It is always a pleasure to listen to top-of-the-line speakers at audio shows, until you find out how much they cost. There were multiple companies displaying products at NH Hotel Rho Fiera, just beside the Expo 2015 site, at Gran Galà dell’Alta Fedeltà yesterday.
The event is an idea of Giulio Cesare Ricci, the founder of notorious Fonè label (you can check out their site here). Wishing to showcase the very best in terms of audio quality, he invites companies from all over Italy and plays his records on their gear. That’s a very interesting experience, as he comments on both the behind the scenes of recordings and the reproduction. It’s also very instructive and it gives you an idea of what choices producers make when recording and what their intentions were when they set up the recording ambiance. It is also very nice to get to know the personal perspective of a master of the trade as Mr. Ricci certainly is.
It was a small show, with only a few companies displaying speakers and a few others selling records and various accessories (e.g. cables, jack adapters…). In Italy the saying goes as meglio pochi, ma buoni: it translates to it’s better if there are few [things, people], but those few are great. That’s exactly the case.
Please note this post will be more of a blog entry with my own thoughts, instead of a full-blown analytical report of the event. You can have a look at the event’s site.
What upsets me a bit in these “super-top-of-the-tops” shows is the fact that the cables alone cost a year worth of my income – or maybe even more – and speakers and amplifiers reach prices better suited for houses. This is not just a poor man’s rant; it’s a feeling that this equipment is outside of reality and it has little sense comparing to anything else, given that it’s just the 0.1% who can afford buying it. Spending 2,000$ on an amp or 800$ on a headphone may seem like crazy to most people, but I find it somewhat acceptable. Spending almost 50,000$ on a pair of speakers alone is – in my opinion – not. That’s the average man point of view, of course: I know systems like these serve their purpose and are true masterpieces. I just question the fact they’re often the only systems on the show floor, so people cannot listen to something that they can actually buy.
Does it even make sense to report on this? Yes, albeit with a caveat: I will not report in-depth analysis nor a complete list of the things that were on show at Gran Galà dell’Alta Fedeltà (that would be longer than the shopping list for my whole family, made of five people and a cat… and that’s for every single booth!). I will just talk about what I’ve heard, what I liked and what I did not like.
Having that said, the listening experience has been fantastic. I had a chance to listen to Rockport Technologies’ Avior speakers, whose price tag comfortably sits at a staggering 45,800€ (~49,700$). The midrange and treble are absolutely fantastic; voices are crystal-clear and very natural, and instrument separation is impressive. Sound was layered in a masterly manner. What I did not like is bass, as I feel there was not much control; it was also a bit on the boomy side and it ended up being fatiguing. It was the bass I expect from box speakers: roaring and with a bit of echo, which make it loose control. It is far from the precise bass you can get from decent headphones and earphones. I will be sacrilegious in saying that, even though what I heard was fantastic, I expected more from ~46,000€ speakers.
Next were the Gryphon Mojo S speakers powered by the Gryphon Diablo 300 amp. Yes, that’s ~40,000€ without even taking other things such as players, cables and preamps. Let’s go on with what really matters: sound. The Gryphon Mojo S produced a very bright sound, with great detail throughout the whole spectrum. It was really a pleasure to hear. Treble was plain incredible, while midrange had a very nice presence and a pleasant warmth to it that made voices so natural. Bass was, again, a bit too boomy for my taste. That’s nit-picking, of course.
On to another room, full with McIntosh equipment and Italy’s own Sonus Faber speakers. These were the most dissatisfying of the lot. I heard a few tracks with guitar and it was not really there; it was dull and lacked engagement and life. I do not mean they were bad in any way – this is just my impression after a few minutes of listening, which can be in no way definitive. Curious thing is that bass was actually better than what I heard coming from the other speakers.
All in all it’s been a pleasant afternoon and a constructive experience at Gran Galà dell’Alta Fedeltà. I wish I will be able to try out and review equipment worth one tenth of these systems’ price in the future. It’s been inspiring to see state-of-the-art gear and I look forward to attending other shows in the future.