I went to the hifideluxe show today for a couple hours and managed to listen to all the rooms for at least a couple minutes each. What stood out was that this year actually no room stood out to me as outright bad or very good. They were all different levels of mediocre.
I took a pic with my phone in every room, which was a bit tricky since a lot of the rooms were really dark with closed curtains and almost no lights on. I definitely prefer listening in the dark though, so it makes sense. For those interested, here's the imgur album:
What impressed me the most was the TotalDAC room with the Magico speakers, not because it sounded good, but because it managed to sound acceptable despite using Magico speakers. I think these new Magico speakers are a lot better than the older ones like the Q7 and the even older ones. These didn't sound bright as shit.
Sadly none of the big woofer speakers were well integrated or cohesive enough and I generally ended up more impressed by smaller speakers. I have no idea what La Rosita were thinking as their La Montespan speaker was one of my favorites at the show and the newer, bigger model just plain sucks. The AER in the huge circular baffle was pretty good and it wasn't even broken this year. The Knif Raumann room was good overall aside from the laughable bass quality and diffuse imaging (despite completely covering both side walls with absorbers), but it's also close to 100k. The Fyne speakers are weird. They can sound pretty good on the right tracks and stab your eardrums with sibilance on the next.
I also quickly tried the Aeon (open and closed). The closed has a weird midrange coloration that I couldn't get over, but the open one actually sounds quite neutral. Sadly I thought it pretty much didn't have any imaging precision whatsoever.
Room 117 - Klimo
Sounded more or less like they look, super narrow floorstander with sidefiring midranges. I was not a fan
Living Room - TotalDAC/Magico
I thought this was one of the better rooms at the show. Sadly they also used the strange acrylic glass diffusor/resonators as side wall treatments like some of the rooms at High End do. I'd prefer regular absorbers.
Studio 3 - Distretto Audio
Studio 4 - Acapella, La Musika
I think these Acapellas are one of the best horn implementations. It more or less acts as an extended midrange driver with woofers and a supertweeter and the driver positioning is almost perfect given that driver spacing is always a concern with horns - having the tweeter below ear level and the mids above ear level helps a lot with coherency and imaging.
Fast, with very good micro- and macrodynamics. Effortless. Good imaging too. Tonally a bit U-shaped, but close to neutral overall. Not bad
Studio 6 - Askja
Studio 8 - Diesis Audio
Studio 7 - Jadis, Audioplan
Studio 2 - FM Acoustics
Studio 1 - Audio Note UK
Salon A - Kroma Audio
Salon C - JMF Audio
Salon B - Kroma Audio
Salon D - Omega Audio, Alsyvox
Room 217 - Aretai
This is a prime example of how not to integrate a horn tweeter thing and a midrange.
Forgot what it was Room 218 - Liutanie Audio?
Not a fan of line sources
Room 318 - Kora Audio
Trust me, the big ones sound better than they look. Some interesting OB construction. Bad horizontal lobing.
Room 418 - Riviera Audio?
Suite 458 - Bayz Audio
I heard the bigger speaker last year and didn't like it so I was pleasantly surprised by the smaller one. The closer driver spacing helps against vertical lobing which to me helps make the mids sound more cohesive.
Suite 558 - Mal Valve
Tried the two MrSpeakers heaphones pictured here. Not a fan of the closed one at all and the open one didn't have good enough staging/imaging for me to continue listening.
Suite 558 - Mal Valve
Snapped a quick pic on the way out. These speakers are interesting, but unfortunately the tuning is way too hot for me. Maybe toilet paper can save my eardrums.
Room 550 - 432 Evo
I am not sure I prefer music at 432Hz.
Why put mosfets inside a tube? What's the point?
These speakers had some coherency and brightness problems.
Room 542 - Fein Audio
Still not a fan of line sources.
Room 538 - Sea Wave
Not that bad, but when you have the Acapella horns downstairs there's not really a point in showing off your own horns. Unless you have special Western Electric horns from the 1920s like at High End.
Room 534 - Sottovoce Audio
They were really going for the slim floorstander thing here and as such the bass quality sucked. But the coaxial midrange and tweeter had a lot of potential. Not super harsh. Not a terrible tuning, either.
Room 530 - Q-Tron Audio, Hornkultur
These were much better integrated, but the BLH seemed pretty resonant.
Room 526 - TotalDAC-Holton Audio, Camerton Audio
You really can't judge source components with speakers like these. I think they're something like a 5" BMR with no tweeter and no woofer and as such there was no treble and no bass.
Room 523 - Rike Audio - Martion, Tonmechanik Berlin
These speakers were too colored for me, but it's possible the rest of the components weren't bad.
The MBL room
I think even these small MBLs give you a decent idea of what the bigger ones can do. If omni is your thing these are worth checking out.
Room 518 - Fyne Audio
I quickly ran out to save my ears. Sibilance. Supposedly it was the amps.
Sadly they were not playing the panels when I walked in. No comment.
Room 516 - Fyne Audio
These weren't an assault on my ears and they do have some good qualities. Think Tannoy, but thinner.
Not bad, but very pricey and somewhat lacking in imaging and pretty bad bass quality. Can't handle high volume levels, either. These are 4" midrange drivers or so.
This one was awesome this year. Better than I remember it from 2012 until now. Especially last year it wasn't that great, but this year it was probably my favorite room overall. No, it doesn't sound neutral and it also doesn't have the most precise imaging. There seems to be some resonances from the horns in addition to the usual diffraction. Note that I only heard the big horn system, not the small brown horns in the center and I also didn't get to hear it with their DAC, only vinyl. But what it did well it did very well: Awesome microdynamics, probably the best I've heard. Great macrodynamics. Effortless and fast sound. Surprisingly neutral tonality if you sit in the right spot. It shouldn't be able to sound this good.
I also listened to all the 15 speaker systems under the "sounds clever" moniker which were the systems for less than 5000€ total. Unfortunately it seems you're screwed if you want good quality bass, but overall the one I liked most was this:
I knew the LS50W fixes most of what the LS50 does wrong for my tastes: They fixed the tonality, no more sizzle and shout. Coherency is better due to the DSP allowing almost perfect step response. Imaging was pretty good in this room despite not a lot of damping on the walls. Seems even better at imaging than the LS50s. The price to pay is that you can't use them in a good rig and they won't get more resolving.
Pure Audio Project
As you can see they had the big Quintets with the Voxativ AC4a Alnico + wood cones. They also had the new woofer design with the phase plug underneath the dust cap. I thought they sounded okay, but they definitely need a bigger room than this. In the first two rows the imaging gave me flashbacks to the horns me and @Muse Wanderer heard two years ago because the lower midrange and bass was just much larger in size than the higher frequencies. To my ears there was a hollowness in the mids that I couldn't quite put my fingers on. Seemed like a narrow suckout in the lower mids. Ze'ev told me it's the amps, but I think it changed in tone depending on my distance to the speakers and also the height of my head. I don't think it's the floor bounce that I heard, either. Otherwise they sounded warmer and also less resolving than Voxativ speakers which I attribute to the coils being slightly too high in value. They were still listenable on-axis which makes for a slightly warm sound overall. What disappointed me most was the bass. I don't think 4 woofers are needed or even beneficial for most listening levels. The voicing is a pretty bassy, but the bass is softer than I was expecting. It does have less of a paper coloration than my Beta 15As, though. I'm not sure how good these amps are, so maybe these were causing the softness. I can't really recommend them given what I heard. The Trios are likely better for most listening rooms. It's also a 2 way design, so the crossover is going to be weirder with the 4 woofers.
Holger denied all claims when I asked him about a three way speaker that he mentioned in an interview 3 months ago. What they had in their room was the Hagen Absolut system, which is a DSP + 30W Class AB all in one system with included cables for 8k. Basically they EQ the bass way up to make the Hagen listenable, but I have to admit that it works. Made the small Hagen sound pretty full-bodied and with decent extension for most music. Bass quality is better than LS50s, but as you'd expect it also starts to fall apart at higher volume levels. Off-axis response is quite good, but it does get bright on-axis. Overall tonality is very close to neutral, maybe even a bit warm or U-shaped depending on how close to the wall they are and how far off-axis you listen. What impressed me the most was how smooth they sounded and how little they did wrong. For the most part they just sounded good and you could get lost in the music, unless of course you crank it up too much.
I didn't listen to the Ampeggio Due much this year. They used the hybrid drivers with paper cones and a leather surround this year along with a new DAC driven by the old T211 amp. I thought it sounded worse than two years ago is all I will say and I'm still a fan of the regular Ampeggio.
The Zellaton room had their Reference speakers this year instead of their Statements like last year and I prefer the Statements by quite a margin. I think the Reference sound lean and bright compared to the Statements and I don't like it. It's still my favorite multi-way room overall and does a good job of getting out of the way. Great three dimensional staging, not as incoherent as most others, but less coherent than the Statements. Good resolution, low driver coloration. Neutral bass, but not the last word in extension and low distortion. The good thing is the vertical off-axis response seems much better with this design. Standing up doesn't sound like a comb filter in the lower treble.
I almost lost hope for Marten when I heard the Coltrane Momento 2 last year. I thought it sounded very incoherent with a suckout in the lower midrange and a bad lobing towards the floor. I thought this year's smaller Mingus Orchestra was a much better speaker overall. While the tonality is now definitely U-shaped, the lower midrange is no longer recessed. There's body and warmth and it makes it sound a lot less disjointed. The treble was still a bit bright, but with most songs it was fine. Imaging isn't perfect and the drivers do have their own coloration. Bass quality here was a lot worse than the PAP Quintet and it sounded pretty bloated and slow on some songs. Just doesn't sound effortless and can sound overwhelmed at times.
Unfortunately I didn't like the smaller floorstander at all. Bright, peaky. Harsh. Treble was not well behaved. You'd be much better off buying the new Audio Physic Classic 35 or the Paradigm Persona 5F. Or even better: Buy used.
I was mainly interested in the Classic 35, so I was pretty disappointed that they just had the Midex set up all the time. When I finally saw someone rolling the Midex around the show floor on a cart Sunday afternoon I knew they must've just set up the Classic 35 and ran to the Audio Physic room.
Tonally it is similar to the Midex, but what disappointed me most was that the treble was even less smooth. I'm sure the hardness in the treble gets to you over time. Otherwise I thought it was pretty clear and resolving, especially considering the price. It seemed less resolving than the Midex and also seemed to have worse imaging with less depth. I also thought the treble was a bit closer in the stage than the midrange so the voice was further back in the stage than the sibilance. I'm not sure the Midex did this as much. Midrange was a bit rough in terms of tonal balance, but it was still neutral overall. In this room the bass was pretty disjointed from the rest of the FR and it sounded more like a subwoofer turned up too high instead of being cohesive and natural. Overall I still liked it, it resolves and images very well considering its price. It sounds similar to the Midex, but is a lot cheaper. My guess is that they mainly cheaped out on the crossover parts and drivers.
They demoed their larger Persona 7F speakers at High End. Like the 5F that I heard at the Deutsche Hifi-Tage they were still a bit bright and harsh, but again I feel these are one of the most resolving and one of the most transparent speakers in their price range. Like with the Audio Physic the coherency and imaging could be better and I'm sure the crossover plays a role here. The 7F isn't really comparable with the Classic 35 as it's a much bigger and more expensive speaker and the bass quality is better better with the Paradigm. Overall I think the Audio Physic speakers are more natural sounding than the Paradigms, but neither are really natural.
They had a small room in the halls with four speakers, three of which were set on the right wall. I didn't like those, but the OBs pictured here were really nice. The midrange driver was the Alnico magnet variant of the 165 driver. Now the amps driving these are really expensive again, but these just struck me as very natural with great microdynamics. Resolution didn't seem to be top tier and the integration with the tweeter wasn't perfect (a bit bright for my tastes), but it kept me involved and it didn't make me want to leave the room immediately. I'm sure in a better room these could sound even better. Particularly the bass extension becomes very limited when putting OBs so close to the rear wall, although these small drivers won't be able to bring thunderous bass in an OB anyway.
I was really looking forward to listening to these ever since I read about their Symphonia speakers. I think they were used with their horn subwoofers in this room, too. When I first listened to them I was pretty disappointed. The first thing I realized when I entered the room was that the off-axis response was pretty screwy, which I expected. Unless you sit at the right spot they'll sound really colored. Tonal balance was pretty good in the sweet spot and they have a very direct and uncompressed sound. Great micro- and macrodynamics. The bass from the BLH was a bit uneven as it usually is, but this was one of the better BLHs I heard. Flaring the horns really helps with eliminating horn colorations and you really don't hear the horn coloration at all. What really disappointed me most is that I thought they would be more resolving. They seemed to smooth over some of the fine details a bit. Not as much as most speakers, but not perfect, either. Maybe it's that RAAL ribbon.
I only heard the Vox Palladian. I wish it was a bit more coherent and a bit less colored. If it was this would be one of the best sounding rooms at the show: Very lively and dynamic with good bite and clarity. Obviously horns like these won't have the best imaging and they didn't. The Aries Cerat room had better imaging for me.
They had a smaller version of their TOTL speaker they were demonstrating last year and I thought it was pretty good overall. I like these traditional high efficiency speakers much more than their bending wave stuff. This was also one of the more expensive rooms at the show and they were playing from the Kronos Pro with the Kronos phono preamp. Smoother than other rooms and with good three-dimensionality and body, but with images that were a little unstable vertically. They seemed to have more room problems in the lower midrange and bass than other speakers. This was also one of the more resolving rooms, I never heard much information from their bending wave stuff, but these seem good in that regard.
For the rest of the rooms I'll add some quick comments to my album.