Milan TOP Audio 1995 Show Report

Held every September at the Quark Hotel in Milan, TOP Audio is one of the shows to attend during the “European season”. It takes place smack in the middle — the season starts in August with the German shows and ends in October with the Budapest event — so it represents a peak of the industry’s energy, even though it’s actually a rather laid-back affair. But TOP Audio is the showcase for the Italian high-end scene and, despite the recession biting deeply, the 1995 show had the usual buzz. It’s appropriate, then, that the hottest new products came from native brands.

1) Italian audiophiles are serious do-it-yourself types, and the magazines respond to this with their own kits or plans. SUONO instructed readers how to make the Arke’ophon triode kit, which builds up into something as professional-looking as anything in the shops.

2) OPERA, an Italian speaker builder known for solid-timber cabinetry, showed a prototype tube product, a massive integrated amplifier with a half-dozen output tubes per channel, what I think were EL84s. Expect it to be seen in production form around the time of the Winter CES.

3) It generated a lot of laughs when first launched a few years back, the sonically-approved AUDIO CARPET is taken very seriously in its home country. The original floor version has now been joined by a wall-mounted equivalent dubbed the Wall Graffiti, examples of which were seen all over the show along with the “normal” floor model. Both versions are available in a choice of 18 genuine Missoni fabrics.

4) ALIANTE hired the wrold-famous design company Pininfarina to create the look of its latest enclosure, a gorgeous medium-sized two-way available in metalflake car paint finishes of red, blue and silver. Expect the US price to be in the $5000-plus bracket, should you want speakers to match your Ferrari.

5) & 6) MTD, a speaker company which produces pyramidal designs, showed the close-to-production versions of its long-gestating tube projects. The Vegent 5.0 is a 50W pure Class A monoblock wearing four 6550s per chassis; the matching Coalescence preamp is a battery-powered all-tube design containing four E88CCs.

7) DML AUDIO’s Synthesis tube products all come mounted in wooden chassis. Seen here is the ST/2 25W/ch stereo amplifier. The construction is superb, and the range includes an all-tube phono stage and line amp to mate with the ST/2.

8) GALACTRON, the company which once made a pre-amp likely to hold the honor of that with the most knobs, reappeared a couple of years back with a distinctive line of upright components. New is the MK2151 Monoblock amplifier, rated at 50W in pure Class A mode. All Galactron hardware is finished in matte grey with wooden end panels and a see-through section in the middle.

9) Definitely the talk of TOP Audio was SONUS FABER’s Concertino, set to sell Stateside for under $1000 per pair. A gorgeous little two-way system, it measures only 220x230x290mm (WDH) and features panels made from the same solid walnut which give the much more costly models their family look.

10) Also in the SONUS FABER room was a large room tuning panel called the Silentium; what we saw was a prototype, but it looked shop-ready and room-friendly.

11) ALBEDO showed a fascinating two-way floor-stander notable for its rearward slope and an angular enclosure devoid of any parallel panels. This pillar is larger at the top than at its base, but a pair of legs swings out toward the back for support. Dimensions are 170x180x965mm, the Morel-made driver complement consists of a 100mm woofer and a 28mm dome tweeter, and the frequency response is 50-20kHz.

(Fi Magazine, issue 1-1996)