It looked nice and well set up, carefully arranged and sounding good. After the carrying, plugging, unplugging and pointing had given way to smiles, closed eyes and head nodding, it was obvious all the hard work had been well worth it.
At 5.30pm on Monday 13th of December at the Wellesley Boutique Hotel in Wellington, Hugo Van Son, Audio Visual Manager of Harvey Norman Tory Street, and I, were looking at each other wondering if an evening of hi-fi demos in 2010 was actually a good idea. Was hi-fi still a thing that could capture the public’s attention? Or were we living in the past, some of the last men on the ramparts championing good sound over convenience?
Ten minutes before the advertised start time of 6pm we got our answer, the first person arrived, followed quickly by the second, third... By 6pm Hugo and I didn’t have time to look at each other, we were too busy talking to people about sound, equipment and that intangible link people have to the music in their lives.
Garth from Theophany had brought his staggering passion to bear, demonstrating a full home theatre system, comprised of our éloquence 250i integrated amplifier, a Marantz receiver and Theophany M5 speakers for the fronts with matching Theophany pieces for sub, centre and rear. All of this connected to a 65” Panasonic 3D panel playing Avatar made for an overwhelming experience. Watching people come out of the home theatre room was like watching people come off a long flight, slightly dazed, a bit bamboozled by the physics of what they had just encountered. But most importantly, changed. Garth and his huge amount of knowledge soften the landing but it was a demo in demos. Minds appropriately blown.
Walking out of that area and the pressure kept increasing, front and centre of the room were two Perreaux PRISMA 750 Watt mono blocks driving a beautifully finished pair of the award winning Theophany M5 Signature loudspeakers. I tried my very best to ignore this system as I wanted to give my full attention to the people who had questions for me. But at one stage Che Hogg, Proprietor from Harveys Tory Street, put on ‘New York is Killing Me’ by Gil Scott Heron and it was all I could do to not light a few candles and sit cross legged in front of the mono blocks with a glass of red wine.
The fine gentlemen from B&W/Marantz brought with them a very impressive array of speakers, electronics and signage. The B&W 805 Diamond bookshelf speakers were impressive regardless of the price, providing a full rich sound that stopped people in their tracks. The Marantz units were black except for a couple which were silver.
Mid-way through the evening I got the opportunity to play our new amplifier, AUDIANT 80i, to the room. After more than a year of development, discussions and refinement it was finally out of our hands. Powering a pair of Theophany M3B speakers running a Squeezebox Touch playing a WAV file of Hana Fahy’s ‘Ties’. A brief introduction and I pressed play. I felt all of a sudden like I was watching one of my children give an important address. About a minute into the track I looked around the room and realised that it was actually an acceptance speech. Having two good ears to listen with is great, after all, the only place a one eared man is king is in the land of the deaf. Having more than 100 ears hearing AUDIANT was the acid test we had been waiting for. It did not disappoint. Even to the discerning crowd assembled it was obvious AUDIANT came out of the gate swinging. Not in an uncontrolled manner and not swinging for a six, we have PRISMA and ÉLOQUENCE for that. AUDIANT is more like a perfectly timed cover drive. It isn’t going for glory; it’s aspiring to class and a classic form. A culmination of heritage, preparation and well tethered natural ability.
Hugo, Che and all the guys at Harvey Normans took the leap of faith with us, and hi-fi enthusiasts, music fans and lovers of good sound turned out in great numbers to make us realise that we were not on a fool’s errand – that other people care as much as we do.