In which I take a look and listen to some of the more esoteric systems and products at North West Audio Show. I’ll be doing a more general overview of the show too and there’ll be write-ups from a fabulous weekend of audio and music from Linette, John and Ian too.

G-Point Audio

As you walk into the North West Audio Show and are greeted by Kris and his team with a welcome breakfast of Bucks Fizz and then in a sumptuous room you have Greg and his team from G-Point Audio – high-end audio and a glass of bubbly, what a great start to the day.

Greg had two front ends on show; one digital and one analogue, but it was the analogue front end we got to listen to when we were in the room, and what a fab front end it was.

Making its UK debut was the JSikora Standard turntable with the wonderful KV12 tonearm that features a distinctive yellow Kevlar arm-tube. The phonostage in use was also a Basic JSikora model and stepping up the signal from thee Audio Technica ART1000 MC cartridge was the AT SUT1000, also making its UK debut. This is a lovely front end and that was absolutely silent with regards surface noise.

Speakers were from JoSound in the form of the EcoJo YS Tribute which uses a product called ecoBoard for the bottom H-frame, that is made from recycled straw and has a negative carbon foot print. The H-frame houses an 18” driver that is rolled off at 100Hz and powered by a 250W Hypex amp with onboard DSP. Atop the H-frame is an AER 8” full-ranger in a sealed cabinet and the acrylic wave-guide.

Amps and pres were by Riviera Audio Labs, again making their UK debut. We were treated to a great rendition of Donna Summers’ “I Feel Love” and what a treat it was. Shows are not a great place to make critical judgements of systems but this system was detailed and wonderfully dynamic on the day and I’d have happily stayed in here MUCH longer than I did. One of the definite highlights of the show for me.

Later in the day we went in this room to hear some acoustic Quality Passion loudspeakers that we picked out as a quality act at Munich and they didn’t disappoint at North West.

We didn’t get to hear but G-Point is also now UK distributors for Diapason, one of whose models you can see on the left of the photograph above.

PS Excellence

Not all esoterica is necessarily high-priced and this room proved that in spades. Danny Baty put a great sounding system that was centred around a Playstation One. Yes, you read that right, a Playstation One, though this is the very first batch of the iconic product that Danny modifies by feeding it with a fully linear power supply and other internal modificaations.

The PS1 then goes into a valve unit that is made by Danny from pretty much exclusively Russian military parts and features a 6n2 valve.

Speakers we got to hear were Frugal Lite Horns with Mark Audio Alpair drivers and with Gekko cables joining everything together, but not before all the power being cleaned up by Isotek.

No, this is not going to appeal to everyone – it’s VERY out there – but for those prepared to take a leap of faith it is an interesting product really worthy of note with comments on the day being it sounded very analogue in its presentation. I’ve had a couple of the PS1s in the past (unmodified) and wasn’t a fan and so this was a bit of an eye-opener for me. The PS1s needed to put this together are also finite in their supply so you are going to have a pretty rare product that is going to be a talking point. I can see this product becoming a bit of a cult product and hence its inclusion here.

Brook Audio/Kondo

David Brook must be applauded for pulling this one off and for me it was no doubt a major draw for this year’s North West Audio Show, given Kondo haven’t exhibited in the UK for ten years.

There’s been a bit of chatter on social media about this room and it seems to have divided opinion a bit, but I for one loved it. The Kondo team played the Miles Showells half-speed master of the last Elles Springs record and specifically her tune Two Months, Eight Weeks. Long story short, it made me cry and I think the naysayers of this system forget that, in my opinion, music is essentially an emotional experience and if you have connected with the music the system has done its job.

Yes this is an uber-if-if-you-need-to-ask-you-can’t-afford system that most of us will only ever experience perhaps once or twice in our lifetimes, and then only at shows, but I really loved my experience in this room and so hats off to David and his team.

Malvern Audio Research/Audio Detail

Last year at North West Audio Show we were treated to a sneak peek of Mark from Audio Detail’s Mono amps that were heard driving a pair of hORNS Universum loudspeakers. This year he presented the full system including a matching preamplifier based on 101 DHT valve tech and driving hORN Symphony loudspeakers.

I thoroughly enjoyed this room finding it wide and detailed and wish Mark every success with his venture.

Audio Emotion

Big Tannoys divide opinion and that’s why I’m including this system in an article about the more esoteric products at North West Audio Show. The model Gary and the team were using in this system were Kingdom Royal 2 coming in at a couple of pennies shy of £60K but interestingly partnered with the Acoustic Signature Merlin turntable which marks the entry point for their mass loaded offerings at £2500.

Other electronics were by Cayin who some will know from way back and as being a Chinese brand. Chinese Hifi used to have a bad reputation but thanks to brands like Cayin this reputation is growing rapidly. When people moan about Chinese Hifi components I always use the same analogy and that is when Japanese cars started coming to the UK and people moaned about the lack of wood on the dash etc, but very rapidly quality improved to a point where Datsun, Toyota et al took over, and that’s where we are getting to Cayin and others.

A great sounding room to my old lugs and it’s made me get the Tannoy itch again!

Absolute Sounds/darTZeel

Sadly these were not playing as Absolute Sounds were concentrating on delivering a more, for them, affordable system about which we will write elsewhere, but my section on esoterica wouldn’t be complete without including a pic or two of them.

Acoustand  Audio

Sadly the evolution turntable was only on static display but I’m sure you will agree it falls into the esoteric side of things even though it has a very basic tonearm on it at the moment. That colour is wonderful!

Mike Valentine Chasing The Dragon

Mike Valentine is in himself both exotic and esoteric and I mean that in the best possible way. Mike is passionate about everything he does and brings life and music wherever he goes. In the room you could buy reel to reel recordings and direct to disc vinyl and the system sounded fabulous to boot with a Studer tape machine and a pair of HUGE ATC active monitors.

Much more to come in the coming days from Hifi Pig and North West Audio Show.

More From North West Audio Show 2019

Esoterica At North West Audio Show

North West Audio Show 2019 – Ian Ringstead

North West Audio Show 2019 – John Scott

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