Warsaw Day Three: Goodness in All Sizes

Most US shows experience a big drop in attendance on Sunday. Not at Audio Video 2022. Over 90% of Poland's residents may identify as Catholic, but that didn't stop thousands of them from visiting the Warsaw Show's three sites on the last day of the show. I still had to play musical chairs in many rooms before finally landing in or close to the sweet spot, and there were a few rooms that felt too crowded for comfort.

Accustomed to US shows that close down at 4pm on Sunday, I paced myself to visit the well-over 30 rooms not yet seen in the Sobieski hotel, and then head diagonally across the street to the 8 medium, large, and very large rooms one floor up in the Hotel Golden Tulip. Only when I finished up, only to discover all these "post-show stragglers" back in the Sobieski, did I realize that the show ended at 6pm. Hey, that was more merciful than Saturday's 10am to 8pm.

The small rooms at the Sobieski were again dominated by Polish brands. Which is not to say that in this small room from Warsaw-based distributor Sound Source, you couldn't find a system that included Vivid speakers, a Mola Mola DAC. and more. As you can see from the photo, ATC, CH Precision, Magnepan, Audio Note, Creek, Kii, and more are distributed in Poland by this company.

Tube components appeared at least as frequently as solid-state. Beyond this sign from Poland's Kasoto Audio sang what, to my taste, was one of the two finest-sounding rooms on the second floor of the Sobieski. I loved the sound of Lester Bowie's trumpet on a track from the new AC Records LP, Live in Gdynia (see the next entry), which was recorded at Jazz Days 1996. Kasota made the racks and, perhaps, the speakers. The tubed components were from TR Audio, again from Poland.

In both that room and one I entered shortly thereafter, I encountered Adam Czerwiński of Poland's AC Records. This low-resolution snatch from the web will have to take the place of photos of Adam playing the metal master of his latest recording on a J. Sikora turntable with KV12 arm. The recording was pressed at Abbey Road Studios. Bass wasn't the best in this room—it wasn't the best in at least 95% of the rooms—but higher up, the sound was quite good.

I didn't take that many photos—not when I was moving so fast. But I couldn't resist the look of this tube gear from Chinese company YaqinAudio. In this display, Yaqin gear was mated with components from Cocktail Audio of Korea.

In one of the larger rooms on the 2nd floor of the Sobieski, I found one of the best systems I heard on the final day. It was a delight to discover that Albedo pure monocrystal silver cabling, which is now imported into the US by Ozan Turan's High End by Oz, was partly responsible for the extremely open, alive, and transparent sound I heard on Elvis's fabulously recording of "Fever." Diptyque Audio electro-dynamic loudspeakers, made in France, Aqua Audio components, and a Gigawatt EVO4 power conditioner from Poland—all from Audio Connect in the south of Poland—were equally responsible for the room's success. Hats off to Pawel Topczewski, whose surname I hope I haven't butchered.

In a huge room on the Sobieski's ground floor resided a wide, tastefully appointed spread from Nautilus Distribution of Poland complete with Avantgarde Acoustic Trio Luxury horn loudspeakers, Ayon electronics, a Transrotor turntable, and Siltech Royal Double Crown interconnects. The lighting was very dim—too dim to read all the brands from my seat—but the sound of Vangelis's "Blade Runner Blues" was mesmerizing. Perfect, no, especially (not) on Stevie Ray Vaughan's more complex "Scuttle Buttin'." But on the right material, hypnotic.

The Golden Tulip Hotel may be located diagonally across the street from the Radisson Sobieski Blu, but navigating one of downtown's busiest intersections involves crossing multiple multi-lane boulevards and trolley tracks. As I soon observed, Warsaw residents have learned to either obey the signs in pedestrian crosswalks or risk death. Trying my best, I cooled my born-in-New York City tendencies and stuck to the curb until signs turned green.

LampizatOr, one of three major Polish DAC manufacturers who, along with Mytek and Ferrum, are known to US audiophiles, had an impressive spread in a moderately sized room in the Golden Tulip. Eva Cassidy's classic "Fields of Gold' sounded predominantly lovely, warm, and smooth. Ditto for Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's "Shallow," which was blessed with captivating warm illumination.

It's a shame that Sulek Audio cabling isn't available in the US, because I've never heard Audio Note loudspeakers sound better. A Stéphane Grappelli track was sonorous to the extreme. Other components in the system, also unavailable here, were from Poland (the volume control on the transformer, from Vinus Audio) and Lithuania (the Reed turntable).

Estelon founder/designer Alfred Vassilkova traveled from Estonia to listen to a very soft-voiced salesman alternate multiple music selections with long raps about every component in the chain. Unable to understand a word, and resisting the lure of the wine that kept many people in their seats, I was about to pull the plug when Estelon's gorgeous Extreme MkII speakers, mated with goodies from Accuphase, Transroter, Crystal Cable, and more did a fine job with the percussive subtlety of "Japanese Roots (feat. John Kaizan)." (I hope I remember to check out this recording, because it's a good one for testing certain aspects of system performance." Air and silence between notes were the strong suits of this system.

Circling back to the Sobieski, I had the joy of encountering the oft-hilarious Kostas Metaxas from Australia and his eye-candy reel-to-reel decks. I expect these decks sound as good as they look, albeit at a price that many may fear to gaze upon let alone tread. Hey, when a company is named Metaxas & Sins, you don't expect to get off easy, do you? As soon as someone has the sense to import these babies into the US, I'd love to review one of them. A visit from Kostas would be worth its weight in gold.

If gazing at Metaxas Tape Decks has you fantasizing, an overview of the room treatment from this Polish company may make you wonder if someone's dropped some you know what into the punchbowl. On which note, the late wife of my friend Sue in Port Townsend used to work as Janis Joplin's accountant in San Francisco. Guess what she once imbibed unexpectedly at a party at Janis's place?

And, on that note, I bring a close to our online overview of the 2022 installment of Poland's one-of-a-kind, quarter century old Audio Video Show. For more, please see My Back Pages in Stereophile's forthcoming January 2023 issue. Or, better yet, plan to visit Warsaw next year. There's nothing quite like Europe's second largest audio show.