Highly anticipated at the International Sound & Sight Exhibition in Singapore is the all new Peak Loudspeaker, which debuted for the first time in Asia. Peak Loudspeaker, or formerly known as Peak Consult, had two new investors into the company, hence the name change to “Peak Loudspeakers” in 2021.
Wilfried Ehrenholz, former CEO and co-founder of Dynaudio, is now the CEO of the Peak Loudspeakers, he is also joined by Lennart Asbjørn, CEO, who manages the production and administration. Former CEO and founder Per Kristoffersen remains as the designer and production manager.
Words and Photos by Richard H. Mak
Peak Consult has always occupied the high-end, boutique, and hand-made market segment of speaker manufacturers. Peak has never been about hefty bass or crystal clear treble; look elsewhere if you are into flashy hi-fi effects. Peak has always been about the natural reproduction of real music as accurately as possible. As a long-time owner of the Peak Consult Dragon, I can testify to the natural and organic sonic characteristics of the sound – it is never ear catching, fast sounding or in your face. It excels with human voices, presenting the listener with a lush midrange and deep musicality.
I haven’t been this excited about a speaker’s debut for a long time, especially after a two-year COVID hiatus. At the International Sound & Sight Exhibition, the Peak El-Diablo did not disappoint. They reminded me of my Dragons, except these are a third of the size and the weight. The outer finish is the epitome of Danish elegance, combining classic wood work with a high gloss piano finish. The wood panels are not veneers, but real 15mm thick solid wood panels.
The tweeters are Scanspeak Revelators. The mid-range and bass woofers are Audiotechnology drivers, a company which was founded by Per-Skanning and Ejvind Skanning, the duo who also founded Scanspeak and Dynaudio. By now, it is clear how the company and their founders are related, which gives you a pretty good idea of Peak’s sound if you are familiar with the Scanspeak and Audiotechnology house sound.
The El-Diablo had one handicap at the International Sound & Sight Exhibition – they were new and they had just come out of their shipping crate only two days earlier. They sounded exactly like my Dragons when they were fresh out of the box, meaning their sound has not reached their fullest potential, typical of “new” speakers. Give it another month of non-stop play, and both the top and bottom end will open up, making them a lot more transparent and extended versus how they are now. However, the sound is already all too familiar to me, because they are simply a smaller version of my Dragons – rich, organic, natural, and with a full mid-range bloom – a sound which I like and gravitate towards.
Don’t judge a book by its cover, in other words. The El Diablo had not opened up yet. Come back in another month, or call Bobby Ng at Audioline for a true demo, but bring your wallet. The El Diablo is listed at S$77,000 per pair, and you may just fall in love, like me.
Sitting beside the Peak was a pair of TAD behemoths, the TAD Reference 1 speakers (S$130,000). They are not very tall, but they occupy a rather large footprint. With 2x 25cm bass drivers, they made the Peak look almost like a toy – one can easily mistake them as two massive subwoofers. They have a Japanese elegance of their own, with a natural Pommele Sapele wood veneer external finish.
The TAD Reference 1 commands respect, and they projected enough sound pressure to fill the room at the International Sound & Sight Exhibition with ease. They sound much bigger than the Peaks and rightfully so – they are much bigger speakers. Yet, the tonality is accurate and neutral, it does not veer off to either end of the spectrum. The Peaks are “warm” by comparison.
Perhaps the TAD’s neutral and accurate tonality can be attributed to its proprietary Beryllium tweeter and midrange cone. TAD is the pioneer of utilizing Beryllium, long before Focal and Rockport did. It should be mentioned that the TAD Reference 1 is the winner of the high coveted 2019 Stereo Sound (Japan) Grand Prix Award, and it has earned its place at the table amongst the world’s best loudspeakers.
Before moving onto the next room, I noticed the Nagra Reference Anniversary Table was screaming for attention. Pound for pound (or kg for kg, as they use metric in Singapore), the Nagra was one of the most expensive items at the International Sound & Sight Exhibition. Aside from being absolutely gorgeous to look at, there is much more than meets the eye as it is fitted with some of the most sophisticated technology ever employed in a turntable. Unlike some of the “oil drilling platform” turntable stacks from Clearaudio or Acoustic Signature, the Nagra doesn’t come with a platform or a stand. It is not small, but it doesn’t occupy as big a footprint as, for example, the Kronos Discovery.
The patent pending drive unit weights a hefty 11.2 KG, employing two high precision brushless DC motors. The speed is monitored by an accelerometer, with calibration done over a 20-second window referencing a high precision quartz. (The whole process is never performed during playback, and only during the calibration process.)
Audiophiles often say tape decks are the ultimate standard in high fidelity playback, beating even the best of vinyl and digital playback. Well, the Nagra may look like a direct drive, but it is actually a belt drive system inspired by Nagra’s own IV-S tape machine. The bells and whistles do not end there. You can talk about the bearing for half an hour, and we still have to come to the platter material, the machinery precision, the non-resonant chassis and sub chassis, the ingenious suspension system, and the separate power supply.
All in all, it is the epitome of Swiss engineering precision combined with aristocratic elegance. Is there anything I do not like about the Nagra Reference turntable? Nothing, it is simply perfect. Well, maybe except for the dead horse which I’ll have to beat again: the price tag of S$280,000 is simply beyond comprehension, downright ouch, twice, bleedingly painful, wait for Bitcoin to reach $30,000 again, dream on kind of pricing, sort of like my grandfather’s Patek Philippe. Actually, my grandfather never owned a Patek Phillipe. Too rich for his blood, he said.
International Sound & Sight Exhibition: Davini Audio Design
My favorite sound of all the rooms on the 8th floor at International Sound & Sight Exhibition goes to a system assembled by the boys from Divini Audio Design, a Taiwanese speaker manufacturer. But despite my several requests for more information, they simply never replied to me by phone or email. So I can’t really tell you much.
All I know is that the larger speakers are called the Reference 18 (S$14,000), and the smaller bookshelves are the Reference 8 (S$6,800). No information was given on the power amps and source components. The DIY-ish amplifier has a label which says Tube Fan Studio, sporting NOD 5R4G rectifier tubes, and modern production KT120s. I really liked the amp, but have you ever attended a car show where they don’t tell you the model name, engine size, or the MSRP? It somewhat defeats the purpose of exhibiting at a show like the International Sound & Sight Exhibition when no efforts were made to convey information to visitors.
Lots of questions await answers. What is the strange looking horn like device on a pedestal? How do you bend the wood veneers with such a sharp curvature? What is the speaker’s power handling? What is their sensitivity? What is the output of the amplifier?
The sound, however, deserved to be praised. The Divini Reference 8 bookshelf speaker was the most natural and smooth sounding speaker of the entire floor. Surely they do not have the highest resolution or the strongest bass impact, but the sound is smooth and welcoming. They made music, not bells and whistles. And they really had to rub it in, the gentleman told me repeatedly that they were only playing low-res files from YouTube, running off of their iPhones!
Samara Joy’s “Solitude” came on just when I was just about to leave. I literally turned back into the room and listened to another five songs. I believe Divini speakers use Scanspeak drivers and tweeters which probably explains why I liked the sound of these speakers so much. Samara Joy’s voice sounded seductive, realistic, and life-like. It simply drew me into the sound, and it made me forget about hi-fi. I liked the sound so much I went back to the room again and again over the next two days.
The Davini Audio speakers were a rare exception to the entire International Sound & Sight Exhibition, as they are likely one of the cheapest setups on the floor – yet they presented one of the most inviting and “musical” sounds. Except please print some brochures and equipment list next time, and respond to enquiries, it will make you look more professional.
International Sound & Sight Exhibition: Reference Audio and TK Han
Thanks to Dato Danon Han Hong Den of the Analogue Fellowship of Malaysia, The Gryphon name is a highly respected and popular name in South East Asia. I had the pleasure of meeting Dato Danon Han on a few occasions and was at the receiving end of their hospitality, a great treat of sight, sound, and local cuisine. In one of the events at the International Sound & Sight Exhibition, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. TK Han of Reference Audio. Once again, TK Han greeted me with a warm welcome, which makes the whole experience pleasurable.
Aside from being a gentleman, Mr. TK Han is an industry old-timer as well as being the distributor to some of the most prestigious names such as The Gryphon, CH Precision and Jadis Electronics. I’m a big fan of CH Electronics, and I’m looking forward to more of their presence in S.E. Asia.
As for the show’s system, Gryphon + CH Precision sound never disappoints:
Source: Melco N1A ED
DA Converter: CH Precision C1.2
Integrated Amp: Gryphon Diablo 300 / Jadis 170
Speakers: Gryphon EOS 2
Cables: Gryphon Rosso, Vanta and VIP
The Gryphon EOS 2 is another contender on my short list of speakers that I wanted to buy at the International Sound & Sight Exhibition. The Gryphon sound is never in your face, it never shouts, yet it projects far more details and texture than the Divini Audio speakers mentioned above. The Gryphon speakers belong to a different league, they offer a much higher resolution and better bass definition, yet they do not project themselves at the far end of the spectrum where things become aggressive and ferocious. They are not as “warmish” as the Peak, and they also sound “faster.”
I also need to remind myself that these are only the entry level products in the CH and Gryphon lines. What would become of the sound if we had the Kodo instead of the Gryphon EOS speakers?
The look of the Gryphon EOS2 reminds me of the Sonus Faber Amati from 10 years ago, with the beautiful strings which serves as the front grill. Another great sounding system, evidenced by the jam packed room at the International Sound & Sight Exhibition, with non-stop audience flow.
The best “bang for the buck” value award for turntables at the International Sound & Sight Exhibition definitely goes to the Yamaha TT-N503 “Network Turntable.” The term “Network Turntable” caused quite a bit of confusion on my Facebook page when I posted its photo. By “Network”, it meant you can stream music via WiFi to any network enabled device same way as your iPhone.
But at S$949 including GST, the Yamaha TT-N503 is bucking the trend. Similar brands from the heyday of the Japanese hi-fi era, names such as Accuphase, Luxman, or Esoteric, have much higher MSRPs. Bravo to Yamaha for releasing a complete line of products which are high quality and affordable at the same time.
The retro-looking Yamaha M-5000 power amp was S$11,999.00, certainly not chump change, but it’s affordable compared to Accuphase or Luxman, which would likely need to add another zero at the end. It puts out 100W per channel into 8 ohms and 200W into 4 ohms, utilizing an oversized toroidal transformer. It also comes in black instead of silver. The front meter makes the M-5000 look absolutely cool, yet retro and remarkably ’70s-like.
The Yamaha CD-S2100 SACD player packed a lot of punch for just S$3,399.00. It comes with a high-rigidity aluminum CD tray, dual oversized power transformer, and the ESS Technology Sabre 9016 32 bit DA converter chips. The same chip can be found in Marantz, Peachtree, Line Magnetic, McIntosh and other names, some costing many times over the Yamaha.
My favorite piece was the Yamaha C-5000 preamp, with its totally cool retro look for S$11,999.00. It is a fully balanced preamp utilizing a dual toroidal transformer encased in a copper shell. It even comes with a built in phono stage, capable of driving low output MC cartridges.
I really liked what I saw from Yamaha at the International Sound & Sight Exhibition, and I especially liked their prices.
Click here for more of Richard Mak’s coverage of the 2022 International Sound & Sight Exhibition!