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Roma Audio Show '98 - The Report!

[Italian version]

The Rome Audio Show has taken place during the 27th-28th of February - 1st of March at the Hotel dei Congressi - EUR in Rome.

The flavour

As promised we were there, sniffing and tasting some good (and bad) news of this crazy world of HiFi Audio.
Some big names weren't there (above all: Sonus Faber) but it should be taken into proper account that this Show is rather young, being this one the third edition.
Despite some important absences the audiophile crowd crowded (what else? :-)) the listening rooms and sometimes we found it hard finding a decent place into a room for listening to some interesting gear.
A huge bravo! to the organizers, since they've been brave enough to create an important HiFi Show even in Rome. You should know that the big HiFi event in Italy is the Top Audio in Milan (in September).

The listening rooms of the huge Hotel Dei Congressi were rather small and since some were used to demonstrate big horn or high-efficiency loudspeakers, the results of this choice can be easily figured out :-(
But, since low-powered tube amps and huge high-efficiency loudspeakers are all the rage today, it was quite obvious to expect several listening rooms organized this way.
Room acoustics was generally a bit on the poor side and the organizers didn't even try to correct the tonal balance of their rooms with Tube Traps or similar devices.
Because of this we prefer to not make a *playlist* of the best (or worst) sounding systems/rooms since such a list would be seriously affected by the sound of the rooms and/or by the ability of the organizers to set-up a decent system into such tiny spaces.
Also, we truly believe that in order to judge a system listened this way, one should have a spectrum analyzer built-in somewhere into his body ;-) (and I'm sure some reviewers have this add-on somewhere ;-) ) and one should be able to understand the reasons why a system sounds fine or bad...was it room's fault? Or wrong cables? And what about the number of visitors into the listening room while he was *judging* the system?
You see, too many *uncontrollable* variables which don't allow to write a serious report on the sound of the demonstrated systems.

Interesting stuff - The Italian scene

Besides tons of Home Theater gear, with earth-shaking bass and heart-attack explosions, there were many tubes and even some analogue stuff (Roksan, Rega, Audio Note). Then there were insanely large horn speakers, low-efficiency mini-monitors powered with tiny triodes, fancy cables and a pletora of (new and old) Italian brands.
For example, Opera demonstrated the new integrated with a wood fascia (more or less like the new integrated from Sonus Faber, the Musica) and a Murano artistic glass top cover that can be painted and customized on owner's request.
This new Italian integrated amp seems very interesting both because of its really new and amazing cool looks and for the price, slightly over 1000 $ (in Italy, can be higher abroad).
The definitive version will be available in May (or so they promise).
The artistic Murano glass was used also in a tube preamp from Punto Musica, a renowed Italian firm which specializes in kit loudspeakers.
Available the whole new line from Aliante, the loudspeakers from Giuseppe Prato with the cabinet designed by Pininfarina, the famous Italian car designer (Ferrari and others).
Aliante makes also an incredible stand for loudspeakers named Vela, clearly something different from the rest. These new Italian beauties can be already seen at the Aliante Web site.
The new Italian brand named Ultrasound was demonstrating the new crossover-less loudspeakers and the new range of revolutionary amplifiers. Some of the features of the Ultrasound components were kept secret by the designer Creazzo.
We have tried to know something more about a red CD player but Ing. Creazzo didn't unveil his secrets.
SAP (Sistemi Acustici di Precisione, I think a translation isn't necessary, this time) was demonstrating the whole new line of Nagra components (preamp and amps) with some huge horn SAP loudspeakers named La Voce.
We'll let you know something more about these products, aimed especially for the low-powered tubed crowd :-), as soon as we put our ears over them :-)
We're actually working on a DIY project based on the SAP full-range speaker, the Italian alternative to Lowther and Co.
Another Italian brand, N.E.T., was curiosly demonstrating its loudspeakers and amps using an old Marantz CD 94 player...good things never die, uh?
The Antique Sound Labs tube amps were driving a pair of mini-monitors, the famous Kef LS3/5A and the result was quite impressive, given the fact that the BBC minimonitors are well known to have an extremely low efficiency.
Still something new and quite original from the new Italian brands Pearl and RHF.
Clearly there's a NWOIHF (New Wave Of Italian HiFi) that is invading the HiFi market with a pletora of interesting, original and cool-looking Italian components (mainly, loudspeakers).

People at the Show

You may know that TNT-Audio is an Internet-only HiFi magazine so its popularity among the not-yet-connected audiophile crowd is expected to be low.
Wrong. The impression we had was that everyone knew something about TNT-Audio, even if they hadn't Internet access.
So, many Italian builders were happy to talk with us about their components and about our reviewing policy.
The fact that we don't accept any kind of support or advertising sounded pretty interesting to their ears and they promised us to send their stuff for reviewing anytime soon.

Finally, few words about the audiophiles at the Show: business as usual, many of them were quite noisy, talking loud during demonstrations, listening to a track from 1:45 till 1:57 and in general acting as they were there to *judge* or review something instead of listening to good Music.
And since *judging* is almost impossible in those conditions I'd prefer to see more audiophiles listening to Music instead of HiFi.

Was it an interesting Show? You bet, clearly it was.
We've talked to many manufacturers and distributors, shared our views with them and with audiophiles in general, listened to some good Music and tasted the situation of the Italian HiFi which seems to be healthy and lively.
Stay tuned with TNT-Audio to learn more about new Italian gear in the next months...

© Copyright 1998 Lucio Cadeddu

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