Fidelity Imports is relatively new to the audio scene, but this distributor was there in force as AXPONA 2023 by exhibiting in six rooms in the Tower at the Renaissance Schaumburg. One of their reps, Eric Smith, gave me a tour of the rooms and introduced me to several of the manufacturers. While there, I heard plenty from such brands as SoulNote, Gold Note, diptyque, Unison Research, Q Acoustics, Perlisten, Cyrus, Opera, and Acoustic Energy.
The diptyque speakers ($50,000) are basically a planar magnetic speaker using isodynamic technology to push the envelope of what a traditional planar magnetic speaker can do. The bass was impressive in the Fidelity Imports room, matched with that expected airy presentation.
Words and Photos by Graig Neville
Perlisten was in two of the Fidelity Imports rooms. Last year they seemed more focused on home theater, in my opinion, but this year they pulled out the party stops with driving bass on Unison Research electronics. The sound was punchy, the bass was deep, and they played loud and clean. I’ll definitely be interested to see what they sound like in my listening room!
The other Perlisten room from Fidelity Imports used Gold Note electronics to power a large stand mounted speaker with subwoofers that showed off Perlisten’s home theater roots. I spoke extensively with the Gold Note representative. Harkening from Italy, this is a mature brand that used to be called Blue Note until a legal dispute with Blue Note record label resulted in several name changes before they finally settled on Gold Note. Their line is soup to nuts including speakers, amps, DACs, streamers, turntables, tonearms, and cartridges.
The line up goes from affordable to relatively expensive, so it would seem they could have a product that could fit most budgets. The sound in the Fidelity Imports room was solid and and the designs were suitably Italian, with nice design cues and forms in a compact size–perfect for smaller or minimalist systems. The sheer size of the Gold Note catalog was astounding.
SoulNote, a Japanese company, has a cool story. They were founded by several members of Marantz Japan, and from what I understand even have a little corner of the Marantz factory where they operate. Their gear has industrial design cues that look very “Japanese hi-fi,” in my opinion. I’ve definitely targeted them for future reviews. SoulNote amplifiers were in a few of the Fidelity Imports rooms, from integrated amps up to giant monoblocks. Their sound, story, and electronics looks refreshing–while steeped in history.
Cyrus, Acoustic Energy, and Q Acoustics also showed well in the Fidelity Imports rooms. These brands trend towards the more affordable end of the hi-fi spectrum, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t sound great! I was shocked at how good a particular small floorstander from Q Acoustics sounded on Soul Note electronics. I’m not sure if I heard the price right when I was told the Q 5040 was only $1,500! It sounded like a much more expensive speaker.
I spoke with reps from Cyrus and Acoustic Energy in the Fidelity Imports rooms and their enthusiasm for great sound at an affordable price was infectious. Both these brands are UK-based but their form factor, sound, and technology was top notch and fantastic for entry level to mid-fi prices. I’ve been trending upwards in price for gear reviews, but I’m interested to hear how some of these brands sound in a home environment.
I didn’t get much time to spend in the Opera and Unison Research rooms, but with Italian styling the equipment looked stunning. I’m working on getting an Opera speaker in for review, so more to follow in the future and getting a look at the Unison Research tube amps in the flesh was definitely a treat!
If you would like to hear even more coverage from AXPONA 2023, check out our recap report and highlights from our audiophile-oriented show The Occasional Podcast. You can stream the episode direct from the embed below, or from your favorite podcast platform including iTunes, Android, Google, Deezer, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more.
Also don’t forget to check out our collaboration to commemorate the event with our solid bronze record weight available only for a limited run. This 800 grams of solid bronze features the PTA roundel on the top with also acts as a 45 adapter. You can purchase direct from the PTA Approved Store here on the site.
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