Hifi Pig reader Simon Hill has been looking forward to North West Audio Show for all year and was keen to tell others about his experience at the event.

The North West Audio Show at Cranage Hall in Holmes Chapel is the show I had been eagerly waiting for since my first visit last year. Well this year proved to be even better than last years show and has left me waiting in great anticipation until next years.

On arrival you are greeted by the grand hotel and its fantastic manicured gardens. Once inside some of the rooms were occupied by the same folk as last year, which was a good thing as I instantly felt at home and knew my way around. A look at the map showed me that there was a lot more to take in than last year and so I pinpointed a few that I was very keen to go and hear and set about my journey around the show.cranage_front_2016_small

The first room I made a beeline for was Kralk Audio owned by Alan Clark, a room it seems has been popular with other contributors to Hifi Pig. Having an interest in making my own speakers Alan was someone that I had chatted to before on crossovers and components.Kralk_close_1_small

Alan had his BC 30 Black Cats on display and they punch way above their size! The clarity and detail is fantastic and these really are great speakers for their price!  It was good listening to people who were impressed and hearing their thoughts. If you were at the show I’m sure you will agree, if you weren’t but want to hear these speakers check out Alan’s site you won’t be disappointed by the sound or quality of his craftsmanship. He really does have a good eye for detail. At 90db and a recommended 10 to 80 watts power at 8ohm these are an easy load and sound great with valves.

Another room I was interested in was the Soundkaos room. Last year I was very impressed by the set up they had. This year we were treated to the Libération, a speaker I had been looking forward to hearing. Like many I was interested in the open baffle design and the use of bronze mesh for the front and rear covers. Open baffles are becoming increasingly popular and I know of a lot of speaker builders who are fascinated by the sound they can bring to the table.

The Libération with two bespoke 8-inch Enviée widebanders with a Raal ribbon super tweeter and a massive 15” woofer really do big orchestral music very well indeed. With the open baffle design not being coloured by the speaker cabinet, as there isn’t one (only a front baffle and a frame) the sound they produce is wonderful and clean. You really can hear audience members in the background on live performances and they are ever so lifelike in their approach to sound reproduction.SK_north_west_audio_show_2016_1_small

I sat listening for quite some time, long enough for Martin, the creator of the Soundkaos designs, to put on his Wave 40’s. These are a beautiful maple and Alpine spruce clam shell construction with the baffle having a ripple effect and moulded front which is then shellacked They really do look wonderful as the light catches the ripple effect.SK_north_west_audio_show_2016_2_small

They consist of a widebander and ribbon tweeter and using an external crossover with Mundorf components which crossover at 6.8kHz. 55Hz to 22kHz at 8ohm with a recommended amplifier power of 15 to 100w.

They effortlessly reproduce the music and transcend you into the wonderful soundstage. This is due in no small part to the cabinet construction using real “soundwoods” which is the same as is used to make violins, producing a warm yet organic tone that adds a soul to the performance that is, to my mind, lacking a little in the libération.

This year it was also nice to catch up with a few people I hadn’t met before but had chatted on the Facebook groups like David Robson from the Audiophiles UK. Hifi and Music group and who reviews for Hifi Pig. I enjoyed walking round a few rooms and chatting about our thoughts on some of the systems on show.

Among these were the Wright room with Flamingo audio, Tsakirdis, JK acoustics, Beyond Frontiers Audio and the fantastically clean and detailed sounding Zellaton speakers. Now being into electronic music I could see that these would be great speakers for listening to detailed crisp tracks like Apparat’s “Multifunktionsebene”. These speakers are made with painstaking attention to detail, both in cabinet design and very high end components that include high temperature coils. You really need to look these up as the list of quality components and detail is seriously over engineered in a very good way.Zellaton_1_simon_small

For me this produces a very fine speaker and if I had the money I would be considering these.

Another room that stood out was Midland Audio’s Exchange room. Firstly the thing that grabs you upon entering the room was the huge sound that was coming from the Magico S5 m11.

They seriously moved air in the room and you could feel the music in your diaphragm! Like the big bass bins from the early 90’s sound systems that toured the rave scene. If the big sound wasn’t your thing you couldn’t help but be impressed with the components being used, including the thing that really caught my eye was the Kalista CD transport with its separate Elektra power supply. One seriously beautiful player both in looks and sound!KAlistasmall

The one room that for me was a shock, a good shock was the Franklin room. I had read good things about Eclipse speakers and was shocked at their effortless ease of delivering music in a beautiful flow that filled the room. They were being powered by CAD Computer Audio Design DAC and for me personally I liked the sound of this room a great deal.CAD_ECLIPSE_NW_audio_show_small

With so many rooms and systems to see my day quickly came to an end and I left very happy and even though I didn’t manage to see everything at the show I had a great day nonetheless.

The North West Audio show is the show to go to for 2017 so keep a look out for dates and put it in your diary.

Simon Hill

More North West Audio Show Coverage here

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