For us here at Hifi Pig, Sound and Vision Bristol marks the start of the Hifi Show calendar. Even though we are out of the country, this is technically the closest show to Hifi Pig Towers, a mere stones throw over the channel and a nice relaxing ferry ride and pootle up by car from Plymouth. Or it usually is. We should have maybe taken it as a sign of impending doom when the Pig Mobile decided to take a hissy fit the day before departure and have to go to car hospital to await parts.
A last minute change to the Reserve Pig Mobile and we were off. We are only a hop and a skip from Roscoff so that part of the journey was fine…early boarding had us on the Armorique in time for an early dinner, a few glasses of wine and a sleep. Now once we got under-way, things were a little choppy, which were were expecting as Storm Doris was predicted to sweep over the North of England and Scotland, as we were heading for the South west we expected things not to be bad at all. We arrived on time and took the scenic route up to Brizzle, it was quite breezy but didn’t seem too bad. Checked in and a speedy lunch eaten we met with the lovely people from Tannoy who were, handily, in the same hotel. They were not attending the actual show but meeting with various distributors and press. They had invited Hifi Pig for a private, world exclusive first listen to their new Legacy range of speakers. These were the prototypes and you can read more about our encounter with them here…suffice to say we were very impressed. Link To Tannoy Article
As we had arrived on set up day, before the start of the show, we had decided to meet with Grandma Hifi Pig who was getting the train down from Yorkshire. Settled in the bar to wait for her we noticed an almighty hubbub going on outside with flashing lights and screaming sirens all the way up and down the road directly outside the hotel. Storm Doris, it seemed, had got a particular temper on her and was battering the west of the UK pretty viciously. Something had fallen off the building next to us and hit a pedestrian (who was thankfully OK in the end). This resulted in the main road being closed, traffic chaos, total gridlock and a lot of delayed hifi people trying to get to the show to set up. Exhibitors had a lot of trouble trying to get in to set up, gear deliveries were delayed and it did look like there may not be show to open on Friday. Grandma Hifi Pig was delayed by trees on the line for several hours but did eventually make it in time for dinner.
When we arrived at the Marriott the next morning there were already people queuing around the block. Despite the best efforts of the elements, the show was up and running…to make things even better, the lifts were all working, after the trouble they had caused last year, this was a bonus! We applied the ‘Munich Strategy’ and started from the top down, probably the best way to make sure nothing is missed. We do endeavour to visit every room and the only thing that stops this is if the room is doing closed door dems and the bouncers on the door don’t want to let us in. Fortunately this only happened with a couple of rooms as most people realise that as press people we are pretty good at sneaking in to grab a listen and some pictures without disturbing things…unfortunately sometimes people on the door don’t realise that not letting the press in means no coverage! We were very impressed with the show over the three days. It was extremely well attended and there was a real buzz about the whole event. The exhibitors had worked super hard to make sure it was a great show and everyone was very happy about the amount of people visiting their rooms. We noticed a lot of younger people and families and the female attendance was higher than previous years (this is measured by the ‘Ladies Toilet Scale’ ie, if you regularly have to queue in the ladies then there are a lot of women there). It was very well organised and the facilities were excellent. Team Hifi Pig was there in force with several of our reviewers visiting over the weekend, we all had our snoofling heads on and the whole team had a great time.
Stuart is posting several reports covering all of the rooms at the show, so I thought I would mention the ones that I really enjoyed at this year’s Bristol Sound and Vision Hifi Show.
With this being a British show, it was good to see many of the British brands exhibiting really supporting fellow Brits in the industry and using their complementary kit in their displays. This was evident with cables, spotting plenty of systems wired with the likes of The Chord Company, Atlas and Tellurium Q. We spotted Quadraspire and Hifi Racks’ British made products in many of the rooms and also GIK Acoustics panels seemed popular. The ‘Made in Britain’ mantra was done very well in the patriotic Harbeth room, who were showing their new 40th anniversary loudspeaker updates to a packed house, proving that well made British products are more in vogue than ever.
Acoustic Energy had a very cool red, white and blue theme, their 30th birthday coinciding with that of the show’s and they were celebrating with the launch of the equally cool AE1 Active standmount speakers.
Another well known Brit Brand, PMC, were celebrating their distribution partnership with high end German electronics brand, AVM. We were treated to the new AVM all in one range with PMC’s 25 series loudspeakers, this looks and sounds like a perfect partnership of German and British engineering and design.
A new partnership of two iconic British Brands was being celebrated by Monitor Audio, following their recent acquisition of London based Roksan. The Roksan Blak electronics and Monitor loudspeakers are an excellent combination as we found out in their 2nd floor room and up on the 10th floor their was a 5.1 flagship Platinum cinematic experience. Monitor are obviously sensitive to their fellow exhibitors and took their powerful sub and surround system where it would not disturb anyone else, judging by the rumbling sub-bass on some corridors, other exhibitors could perhaps take note of this considerate approach.
I can’t really cover British brands without mentioning Chord Electronics, Colin and the team were, as ever, welcoming and knowledgeable and playing a great selection of tunes. I particularly enjoyed experiencing the new Blu MkII CD transport with the Dave DAC, these make a statement in their unconventional design and deliver on sound quality, plus are pretty compact. They also had a stand featuring their Mojo, Poly and Hugo 2 in the Headfi earlier which was swamped with punters all the time.
The proudly Welsh Leema Acoustics had a great sound in their room, and it looked well styled too. They have partnered with a brand that seems to be taking the audiophile world by storm, Innuos, with whom they have developed their new Sirius music server. I like the Leema concept as they can turn their hand to audiophile grade products but also have more affordable ranges that still are great quality.
Malvern Audio Research’s room was a stunning combination of black, copper and valves. Mark proudly showed me his new Legato tube phonostage, who is a coppery little beauty of a thing…Mark described her as ‘evilly beautiful’ which did sum her up well! This room was featuring the Pearl Acoustics Sibelius loudspeakers. I discovered Pearl Acoustics speakers in several rooms and enjoyed the sound of them very much, I think these single driver speakers will be one to watch out for in the future.
Danish brand Dynaudio, who are another brand that is 40 this year, had their Dynaudio Lounge open for business again with a homage to David Bowie. I love this concept that they have for shows, creating a very stylish place to hang out and experience their speakers, they were showing several lines including the Contour which was launched last year at High End Munich.
Wilson Benesch pulled off a stunning system this year pairing their ‘Made in Sheffield’ coloured carbon fibre loudspeakers (which I love) with beautiful CH Precision Swiss electronics. Very, very high end. Very stylish and delivered on point with a clean detailed sound that was non-clinical, wish I had longer to spend in their room but we were in there on our last morning before heading home.
Q Acoustics treated us to the production model of their new Concept 500 floorstander. We had heard, and been impressed by, the prototype at last year’s Munich, so it was great to experience the finished article. Q Acoustics deliver an excellent range of well performing affordable gear and the 500 could see off much more expensive speakers quite easily. Steve Reichert (below), who has been a great person to deal with over the last 5 years, told us he was retiring after the show…but would probably be back as a visitor next year. As the saying goes, “you can take the man out of the hifi industry…”
I was also very impressed by the Spendor rooms and their new A-Line speakers, their higher end room with the D9s and Devialet Expert was solid too, but the best of their rooms was with their D7 loudspeakers partnered with an Auralic Polaris wireless streaming amplifier. Richard from Auralic whacked on some banging tunes, the sound was tight and precise but with a huge amount of energy, a contender for ‘sound of the show’ for me and I imagine for the group of young guys who came in for a listen just after us!
Writing one of these articles is actually quite tricky as you keep thinking of other rooms that were brilliant. Special mentions also have to go to Sound Fowndations, who consistently give us great rooms at shows (Clearaudio and Gamut in particular). Also Elac who’s sound I always enjoy and who this year had perhaps the most clever and useful, user friendly bit of tech-fi, their Discovery music server. Music First’s room was, as always, a haven of great music as were the NuNu rooms, both with Quadral and TAD, it was evident that a lot of work had gone into making them a success. Bluesound deserve a special mention. We caught their MQA demonstration and they managed to make it informative, interesting and simple…people that just waffle a load of tech spec at the audience could learn a lot from these guys!
The static stands, headfi areas and home cinema exhibits were also very much in demand but time constraints meant we just got a quick whiz round, I think that it just shows how well organised the show is that there is plenty to keep all visitors entertained and engaged. Roll on next year, looking forward to it already!
MUCH MORE TO COME