A Visit to the Warsaw Audio Video Show

A Visit to the Warsaw Audio Video Show

Written by Ken Kessler

While Munich’s High-End Show still dominates the European hi-fi show circuit, the Audio Video Show in Warsaw, which took place from October 27th to 29th, 2023, is a serious rival. Like Munich, AXPONA or others which attract international exhibitors, Warsaw is rich with familiar names, but what’s most interesting for those who attend multiple shows are the myriad Polish manufacturers and those from other Eastern European countries.

It’s their presence which adds to the show’s main appeal, which is that of being so brilliantly organized. The event occupies two hotels, the Radisson Blu Sobieski Hotel and the Golden Tulip across the street, and the hospitality suites of the nearby Olympic Stadium, and it caters to vinyl vendors and headphone makers en masse, along with home cinema, extreme audio and everything else. This results in attendees unmatched by any other show: all ages and two (or maybe more given the current climate) genders.

Given the plethora of original, unconventional hardware, a crowd that doesn’t look like an AARP gathering, and restaurants which don’t charge $30 just for appetizers, it’s almost enough to change my glass from half-empty to half-full. Here’s just a sip, which should inspire you to consider a holiday in Poland this autumn.

Audio Reveal

Junior is Audio Reveal’s rather interesting integrated amplifier in that it uses 6550 power tubes in single-ended mode. It accepts two line level sources and delivers 10 watts per channel. If you need more power, the company also offers amplifiers with KT88s, KT150s and KT170s with respectively higher wattages.



The elegant Audio Reveal Junior integrated amplifier.


Bona Watt

While I worry about naked tubes sans cages (and which I suspect wouldn't pass Europe’s draconian consumer electronics safety rules), I was impressed by the nicely-made Bona Watt Tamesis integrated amplifier. Exposed to the elements, adventurous cats and inquisitive children are two of my favorite tubes – KT77s – plus two 6N9S and a U77. They operate in what the company calls Parabolic Power Bias, with levels controlled by resistor ladder attenuators +/-0.5 % with 128 steps. Power is 11.5W per channel, which should mean long life spans for the KT77s. I wonder how they sound compared to original M-O Valve Co. Gold Lions.



Bona Watt's Tamesis integrated amp.


Fezz Audio

One of the longer-established Polish brands, Fezz Audio produces wonderful tube amps with embarrassingly low prices (by US standards). The Titania integrated amplifier, offered in seven colors, contains four KT88 output tubes with two ECC83 (12AX7) for the preamp stages for a generous 2 x 45W. It has three line inputs, weighs a chunky 38 lbs. features auto-bias and is yours for (sigh) around $3,000.



More integrated amp goodness: Fezz Audio's beautiful and sanely-priced Titania.


Muarah Audio

Muarah, a Polish brand which makes both turntables and tube amplifiers, showed the new MT-3 turntable which departs from their previous designs of acrylic plinth construction by moving to thick MDF board, finished in satin black. The platter, as with other Muarah Audio decks, is made of black acrylic, with a thickness of 30 mm and a weight of approximately 5.5 lbs. This stood out because of its original integrated turntable mat design, which recalls their MT-2 Special Edition. The MT-3 is compatible with tonearms with an effective length of 9 inches, including the MY-1/9 seen here. Sit down for this: the deck as seen here sells for €3,536. That’s $3,900, of which $2,100 is for the arm if purchased on its own!



The striking new Muarah MT-3 turntable.


Cube Audio

This rather Lowther-like speaker, the Lotus, hails from Cube Audio. They describe it as a “one-and-a-half-way set based on a new generation of 8-inch wideband transducers supplemented with the company's woofers.” The neat feature is the side-firing woofer, and the speakers boast 90 dB-plus sensitivity. The price is $17,200.



Cube Audio's Lotus loudspeaker.


Benny Audio

For those who love thick platters and turntables with serious heft, the belt-drive Benny Audio Odyssey weighs a considerable 50 kg, or 110 lbs., despite a relatively compact footprint of only 440 x 440 mm/17 x 17 inches. Its DC motor resides in a housing separated from the plinth, the latter a 3-layer construct of plywood, aluminum and Delrin. The bearing is an inverted “hydrodynamic” type.



Benny Audio's substantial Odyssey turntable.



Fitted with a Kuzma tonearm, the Tentogra Wowo turntable is the smallest of the company’s turntables, following the Tentogra Oscar and Tentogra Gramy VTA, with a footprint of 20 x 18 inches. Its designer says, “The inspiration for this model was simplicity and a reference to vintage turntables, if only because of the quick access to all adjustments.” It certainly looks like a breeze to set up, but it’s no lightweight at 77 lbs. without arm or accessories. It can handle two arms of 9 inch – 14-inch lengths, the Kuzma seen here being a 12-inch. The deck provides speeds of 33, 45 and 78 RPM selected by a knob on the front of the turntable; the speed is indicated by an LED. Wowo is available in two basic colors – black or silver – while various user-changeable natural wood veneers are used for the turntable housing.



Tentogra's Wowo turntable is available in a choice of natural wood veneers.


Audio Phonique

It’s hard to find any tube devotees who aren’t fascinated by the use of less-common or vintage valves. As much as I adore the usual suspects, I, too, am a sucker for an unfamiliar designation. Related to the PX25, Emission Labs’ 1605 triode powers Audio Phonique’s PSE1605 monoblocks, good for 40W each. That’s substantial for a single-ended triode when one considers how many SET followers get by with less than 10 watts. Beautifully made, the PSE 1605 reads like a brand fetishist’s dream: Lundahl’s custom-made amorphous speaker and interstage transformers, Mundorf MCap SUPREME Classic SilverGold Oil, TubeCap and MLytic AG capacitors for power supplies, Caddock and Vishay-Dale precision low-noise resistors, WBT terminals, and a gold-plated 3 mm printed circuit board with thick OFC copper layer. Everything is soldered with Cardas’ eutectic tin. Which helps to explain the price of $87,000 per pair.



The Audio Phonique PSE1605 mono power amplifier, featuring 1605 output tubes.


Avatar Audio

Avatar Audio’s Holophony Number Two loudspeaker intrigued me because its double-body cabinet is made of solid bamboo. Constructed of 5-layer ply with a thickness of just over 1 inch, Number Two has sensitivity of 92 dB, making it ideal for single-ended triode amplifiers. The tweeter has a black felt surround to prevent reflections and the cabinets include two types of isolation feet: balls on the bottom and magnetic isolators under the upper cabinet.



Avatar Audio's distinctive Holophony Number Two loudspeaker.


Closer Acoustics

Delightfully named the 300B Provocateur, Closer Acoustics’ amp is a perfect match for all of the super-high-sensitivity speakers so popular in Poland. It delivers only 8W per channel in Class A from a tube complement of two 300Bs, plus 5U4G and 6SN7 tubes. The amplifier accommodates four line sources via gold-plated, pure copper RCA inputs and the motorized, remote-controlled volume control is a 48-position stepped attenuator.



The 300B Provocateur integrated amp from Closer Acoustics.



Although I am not a horn devotee – I have a soft spot for certain Lowthers, and covet a number of vintage Klipsch models such as the Heresy and La Scala – I love seeing these massive types designed to challenge domestic harmony. This is German manufacturer Hornsolutions’ Master Series “The Reference” and it did, indeed, sound impressive in one of the biggest rooms at the show. (See the header image for this article.) Their systems hark back to Western Electric designs of yore, the company favors compression drivers (including one appropriately called the 666), and the construction is modular to suit various needs and room sizes.


Destination Audio

Called “Nika,” Destination Audio’s 3-way horn system reminded me of Sonus Faber and Franco Serblin speakers thanks to the stringed grille. This 50-inch-tall monitor has a footprint of only 25 x 25 inches, so it’s relatively manageable for a horn system. Sensitivity is 99 dB, which places it smack in the middle of modern horn efficiency and is high enough for even the reborn Leak Stereo 20s, which seem to be proliferating on this side of the Pond. At 254 lbs. per speaker, though, one can imagine the construction is substantial. Frequency response is claimed to be 25 Hz – 20kHz.



Meet Nika, the 3-way horn loudspeaker from Destination Audio.



Not all the speakers in the high-end rooms were massive, and it was a relief to find these gems from Latvian manufacturer Aretai. The Contra 100S is described as a 2.5-way, and it houses two 6-inch woofers, one firing at the back. This stand-mount is only 16 inches tall, but is claimed to deliver a frequency response of 32 Hz – 30 kHz. Impedance is 4 ohms and sensitivity only 85 dB, but it can handle 100 watts.



The compact Aretai Contra 100S speakers.



Woofers on top reminds me of a certain British loudspeaker which always had me running from the room, but Sisound’s Kolumny Fortis S – being a floorstander – focused its tweeter at just below ear level and it sounded just fine. The 50-inch-tall speaker can pump out 114 dB, but then, its sensitivity is 102 dB. The horn tweeter and 12-inch woofer cover 25 Hz – 30 kHz.



Making inverted driver placement work: the Sisound Kolumny Fortis S loudspeaker.


Header image: The Reference loudspeaker from Hornsolutions. All images courtesy of Ken Kessler.

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