Touchstone Audio Launch, supported by Acoustic Brands Ltd, Air Audio, HiFi Network and ELAC loudspeakers

Rod Alexander wonders if small, regional shows are the future…

Well wonders will never cease. Pulling off a mini hi-fi show of any description is no mean feat, but a jointly organised affair, pulling together rival manufacturers and distributors? It just won’t work – I knew that before I made my way down to the Touchstone Audio launch event at The Best Western Moat House Hotel today (Saturday 3rd November). I just couldn’t resist popping along to see the whole thing crash and burn.

What greeted me wasn’t just 4 great rooms (I’ve lived in homes smaller than 2 of them) but a level of fun, co-operation and conviviality I’ve rarely seen at a hi-fi show, on any continent. Rival manufacturers and distributors helping each other set up? Offering cables and cartridges to one another? Directing punters to rival rooms, explaining what great products their rivals have on demonstration? It was all too much for me. I had to retire to the hotel dining room for a croissant and coffee to get my bearings…

Yes, this show was small, but boy, was it perfectly formed! Far more impressive than the exceptional conviviality and co-operation though was the steady stream of enthusiasts enjoying the goodies on offer. And what goodies there were!

Astin Trew launched a DAC as the latest component in their ‘Concord’ range. The DAC 1 features a valve-based output buffer (utilising 6922s) Burr Brown DAC, 24/192 functionality, dual mono construction and a modular configuration, allowing users to specify either asynchronous USB or Firewire input modules.


Astin Trew’s Michael Osborn was particularly keen to show me a gorgeous little touchscreen media player from the iRiver offshoot, Astell & Kern. 24/192 compatible – using a Wolfson DAC, with 32GB of storage on board and the ability to accept USB drive storage of up to 96GB. Fully compatible with FLAC, WAV, APE, MP3, WMA and OGG formats, it boasts dual optical in/out ports, Bluetooth 3.0 and an impressive 12 hours of playback time when listening to 24/192 FLAC files. My brief listen showed it to have punch and refinement in equal measure. Expect to pick one up for around £400.


Fonel are a name new to me, though they’ve been designing and manufacturing full front to back systems for some years now, to the delight of consumers across Europe. They brought a vast range of kit along, assembling a complete system, featuring a loudspeaker model so new, it was only finalised this week! Valve driven, actively for the bass driver and passively for the tweeters, the sound was truly beguiling. They even offer 5 different wood finishes as standard, with bespoke finishes to order. Where have they been all this time?!


Struss R550 – 550w into 8 Ohms/1000w into 4 Ohms. Struss’ Zbigniew Dysko told me that he believes it ‘provides enough power for most domestic environments.’ Quite…

And here it is – the Wadax Pre 1 – the most modest product description you will ever hear. It’s a phono stage. It’s a preamp. It’s a DAC. It’s an electronic crossover and that’s just for starters. As Wadax’s Javier Guadalajara ran through its pages of features and near endless functionality, I started to wonder if it also has functions that allow it to complete your annual tax return and even nip to the shops…

Also sitting discretely out of the way was a gorgeous thing – looking like a cross between a luxury power amp and a high-end CD player. Expect a formal launch announcement soon.

This mini-event was great fun and hopefully marks the start of a sea change in not just the way that shows are run, but also in the level of co-operation between manufacturers and distributors. Smaller, more focused shows, allowing enthusiasts to travel no further than, say, an hour to get to their regional show, getting ‘closer’ to the designers of the kit might just be the way forward…

…and now some more pics of lovely high end hifi in all its glory – we know you want the pics.

A couple of photos of the Acoustic Challenger II turntable.

Loudspeakers from Aurelia.

A trio of photographs of the Boenicke SLS Loudspeakers.

The glorious looking EAT Forte turntable.

A couple of shots of the Octave Phono Module

The Octave V40-SE Valve amplifier.

The Elac FS-509 Loudspeakers.

The Astin Trew room – those doors lead to Narnia you know!


Great things come in small packages…here’s some boxes from ProJect.

Some more from Fonel.

The complete Astin Trew system on show.

Some of the guys and lady involved in setting up the show.

Standing – Left to right:

Javier Guadalajara – WADAX; Zbigniew Dysko – CEO, Struss Amplifiers; Olga Ehms, Marketing, FONEL Audio; Dr. Sergey Buchakchiysky-  Founder, FONEL Audio; John Plank – Touchstone Audio (Event organiser); Lukasz Czernecki – Export Manager, Struss Amplifiers; Max Lowe – Hi Fi Network

Kneeling – Left to right:

Roy Alvalle – Acoustic Brands Limited; Michael Osborn – MD, Astin Trew


The event is still on tomorrow (Sunday 10am – 4pm at the Moat House Hotel near Reading) from  see here for more details. Hif PIg really does think this is a great addition to the hi-end audio calender.

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