Stuart Smith’s last report from the Sound And Vision, The Bristol Show 2017 including: Astintrew, ELAC, Hegel, Rega, Sound Fowndations, NuNu Distribution, ProAc, Michell Engineering, Nordost, Kudos, AudioQuest, Quadraspire, Karma AV, Decent Audio, BlueSound, Technics, Musical Fidelity, Chord Electronics, Esoteric, Puritan Audio Laboratories, Sony, Q Acoustics, Quad, Cyrus, KEF
Like a couple of other rooms the Astintrew reoom was using a pair of the Pearl Acoustics loudspeakers using Mark Audio drivers. Here they were being driven by the Astintrew AT2100 amplifier costing £1895.
Max from ELAC in the UK always makes Hifi Pig welcome in his room and he goes to a good deal of trouble to make his room representative of a normal living space. At Bristol Sound and Vision there was the new Miracord turntable celebrating its UK launch; we saw it and wrote about it after the Munich 2016 event but it’s great to see it finally making an appearance on these shores.
The main news Max had to impart was that Audio Alchemy electronics had been bought by ELAC and it all sounded rather nice. Kit was a £600 amp with a £2300 media player/DAC/amp combo feeding a pair of ELAC Uni-Fi floorstanders using a dual concentric driver for mid and tops and costing £1200. Music playing was a fab version of Wrecking Ball by Jasmine Thompson which was a really good version of a song I know but dislike.
The main demonstration in the room was of the Discovery Music Server costing £850, with a more audiophile version to come later. This server has multi-room cababilities built in and digital and two analogue outputs…you can play all three at once should you want/need…and they can all be playing different tunes which I thought rather clever. The unit is “Roon Ready” and the idea is that you get the “full vinyl experience”. As Max talked us through the app I couldn’t help think how user friendly and feature rich it was given some of the apps I’ve endured over the years.
This room made it onto the short, short list for the “Hifi Pig Love’s You” award which will be announced in the special e-mag of our coverage.
The name Hegel will be familiar to many I’m sure but it is only in the last couple of year’s that this Norwegian brand has come back into the mainstream consciousness. At Bristol they were using the fab Amphion speakers along with a MacBook. Nice, simple, stylish and effective.
Down the corridor from Hegel was well loved British brand Rega whow were showcasing their RX5 loudspeakers when we arrived. They are part of the new RX range which includes the standmount RX1 and moves up to floorstanders with the RX3, RX5 and RX10 models. Powering the speakers was a new version of their Brio integrated amplifier.
Sound Fowndations always put on a good room at whatever show they attend and Bristol was no exception. Here they had three rooms. Of course Sound Fowndations were showing off Clearaudio turntables and a whole host of Furutech connectors but it was their second room, put together by Alex Denyer, that really caught my ear as a rather pleasant system to listen to and all for a £40K price tag.
In the third of the Sound Fowndation rooms we were shown to Isotek power conditioning unitsand the Larson 6 loudspeakers that at around £3K sounded damned impressive. Yes it is and unusual design but its small footprint and elegant looks will appeal to many I’m sure.
Another team that always put a lot of effort into their shows are Tony and Anne at NuNu Distribution and like Sound Fowndations they had a couple of rooms here at Bristol. The new trees were great, Anne!!
Room one featured an Oracle turntable along with Quadral loudspeakers which always manage to impress given their relative budget pricepoints. The whole system here came in at around £5.5K
In the room over the corridor there was a much more esoteric feeling win the guise of TAD electronics and loudspeakers. Music today was supplied by the excellent Nova Fidelity ripper/streamer. I can’t write down my exact notes here but “Classy as…” began the quote.
ProAc is another well loved brand with their Tablette speakers being a firm favourite with many for a good while. Today they were showing of their Response DB3, rear ported bass reflex standmounters at £1475 and featuring a new bass driver over previous models.
Michell are another well loved British brand that have been around for over forty years…and whose turntables I have lusted over when I was a teenager. Today their TechnoDec turntable was partnered with Trichord phonostages, Sugden Class A amplifier and ProAc D20/R loudspeakers. The TechnoDec is the company’s entry level turntable but you’d hardly believe it.
The Kudos Titan 707 is an impressive speaker and today was powered by that classic combo of Naim amplification and a Linn Lp12 front end. A little room treatment to treat the slight bass bloom in this room would have been a welcome addition but what did come through in spades was just bags and bags of detail. I’d love to hear the speakers in a better sounding room.
Again the guys in the AudioQuest room were in the middle of a demonstration showing the differences between their Dragonfly Red and Black USB DACs so we couldn’t really get a proper feel for the room as it was pretty busy. However, they always put a good deal of effort into their rooms and they are always busy so must be doing something right.
Now, we’ve had a home demonstration of the higher-end Quadraspire racks and were very impressed indeed. However, today we were being shown a much more modest platform made of 7mm bamboo and costing £99. It’s design is based on other Quadraspire racks and shelves. The idea of this is that people using standard home furniture can improve the sound of their turntables and John from Loud and Clear in Edinburgh did a sterling job at demonstrating the effect of the platform. There were clear differences/improvements to be heard when the modest turntable was placed on the new rack and whilst not night and day, this is a product that is, forgive the pun, going to fly off the shelves for Quadraspire.
Another company with a couple of rooms was Karma AV. In the first room we were treated to a system using Primare electronics, Torus power conditioning, Straightwire cabling and Revel loudspeakers. This is not hugely expensive kit but sounded pretty controlled with good and deep bass.
Their next room was dedicated to a great sounding AV system by SVS, with their rep’ telling us that this was “The most versatile high performance home theatre speaker ever”…they call it the Beast and it’s understandable why. Their Ultra series subwoofer really did the business with its 16” diver (with a 55lb magnet) in a sealed box enclosure being powered by a 1500W Class D amp with Mosfets. Topping off this system was a pair of Prime Towers using Primare amplifiers. I’m not usually one to get carried away with home cinema systems but I did enjoy the sound of this one.
Decent are based in the North East of England and despite their modest name stock some stunning brands. Today we were treated to two rooms of their brands; the Kronos turntable, made for a very classy sound.
BlueSound are all about wireless living and wireless music and we were given a demonstration of their speakers and streamer/amplifier playing Mp3 (how folk listen to Mp3 on a decent system I will never know), then CD and finally MQA files. It was an interesting demonstration and the overwhelming opinion with the people in the room seemed to be that the MQA file had the edge on the same Ella Fitzgerald track we were treated to.
I absolutely love the Technics 1210 in all its derivations and may well be treating myself to another (I’ve had about a dozen over the years) to put my Origin Live arm and GoldNote Tuscany Red cartridge on…though it’s likely to be tinkered with by Dave Cawley at Timestep. However what was new to this show, and to me, was their £1299 1210 GR model in black and 1200GR in silver.
Musical Fidelity are a name pretty much everyone will know and I still actually run one of their Nu-vista 3D CD Players as a transport…it’s getting on a bit but I still enjoy it a great deal and have seen no need to splash out on a better CD player in the time I’ve had it. However, times move on and, partnered with KEF, Musical Fidelity were showing off their new range of electronics, including the new version of the Nu-Vista CD player and amp. It’s good to see that people are still investing in and producing CD players to my mind and whilst the buzz on the internet is that CD is a dying format, I just don’t get that I’m afraid.
Sunday Morning arrived and we had a ferry to catch later in the day and so the final dash round Sound and Vision, The Bristol Show was a bit of a mad one.
I’ve got the DAVE DAC from Chord plugged into my main system at the moment and I really don’t want to give it back. It’s a fabulously analytical tool to dig the most out of your hi-res files and whilst it splits opinion wildly in the looks department, I really love its styling. The team from Chord really are a very professional bunch indeed but not at all stuffy, whether that is on the Mojo stand or in their main room…and they are not afraid of playing real world music, which is refreshing.
Wowsers! This system sells at nearly £72K and consists of niftily named K-01X SacD and Cd spinner, the Japanese brand’s C-02 power amp, their N-05 Network player and the G-01 Master clock. All this was been fed through a pair of ProAc Response K6 loudspeakers.
Puritan Audio Laboratories
Mains conditioning is a bit of a buzz word at the moment and the Facebook groups are awash with folk trying all kinds of weird and wonderful combinations of regenerators, power cables, balance mains units….the list goes on. Puritan make a wide range of products from the relatively inexpensive to those more suited to people with higher end systems. Their products look well made and we hope to have them in for review soon.
As mentioned elsewhere Steve Reichart was retiring straight after this show and so it was an honour to get a dem’ of the new Q Acoustic Concept 500 speakers which we heard a prototype of at Munich last year. These are great speakers and it was good to see GIK room treatment in the room too.
Quad is another brand that will be known to everyone even remotely interested in audio. They had a full system set up but time was fast running out for us and we didn’t have time to give it a real listen…a shame as I am a fan of their electrostatic speakers for their speed and agility.
Cyrus are undergoing a bit of a renaissance, particularly with their new amplifier. They’ve always been a bit of an iconic brand with their distinctive shoebox casework and it’s good to see they are still marketing towards the budget end of the audiophile spectrum.