Some Polish hi-fi discoveries and delights

The Warsaw Show's Adam and Gabriella Mokrzycki

I'd heard many times over the years that the Warsaw Show—officially called Audio Video Show 2022—was a "great" show. But that gives barely a hint of the special nature of this show, the second largest audio show in Europe.

Did you know that there are at least 50 and perhaps 100 Polish manufacturers of audiophile hi-fi equipment? It isn't just components: At the show, I encountered many Polish companies that make fantastic cables, room treatments, and power conditioners. Throw in headphone amplifiers and home theater, neither of which I had time to explore during three dizzying days scouting at least 190 exhibits, and the variety is dazzling.

Poland's audio industry caters to music lovers as much as gear heads. Of the whopping 34 seminars offered on Saturday alone, several were by Polish musicians. One of the most famous equipment reviewers in Poland led a seminar in which he discussed his favorite soundtracks.

Munich High End may draw industry and press from around the world, but the Warsaw show is geared toward consumers. The age range of attendees was astounding, far more typical of the general population than the demographic at a typical US show. I saw more 20–55-year-old men than, say, men over 60. (This older audiophile fled the first floor of the Radisson on Day One lest I be trampled by the young, eager, and overcaffeinated.) And while women were still outnumbered, they were more numerous than I'm used to seeing at a hi-fi show. Many attendees, including a fair number of women, traveled from nearby countries, hungry to listen to music through audio equipment from near and far.

"Polish interest in audiophile equipment existed at the time of the first show in 1997," show founder Adam Mokrzycki explained to me about an hour before the show ended. He should know. Adam—I'll call him by his first name because it is far easier to spell—began writing audio reviews at age 17. He was all of 21 when, spurred by the existence of three thriving Polish audiophile magazines, he staged the first show. His wife, Gabriella, knew what she was getting into when she committed to their relationship. (The two of them are pictured above.) Three children later—the oldest is 18—she's still smiling. As Adam dashed all over the place, offering assistance as need, Gabriella managed the show office.

The Warsaw show, whose exhibit prices are far lower than what other shows charge, had sold out for 15 straight years when, in 2012, Adam took a leap from exhibiting in hotels with mostly small rooms to the huge, recently constructed PGE Narodowy Stadium, which offers far more medium and large rooms than any US show I can recall.

But despite the stadium's lure—its exhibits showcase many major US and European players and all the major headphone and home theater brands—the heart of the show remains the Radisson Blu Sobieski. That's where I encountered one fanciful-looking Polish-made speaker, electrical component, cable, and acoustic treatment after another. Esoterica galore. Exhibitors also came from Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, the UK (represented, eg, by the Funk Firm, led by the informative Arthur Khoubesserian), Italy (Massimiliano Magri's Grandinote), Portugal (Nuno Vitorino's Innuos)—from all over. Lumin servers, which cut a manageably small profile on equipment racks, were everywhere. The range of imaginative designs was fantastic.

If US audio brands were front and center in many rooms, so was "our" music. Alternating with Polish pop, I repeatedly renewed the acquaintance of "Famous Blue Raincoat," Malia and Elvis's takes on "Fever," choice cuts from Patricia Barber, and—say it loud and proud—Diana Krall. Haven't heard enough Stevie Ray Vaughan, Nina Simone, or Sarah Vaughan lately? Hungering for Gary Karr, Eva Cassidy, Albinoni's Adagio, Keith Jarrett, James Blake, Yosi Horikawa's "Bubbles," or another hit of Rimsky-Korsakov's Dance of the Tumblers? By all means, come to Poland; the music will make you feel right at home. But please Keith, don't go.

A special delight was discovering a joint exhibit by two Ukrainian companies. Adam had reached out to all the Ukrainian manufacturers he could track down—eight of them—offering them free (as in, without cost) exhibit space. Only four responded. He assumes the others either were impacted by war or lacked personnel above the Ukrainian draft age who could attend. When the Radisson Blu Sobieski learned of Adam's generosity, it matched his offer with cost-free lodging. Adam even added Ukraine's yellow and blue to Poland's red and white on the show-badge lanyards. When he told me this, tears welled up.

As is always the case when setup time is limited and spaces unfamiliar, the sound at the show was mixed. In the stadium, smaller speakers fared far better than large ones. I can't help wonder how many attendees flocked to the stadium, hoping to learn why some of the world's most respected brands cost so much, only to discover more out-of-control bass than inebriated fans at football games. Hate to say it, but those who opted for the big spaces in the two hotels fared far better. On that score, major Warsaw dealer Nautilus cleaned up royally, with exhibits in all three venues.

I loved wandering from room to room anonymously. When one exhibitor spied my badge, he declared, "Stereophile and The Absolute Sound are my bibles." Does that make me one of the 12 apostles? Heaven forbid! Still, I'll end with my own kind of testament: Warsaw, it was a joy to partake of your enthusiasm. Until we can meet and rejoice in music again, thank you.

bhkat's picture

Nice to hear about people loving hi-fi and music in other countries.

windansea's picture

Hope that JVS will post plenty of reportage from Warsaw. Personally this is very interesting. I only know Lampizator from Poland.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Was posted over a month ago.

Stevens's picture

… for so few 60+. Assuming you are 60+, when you were in your teens and 20s and getting into hifi, living the American Dream, Poland was a Communist state run by a General allied to the Soviet Union.

windansea's picture

oh, thanks. I guess I did see that before.

Stevens's picture

… why no one in the USA has heard of great Polish and other Central European audio, it’s because they don’t play the “advertising for reviews” game. I use a magnificent RCM phono stage, made in Katowice. My dealer stocks them alongside Zanden, Soulution, Audio Research and Brinkmann. He uses their Big Phono at home. Instead of talking, how about reviewing one?