Milan TOP Audio 1997 Show Report

Just as the Hi-Fi Show in London demonstrated an increase in the number of exhibitors and visitors, so did TOP Audio, in Milan. An extra floor and a new exhibit hall were opened to account for the added numbers, and the new faces weren’t only from the home theatre sector. As ever, the show was rich with exotic designs and valve amplification; here are some of the highlights:

1) SONUS FABER’s Musica integrated amplifier was the hit of the show, a luscious solid walnut-fronted device rated at 50W/ch into 8 ohms. It features a symmetrical PCB, surface mount technology, six line inputs, WBT-made speaker terminals and independent power supplies for the input and output stages.


2) NIGHTINGALE displayed the retro-styled Chorus Line Series, the AFS-30 operating in pure Class-A and delivering 30W/ch from its bank of eight 6L6 valves. The rest of the tube line-up consists of two E88CCs and two E82CCs. The cabinet is fashioned from solid walnut and the metalwork finished in a deep champagne colour.

3) ULTRASOUND, manufacturer of some fairly complex speaker arrays, showed a prototype amplifier, the Parsec, a solid-state/tube hybrid. Called a ‘transconductance’ amplifier, it promises to deliver current and voltage as required, in effect acting as both a solid-state amp and a valve amp.

4) PATHOS unveiled the Classic One integrated amp. Described as a ‘budget’ model, it operates in Class A mode and delivers 50W/ch.

5) NORMA produces a range of slim-line solid state components in its Trasparence series, including the 7.1HC stereo power amp.

6) PEARL AUDIO TECHNOLOGY manufacturers a line of unusually-shaped speakers, including pyramids with rounded ends. and the floorstanding two-way Contrapunto.

7) FASE released the handsome CD player, the Laserdrive 1.0 available in silver or black. Processing is 16-bit, x4 oversampling.

8) CARNICA, previously known for speakers, showed a range of electronics including the Aurora pre-amp, equipped with ECC82s and ECC83s and encased in wood. The vertical component to its right is the CDA integrated, rated at 18W/ch.

9) DAAD manufactures its own versions of the familiar Tube Traps, including Corner Traps and Tim Traps.

10) The ALIANTE ONE is a new two-way in a beautifully-sculpted enclosure measuring 225x350x400mm. The 170mm woofer features a phase plug; above it is a 26mm fabric dome tweeter.

11) CLARAVOX showed a prototype of the familiar Altair, but with marble side panels.

12) Eugenio Lazzari of NONSOLOMUSICA is probably Italy’s wackiest vintage hi-fi enthusiast – who else would show the prototype of a mono, valve CD player? Yes, mono.

13) R.A.M.’s Excalibur One amplifier is one of a range of amps finished with solid timber end-pieces. This MOSFET beauty is fashioned from non-magnetic materials, operates in true Class A up to 15W and then delivers 140W/ch into 8 ohms at its limits. The Excalibur Two delivers 70W/ch.

14) S.A.P.’s Genio, seen in prototype form a couple of years ago, is now available – and still probably the only speaker in the world with built-in valve amplification. Each enclosure houses a 15W pure Class A tube amp, and this gorgeous Ferrari-red finish is one of a number of options.

15) N.E.T. with its roots in the legendary Galactron line, exhibited the MK16v valve pre-amplifier. It accepts five line-level sources, with phono as an option.