People queuing up to get into the Bristol Hifi Show well before the doors open can only be a good sign for the industry. Overall this year’s show seemed very busy, with a good mix of singles and couples in attendance. On the downside, there were only two of the three lifts working which was a bit of a pain and made the stairs busy, but that’s a minor gripe.

We’ll walk you through the show in the next few days with loads of photos and a few thoughts of what we heard. 

Falcon Acoustics

We arrived at Falcon a little early and so had to wait until later to hear the LS3/5as along with the Primare electronics and MOFI turntable. In reality, we had a sneaky-peek of the limited edition LS3/5as from Falcon a few weeks earlier. Whilst the standard classic BBC speaker sounds great, the limited edition with more closely matched caps etc, plus thicker walls to the cabinets just ups the game to another level. Think pinpoint imaging and great soundstage. Yep, limited in the bass to an extent but they are a tiny monitor speaker and that is to be expected. Get these on your audition list soon!!

Kanto TUK Loudspeakers

Kanto loudspeakers come in various sizes and are well connected. We had a listen to the three speakers you see in the pictures below but it was the white one that proved to be leaps and bounds more effective than the other two. 

Totem Acoustic

This is Kin Play from Totem. It comes with Bluetooth and Qualcomm aptx HD, has an onboard 120 watt stereo amp, an optical input, a MM phonostage, line level input, sub out and has a feature Totem call Universal and Micro port tuning. Totem describes this speaker as a powered passive design rather than an active design and it comes with custom engineered drivers. Kin Play is available in black or white and costs £999 which to these ears seemed to be very good value indeed for such a well put together and good sounding unit with so much connectivity.

Rogers, Talk Electronics and Edwards Audio

Value electronics from Talk with the Apprentice 1A amp (not shown) coming in at just £299.95 (and that includes a MM phonostage) for a UK built product. Our attention was grabbed by the new Edwards Audio TT6 turntable that comes in at less than £650 – with the new unipivot arm. I think credit should be given to these UK companies aiming to offer exceptional value for money and daring to enter a market that is hugely dominated by a small handful of brands. Everything looks well put together and good looking. Look forward to reviewing some of these products very much indeed.

I’d not actually realised how many new products, or even the extent of the Talk/Edwards portfolio, but it’s huge. For example, they have the new Apprentice MM-EQ phono stage (£99) and a model that is switchable MM/MC for £179. They have cartridges from thirty quid, twelve different integrated amps and even a range of 12ndifferent loudspeakers.

Funny how when you dig a bit deeper into a company you know, or thought you knew and you find a whole lot more than expecting. Like a newly found author I think i’ll be exploring these companies a bit more in the coming months.

Henley Audio

Henley Audio had three rooms and all were really nicely done with the first featuring Pro-Ject Audio Systems turntable with electronics from Musical Fidelity and speakers from Klipsch’ Heritage range. Throughout the day Henley had demonstrations on featuring the Ortofon range of cartridges and moving listeners through the company’s MM and MC range. Klipsch speakers have their detractors and fans in equal measure but these sounded great today and I love their retro looks. The Musical Fidelity electronics partnership may not have been the most obvious choice, but you know what, it worked very well indeed.

The Pro-Ject Classic turntable takes its design cues from a bygone era and again with Musical Fidelity electronics and Klipsch speakers we have a real-world system that really worked well.

Now, this is the new T1 entry-level turntable from Pro-Ject with a glass platter and Ortofon cartridge which was paired with MaiA streaming amp and CD player from the company’s S2 range (£435 per box) and Klispch Reference speakers. Personally, I think this offered terrific value for money and goes to show that great sound can be had for not a huge amount of outlay. I’m finding more and more I’m actually drawn to budget kit over and above the very high-end offerings and this was no exception – in fact, I may well look at the MaiA as an option for our sub-£1000 reference system.

 

Mitchell & Johnson

Making its world debut at the Bristol Hifi Show was the 800 series CD player from Mitchel & Johnson which paired nicely with their British hand-built 800 series amplifier. There is a lot of chatter out there in audio-land about how CD is dead and the more I hear this claim the more  I think the format still has years left in it and it is good to see British brands investing and putting their money behind the format.

The S800 is a ‘digital’ preamp with multi-input DAC (ESS Sabre 9018 DAC with an XMOS asynchronous USB input plus three optical and three coaxial digital inputs.) and phono stage (MM and MC). The pre has five unbalanced RCAs plus one balanced XLR. Outputs include two unbalanced RCA plus one balanced XLR. Left and right dedicated subwoofer outputs bring additional flexibility with A/V systems and provide useful convenience for 2.1 audio set-ups and general subwoofer experimentation. Further connections include a pair of fixed-level record outputs. S800 also has a dedicated internal headphone amplifier with a fascia-mounted 6.35mm/quarter-inch headphone jack.

The matching S815 power uses Class A/B architecture, offers 150 watts RMS (into 8 ohms) and 300 watts RMS into a 4-ohm load and has been designed using six Toshiba high-power audio-grade output transistors per channel. In order to complement the partnering S800 ‘digital’ preamp, the S815 power amp offers both RCA and XLR inputs, and also benefits from RCA stereo line outputs for bi-amping should additional power be required for each channel/speaker

Both are priced at £1,299 each – I was shocked when the price was revealed to us. Both are available in brushed silver and brushed black. A matching CD player is expected in November.

Such sweeties!!!

Mellow Acoustics

The FrontRo is a hybrid electrostatic design with a circular electrostatic unit, about the size of a vinyl LP, above a conventional dynamic woofer in a pyramid-shaped box. Mellow say that he FrontRo is the only British-built electrostatic loudspeaker built by hand in England.

Designer Tim Mellow says: “Much of what we hear in a live performance is reflected sound which envelopes us to create a sense of spaciousness. Unlike most loudspeakers, the FrontRo is designed to produce good sound in all directions, not just on-axis, to bring the airy sound of a live performance into your living space together with a holographic soundstage, because the reflected sound correlates with the direct.”

The speakers are designed with smaller rooms in mind and whilst they took a few moments to accustom yourself to, thy did sound very nice thereafter.

Funk Firm and Lateral Audio Stands

Funk firm chose the Bristol Hifi Show to launch their Rage range of turntables aimed at Rega users and offering Funk’s well known Achromat mat, Boing feet (gotta love te name) and one of Funk’s own tonearms. The Rage products were shown throughout the day at closed events but we were pleased to take a look at Funk’s Super Deck Grande which accommodates two arms (up to 12″) and has a variable speed control so you can even dig out those old Shellac records.  All the equipment was placed on Lateral Audio Stands who we first came across at the Cranage Show last year and are based in Manchester.

Leema Acoustics

Leema Acoustics used the Bristol Hifi Show to unveil its Stream IV streaming CD player and also brought along their Stellar line, including the Quasar streaming amp/DAC and the Pulse IV integrated amplifier/DAC.

The Stream IV is a CD player (there you go again) and streamer in one. The Stream IV is capable of replaying legacy CD collections, accessing digital audio files from USB flash drives and streaming from a wide range of sources including NAS drives, networked DLNA devices and streaming services; Spotify Connect, Tidal, Deezer and vTuner internet radio are supported.

Key updates to the new Stream IV include the addition of a high-resolution 24/192 Stream Unlimited streaming module and an ESS Sabre DAC.

Also at The Bristol Hifi Show 2019 from Leema were the Pulse IV integrated amplifier and the Quasar streaming amp/DAC. The Pulse IV DAC/amplifier is available now priced at £2,295. The Quasar streaming amp/DAC is available now priced at £2,995, and the Stream IV streaming CD player is available to order now priced at £2,295.

The sheep is called Shadwell and is a friend of Hifi Pig, they frollick around the farmyard when we’re not looking.

Mission

Mission is a name that goes way back to when I was first dipping my toe in the Hifi scene and they have always had a reputation for delivering good value products. This new range of speakers is no exception.

 

Canton

Soundbars really never float my boat and I always find them a bit…meh. However, this offering from Canton changed my mind somewhat – genuinely I was looking for more traditional floorstanders.

The German brand also had their Smart vento 3 speakers at the show which allow transmission of music to other speakers in the Smart range, have Bluetooth 3 with apt-X, and controllable with a TV remote and do “virtual” suround sound for those not wanting to get 5.2, 7.1 etc. Expect a pair to cost you around a coupl of grand.

Ophidian Audio

British manufacturer Ophidian was exhibiting the new P-series Evolution loudspeakers featuring a custom made aluminium mid-bass driver with a large magnet.

Gareth James of Ophidian told us more; “Rigid front baffles are decoupled with a flexible gasket reducing the transmission of drive unit vibration directly into the main cabinet, which is constructed from plywood for improved damping properties. The unique Aeroflex bass loading system allows the P-series Evolution to provide a truly dynamic performance at both low and high volume levels.”

The P3 Evolution was the new baby for the show and is a three-way design featuring a 27mm fabric dome, 50mm fabric dome, and triple 150mm aluminium drivers. They feature the decoupled front baffle of the other speakers in the range and sound rather splendid.

P1 Evolution 2-way standmount – £2,200

P2 Evolution 2.5way floorstander – £3,500

P3 Evolution 3 Way floorstander – £5000

Von Gaylord Audio

I thoroughly enjoyed this room, though the prices of the units on show are getting into the high-end territory. The brand were at the Bristol Hifi Show last year and were making good sounds but this year their system really caught my ear. Here’s what we have:

Legend Reference Module loudspeakers consisting of 1 x 1/2 inch inverted dome tweeter, a 7 and 1/4 inch Kevlar mid-woofer and a 10 inch bass woofer. The speakers as shown are £14, 730. The power amps are the 130 watts per side Nirvana running in triode mode and cost £6590 each. Preamp is the £10, 080 Harmony pre that runs in class A whilst digital to analogue conversion is handled by the Uni DA also costing £10, 080. Cabling is Return of the Legend interconnects (£1550), Progress bi-wire speaker cable at £6,590 an 8 foot pair, digital interconnects are Return of the Lgend  (£1550) and power cables are also Return Of The Legend at £1240 for a six foot length.

The company are based in California.

Audio Note UK

I make no secret of my love of the 300N tube and so was very interested to hear the new Meishu from Audio Note UK. The full system comprised of MEISHU Phono Silver V2 (UK Show Debut for this new version of their 300B SET integrated amplifier), CDT-One/II Red Book CD Transport, DAC2.1x Signature, TT-Three / PSU 3 and AN-J’SPe HEMP loudspeakers. The deck uses a three-point sprung suspension system, and is designed to be partnered primarily with one of the company’s 9″ tonearms. It can be supplied with one of three different external power supplies, each offering an increasingly improved level of performance. The power supplies can be exchanged and upgraded at any time in the future.

Now, in past years I have been critical of Audio Note but recently I’ve been very impressed, likewise today whilst the company was playing their reference recordings – not my cup of tea musically but I do get it! However, we do know that Peter is not averse to playing the odd bit of Slayer!!!

 

Harman / Kardon

Connected lifestyle speakers from Harman Kardon

Fyne Audio

Key launches at the Bristol Hifi Show were the F702 (£6000pr) and F1-12 (£26,000pr) – both of which are being made in Fyne’s new Scottish factory. F702 will be in the shops in April. Final tweaks to the F1-12 are still being done but they should be with dealers June/July.

The F702 is made from a hand-crafted cabinet built from high-density birch plywood. Curved and sculpted to diffuse internal standing waves, extensive internal bracing creates a twin cavity design with drive units coupled to the cabinet with special damping material. The machined aluminium plinth offers stability, easy leveling solid base for Fyne’s patent-pending BassTrax LF diffuser.

The F1-12 builds on the strengths of the F1-10 but the new models increase the size of the hand-made birch-ply cabinet to accommodate a brand new 12inch version of the Fyne Audio IsoFlare point source driver.

The new 12” version in the F1-12 is built around a rigid cast aluminium chassis to eliminate unwanted vibration. Using a substantial ferrite magnet, the high power LF motor incorporates a rectangular copper voice coil on an aluminium former, to aid power dissipation. A 3” titanium HF diaphragm is fitted.

Fyne played us some Infected Mushroom which went down well and for me was perhaps the highlight of the show.

 

Astin Trew, Graham Audio, Hana and Black Rhodium

Now I thought all this looked very expensive and I was absolutely wide of the mark as most of what you see here is pretty affordable. The Astin Trew AT2-1100 pre (in red) is £1495 without the phono board and you add a further £595 to get your vinyl sorted). The matching AT2 – 5100 power amp is a few quid short of five grand and delivers 180 watts of A/B loveliness to your speakers. Also being demoed was the Astin Trew AT-2100 integrated amplifier.

The chap you see pictured is Hiroshi Ishihara from Youtek who is in charge of distributing Hana (cartridges) and Sorane (tonearms) to the world. The tonearm you see in a couple of the pictures is the Sorane SA 1.2 and looks fabulously complex – I so want to try this tonearm!! The final image of a turntable has the Sorane ZA-12 tonearm attached which is a double bearing pivot suspension design. There is a good reason that the Japanese are renowned for their vinyl playback systems and innovation and these products really highlight that. Turntables are the Planalogue brand we have covered previously and the Reel 2 Reel is a TEAC model from the 1970s.

This room was understated but very confident in what it was doing – I liked it a lot.

REL

Cowon, Dunu and iBasso

AVID Hifi

Conrad at AVID is a previous winner of our Munich High-End Hifi Pig Loves You Award and with good reason. What I loved about this system was that Conrad was playing a relatively modestly priced Ingenium turntable through a seriously priced system (the Reference 4 speakers are £17,000 and the Pulsare II phono is £5,500 – and that’s before we get into amplification) and with frankly astonishing results. The Inginium PNP turntable package is available at £1250 including arm and cartridge. A great sounding room this and proof that proper engineering pays dividends in the sonic realm. More news on the AVID Hifi Integra as soon as we have it, though it is said to use trickle-down technology from amplifiers higher up in the AVID Hifi range and particularly the Sigsum.

Sony

Now this was an interesting one for me. The TV uses the screen itself as a speaker. Impressive stuff and it worked pretty well. It’s the AF9 from the Master Series of OLED televisions and I thought all that vibrating would be detrimental to the image quality, but it’s just not. We had a bit of a dem using it as a centre speaker and a surround sound system and I loved it – still witchcraft though

Yamaha

Here is the MusicCast Vinyl 500 from Yamaha and it’s a pretty smart cookie for what it is. Basically and without going into detail what this beastie is is a wireless record player that will integrate with your current wireless set up to allow normal streaming content whilst satisying the vinylistas.

Acoustic Energy

Acoustic Energy used the Bristol Hifi Show 2019 to announce and dem their latest series of loudspeakers, the all-new 500 series. The stand-mount AE500 and floor-standing AE509 feature Acoustic Energy’s newly developed Carbon Fibre tweeters and mid/bass drivers, designed to match their ceramic aluminium drivers, but with improved self-damping. These drivers are housed in a new piano finish or wood veneer Resonance Suppression Composite (RSC) cabinets, evolved from the Reference Series. Leema provided modestly priced electronics in this room and I for one enjoyed the sound this British partnership were making.

Decent Audio

Decent Audio had three rooms on the third floor of the Bristol Hifi Show and were showcasing some pretty exciting products. What was good to see was the Dual brand getting an airing once again through a Decent (pun intended) Hifi distributor. The Danish Scansonic speakers (I always enjoy them whenever I hear them and can’t believe what excellent value for money they provide) were powered by Ayre Acoustics electronics to make a lovely sounding room.

However, what really stood out for me here were the egg-shaped Eclipse loudspeakers. They were playing quite simple piano music (not my usual cup of aural tea) but managed to sound natural and unforced with a very realistic soundstaging whilst being fed by Ayre’s EX8 amp.

Right at the bottom you will see the WAND turntable which I am very excited about hearing as I have owned one of their fantastic unipivot tonearms in the past and loved it.

Atlas Cables

Cable dems are always interesing and I find them really fascinating having been a dyed in the wool sceptic for years and years…it’s washing out somewhat now readers will be pleased to know. We sat through Martin from Scottish company Atlas’ dem of speaker and interconnect cables and there is clearly a step up at each stage, but what really stood out, as it did when we visited them in Kilmarnock, was the change in sound quality, for the better, when the USB cable was changed for one further up their range. Try to get to a dem of theirs, it is well worth the effort and time.

Iso Acoustics

Iso Acoustics dem is superb. To illustrate the difference GAIA can make to your listening system, two sets of identical Focal loudspeakers were set up for comparison, one pair with GAIA installed and one pair without. The difference is not subtle and they are well worth seeking out from UK distributor SCV.

The IsoAcoustics demo system was powered by Micromega hardware, a new addition to the SCV family of brands. As well as the M-One integrated stereo amplifier, the full range of ‘My’ products, including the MyAmp, MySpeaker, MyDac, MyGroov and MyZic were also on display.

JL Audio, All Amplifiers and RBH Sound

Primare, Falcon and MOFI

In Karma AV’s first room we have MoFi’s StudioDeck+ turntable and StudioPhono phono stage, playing through Primare’s entry Prisma ensemble of I15 amp and CD15 player, and Falcon Acoustics’ Studio 20 speakers. Ready-to-play with pre-mounted and aligned StudioTracker cartridge, MoFi’s entry-level StudioDeck+ design is a 33.3/45.0 RPM belt-drive turntable with 10-inch MoFi Studio Tonearm, a 0.75-inch Delrin® platter, isolated 300 RPM AC synchronous motor and anti-vibration feet on satin black MDF/aluminium body. The Developed by engineer Tim de Paravicini, StudioPhono phonostage includes selectable gain for MM or MC 40dB/46dB/60dB/66dB gain and adjustable loading 75Ω – 47kΩ, switchable mono mode, and subsonic filter. This system, to my ears offers a great sound that was neither too much or too little for th room it ocupied – a good sign.

 

Emotiva, SVS and Straightwire

Another AV system and a fab one it was too. Look, I know I’ve said I really don’t get AV but from the moment I sat down in this room I was glued to the set. I have no idea of what film was playing (a WWII film with this scene set on a bomber plane). Explosions going off all over the place and yet everything delivered really coherently and leaving me wanting more. I really could have watched the whole of this and stayed n here for ages. Not going to be every audiophiles idea of fun but I loved it!!

Thanks to all the lovely people that said hello and all the people who entered our competition.

More coverage from the Bristol Hifi Show 2019 here and dates for 2020 here

 

 

 

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