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Positive Feedback ISSUE 27
september/october 2006


Hong Kong High End AV - Impressions
by Marco Wong

A few weeks ago, the Hong Kong High End AV show was held in the most prestigious convention centre in Hong Kong. Products from many countries were there. I am not an experienced audiophile. In fact, I am just getting started in the intriguing world of high-end audio, and this was the first audio show I had ever attended. Let me share my experience with you.

For an audio show to draw a big crowd these days, AV seems to be indispensable. Granted, the advances in projectors and large LCD TVs have been arriving almost as fast as advances in computer technology. However, I am convinced that true audiophiles enjoy stereo sound more than TV images and surround sound.

The show organizer prepared a sample CD to be handed out to each attendee. The CD contained a wide range of selections, from classical to Canto-pop. All of the tracks were very well recorded. The ones that particularly piqued my interest included an instrumental with guitar and another with a group of double basses. The CD served as a way to compare different systems at the show.

The show was almost entirely set up by retailers or importers of audio equipment. All of the reputable high-end audio sellers in town had exhibits. Most had rooms around 20 feet by 20 feet. I was able to see, for the first time, many pieces of equipment that I had only read about. For instance, I heard the Avantgarde speakers for the first time. They sounded like PA speakers to me, although to be fair, the room seemed way too small for them. Speakers that made a favorable impression included one of the Zu models. Each of these speakers has a full-range 10-inch driver with a large phase plug and a whizzer cone, coupled to a supertweeter. The realism that the Zus were able to achieve was incredible.

There were many other wonderful-sounding systems at the show, along with many poor-sounding systems. The larger rooms upstairs were mainly brand-specific. These high-ceilinged rooms were usually set up by major manufacturers or their Hong Kong dealers. These rooms will hold about fifty people comfortably, but were often crammed with as many as a hundred. One room I was able to force myself into was the one set up by PMC loudspeakers. Their flagship speakers are very sizable studio monitors that come up to my chest without the base unit or stand. They have four drivers per speaker. Each driver is powered by its own amp, and the system includes what must be a very complicated, powered crossover. This is an 800-watt system, and I was told that normal homes could not accommodate it. The system had a very realistic, movie-theater-like sound, though the sound in this room was better than that in any theater in Hong Kong!

I was not there to evaluate equipment, just to enjoy the music, and I made plenty of discoveries, but I heard so many different pieces of equipment in such a short period of time that it was overwhelming. I fell into the trap of trying to rank all of the systems that I heard, but found that this was a real joy killer. I could not enjoy the music. Instead, I was thinking about what I was hearing. I was not planning to spend any money on audio equipment, yet I wanted some of these systems to be more incredible than they were, because of their brand name, design, or even their looks.

The best thing about my first audio show was the way in which it revealed my audio insecurities. As soon as a new system or design came into the picture, I was distracted by its features, and lost my point of referenceóthe type of sound that I find enjoyable. I didnít enjoy the music when I tried to rank each different combination of source, amplifier, and speakers. I donít believe thatís what music lovers do, so the next time you are at a hi-fi show or audio salon, donít forget about enjoying the music.

Although it was about a month before I could relax and enjoy music at home again, I think that listening to new and different systems is a great way to learn.