NEBO was started three and a half years ago by music lover and audio enthusiast Steve Petch in humble surroundings of a friend’s bistro. Word soon spread and more and more people attended with more and more equipment meaning that sadly, NEBO had outgrown the bistro and new venues were found.

Saturday 21st of May 2016 saw the seventh North East Bake Off (NEBO) up in the icy wastes of Co Durham (UK). The Chimneys Hotel in Blackhall proved to be an ideal venue for the day which began at 11am and ran until 11:30pm.

As the early birds arrived one of the regulars speedily assembled a system so music could be enjoyed as others set up their systems and chatted about all things Hifi. Once the wink had been tipped, the chequered flag was lowered and the day was underway.

First up was a rather magnificent pair of open baffle loudspeakers lovingly built by Steve Sheils, as were the beautifully made valve pre and power amplifiers mustering up some 4 watts per channel via some 1930’s  PX25 valves. A little jazz got the ball rolling and very nice it was too. However, when Steve loaded up Lou Reed’s seminal “Take A Walk On The Wild Side” via his aged Rotel CD player and Teradak he instantly set the bar high for the rest of the day. Fortunately for everyone Steve stayed around for most of the day which allowed some swapping in and out of his sytem in the afternoon.Lighthouse

Although the previous system was a hard act to follow, Colin Topps put together a system that included his new Edingdale 2 floorstanding speakers and a 300B integrated amplifier designed and built by Nick Gorham. Playing the sweet lilting voice of the Evanescence CD highlighted an improvement in the mid upper bass from the Mk1 version of the Edingdale’s and later raunchier programme proved that 300B valves can indeed boogie. This was confirmed by amplifier designer and manufacturer Les Wolstenholme (Avondale Audio) who stopped by and stayed for a few hours. His input as always to NEBO meetings was enlightening and well appreciated.

It wasn’t long before the two rooms used throughout the day had been designated “the serious room” and “the fun room”. Both rooms were enjoyed in equal measure and set up appropriately for the equipment played in them. The fun room did hold some great surprises throughout the afternoon and evening as Ken Wynn got us started with his synergetic myriad of components, which included a Stello CD transport via a Cambridge Dacmagic, into a vintage Dynaco70 valve power amplifier driving diminutive Q Acoustic 3020 stand mounted loudspeakers.  Listening to Johnny Cash had feet tapping throughout the room, though the large space proved to be the tiny Q Acoustics undoing.

Just across the room however was another hotch potch of a system which became a chameleon throughout the day, though it started out with a Technics 1210/Denon DL110 into a Croft Micro Basic pre amp/phono stage using a Mini-T amp as to power a pair of Rega RS5 small floorstanding loudspeakers. The Mini-T amp proved to be incredible, as did the speakers. The Mini-T amp was replaced by a mystery wooden box power amplifier which was believed to be a homemade valve design. This too proved to be a revelation. Music by The Grateful Dead and the horn laden Blood Sweat and Tears had people wanting to dance, though it was the rough and ready Sea Sick Steve that ultimately sold Rich Britton’s system as sheer dynamite.Britt's stuff (1)

Meanwhile in the serious room lots of swapping around was being done whilst Nick Gorham set up his modified Technics 1210 complete with carbon wrap. Nick used one of the new Hana moving coil cartridges which proved to be a little challenging to get right, resulting in a fifty pence piece being used to add mass. Swapping in a Denon DL103 proved to be a match made in heaven for the Ortofon tonearm. Grace Jones rang out throughout the room as the 12” single of Slave ToThe Rhythm was played with aplomb.

Returning to the fun room there had been some serious mixing it up going on and a pair of ancient Akai SW175 monitor speakers found their way into the arena. Numerous amplifiers and source components were used to get these old guys moving, including a Cambridge Audio CD transport and a battery powered Beresford Bushmaster DAC, a Jensen power amplifier and a Chromecast Audio device. The general consensus was that improvements in bass response could have been gained had the speakers been placed upon squat stands. A host of pre amps were brought into action which turned into a shootout between NVA, Gold Point, Slagle and a Chevron Audio Paradox. The Akai speakers were replaced with a pair of Reiver Acoustics Jenna floorstanders that use very cute paper bass/mid drivers and these seemed better matched with the valve amplifier than the solid state Jensen.Cambridge transport

Returning to the serious room it was evident that work had been taking place in our absence. NEBO veteran Alan Towell had utilised the Edingdale 2 loudspeakers with his self-built amplifiers based around Les Wolstenolme designed Voyager monoblock power amplifiers and 821 pre. Alan had loaded up some fine tunes on his lovingly restored and recapped Studer reel to reel tape recorder and listening to Santana, Jimmy Hendrix, Peter Green and Yes were a sheer delight. The treat of the day though was a live recording from 1974 of Pink Floyd’s Echoes. I honestly had the overwhelming want to clap as it drew to a close. I think best in show rosette should have been presented to Alan whose hard work always pays off and brings so much pleasure to others.AAA

As the evening drew to a close and only the die-hard local attendees and those who had taken a hotel room remained, perhaps the most interesting and fun element of the day remained. Playing music by Jethro Tull and even Pink Floyd’s Interstella Overdive through a powerful Krell integrated amplifier and the superb Rega RS5 speakers was all a match made in heaven. The evening was finished off in true NEBO fashion with the wild card. On this occasion a very early 1970’s valve Pioneer receiver rescued from a skip.

It’s hard to believe that NEBO has been growing steadily for nearly four years now and has its own vibe, one which we all know as “the NEBO spirit”. A fantastic day, filled with fantastic music, enthusiasm and above all, fantastic people.

Steve Petch

You can find out when the next North East Bake Off is happening by joining their Facebook group.

 

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