Hong Kong Audio Visual Show 2012

At any audio show, you are going to find the weirdly wonderful, wildly wacky or just plain strange, but any show this close to the emergent and energetically inventive hi-fi market in China is going to have more than its fair share of oddities, throwbacks and those products that are perhaps most kindly labeled "homage."

There are any number of plugs, connectors and other assorted bits and pieces that could be mistaken for more familiar products, but chief amongst this latter category must be the speaker system playing in the Audio Space room. It looked like the legendary LS3/5a and the name card said that it’s an LS3/5a, and that columnular subwoofer looks uncommonly like the matching SW-1 -- which, strangely enough, is also what it’s called. But it wasn’t Rogers or any of the other official BBC licensees that manufactured these speakers; look a bit closer and it is clear that the drivers differ significantly from those in the original spec. In fact, these designs were commissioned in Hong Kong, built in China and merely inspired by the original BBC monitor. Prices aren’t that different from the real thing: $12,000 HK per pair for the speakers, $6200 HK for the subs (roughly $1545 and $800 respectively in good old US greenbacks). Which raises the question -- why bother?

These speakers really aren’t close enough to the originals to be considered fakes or counterfeits. Anybody savvy enough to have heard of the BBC LS3/5a is probably savvy enough to know (or find out) that this isn’t it. What it is is a damn fine-sounding speaker in its own right. Driven by a modest system of Audio Space’s own electronics -- T88-A tube transport ($1135 US), DAC-2us upsampling converter ($1900 US) and AS-3.8I KT88 integrated amp ($1005 US) -- the sound was open and lively, allowing music to breathe with none of the dynamic constipation that so afflicts the BBC design. I rather enjoyed the several jazz and one orchestral cut I heard -- even if I’d be more comfortable with a slightly less confusing nomenclature.

There were plenty of other speakers that need fear no such concerns.

Yes,  those really are loudspeakers! The Hua Xing Violins Iviolin speaker is possibly the most extreme case of technological repurposing ever! I have no clue how these work, beyond the fact that the base column is a "bass column" and that the instrument acts as an active element. Some kind of exciter is positioned inside, although whether it acts on the strings, the body or (as I suspect) both is anybody’s guess. The sound? Do you really need to ask?

Meanwhile, if you ever wondered whether wooden pyramids sound different from wooden cones -- or cubes, door knob shapes, ovoids or just about any other combination of the above that you might come up with -- Woodmark Audio Furniture was the place for you. Judging from the time it took me to create enough space just to grab a quick snap, these are clearly matters of great moment in the Middle Kingdom, with avid crowds of jostling customers pawing the goods, keen to grab that killer tweak before the guy next to them.

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