Have you had a chance to visit the Polish capital? You should definitely not miss it. The metropolis is a real cornucopia of exciting contrasts
After three years, the Audio Video Show (AVS 2022) finally took place again in Warsaw – as usual at three venues and with (at least) three guests from Munich. The western part of the city center – meaning the area around the main train station – can easily compete with cities like London with its impressive skyline. Just a few hundred meters to the east, you suddenly find yourself in the beautiful historic old town. It is dominated by colorful house fronts and the quaint Royal Palace. It’s a feast for amateur photographers.
You should also definitely plan a visit to the waterfront, to the endless promenade of the Vistula River. There, museums, parks and event areas are lined up one after the other. Small stalls and sales booths entice you to stroll along early in the morning with coffee and baguettes. If all this is only of marginal interest to you, there is at least once a year the really big party for hi-fi fans and music lovers: the Audio Video Show, this year in the “AVS 2022” edition.
The event is spread over about 160 rooms, where 150 exhibitors will present an impressive 600 brands. According to the organizers, the show occupies a total area of 2000 square meters. Thus, it can call itself the second largest industry show in Europe, right after the Highend in Munich. This is officially stated and we have hereby done our duty to pass it on to you. But let’s be honest: The comparison is lame, since it is once a trade show with business orientation and many novelties (Munich) and then a classic “HiFi show” (Warsaw). At AVS 2022 the motto was “come, listen, see, touch and chat personally with developers or sales managers”. The concept is therefore much closer for fans and enthusiasts.
The Trinity of the AVS 2022
The Polish Super Show is characterized by a whole series of peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. For one thing, the audience is completely different from that in Munich. The hallways and corridors of the various venues are filled with a remarkably young crowd. It is not uncommon to see couples and entire families. Brand us as cliché riders, but this is a stark (and unmistakable) contrast to the shows here. By the way, the music of the shows is correspondingly “young”. The audiophile classics are rather an exception here. Instead, you’ll hear contemporary electronica, pop, alternative and occasionally (very hard) rock everywhere, as well as “solidly produced consensus music” like Dead Can Dance.
Continuing with the “trinity” of venues that contribute their respective charm. By far the most exhibitors are guests at the Radisson Blu Sobieski. Anyone who has already been to the North German or South German HiFi Days can imagine what it’s like in the hotel: the approximately 90 rooms are spread over the lower eight floors of the spacious building complex. On the first floor there are a handful of large lounges, and above them are the usual small rooms where systems and loudspeakers can be experienced up close. Visitors make ample use of this: standing up during the performance, walking behind the system and examining the cabling – perfectly okay at AVS 2022.
The Golden Tulip
A few hundred steps from the Sobieski (once across the major intersection) is the four-star Golden Tulip Hotel. Once you’ve worked your way up the small spiral staircase (there are elevators, of course), you find yourself in an elongated hallway with a total of eight large lounges, as well as small display areas for records and headphones. Traditionally, more exclusive systems make guest appearances here, with their expansive speakers giving the large halls a good run for their money. More on this later …
Eine ganz eigene Welt bildet der dritte Veranstaltungsort, das National Stadion „Narodowy“. Wir wagen die kühne Behauptung, dass es zumindest im europäischen Umfeld keine Entsprechung zu dieser Location gibt. Die beeindruckende Arena besitzt mehrere umlaufende Ebenen mit Besprechungsräumen und Kongresssälen, von denen die AVS 2022 zwei teilweise belegt. Insgesamt zählten wir 63 mittelgroße bis große Konferenzräume zuzüglich vieler offener Ausstellungsflächen, weshalb wir uns intern augenzwinkernd auf die Charakterisierung als „Mini-IFA“ einigen konnten.
Listen and be Heard
Wie Sie sich vorstellen können, sind die Eindrücke einer derartigen Riesen-Show erdrückend. Um ehrlich zu sein: Ohne unsere Fotos und Notizen könnten wir uns am dritten Tag kaum mehr erinnern, wo wir unseren Rundgang am Freitag begonnen haben. Gestatten Sie uns deshalb, dass wir unsere Show-Highlights in chronologischer Reihenfolge durcharbeiten.
Our show started Friday at noon with the trip to the stadium. There is a free shuttle bus between Sobieski and Narodowy that spits out visitors every half hour right in front of the stadium’s main aisle. Even the first demonstration is a hit: Gryphon sales manager Rune Skov demonstrates the new Apex stereo power amplifier as well as the Commander preamplifier – still silent exhibits at the Highend in Munich. The chain hung from Wilson Audio’s Charlie XVX and was played by a GrandPrix Monaco 2.0 connected to the Danes’ Legend Legacy equalizer. As we learned in the sales manager’s excellent presentation, the new preamp has a dual booster power supply that feeds external feeds such as the phono equalizer. Skov’s music selection was so outlandish that the outstandingly dynamic and spatially playing system almost became a minor matter: Like us, countless visitors stared at their smartphones and tried to find out what was playing via Shazam.
Techno? No Problem at the AVS 2022
Meanwhile, just one door away, a giant setup from the Polish “soundclub” distributor was making music. As we enter the room, hefty dance music resounds through the room, coming from a Brinkmann Balance turntable. Marten’s massive Coltrane Momento 2 pushed the audience firmly into their seats with its bass thrusts and impulses, making their hair blow. One can think what one will of such demonstrations of performance, but it did not fail to make its impact. It was simply stunning how explosively and abysmally Tenor Audio’s hybrid M350 power amps kept the speakers in check. The manufacturer boasts that they are the best power amplifiers in the world – and at that moment we felt no need to scrutinize that claim…
INTERMISSION: ROOM ACOUSTICS
In fact, we hadn’t even remembered how well the facilities at the Narodowy played up. Part of the secret is the excellent acoustics of many of the rooms. Even the hallways and endless corridors sound slightly subdued. The larger screening rooms, in particular, have perforated wooden elements on the sides and back walls that optimize sound propagation for relaxed, long-term conferences. Deep bass impulses can escape through the windows, which in many rooms offer a breathtaking view of the impressive sports arena. And the treble is taken care of by carpets and almost imperceptible acoustic elements on the ceilings. So, apart from a few diffusers, the hosts and exhibitors don’t need to do too much to the room in order to make a good impression.
The AVS 2022 also Does it on a Small Scale
A few rooms further on, I come across Audio Group Denmark, which is on site itself as usual. Now, one associates the products of the Danes rather with the upscale to upper price range. In this respect, the sonorous demonstration offered a surprise: The X-5, a brand new floorstanding speaker for around (at least that’s the plan) 10,000 euros, played. And the slim column played simply stunning. Since we have the large Z5 Cryo as a permanent reference in the editorial office, we can certify with a clear conscience that the “small” perfectly transports the charm and character of the manufacturer. Meanwhile, the front end was of a different star: The “X” was powered by the I-880 amplifier colossus, which is also not yet available. The S-580 (streamer) and a D-580 (DAC) provided for a solid source situation. They were joined by Ansuz cables, subwoofers and LAN tools in the price range of a mid-range sedan.
Again, just a few doors down, we stumbled upon a smart chain of Audio Physic and Cyrus. Both brands are linked via their Polish distributor “EIC” and the gentlemen seem to know what they are doing: The Codex from Brilon got along noticeably well with the British “XR” electronics. Altogether five components (CD player, pre + power supply, 2 monos) the distributor had brought up, in order to prove to the visitors, how unbelievably musically and time-correctly the boxes from Brilon can, if you may.
Telemann, Bach and Händel
Another highlight was waiting on the floor above. Owner Michael Plessmann did not miss the opportunity to personally demonstrate his “middle”, the Aidoni. The voluminous floorstanding speaker had the room perfectly under control with its active basses (500 watts Class-D each). Meanwhile, the weighty “Reference” drive by J. Sikora and Telemann, Bach and Handel – not the composers, but the eponymous electronics by Linnenberg – provided tailored control and excellent transparency.
Right next door, Chord proved that its in-house technology harmonizes excellently with Spendor loudspeakers. It is probably no coincidence that both brands are also married to each other in Germany. At AVS 2022, Chord had itself represented by its Dave super DAC, which fed the just-introduced Ultima Pre 3 preamp and two Ultima 2 powerhouses. Together, the two power blocks have just under 960 watts of power. More than enough, then, to move the furniture in the demonstration room. Interestingly – we were not aware of this – the Brits have a rack adapter that connects the classic Chord “crabs” (Dave) and the components in HiFi standard dimensions (Pre 3). And that looks really great.
Too Good for the Studio?
The first day of the trade show ended with a sonic surprise: ATC’s fully active SCM50ASL Pro played in the salon of the distributor SoundSource (not to be confused with “soundclub”). The 350-watt powerhouse with its bear nose is actually not offered for the consumer segment, but is intended for use in recording studios. However, it felt so at home with the CH Prescission streamer and delivered such a statement in terms of control and precision that it would be a pity if it didn’t find its way into one or the other living room.
Off to the Hotel
Day two began with a seemingly endless walk through the Sobieski Hotel. It was a bit of a handicap, since it was already so crowded at 10 a.m. that we had to skip various rooms first. The usual workaround: work against the flow and start from the top. By the way, as we learned later, it was exactly right to start at the stadium on Friday. The corridors and rooms there were said to be so crowded that it was impossible to get in. You can be angry about that, but on the other hand you can be happy about the popularity of the hobby HiFi in Poland …
Since the Sobieski demands quite a bit from visitors with its eight floors of exhibition space, we’ll just stick to our highlights here: The first demonstration that caught our ear was the German Physiks room. Actually, one would think that the HRS-130 omnidirectional radiators are a – let’s say – special treat. To our surprise, the speaker not only filled the approx. 20sqm room to the last corner, but also presented a tangibly outlined stage. The massive “Emperor” integrated amplifier (so it doesn’t lack self-confidence) added a fair amount of dynamics and bass control with its 2 x 600 watts.
Audio Note was Streaming
We experienced an almost ironic twist in the room of Audio Note (UK). For fans and aficionados, the manufacture is one of the analog rocks in the digital surf. In Warsaw, however, Audio Note used the USB input of the affordable Cobra integrated amplifier to stream directly from a NAS. When asked about this, the sales department told us that this break in style was solely due to the remote controllability. The system was played via Roon. On the compact AN-K, the amplifier was able to prove why the British decided to use an “old” Philips chipset with 16/48: The DAC sounds simply outstandingly silky and smooth in the tube amp.
The demonstration by AudioGE made a similarly lasting impression. The manufacture of Gediminas Racevicus from Lithuania presented for the first time the affordable Teddy, a just compact floorstanding speaker with a wonderful veneer. According to the old doctrine “two ways, few problems”, the no-frills, extremely pleasingly proportioned speaker had us immediately in its grip with its musicality and timeliness. And it doesn’t make great demands: the speaker was driven by Rada’s Valkyre 36 tube integrated amplifier, which operates with Class A and (depending on distortion tolerance) should hardly put more than 20 watts on the scale. More than sufficient for the Teddy!
On one of the upper floors we got stuck on a loudspeaker from “GeneProject”. The multi-part conglomerate reminded us with its “tolex charm” of PA boxes of the sixties and seventies. The man-sized loudspeaker may not be a statement in terms of resolution, but nevertheless it played extremely appealing and somehow charming. In keeping with the “Frankensteinish” character of the speaker, the system consisted of a mixture of components from Panasonic (DVD player), Philips (CD player), HiSoQ (streamer) and a no-name tube amplifier (at least there was nothing on the label). It’s hard to believe, but the chain worked outstandingly.
We made another rousing discovery in Aretai’s room. The manufacturer presented a small compact speaker on electronics from Lab12 (Audiophile Integrated Amplifier) and Naims Atom (streamer). The Contra 100S has a woofer/midrange and a tweeter housed in the center of a Markenten horn construction. With solid footing on a resonance-absorbing tripod from Solidsteel, it made music incredibly resolved and (despite its compact dimensions) spacious. She felt noticeably at ease on Lab12’s tube and transmitted her joy of playing uninhibitedly to the listeners.
Without Room Influence
Also in the category “great that we were allowed to hear something like that” falls an encounter on the fourth floor: The distributor “Audio Atelier” presented a chain with WestminsterLabs Quest and Rei (pre/power amplifier) on Lumin’s Streamer X1. Trenner & Friedl’s “PHI” acted as loudspeaker, which was completely designed according to the Golden Section. The idiosyncratic two-way concept with its Cardas internal wiring and coaxial cone put on an incomparably natural and silky performance.
As usual, Kii’s fully active Three also delivered sovereignly, auditioning including the BXT bass extender. As you may know, the extender is not a subwoofer, but a “radiation optimization”. The active “bass stand” completes the compact Three to a line source, which radiates its low frequency like a “sound column” directed to the front. Combined with the all-round radiating drivers of the compact (keyword: rear sound cancellation), the active duet has rooms under control like hardly any other team. The impulses are correspondingly fat, dry and flawlessly clean, even in a small hotel room. A photo of the Kii should be found in the dictionary under the term “problem solver”.
Perhaps the most beautiful side of the AVS 2022
On the Sobieski’s first floor are 13 larger halls and rooms, where brands such as Avantgarde Acoustic (represented by a Trio) and Mytek Audio cavort. We were particularly surprised by the Steinway/Lyngdorf demonstration. The manufacturer, together with its distributor DNA-Audio, spared no effort and installed artificial walls to demonstrate the Danish manufacturer’s in-wall systems. Driven and equalized by Lyngdorf’s electronics, the system made music that was both expansive and wonderfully focused.
Wer einen echten Augenschmaus suchte, begab sich die kleine Treppe hinauf in den Raum „Arkadia I“, wo Kostas Metaxas (Metaxas & Sins) seine begehrenswerten Bandmaschinen ausstellte. Hören konnte man die beiden farbenfroh eloxierten Aluminium-Schönheiten leider nicht. Uns drängte sich jedoch das eigenartige Gefühl auf, dass das den meisten Besuchern gar nicht auffiel – die waren viel zu beschäftigt, die Neuinterpretationen alter Stellavox-Maschinen von allen Seiten zu begutachten und abzulichten. Wir haben nicht lang gefackelt und schlossen uns einfach an.
In the Golden Tulip
Finally, the third show day belonged to the Golden Tulip and its exclusive demonstrations. We can be brief here, since only three systems really caught our ear. One of them is definitely that of the Nautilus distributor: he played Estelon’s flagship Extreme in the largest room of the building on a sprawling Accuphase electronics. The four-way colossus requires power access despite passive design – for optimal imaging in the room, the upper half of the cabinet with midrange drivers and tweeters can be electrically adjusted in height. This is done with the pleasant hum of the motors, as we learned and could hear in the demonstration. What followed was a classical performance (there was Beethoven’s Fifth) that felt like sitting in the middle of a concert hall. Level, imaging size, and marrow-shaking dynamics are among the core domains of this extraordinary sound sculpture – a thoroughly “physical” experience.
Our AVS 2022 Wrap-Up
A little less show, but all the more atmosphere there was two rooms further in the “Azalia II”. There, Ayon and Lumen White made a guest appearance, along with analog feeds from Transrotor. Spheris (pre), Epsilon (tube power amp) and co. had the hall together with Lumen White’s top model Altai excellently under control. Exhibitor “Natural Sound” earned our benevolent bow with its room design: A huge stand put the listeners in the gallery of a concert hall, while the colorful seating ensured a good mood.
If you ever make it to the Golden Tulip, plan some time for the LampizatOr presentation in the “Dahlia” room as well. The all-analog demonstration is a spectacle every time. However, we can’t tell you exactly what we heard there, as it felt like all the components were hanging in the chain that the manufacturer has to offer. A very special eye candy could be found right next to the mentioned spiral staircase: Manron had effectively placed two of his limited Delta Monos there, whose huge GM100 pistons produce 150 watts.
And with that, we finally had some time for a city tour …