David Robson has been reviewing for Hifi Pig for a while now and attended last year’s North West Audio Show. He gives us his thoughts on this years show. 

This was my second visit to the North West Audio Show. I cut my teeth on last year’s show and it was my very first. This year I had arranged to meet a couple of other show “virgins” from a Hifi group I’m a member of on Facebook. I was also lucky enough to have the weekend off and had decided to stay over the previous night to the show to make the most of an early start and get into the atmosphere from the get go. This turned out a good move as I had the chance to meet some of the Hifi Pig team, Stuart, Linette, Ian and Lionel among others. I was also lucky enough to chat to some of the contributors and exhibitors of the show who were all very passionate and informative about what they do, and so willing to share knowledge to help you on your quest for musical nirvana.

Colin from IQ Speakers (IPL Speakers) enlightened me about power cables and their associated fuses for instance. Now most accept having better cables and connectors brings about benefits, those who like to have the shortest for the path of electricity with the least number of hurdles or connections from A to B may be interested in the fact Shuko style plugs don’t have fuses, thus eliminating one (two if you count both ends of the fuse) connection. Now some reading this may know this as a basic fact of hifi system building, well not this chappie!!! 30+ years in the hobby and simple information like that had escaped me. Simple conversations like this one can push your choices and the performance envelope of your home systems forward at very little cost as it creates options for you to try.

I know at times some of us in the past have bought from  high street chains, I myself read the big magazines of the day and bought a bit blindly, several expensive mistakes later and my lesson was well learned! One of the first “proper” Hifi shops I visited some 25yrs ago as a Hifi newbie was Acton Gate Audio in Wrexham. I bought my first pair of floorstanding speakers from them in 1991/2. Mission 753’s. They went head to head with a pair of B&W (unsure of model) of a similar price. I was glad to see Acton Gate still going strong and showing at Wychwood Hall. I had only visited the shop 3 times, once to demo the speaker, and twice after to drop off and pick up again after my puppy ate the middle from my new speakers (grrrr lesson learned) and Acton Gate repairing them! Anyway, I was taken aback when walking into the room when the guys from the shop recognised me and remembered the story. It had been 25 years! This sort of level of detail and customer service to me is what makes our hobby a great one to be part of. Quite humbling really.actongate_nw_2016_4_small


Having only ever been to 3 Hifi shows, the other being a smaller dealer only show at Chester, it’s great to hear the differences that each room brings, some are quite subtle, some are quite extreme. At last years show I was taken aback by the sound of the Magnapan  .7 Magneplanar speakers, set up in a smaller room of a similar size to a standard average sized living room 13x13ft they sounded beautiful, succulent and rhythmical, I was really looking forward to hearing their big brothers the 3.7i’s. The room these where set up in this year was huge, probably 40x60ft to the point that there was a second system set up at the rear facing them. I was so looking forward to this setup, but I really don’t think that either the speakers, amps, cables were to blame at all but the interactions with the room. Talking to some of the exhibitors most have had to use some sort of room treatments to soak up or deflect sounds. This black art of tuning a room can bring about great results if you’re struggling to just hit that sweet spot. Some acoustic foam glued to a bit of MDF or a small square foam tile placed behind a rear ported speaker can soak up a little boominess, then be slid out of the way under some furniture when not in a serious listening mood.

Some nice surprises for me at Cranage and Wychwood Hall, The EgglestonWorks room sounded very nice, (Isabel Signature speakers I think!).Eggleston_NWAS_2016_small

MCRU showing what you can get from reasonably priced Quadral speakers.mcrcu_quadral_NWAS_1-small

The futuristic open baffle SoundKaos speakers had quite a few enthralled myself included, a very different design of speaker than I have previously encountered, really lovely sound.SK_NWAS_2016_small

I liked the little Retro 50 system, a one box retro styled amplifier, MM/MC Phono amp, streamer with usb connections for memory sticks and laptops, comes with its own speakers and clothed in bamboo wood outer with brushed alloy frontage. Looks cool and sounded really good in the small room; great solution for a bedroom, study or other smallish room, add a turntable and become an instant hipster!



The IQ room was a joy, the IPL speakers can be bought as a build it yourself project or ready assembled. IQ also had both Abrahamsen and Nord amps and Abrahamsen CD player on show, both offering great value for money. The nord power amplifiers were my first encounter with D Class amps. From what I can gather D Class amplification has, with careful component choices, become a serious contender in the market. Hearing the nord, (which can be easily upgraded) has definitely whet my appetite for a further demonstration.nord_nwas_2016_small

Alan Clark at the Kralk Audio room upstairs at Cranage Hall was a constantly busy room. His Black Cat BC-30 speakers, defying their size to fill the room with energetic tunes, via the beautiful CTC turntable. I was hoping to hear Alan’s Elite speakers at the show but he was let down by a supplier last minute and was unable to bring a finished pair. If the BC-30’s are anything to go by the Elites are worth the wait to hear them next year hopefully!

I did manage to get my fix of a planar speaker, The Hifi Hanger’s demonstration of Eminent Technology’s LFT-8b push-pull hybrid speaker, coupled to yet another D Class type of Amplification in the guise of a pair of Atsah monoblock amps. This combination yet again hitting the spot that the Magnapan .7 did the year before. When the planar speakers sing they really do connect to my heart. I’m really torn as to whether I go on a bit of a hifi journey at the moment!emtech_nwas_2016-small

Summing up my visit to the North West Audio Show and why I think everybody should take in a few shows, is that by going to the show, not only do you see and hear what may always be financially out of your reach but it also gives you fantastic options or information which you may never have thought of to further your own listening experiences. The sounds you hear are attainable in your own home, careful selection and asking questions and listening to the free (always available) advice is a major advantage. Taking along your own music to hear and compare what you know well is also a good ploy. Most exhibitors are happy to oblige and let you indulge yourself when they can.

Now Mr Barclay Card, have you met my new Class D friends…………..

Dave Robson.

More North West Audio Show Coverage here


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