This is only my third visit to Sound and Vision – The Bristol Show but it’s fast becoming one of my favourites because of the sheer enthusiasm of pretty much all involved in putting it together and making it work. Signposting is excellent, the show guide is first-rate, the facilities are good, even if the bar can get pretty crowded at times and the people that turn up to support it with their presence are an animated and passionate lot. The show starts on Friday and despite this being a workday for most the show was packed…likewise Saturday and Sunday, though we sadly had a ferry to catch and so left late morning so couldn’t see the show out to the end. Previous years’ gripes have been that the lifts always seem to be occupied or not working properly but I’m pleased to report that this year things seemed to be running a whole lot better.

We’re nothing if not resourceful here at Hifi Pig and having visited lots of Hifi shows around Europe we’ve learned that it’s often best to start at the top and so our first stop was the fourth floor to get as much seen as we could before our first meeting of the day.

SCV Distribution 

If you know pro-audio you’ll probably know the name SCV but they also have a pretty comprehensive home audio part too and have brands such as Focal and Benchmark under their wing. System was made up of Benchmark and Focal but the things that grabbed my attention immediately were some weird looking “tree-type” structures. A quick quizzing of the ever helpful Matt Esau told me they were room treatment trees they were calling “Flaps” and hailed from Italy. The panels on the “trees” can be positioned to best effect and other modular pieces in the range are also available.

I use IsoAcoustics Aperta stands under my studio monitors, they work a treat, and the company were presenting for the first time in the UK their Gaia isolation feet for loudspeakers. They come in three sizes depending on the weight of your speakers and range in size from £199 to £599 for the big ones that will take 100Kg. They come, naturally, in sets of four and the demonstration, using all the same kit and a switch box, was pretty impressive to say the least. I’m sceptical of this kind of thing in the main but these things, if the dem’ was anything to go by, work a treat.

Questyle CMA400i headphone amp and DAC were also available along with the Meze 99 cans, but time pressures meant we had to forgo that particular pleasure. 

Convert Technologies

Convert used to be called Entotem and they will be known to regular readers for their vinyl ripping, media streaming and amp all in one solutions. Here at Sound and Vision we got a chance to have a sneaky peek at the new “A Plus” which builds on the previous A class unit with a bigger output, bigger PSUs, tweaks in the software and more. It will be available by the end of March.The company are now distributing German loudspeaker brand Avantgarde in the UK and had their passive Zero Ones plugged in.

They are also launching a new reference model whose name is to be confirmed, as is price, but it should be available in May/June and has a tentative pricing of around ten to twelve grand.

Music First Audio

Jonathan Billington of Music First Audio will be known to most readers I’m sure, and he always goes to great efforts to introduce attendees to shows something a little different, and today was no exception. Nagra was the order of the day with Quad amps and, of course, Music First Audio preamps.
Jonathan was playing part of the soundtrack for La La Land and it was sounding lovely…the debacle at the Oscars where the film was awarded Best Picture only to have it cruelly taken away a few minutes later didn’t happen until Sunday night but I’ll be off to see it if only to hear the rest of the soundtrack. I love it when brands go to the trouble of finding out new music and explaining what it is.

Henley Designs 

Roksan, made up the first of the Henley rooms and I do like how they go to the effort of making their rooms look and feel inviting to the public. Readers will know Roksan is now owned by Monitor Audio and it’s god to see this British brand remain in the country.

I’m not unfamiliar with Unison Research, who were in their second room, having owned one of their valve output stage CD players in the past and here powering Opera speakers and costing around £8K plus stands and cables.  This sounded much more than acceptable for the money, despite the relatively entry level products of their range being used.

ProJect, who Henley distribute in the UK, were in the next room with nice little system that showed you don’t need to have dozens of boxes or very deep pockets to get a good sounding Hifi together. The vertical turntable ProJect do was also on show and for me it was the first time I’d seen it actually spinning…I heard someone later in the day call it gimmicky, but brands need to grab attention and to my mind this is a space saving solution that will appeal to younger folk looking to get into vinyl and impress their friends…and there is nothing wrong with that.

Orbitsound

Orbitsound do soundbars with bells on with the A70 playing in the room (it fits underneath your idiot box) and has subs, mids, Bluetooth and will connect to your Hifi too. Their catchline is “Everywhere Is The Sweetspot” and whilst this unit isn’t going to satisfy the music listening demands of the dyed in the wool audiophile it sounded pretty good on the film that was playing, especially for such a compact unit costing a quid shy of £500.
Again, there are going to the naysayers that will get uppity and declare this kind of thing “not proper hifi” but if this industry is to prosper long term we must embrace the notion that there are music lovers out there  that do just want to listen to their music in a convenient and compact solution that doesn’t cost the earth or take over the house.

Audio Engine 

Audio Engine make passive and powered speakers and a load more besides that are aimed squarely at the budget end of the market but look to be well finished and good sounding. The diminutive desk-top speakers looked pretty stylish and a neat solution for those looking to have music while they work.

And so it was time for us to dash to the bar for our first meeting of the day…and some refreshments of course and so this seems like a suitable time to break this piece until I get the next one written.

Stuart Smith 

MUCH MORE TO COME

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