First the rain came straight down. Then the rain came sideways. Then it seemed to be coming up at me from the ground as I ran from a coffee shop to make my way to Hi-Fi Centre for the opening of the Vancouver Audio Festival late Friday afternoon. I was reminded of a scene in Forrest Gump where he describes similar rain experiences in Vietnam during his time in the war, and I was silently thankful to be taking shelter from the storm in warm, and cozy environs with like-minded audiophiles. If there’s one thing living on the Wet Coast has taught me over the years, it’s that you usually don’t need an excuse to stay home, and listen to the needle hit the runout groove on LP, after LP.
Entering Hi-Fi Centre I saw that were already dozens of people taking in the festival, and lo-and-behold there were a number of teens, and 20-somethings checking out gear, trying on headphones, and taking in several demoes: a great sign that Hi-Fi Centre owner Igor Kivritsky’s aggressive social-media campaign this year regarding the show was paying off, and reaching music lovers of a non-audiophile bent.
I covered the Vancouver Audio Fest last year during its inaugural launch after Kivritsky decided to put something on to fill the hole left by the Chester Group when they cancelled the Vancouver Audio Show. It was a resounding success in 2017, and this year Kivritsky, and his crew wanted it to be even better, so they put their collective heads together on a slew of curated systems, and extended invitations to several manufacturers to come, and put on demoes with their gear, some of which Hi-Fi Centre carries: Kevin Wolff from Bowers & Wilkins is in the house showing off a fat pair of 800 D3s with two Devialet Expert Amplifiers set-up in dual-mono mode, and Rashpal Rai of AudioQuest is on hand to talk about the AQ Niagara 7000, and their new Dragon, and Storm series of AC cables among other products.
Philip O’Hanlon of Gryphon Audio was showing off a set of Pantheon loudspeakers with a Diablo integrated amp, and a Clearaudio Performance vinyl front-end, there is the McIntosh Labs, and YG Acoustics room (with the West-Coast premier of the Sonja 2.2 loudspeakers), Bryston is showing with Sonus Faber, Focal is pairing their new Kanta speakers with Naim, some heritage Klipsch are hooked up to a digital front-end that has Alexa running the show, and there is a headphone area with Audeze, Grado, and Astell & Kern to name but a very few. Marantz, and Elac are swinging together, and there’s even a Devialet AV surround-sound system with five Gold Phantoms hooked up. So basically, what I’m saying is, if you’re in the Vancouver area, head downtown, and give the rain outside a pass – check out the Audio Festival. I’ll be spending time listening to everything that’s on hand in-depth starting tomorrow, so check back often for updates.