Alright, drum roll. Here comes my favorite sounding room of the entire International Sound & Sight Exhibition in Singapore. The Børresen Acoustics loudspeakers, powered by Aavik electronics and Ansuz switch and Ansuz cables.
Before we get into the sound and the electronics, it should be mentioned that Issac Ho, General Manager at Audio Maestro Singapore (as well as Audio Perfectionist in Malaysia) and Lars Kristensen, Owner and Founder of Børresen Acoustics, have set the standard for running an audio show professionally. For a start, brand names, model numbers, and MSRP were properly displayed. Requests for information were promptly responded to by Issac Ho, and he also made sure the press got hold of all the pertinent information.
Words and Photos by Richard H. Mak
I can’t help but to contrast them to the International Sound & Sight Exhibition rooms that looked like garage operations, or the salesman who told me he was too busy when I tried to refer a customer to who was ready to make a purchase. Why even bother doing a show if you are too busy to make a sale?
Lars Kristensen also gave an informative introduction to his product. His musical selections were carefully chosen and presented – and yeah, none of the dreaded “Audiophile Demo Music” was played because if I hear “Take Five” once more I’ll roll over and die. Their professionalism made the visitors feel welcomed and each person was given a proper demo, with carefully exercised attention.
The system components included:
Børresen 05 Silver Supreme speakers – S$266,672.00
Aavik I-880 Integrated Amplifier, Pure Class A 200W – S$107,200.00
Ansuz PowerSwitch D-TC Supreme $18,480.00
& all Ansuz Cables.
As a lifelong Johnny Cash fan, I’m ashamed to admit that I have never heard of the Ghost of Johnny Cash album and his emotionally gripping cover of “The Sounds of Silence.” And Cash’s voice came through the Børresen speaker, it delivered all of Cash’s unmitigated pathos and clarity, as if the room was ready for the next pin drop. You can tell the crowd was drawn in because the entire room carried no conversations.
Cash was followed by Hedegaard’s electronica, Ratchets, which I am certain was chosen to demonstrate Børresen’s bass impact. There are 200Ws and there are Aavik I-880 Integrated’s 200W, which sounded like nothing but 200Ws. The Børresen is a fast sounding speaker, with a bass response that is tight and impactful. You not only hear the beat, you actually feel it pulsate on your chest. I’m quite surprised that the Børresen was able to deliver such a deep bass response out of just 4 8-inch bass drivers. My old Dynaudio Temptations with four 7-inch drivers were unable to produce a bass response as fast and as tight as the Børresen did, not by a long shot.
After showing off the fast paced bass response, came Marcin Wyrostek’s Besame Mucho, again you can tell the crowd was drawn into the music because all I heard was pure music, no conversations coming from the audience.
(If you are wondering why the Børresen looks so similar to the Raidho, it is because Lars Kristensen was the man behind Raidho speakers. Long story short, Borresen is where Kristensen is now.)
The speaker itself is beautifully constructed, and they look nothing like the “classic look” of the Peak cabinet. The Børresens are the result of modern high technology, from the ribbon tweeters to the woofer cone materials. The cabinet shape itself is unconventional. Kristensen gave an informative talk on the entire speaker, from the ribbon material which is light as a feather, to the woofer cone material which has the same strength as hardened steel but with only 1/400th times the thickness. The woofer is made carbon graphite, weighting in at only 5.5g, which is approx. ½ the weight of most cone drivers, which probably explains why the Børresen has such a fast bass response.
All in all – Well done! 2022 International Sound & Sight Exhibition, Best Sound of the Show!
Simplicity Control, Part 2
There was nothing simple about Simplicity Control’s room because the amount of gear they brought to the International Sound & Sight Exhibition was simply mind-blowing. They brought more gear than anyone at the show, and I truly admire this local dealer’s effort on bringing in so much heavy gear for three days. Setting up the system will take a full day, and dismantling it will also take a full day.
You can tell when they have run out of room because the massive shipping crates have nowhere to go except at the corner of the room.
The pictures do not do justice to the setup because each of the pieces you see in the photo are massive. The Goebel Marquis speakers house a 12” woofer, and the unit weights nearly 150 kg. The Goebel Sovereign subwoofer houses a 18” woofer, which is active and DSP controlled, with an output power of 2500W. And the new Pilium Zeus Stereo Power Amp is simply gigantic. Compared to the McIntosh MC3500, the Zeus is probably three times the size, weighing in at nearly 350 lbs. It is not every day that you see a million dollar system, so I best let the picture speak for itself.
We have some serious heavy hitters on the list and we shall pay attention to a couple.
Notable pieces are the Pilium Zeus Power Amp, and the Olympus Preamp, which are so new they have not made it onto their website. All I know about the Zeus is that they put out 400W per channel, but as to the technology behind that 400W, stay tuned. There isn’t much information from Pilium yet. So goes for the Olympus Pre Amp.
The DS Audio Grandmaster EQ with Grandmaster cartridge is also new to Singapore. It has the hallmark of the DS Audio house sound, silky and smooth, and the sound is reminiscent of the DS-W2 which I reviewed a few years ago.
In my book the Kronos Discovery (S$140,000) is the best-looking table on the planet. I’m not sure what Louis Dejardins smoked to come up with his design, but it is simply absolutely stunning in sight and in sound. The Kronos name needs no introduction, in fact, it has become too famous in Asia, and its fan base is almost akin to those of Elvis, except nobody has threw their underwear on stage…yet.
The newly released Discovery RS Tonearm (S$33,600) is a work of art. Never mind how it sounds, I just want one for the looks alone. A few of his loyal fan base have told me the RS has much improved over the previous tonearm, and they are all loving it.
The proof is in the pudding, and I liked what I heard in the International Sound & Sight Exhibition room, except there is so much unfamiliar equipment to me so I cannot put a finger on exactly what I heard and where the sound was coming from. Was I listening to the arm, table, phono, pre, power or the speakers? Without an A/B comparison it is hard to decipher.
However, it is not everyday that I get to listen to a million dollar system so it is not as if there are 549 other million dollar systems to compare it with, and big rooms such as these are hard to come by in Singapore, so rather than putting on my critical hat, I simply enjoyed my ride.
The song that registered in my mind clearly was Aaron Neville’s Somewhere Somebody. With a system of this magnitude, combined with a crowd of 30 people walking and talking in the room, it is hard to believe that you’ll get a soundstage with a sharp focus, a voice that you can pinpoint coming from Neville’s mouth that is not a meter wide. No, I was able to pinpoint a sharp focus on Neville’s smooth and magnetic voice.
There was so much gear it will take ten pages to talk about every piece so we shall pause for now, but I thank Simplicity Control for their efforts, and for the opportunity to listen to a big ticket setup at the International Sound & Sight Exhibition.
Sound & Sight Exhibition: High End Research
Whatever research they’re doing at High End Research, a local retailer, must be paying off because they were making great tunes with this setup at the International Sound & Sight Exhibition. At the front end we had a Clearaudio Reference Jubilee Turntable which comes fitted with the Universal tonearm, priced at S$41,000 as a package. The Jubilee is a limited edition with a total of 250 units worldwide. The Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement cartridge. at S$24,000, has a sound which I’m all too familiar with as I’ve owned three myself, one of them being the V2, which was and still is the most dynamic and upfront sounding cartridge I’ve ever owned, with even more slam than the Lyra Titan from way back.
The Metronome AQWO SACD Player (S$28,000) is exactly what I use at home, except I have the tlAQWO + clAQWO version which separates the Transport and DAC into 2 boxes, each with their own separate power supply. One word of advice, tlAQWO + clAQWO are cumbersome names and should be avoided. To this day I cannot tell people which model I have as I can never remember it. “You know, I have the four-box one with the weird name” is how I describe it. In fact, you cannot even type the vertical line on the model name on the keyboard, so I had to use the word “L” using a different font so that it comes out as a line.
The sound of the Metronome at the International Sound & Sight Exhibition, however, should be commented upon. I chose the Metronome after listening to some of the best players on the market, and I find the Metronome to be the most “analog” sounding without sacrificing resolution or details. I have some pretty awesome analog setups and the Metronome is the only one which didn’t give me listener fatigue, and it can deliver amazing texture, dynamics and a three dimensionality which is hard to come by with digital. Highly recommended.
The Wilson Audio Alexia V Loudspeaker (S$98,000) was being driven by a Pass Labs INT-250 Integrated Amplifier (S$18,800). This is one setup which I can decipher what I was listening to because I have heard the cartridge, digital front end, as well as the Pass Labs INT-250 many times over, which gave me a perfect opportunity to gauge the Wilson Alexia.
Long gone are the days of the Wilson Watt Puppy (and the many revisions of it), or the Grand Slam with titanium dome tweeters. That sound was unique because very few speakers sounded like them, but they are also very analytical, and tight sounding. The bass response is literally stronger than the real thing, and you can really feel the punch to the chest.
That “was” the Wilson sound, but I think they have all changed for the better. The modern-era Wilson sound often utilizes Silk Domes which are partially manufactured by Scan-Speak. They are dramatically more organic than the titanium dome Wilsons of the past and they are so much more to my liking. I would not buy the Wilsons of old, but I can totally see myself owning a pair of Alexia V. They must be doing something right because these have a natural decay which you can hear coming out of a cello. The bass still has the Wilson hallmark, which is fast, tight and responsive. Whether they admit it or not, Wilson’s house sound has changed dramatically over the years.
I actually went back approximately five times all by myself. I sat at the corner without anybody really noticing me. Why? Because I liked the sound, and I kept coming back to it.
Also on display in the International Sound & Sight Exhibition room were a few SME tables. The SME tables are way more popular in Asia than in North America, but their 3012 Arms do have a huge cult following on the What’s Best Forum. I bet the sales numbers are bigger in Asia than anywhere else, if not for any other reason, they occupy a lot less real estate.
Other interesting things I saw at the International Sound & Sight Exhibition, and in no particular order…
I was genuinely interested in the brands shown in the EA Hibrid room, but this is another one of those rooms with no equipment list, no model name, number or prices. They also never replied to my request for information, despite me handing out my business cards twice. Nevertheless, the gentleman in the room deserves an award for being the most enthusiastic exhibitor at the show.
This gentleman spent 45 minutes talking about a “magic tuning” device called “Meow”, made by Tombo Audio. In fact there are many different versions of the “Meow,” which come in different colors. The spike tail is a screw on tip which allows you to connect a ground wire to the device you desire, and it is supposed to magically change the sound.
He must have played thirty 20 second snippets of different songs, and we were told to spot the before and after, if you can hear a difference. As a writer, if I tell you I heard a difference, I’ll earn the scorn of half the people at the show calling me an audiophool rather than a audiophile, and if I said I didn’t hear a difference, I’ll earn the scorn of the other half (plus the manufacturer) saying I have shit for ears, so let the gods be my witness, all I’ll say is the man deserves an award for renting a room for thousands of dollars to talk about a little “Meow” device for three days. Btw, the Meow is priced S$250.00 if I remember correctly, and you’re not going to find it at the Chinatown souvenir stores.
In one of the rooms on the 8th floor, I saw some very well made wall receptacles and wall plates, but they certainly don’t come cheap. Competition with the Furutechs I suppose. Very well made.
Sound & Sight Exhibition: SKY AUDIO
Down in the basement at the Sky Audio booth, I saw some very well made power bars made by KOJO Technology. We used to have a saying in our audiophile group that any product that is related to high-end audio: just add another zero at the end and it will be the right price.
So if you go buy a power bar at Home Depot, add a zero to $35, and you get $350. The Crystal 6.1 6 outlet power bar sells for S$350, which I thought was reasonably priced considering it is an “audiophile” product. But in 2022, you need to add two zeros at the back, not one, which makes the KOJO bars relatively cheap, compared to say, the $11,000 dollar one from Furutech.
If I was to buy a power bar today for my system, this would be it.
Sound & Sight Exhibition: Horizon Acoustics
One of the most interesting setups I saw on the 8th floor of the International Sound & Sight Exhibition was assembled by Horizon Acoustics. If you look carefully, you’ll notice a pair of single tube monoblocks driving a pair of “panel” speakers which look like electrostatics.
The speakers turned out to be the Diptyque Reference “Magnetostatic” speakers, which are not exactly ribbons, nor electrostatics. Magnetostatic is a dipole speaker technology that is similar to electrostatics, but they use high current instead of high voltages. Neither of which are easy to drive, and can present a difficult load to a lot of amplifiers. The Diptyque’s sensitivity is said to be 89 dB, with an impedance of 4 ohms.
If I didn’t see it in action, I would have never believed a single tube monoblock can drive a pair of Magnetostatics.
The cool looking single tube monoblocks are AGD Vivace Monoblocks. The AGD utilized a technology called “GaNTube” with Gallium Nitride Power-Stage integrated into a vacuum tube. According to AGD, “The Gallium Nitride power MOSFETS used in the GaNTubeTM power stage, simplifies this challenge through its ability to efficiently switch at much higher slew rates than any silicon based power MOSFET, with almost perfect (book-like) behavior and oscillation free switching.”
In other words, the tube is not a real vacuum tube with cathode and filaments, it is actually a circuit board house in a glass tube filled with Gallium Nitride. It is not really a tube amp but a Class D Amp. It puts out 100W per monoblock, which explained why they drove the Magnetostatic speakers with ease!
Final Words on the International Sound & Sight Exhibition
Over the last 20 years, I have been to over 50 audio shows worldwide, from small local shows such as the TAVES or large shows boasting over hundreds of rooms such as the CES. I have also traveled through all corners of the earth. Never have I attended a show with such friendly exhibitors and attendees as the International Sound & Sight Exhibition. It is the first time ever that I felt the rude person in the room was, yours truly, me.
I believe the Western world needs took look beyond the silly stereotyping about Singapore. We can all truly learn a thing or two from this this country. The success of the country lies beyond the obvious economic growth, multiculturalism, and the high standards of living. The true success of the country lies with the humbleness of its people, they carry a sense of camaraderie and patriotism amongst its citizens, expats and foreigners alike.
Singaporeans won’t march to their version of the Capitol Hill, because frankly they don’t need to. The country takes care of its people, and the people treat their country as one big family. They do not throw trash around, not because they are strong armed into submission, they do not throw trash for the same reason that you do not throw trash in your own backyard. Ask any Singaporean whether they’re living in freedom, and they’ll tell you they can have anything they want and are free as a bird.
Audio manufacturers need to come to the International Sound & Sight Exhibition because frankly, not doing so would only mean losing access to one of the biggest up and coming markets, and the place to establish a foothold in Asia is Singapore. Call Mr. Tham Chaik Kong at the Sight and Sound Journal, reserve your spot for 2023, highly recommended!
And one last thing, you are allowed to eat your cat or your dog, it is only illegal if you invite someone to eat it with you. That’s the law in Switzerland. You read it correctly, Switzerland, not Singapore.
Click here for more of Richard Mak’s coverage of the 2022 International Sound & Sight Exhibition!