for whom “real-world” systems will likely appeal more.
Perhaps the most interesting piece of “converged” kit I discovered was Audioengine’s D2 24-bit Wireless Computer Interface. Essentially a wireless pair of transmitter/receiver units, the D2 promises wireless freedom, not just in connecting computing-based playback devices to conventional stereo setups but also in terms of OS, playback interfaces and even file formats, all the while outputting at 24-bit/96kHz. I would love to get my hands on a set.
Notwithstanding my interest on all things bridging the digital divide, some semblance of order was restored upon my visiting the Electrades Audio room. What caught my fancy was a Well-Tempered Versalex turntable fronting Sugden and Spendor electronics and speakers.
Not exactly the most immediate nor attention-grabbing sound, this was a lesson on things growing upon you. I found myself becoming more and more captivated by the beguiling rendering of proceedings, the longer I stayed and listened.
In the face of the ever-changing audio-visual landscape, it was comforting to know that some things never change!
There was also some measure of comfort in that the analogue march continued strong, if the numbers of different turntables on display at the show was any yardstick.
So the KLIAV Show 2012 was a mixed bag of sorts. It was good to be able to browse around and see what new toys were available to tempt one’s wallet. Whilst game-changing kits were few and far in between, the new ones were welcomed with enthusiasm and some of the evergreens just got … well, greener, I suppose. Which begs the question – what will we likely see next year? Well, I guess there’s only one way to find out…
A non-practicing economist, KN, in between his day job at a Malaysian telecommunications giant, tries the delicate act of balancing family/music/automobiles and all the nice things big boys aspire to, though not necessarily in that order. Although convergence is now his area of interest, he has been known to succumb to regular mood swings, often characterised by a sudden pre-disposition towards round black stuff that spins at 33.3rpm. And as with most of us, he also aspires to and dreams of world peace. Oh, and a pair of Jeff Rowland monoblocs.