Linette gives her perspective of this year’s North West Audio Show

The North West Audio Show, or Cranage as most of us call it, has achieved a hell of a lot in a short time. From being a newcomer on the scene, just three shows ago, Cranage is now firmly on the audiophile show calendar and is seen as THE show to attend in the North of the UK.

What is it that this show does so right?  Firstly the location.  We at Hifi Pig have said it right from the off, Cranage Hall is a very nice hotel, it has the right mix of corporate and luxury, the staff are efficient and it is easy to get to by road, rail or plane. They are accustomed to hosting large weddings and conferences so a Hifi Show has never daunted them. Kris from The North West Audio Show really found a gem of a place for a show here.

This year there was the addition of Wychwood Park, which is in the same hotel group as Cranage but just a couple of junctions down the motorway. Kris rather bravely decided to try the show over the two venues with coaches to ferry people between the two venues every hour. This was quite a bold move but hats off to Kris for trying it, it did work but I felt that Wychwood had just too much of a corporate feel to it and in future the show would be best based solely at Cranage, which has become it’s spiritual home. With the Cheshire summer weather always a little unpredictable, getting the crowds under one roof would be best. Even better, as the show is now getting even bigger, a two day event would suit both exhibitors and visitors I think. And we’re pleased to announce exclusively that the show will indeed be over two days in 2017; the 24th and 25th of June…that’s Saturday and Sunday!

Just as the Bristol show is a UK industry hub, Cranage is becoming a place for Northern Audiophiles to meet up and socialise (and the odd southerner too). I’ve met some really nice people at this show, and lots return every year. This year there was a great representation from the UK Audiophile Facebook group, which is rapidly become the place for UK based audio and hifi discussion. The people really make this show, from the hardcore audiophiles to people out with their families for a relaxing browse of what’s available hifi and music wise. With it being a big hotel, plenty of guests who may be very into music but not ever experienced a hifi show, get the chance to join in and maybe catch the bug. What else makes Cranage great?  It’s FREE.  This a big thing for visitors and when you don’t have to pay for either entry or parking it becomes a really great day out for the family, and of course when you do get a little tired here is always refreshment to be had in the bar.

So, once you have the location and the people, you need exhibitors. There is an excellent balance at Cranage, plenty of affordable gear, lots of well known brands but also some new names that people may not have had the chance to hear before, plus a generous sprinkling of some high end gear to give people that aspirational feeling and Munich style magic. We came away convinced that a TechDAS Air Force III turntable was actually a sensible buy after a chat with the guys in the Midland Audio Exchange room, well come on, it does look like a real bargain at £13 000 compared to Airforce I. With their big Magico speakers sounding wonderful, it was a room that we were drawn back to a few times, as were many people. The Midland Audio Exchange guys probably deserve a medal for perseverance anyway after their van and epic amount of gear all got stuck in the mud on the grass outside of the room on set up day and had to be towed out by a tractor…you don’t get that at Munich!

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The other room behind the bar area, Karma AV, was also cracking with JBL and Mark Levinson gear, though I did feel sorry for the guys who had to lug it all in and out again!KARMA_av_nw_audio_3016_small

I do like how the show flows at Cranage, the walk through the entrance and the lounges giving you ample opportunity to take in plenty of great head-fi gear from the likes of ifi and Electromod who had lots of Schitt and Mr Speakers kit on hand.

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The Appleton room off the lounge has firmly become the G-point Audio room now with the stunning hORNS speakers and Lampizator gear making an impression on everyone that walked in; if stately homes had crazy listening rooms then this would be it.gp_nwas_1_small

The central corridor had plenty going on, with the big rooms off it housing NuNu Distribution and their fine array of gear including Quadral, Brodmann, Belles and TAD and the Entotem crew to name but a few. quad_nwas_2016_small

Also Doug Brady with Maggies, Devialet and Melco (plus the smaller system pictured) had a great room as did Malvern Audio who were featuring more hORNS speakers, Vinyl Passion and of course Ming Da.db_nwas_2016_1_small

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The corridor itself was very lively with Townsend and their very convincing seismic platform demo and their superteeters along with Supra cables, who are celebrating 40 years in business this year.twnshend_audio_lin_nwas_2016_small

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You could grab a hot drink and peruse the excellent selection at Diverse Vinyl (which I had to keep steering Mr Hifi Pig away from!) Record sales always seem to be good at Cranage, we made purchases both from MCRU (The boxed set of Miles Davis Kind of Blue on 45rpm sounds fab), who had an excellent selection and yet more at the stand over in Wychwood when we made it over there, perhaps a Record Fair alongside the hifi show could be on the cards for next year?

Other rooms that caught my interest downstairs included (but not exclusively as there were so many great rooms there were too many to write about) Brian and Trevors who seem to always get things sounding just right (with some REL subs brought in assist with their room this year, these worked a treat).

The Egglestone works bright orange speakers in Divine Audio caught my eye and ears as did Puresound who were featuring Heco.puresound_nwas_1_small

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The Markaudio Sota room impressed with their diminutive Tozzi speakers too.mark_audio_sota_tozzi_nwas_small

Scooting back to the front there was of course BD Audio in their wood panelled room again with Tune Audio speakers and then upstairs I particularly enjoyed the Kralk room (like many of my co- writers) and perhaps my two favourite sounds of the show, Sound Kaos, I loved their Libération speakers again which now have a different finish to the copper of Munich and sounded great with Grandinote amps, and the CAD room featuring Eclipse loudspeakers, again proving that you don’t have to be huge to make a great sound.bd_nwas_2016_1_lin_small

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We did get over to Wychwood quite late on in the afternoon and it was great to find everyone in fine spirits over there too. There were some companies exhibiting at both venues like Music First, who had a very chilled out room with some new gear and a very cool Nagra reel to reel player, and G-Point who had there smaller hORNS and Mezz Audio amps. I recall a lot of great sounding KEF, Leema, Arcam and Project gear over at Wychwood too, but needing to jump on the coach back to Cranage, it was all a bit of a whirlwind visit.mfa_nwas_2016_lin_small

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All in all a truly enjoyable show, topped off by wine and Indian food with the lovely people from Townsend Audio on Sunday night.  A great show to fill your boots with hifi, meet up with friends old and new and generally have a very good time.

See you next year!

Linette Smith

More North West Audio Show Coverage here

 

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