Linette gives readers a Bird’s Eye View of the National Audio Show 2016 at Whittlebury.mfasponsor

We have attended a lot of shows in the last few years but had never made it to Whittlebury for the National Audio Show (NAS). We decided to come and check it out and we were not disappointed.

Much like the North West Audio Show at Cranage Hall NAS takes place in a beautiful country house setting. Arriving at the hotel through the splendid grounds and golf course, Whittlebury Hall is instantly impressive and definitely on the grand side. It is so huge that the show went on with plenty of room even though there were weddings, people at the spa and loads of hotel guests there at the same time. Being practically next door to Silverstone, the hotel draws room names and décor from the iconic race track. The rather splendid, high ceilinged Silverstone Bar was covered with pictures of famous racing drivers and display cabinets of FI memorabilia…spotting one of Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes racing suits was a particular treat for this F1 fan.

The spacious hotel venue was really perfect for a Hifi show and the layout made the show easy to follow. It seemed well attended with plenty of couples and families taking in the sights and sounds, rather than just lone audiophiles of a certain age. There were also ample numbers of water-coolers, food and coffee facilities dotted around, and of course the bar for when a beer was called for. Though the hotel is quite pricey if you are thinking of stopping over to attend both days, there are plenty of reasonably priced hotels in the neighbouring towns ans villages. Although you could do the show in one day, we enjoyed a rather pleasant couple of days and being able to take our time and catch up with lots of folk was a bonus.bev_whittlebuey-_hall_8_online

Entering the show, visitors are greeted by the static stands of the Brookland Suite where there was lots of records for sale (and doing a roaring trade from the look of it) from the likes of Diverse Vinyl, Theme One Records and Vinyl Adventure. Show favourites MCRU, Townsend Audio, Electromod, Music First Audio and Timestep were also in this area and seemed to be attracting plenty of attention as usual. The rest of the room was dedicated to headfi and was labelled HeadZone. This area was very busy with lots of people trying out some rather nice gear, from modestly priced to the higher end. I think there was most headphone brands represented in this area with everyone from Oppo,Grado, Audeze, Schiit and MrSpeakers to Sennheiser and Fostex. There were plenty of portable electronics on show too from brands like Chord Electronics, Astell&Kern and Audioquest and Atlas cables were in there with cable upgrades for the true headfi nuts. The visitors had the look of kids in a sweet shop. Such was the range on offer it was possible for visitors to try out and audition just about everything on their wish list…I imagine plenty of people decided what their next headfi purchase was going to be in this area over the weekend.

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The actual listening rooms were a short walk away and were laid out in rooms around a courtyard on the ground and first floor. While Stuart is going into far greater detail, room by room, I thought I would just pick out a few of my stand-out rooms. Henley Designs really know how to ‘do’ a hifi show and had three rooms displaying their range of brands. My favourite had to be the Roksan room which looked stunning in blacks, whites and greys with the instantly recognisable black and silver Roksan banners. The sound was stunning too with the Roksan Darius S1 standmount speakers easily filling the room. I loved these ribbon-tweetered beauties when we had them for review, and this room reminded me why.bev_whittlebuey-_hall_21_online

Vivid Audio was another great room; I will always make a beeline for the Vivid room at a show as I have never heard them sound bad, I was not disappointed at this show either. The Vivid range of Giyas are show-stopping in looks as well as their sound. I was impressed with them and their pairing with Devialet but also in the Onkk room with the very new Onkk turntable. We were treated to classical music for our time with Vivid and I would have loved to have got back later for something a bit edgier.bev_whittlebuey-_hall_23_online

Chris Green and his team from Sound Fowndations had a cracking room with Clearaudio and GamuT in evidence, another combination that works very well. They always put a lot of effort into giving people a proper system to enjoy and their hard work does not go unnoticed.
Audio Emotion had made a mammoth journey down from Scotland and had set up a room that felt like it was their home. Excellent sounds from them but also a very welcoming atmosphere…and even a wee dram of whisky should you fancy it.bev_whittlebuey-_hall_22_online

Hifi Hangar had a small but very lively room on the ground floor circuit. They were very welcoming and were belting out some rather excellent non-audiophile music and I was particularly taken with their Eminent Technologies loudspeakers…more ribbon tweeters (there is a theme developing here!) and a very affordable price tag. It was a great example of how to do a small room very well indeed. The colourful lighting and plants made it feel funky rather than closed in.bev_whittlebuey-_hall_12_online

Upstairs we attended Dave Shevyn’s room treatment talk. We are converts ourselves but it was still very informative to listen to. He explained how sound is affected by the room and how room treatment actually works in a way that was easy to understand and entertaining. There were plenty of people in attendance and they came away with the confidence to tackle their own room problems.

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I really enjoyed the Code Acoustics room. The new modular system was very clever, both cool looking and sounding and we particularly enjoyed the music selection that was very electronic when we were in there. One to watch I think.

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Fanthorpes Hifi had a couple of rooms with a great sound in both. They were featuring PMC loudspeakers and had some lovely Avid turntables and Bryston electronics as well as other gear. Both were nice and lively.bev_whittlebuey-_hall_19_online

Music First Audio also had a room up here which I rather enjoyed too. Jonathan said that the combination of a demo room and a static stand was the best way he had found to do a show, giving him the flexibility of being able to talk to visitors on the stand (and sell quite a few units I noticed) and letting people just be able to actually listen upstairs.bev_whittlebuey-_hall_17_online

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Overall I think the quality of the rooms at the show were very high, there was some interesting gear and people we obviously enjoying themselves. It has been quite tricky to just pick my stand out highlights as all the rooms deserve a mention…..more coverage room by room to follow.
Next stop on our show circuit is the Indulgence Show in London in October, see you there!

Linette Smith

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