THE BRISTOL HI-FI SHOW 2019 - SHOW REPORT AND GALLERY
The Bristol Show may have dropped Sound & Vision from its name to concentrate on hi-fi, but the number of audio fans attending appears to have been as numerous as ever.
Perhaps it's because I was multi-tasking more than ever or that StereoNET's own stand was at the top of the staircase to the Conservatory area, but numbers seemed to be up, especially on the Friday.
We had planned to have a three-strong team representing SNUK (StereoNET UK) but our illustrious leader, Marc, rather fancied upgrading to a metal shoulder. So, lo and behold, thanks to an aggressive off while riding a mountain bike, his upgrade coincided with the show. However, Rob and I juggled booked appointments and our other duties around to not only man our stand but to make good on promises made.
Naturally, I also had to carve out time to hit all the rooms to write up this show report. Believe it or not, I actually prioritised this above spending time in the bar. Don't worry; I have an appointment to get checked out for this odd behaviour. Unfortunately, as I didn't really get chance to review my photos (I generally use Sunday to retake any naff shots), there are a couple of gaps where my photo(s) weren't up to scratch. My apologies to the brands and to you, our readers.
Firstly, it would be unforgivable of me not to start things off with our good friends, Brad and Julie of Hi-Fi Racks. Their range of audio support furniture is as beautiful as it is useful. Even the single platform sat on the StereoNET stand advertising the generous prize on offer to those who signed up to our newsletter while at the show garnered much praise over the piece's premium craftwork.
Of course, anyone visiting our stand was told not to miss visiting Hi-Fi Racks downstairs. I especially love the Omni8.
Acoustic Energy previewed its new range-topping AE500 Series of loudspeakers. Sporting AE's new 25mm Carbon Fibre tweeters and mid-bass drivers, the response from both the AE500 and AE509 is faster with a more natural sound. Furthermore, the curved corners and gloss finishes on the cabinets look very special too.
They’ll be available in the UK from Spring 2019 with the AE500 standmounters priced at £1,000 and the AE509 floorstanders, £2,300. Matching speaker stands are available for the AE500 for a package deal of £1,200.
Although renowned for its speakers, the company has been known to dip its toe into the world of hi-fi electronics from time-to-time. Its latest offerings in this regard are the CD2 CD player and SIA2-100 integrated stereo amplifier.
The CD2 is priced at £1,500 and ticks all the boxes that a silver disc spinner should. However, it's the SIA2-100 amp that I found more comely; offering 100 ATC watts per channel, it is not found lacking digital inputs either. All of this ATC goodness is wrapped in a very slick full-metal jacket. Priced at £2,500, this was sounding excellent at the show and could prove to be a winner when it and the CD2 go on sale in April.
Interested as to what that turntable is? Scroll down to Helius.
Hot on the heels of the sub-£1k 6000A integrated amp, the 6000N Play wireless steamer promises to be equally good value.
The newest member of the 6000 family, the 6000N Play features DTS Play-Fi for high-res audio playback or multi-room functionality and grab music from your NAS drive.
Packing an ESS Sabre DAC and power supply arrangements borrowed from the matching CD transport, there’s also the ability to stream directly from the likes of Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and Amazon Music.
You'll be able to buy one soon and, word has it, that it will only cost around £500. The way it was performing at the show, it will be money well spent.
AVID HIFI has described their Ingenium model as “the benchmark for entry-level audiophile turntables”. At the show, AVID was showing its new Ingenium Plug&Play (£1,250) which is fortunate enough to have retained its predecessor’s features along with adding a pre-amp. Additionally, it has cut installation times considerably.
Featuring a sapphire bearing and clamping system that prevents unwanted vibrations, there is also an optimised elastomer that mechanically isolates the playing surface, making for all-around better resolution. Not too shabby bad for entry level, huh?
The company says that this turntable can be up and running in just 10 minutes – fitted tonearm and moving magnet cartridge included.
AVID has also been working on a new range of electronics. We have come to expect asking prices of six-figure sums for the top range stuff, but some of that tech has been trickling down to slightly less eye-watering price points - for instance, the Integra, a £6,000 integrated amp with line level connections, headphone amp and phono stage. It certainly had the looks and presence of the pricier models and was sounding very impressive at the show through the Reference 4 speakers (£17,000). Also being demonstrated was the Pulsare II phono (£5,500).
Chatting with Conrad Mas, it sounds like AVID has something else waiting to be unveiled at Munich too.
Bowers & Wilkins
The Bowers & Wilkins room generally gets lots of attention and this year was no different. Visitors here seemed to be enjoying the affordable 600 Series. Since attending the series launch back in August we have already reviewed the 603 floorstander, and the 606 standmounts (£549) have just landed with us so stay tuned for a review of that too soon.
The new 600 Series speakers were being demonstrated against their predecessors using Rotel electronics during timed demonstrations at the show.
As well as some tidy looking Google Cast equipped soundbars and sound bases, Canton had chosen to bring their Smart Vento 3. This £2,100 active speaker uses wireless technology to sync multiple channels - Quadrophenia for 2019!
With XLR connections and 350 watts at their disposal, these sounded absolutely excellent and will offer a decent solution as a compact but competent Hi-Fi system.
In another room, it was a pair of Mission QX floorstanders either side of Canton's soundbar with some diminutive rear speakers doing a cracking job. Pioneer's excellent LX500 was providing the source, spinning The Greatest Showman to the greatest effect.
Chord Electronics pairing with B&W 805 D3 never fails to make me smile - in a good way. It was their new Hugo M Scaler that was the star of the show here. Packed with a serious helping of audio tech to be able to upscale 44.1kHz digital audio up to 705.6kHz – 16 x CD’s 44.1kHz native resolution – before passing it on to the DAC, it sounded the bee's knees to me.
Swinging by the Advanced MP3 Players room, I headed straight for Cowon's new Plenue P2 (£259). This diminutive DAP uses dual CS43131 DACs with a high-resolution headphone amplifier, to achieve perfect HD sound with minimal noise.
With the high-quality 2.5mm balanced output, DSD128 is native. The player also boasts a signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of 130dB, a harmonic distortion factor (THD + N) of 0.0004% and a balanced output of 4.0Vrms and five digital filters are also on tap.
I loved its sound and portability. My notes read “Little DAP big sound”.
Creek Audio is currently celebrating its 37th birthday. This event has been marked by swapping China for Europe for where Creek's production facilities are situated. The company is also redeveloping its entire product line-up.
The Voyage series was being represented by the CD10 player and i20 amplifier. They looked great, and we should get pricing soon.
I even wasn't put off by their Evolution 100A (£1,500) playing Cold Play.
The CLS6 were also on show. The CLS6 marries a metal dome tweeter with a 7-inch driver. You can have them in gloss black and walnut for £2,500 as well as rosewood, an additional £500 premium. These standmounts come with natty magnetic grilles.
Cyrus brought along their excellent OneHD which I fell in love with during our review. It's a really capable little integrated with streaming smarts.
However, it was the QXR DAC upgrade card that I wanted to know more about. The nifty DAC upgrade card can be retro-fitted to Cyrus products a decade old and so bringing them bang up-to-date.
In short, this means your aged component gets access to PCM audio to 768k at a 32bit depth and ‘Native’ DSD 512, through the USB input. The high-spec ESS DAC uses asynchronous upsampling to deliver optimal sound no matter the source.
It sounded great playing some Marcus Miller on Qobuz from a laptop plugged into the USB port out to some Dali Rubicon 5 speakers.
Dali always pleases with its Oberon range of loudspeakers. This year they were showing off the highly rated Oberon 1 standmounters (£349) and Oberon 5 floorstanders (£699).
Dali had a great sounding room and it was rightly acknowledged by way of a Clarity Alliance Award for Best of Show.
The Dynaudio Confidence and Evoke ranges had their UK debut following the Munich launch last year.
The revamped Confidence range boasts new improved features, including an update of the brand’s DDC (Dynaudio Directivity Control) technology. The well-engineered, high-tech Confidence 30 is a three-way floorstander and has an asking price of €19,000. Yes, this isn't exactly impulse-buying territory, but they sounded worth every penny on the end of a Naim Audio rig.
The Evokes are Dynaudio’s newest family of speakers. The five-strong lineup will cover your needs in any room thanks to the Evoke 30 (£2,900) and 50 (£3,900) floorstanders: 10 (£1,250) and Evoke 20 (£1,800) standmounts and, finally, the Evoke 25C centre speaker (£1,100) that adds home cinema duties to the family's skillset.
The demonstration kicked off with a presentation from Studio Connection's Michael Whiteside who explained the mechanics of stereo in elegant simplicity.
Then he went on to play tracks through the new Elac Nevis ARB-51 standmount speakers (£1,795). These 3-way powered speakers consist of a 1-inch soft dome, concentrically mounted tweeter, 4-inch mid and 5 1/4-inch woofer aluminium drivers. Naturally, the class A/B amplifiers can generate some heat, and it was pointed out that the diecast base plate acts as a heatsink.
Naturally, the system was hooked up using Studio Connections carbon screened cables.
Also in attendance were the Elac ARF-51 (£3,595), but I didn't get to hear them.
Now, this broke up the procession of rooms featuring separates. The Escape P9 (£999) is a portable party speaker.
In one box you get four individual 3-inch full range drivers and an 8-inch sub. The drivers utilise polypropyle (PP) cones with aluminium dust caps, linear flat spiders, and vented voice coils. The subwoofer gets similar treatment with the inclusion of a composite fibreglass reinforced basket. Furthermore, the system is driven by an extremely efficient audiophile digital amplifier, and its sound can be adjusted via onboard dual 24-bit DSP processors.
Music can be supplied by iOS and Android devices using Bluetooth 4.2 or via USB. A pair of P9s can be paired to create potent portable 360-degree stereo output. Battery life was stated at 8hrs playtime.
You can also add a wheeled suitcase-styled travel case for it — a natty option for those with pools or large terraces.
We have met the Falcon loudspeakers before but, with such a great sound, it is never a chore to hear them again.
I managed to catch them playing Johnny Cash's version of First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and Tanita Tikaram's Twist in My Sobriety, a personal favourite. These were presented using a Primare CD player. The dynamic range was suitably impressive given the rather noisy car battle going on next door.
Fyne Audio is rapidly gaining more-and-more fans. Having first met them at last year's Bristol show and, more recently, enjoyed an open day at Hi-Fi Lounge with the brand; it is easy to see why so many are falling instantly in love with their range of loudspeakers.
At the Bristol Hi-Fi Show this year, they showed off their F702 loudspeaker (£5,999) and F1-12 flagship speaker that has a £23,999 price tag.
Inside the F1-12 is the company’s proprietary IsoFlare driver. The remarkable bit of engineering can produce consistent stereo imaging even when the listener is off axis.
The F702 is a premium speaker loaded with a 200mm IsoFlare drive unit, with low-frequency output boosted by a matching bass driver.
The Scottish brand also brought along their 'Special Production' F502SP floorstander (£3,500).
They all looked lovely.
British loudspeaker legends Harbeth have been celebrating their 40th year with some special editions. At Bristol, their rooms always attract the crowds and this year was no different. Having a room each for their Compact 7ES-3 loudspeakers and P3ESR Anniversary mini monitors.
The P3ESR speakers were partnered by a Marantz CD player and Hegel amp. While I was in the room they switched up the music to an unknown classical piece ripped to CD. For such small speakers, the dynamic range was impressive.
The 7ES-3s were joined by a Tascam CD-200IL and a Hegel amp. Curiously, after the music in this room finished, Alan Bennett's Say Something Happened started to play, featuring greats such as Thora Hird. Once my ears got reattuned to hearing northern accents being played at a Hi-Fi show, the clarity and realism to the voices were notable.
Atop the stack of ATC electronics was a lust-worthy turntable. The Helius Viridia turntable and Phaedra tonearm are on the right side of awesomely over-engineered - just how I like it.
The Phaedra arm tube is machined from a single piece of aluminium and is elliptically hollowed sending unwanted resonances out just as the B&W Nautilus tube absorbs unrequired energy.
Thanks to an impressively designed single-spring suspension system and equally ingenious isolating feet, it is also very resistant to outside interference. While it does cost over £12,000, it is a genuinely spectacular object that I spent quite a while transfixed by it. Moreover, it didn't sound too shoddy either.
Here they were running a cool A/B test using Focal speakers, one set on the brand's Gaia supports, the other not. There was no trickery other than a remote control which switched the output to the speakers.
After listening to Daft Punk's Get Lucky played through a Micromega M150 and Nova Fidelity X50 Pro, I was not surprised to hear that people were demanding to look behind the screen to see if there was an additional woofer fitted to the chain of the set running the IsoAcoustic isolators. Impressive stuff.
Over from British Columbia, Candia, Kanto brought a trio of speakers to Bristol, namely the TUK, Yu2, and Yu4.
I had been looking forward to hearing the TUK for a while now, and I was not disappointed. Kanto's TUK (£699) features an Air Motion Transformer (AMT) tweeter that produces excellent high-frequency resolution and clarity. Partnering this is an aluminium concave-cone woofer and a powerful 65 watt-per-channel amplifier. Along with wired and wireless connectivity, the ability to designate the powered speaker as left or right (handy if you lack power points) this all adds up to making the TUK a versatile all-in-one speaker system.
The Yu2 desktop speakers (£177) and Yu4 bookshelf speakers (£277) also put on a convincing show and would suit those looking to boost their computer or bedroom systems. However, the TUK outclassed both at the show in regards to hi-fi performance and the acoustic cover of Billy Jean sound great through the TUKs. Naturally, it's horses for courses here, and we shall hopefully be having a closer look at the Yu2 and Yu4 soon.
I had to make a point of meeting the Titan 505 loudspeakers (£7,000). Electronics were provided by a Linn Selekt (circa £5,000), Innuous Zenith Mk III (£2,999) that were all connected by Audioquest cables and sat upon a Quadraspire SVT rack.
“Fat” was the one-note remark in my notebook and it was undoubtedly a full-bodied presentation, but there was definitely no bloating on show here.
Leema's room was rocking! Well, it was after the-track-that-shall-not-be-mentioned was done with. After a cleansing blast of INXS things were back on track.
Central to the soundtrack in this room was the Leema Stream IV (£2,295). Offering CD playing as well as streaming, it's the perfect mix of physical and 'virtual' formats. It'll handle up to 24-bit/192kHz and can play audio from a NAS drive or DLNA/UPnP device.
It boasts dedicated control apps for Android and iOS, and if you’re using a rooted Android device with Bubble UPNP and open framework installed, it’s possible to play content from Spotify and Napster by re-streaming the audio via Wi-Fi.
The Brigadier Audio Mu.2 (£4,995) were the speakers of choice here sat on SolidSteel stands. I'm still in love with these speakers, and the amount of air being pushed out by them raised almost as many eyebrows as Depeche Mode being introduced as “... an electro-jazz group from Basildon” did.
Shadwell, the Leema sheep, seemed to be enjoying the room too.
This room was packed with all manner of audiophile drool-worthy dream-food. The red and black hORNS Aria 1 were initially eye-catching, but then the rest of the system sinks in.
Here we had LampizatOr 211 monoblocs, as well as the brand's Golden Gate DAC, Lucas Audio Labs LDMS – Lucas Domansky Music Server, Audio Detail phono stage, and a Gigawatt PC3 Evo power conditioner.
The results were natural and uncluttered, and another room which I could have enjoyed for much longer had I not had to move along.
Mark Levinson was showing off its new 5000 Series of integrated amplifiers, including the top-end No.5805. This heavy-weight boasts 125 watts per channel and a 1-inch thick bead-blasted, black-anodised front panel along with the iconic Mark Levinson hourglass control knobs. The No.5805 is due to go on sale in the first quarter of 2019 for just shy of $9,000.
The £999 Mark Levinson No 5802 integrated amp features a selection of digital inputs, Bluetooth and MQA support. There might not be any analogue inputs, but it is wrapped in an attractive case.
If analogue ins are a deal-breaker, you should be looking at the 5805.
Another room that was on my 'must see' list was Mellow Acoustics due to their intriguing FrontRo speakers. These remarkably capable speakers looked perfect with a Michel Gyrodec providing the tunes, in my case Fairport Convention's What We Did on Our Holidays.
True to their word, the speakers have a very natural presentation thanks to the circular electrostatic driver. However, where some electrostatics can come across a little miserly in the low-end, the FrontRo are bolstered by a powered woofer to an enjoyable effect.
They're not going to fill a large room, but I dare say that the FrontRo would be perfect for most UK homes.
Mitchell & Johnson
The 800 series CD player from Mitchel & Johnson partnered their hand-built-in-Britain 800 series amplifier.
This was yet more proof-positive that the CD format has a few years left in it and I for one am looking forward to November when the player lands for retail.
The S800 ‘digital’ preamp is armed with an ESS Sabre 9018 multi-input DAC that features an XMOS asynchronous USB input plus three optical and three coaxial digital inputs. The collection of inputs is rounded off by five unbalanced RCAs plus one balanced XLR and a phono stage that will play nice with both MM and MC flavours of cartridge. Outputs include two unbalanced RCA plus one balanced XLR. Left and right dedicated subwoofer outputs mean that the S800 can also bring a boost to your A/V system. Further connections include a pair of fixed-level record outputs.
The S800's S815 power amp sibling uses Class A/B architecture that can push out 150 watts RMS into 8 ohms and doubles down to 300 watts RMS into 4-ohms. All of this is helped along by using six Toshiba high-power audio-grade output transistors per channel. The S815 offers both RCA and XLR inputs, and also benefits from RCA stereo line outputs for bi-ampers.
Both are priced at £1,299 each in brushed silver and brushed black. A bit of a bargain if you ask me.
I still have a soft spot for Musical Fidelity, and their latest hi-fi separates were on display at the show. The 76W per channel M2Si amp was partnered by the M2sCD CD player, the latter featuring a mains choke filter and digital noise filter. They sounded very capable through the Klipsch Reference Premium floorstanders.
Both MF components cost £799 and can be bought right now in black or silver.
Naim had a trio of streamers on display with the ND5 XS 2 (£2,300), NDX 2 (£4,999) and ND 555 (£12,999) all running through a pair of Focal's lovely Sopra 3 (£15,999) loudspeakers.
As you can imagine, it wasn't exactly a chore to sit in this room for a good while.
Neat are no strangers to thinking outside the box, but would rather “think inside the box”. I had been looking forward to meeting the new Ekstra, and it didn't disappoint.
The Ekstra cuts a provocative silhouette thanks to its slim profile and sticky-out feet. Incorporating a ribbon tweeter and the concept of the iso-baric bass loading into its frame, it features a pair of 134mm bass drive units in the speaker’s bottom section.
One driver is located on the bottom panel, while the other is directly above, sealed in an iso-baric section. Neat claims that arrangement should make for deeper, more controlled bass. Hearing a brace of Ekstras play, they certainly sounded like they were capable of bringing a plentitude of bass - especially for such a slight speaker with 'lifestyle' looks. Unfortunately, it appears that I was so taken by its looks that I failed to photograph them. Sorry. I'm hoping to get a pair to review when they become available, and there will be photos then!
The Ekstra goes on sale in a few months for £3,000.
Another component I had already marked down to see was the new Norma HS-IPA integrated amplifier (from £2,595). It sounded great playing Papa Was a Rolling Stone and then some Primal Scream through some Neat Iota Alphas. I really do like how this compact amp looks and sounds.
I also got chance to hear the IPA 140, although it had cooled down some while the HS-IPA had been demoed. This was fed by a CD and out to a pair of Neat Iota Xplorers. Even though it really needed to warm back up again, I also didn't mind that Bruce Springsteen was being played.
Ophidian was exhibiting their new P-series Evolution loudspeakers. The latest from the British speaker maker features a custom aluminium mid-bass driver driven by a giant magnet for impressive transient response.
The P-series Evo also possesses a flexible gasket that decouples the rigid front baffles to reduce the transmission of drive unit vibration directly into the plywood cabinet. Additionally, plywood has been chosen for its improved damping properties.
Naturally, being Ophidian, their unique Aeroflex bass loading system is present and allows the P-series Evolution to provide a truly dynamic performance, no matter the volume. Marvin Gaye's Inner City Blues sounded rather special.
Electronics were a Marantz CD player and integrated amp plugged into an IsoTek conditioner. Everything here was supported by a Hi-Fi Racks system.
Joining the P1 Evolution 2-way standmount (£2,200) and P2 Evo 2.5-way floorstander (£3,500) is the new P3 Evolution. Here you get a 3-way design with a 27mm fabric dome, 50mm fabric dome, and a trio of 150mm aluminium drivers. Again, like its siblings, the P3 Evolution is kitted out with a decoupled front baffle. It costs £5,000 but does sound fab.
PMC this year had opted to bring a fantastic Atmos system with electronics courtesy of Bryston to the show this year. The company’s low-profile Wafer series speakers were utilised for the height channels. Having heard them, it is no wonder that they have also been the choice of Universal Movie Group (UMG) for some of its installations.
UMG, in turn, supplied Atmos remasters of some excellent classic tracks which formed a crucial part of the demo. The bit I caught was impressive with sounds coming from all angles and amazing panning across the system.
ProAc came armed with its new Response D2R and K6 Signature speakers, as well as the DT8 above.
The K6 Signature is the new Stewart Tyler-designed addition to the flagship K Series, offering high-end sound. However, I was strangely more taken by the D2Rs. I'm odd like that.
The D2Rs (£2,729) add a ribbon tweeter to the popular Response D2 standmount. I would definitely give them houseroom.
Pro-Ject unveiled no less than four new turntables at the Bristol Hi-Fi Show. With prices between £230 and £1,200, I can see these being really popular when they land in the summertime.
We expect that these new decks will be at the pointy end of a much-needed simplification of the Austrian maker's sometimes confusing list of versions, ranges and special editions. Could we be seeing the end of the Xpression (I still own a 1Xpression) and Xperience midrange models for a start?
A flying visit to Quadraspire was rewarded by meeting the already gorgeous X-Reference stand in an eye-catching Orange Nextel finish. Unfortunately, my photography does little justice to this funky modern hue.
StereoNET's brand colours just happen to include orange…. just saying.
Overlooked by many in the Rega room was their brand new Aethos stereo amplifier.
Slotting in neatly between the £1,700 Elicit R and £6,400 Osiris, the £3,000 Aethos shoves out 125 watts per channel. Equipped with only line level hook-up it certainly has the looks, and I dig the purity of its analogue-only design.
The Aethos was joined by a Planar 8 turntable and RX3 speakers.
In this room the Russell K Red 150SE (from £5,999) were being fed by a Melco N10, Questyle CAS192D DAC and PMC Cor amplifier all joined by Telerium Q cabling.
I managed to catch this room between tracks being played so only caught the end of one and the start of another. My take home from this room was that the presentation was fairly neutral and accurate. If that's your bag, then well worth investigating.
Scansonic HD / Eclipse
The Danish speakers were to be found in one of Decent Audio's trio of rooms. I am always impressed by this brand and this year they were being pushed along by Ayre Acoustics electronics.
Prices for the new Scansonic MB speakers start at £1,899 for the standmounts and progress through to £8,999 for the MB-6 B. Still, impressive for the money.
In one of Decent's other rooms were to be found the ovoid Eclipse speakers being driven by more Ayre Acoustics and an Audio Analogue Fortissimo CD player. I've written a lot about these remarkable speakers so won't do so here. However, it was great taking the time to listen and also to catch up with Hideto. Also, scroll down for the Wand Turntable that was also in that room.
It was great to see SolidSteel at the show in force. The Italian speaker and hi-fi stands undoubtedly made their presence felt with many rooms also using them. You may have noticed that I am already leading the charge with the SS-6 tripod speaker stands as seen in our Brigadiers Mu.2 review and Leema's room (scroll back up), for instance. Well, I am now also rocking the lovely S5-3 rack in glorious white. I can see white hi-fi furniture gaining more fans (see Mitchell & Johnson) as well as tipedal speaker stands popping up more frequently. I certainly find the SS-6s easier to place than single-footed columns or four-legged stands.
SolidSteel's Hyperspike range really stands out from other manufacturers and proved to be extremely eye-catching on the stand as well as in Mark Levinson's room.
The new 3000 Series subs (from £1,275) were providing the expected full body-slam experience the company always seems able to produce. Also on show were the brand's Prime Elevation effects speaker which was delivering a compelling performance from a small living room-friendly cabinet.
Another Candian brand at the show, Totem brought their KIN play to Bristol.
The £999 KIN play powered speaker system was pretty amazing. The KIN play brings with it Apt-X Bluetooth and a line input that can be switched to a phono stage.
These speakers sounded great and would be right at home in a compact stereo set up.
A new one to me last year that suitably impressed, so I called in again this year.
Von Gaylord had a lovely sounding room with their Legend Reference speakers (£147,300), Nirvana monoblocs (£6,590) being controlled by their Harmony pre (£10,080). There was a male vocal version of Fever being played, and it sounded remarkably clear and real in the room, not always the easiest to achieve in these hotels.
Found nestled near the Eclipse speakers in one of Decent Audio's rooms was the Wand Turntable.
This was not performing when I visited, but it is a handsome thing. I am hoping to spend more time with it at some point.
Wharfedale has a new premium speaker range called Elysium, and it has been spotted in the wilds of Bristol (but my rushed photo was rubbish). The new series should appear in the summer with a floorstander and standmount priced at around £3500 and £2000 respectively.
Stay tuned for more details.
Our next door neighbours at the show were Sheffield-based Wilson Benesch.
This year it was the UK debut of their new entry-level Precision Series speakers with the P1.0 and P3.0 being in the spotlight.
Additionally, the brand also imports high-end electronics by CH Precision.
Naturally, it was the Swiss brand's I1 integrated amp that was powering the main system with the Nu-Prime IDA-16 integrated amp being employed with the standmounts.
The MusicCast VINYL 500 launched late last year, and it was drawing crowds at the show.
The belt-driven VINYL 500 is part of the recent trend of turntables with built-in wireless connectivity, as the VINYL 500 boasts AirPlay, Bluetooth and 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands.
The £549 deck was being played through some hanging MusicCast 20 speakers (£145 each) and the Sub100 (£299). The Clash's London Calling sounded loud and vital through this smart little system.
Other worthy mentions
Obviously, there was much, much more to be seen and heard. Some, however, I had already met at previous shows, but they still are worthy of a mention.
Firstly, the forever cool, JBL L100 Classic. Perhaps helped by that famous Maxell advert, but the 1970s loudspeaker is back and updated with a new 25mm domed tweeter. Still sporting its retro-styled Quadrex foam it still has plenty of want appeal, even with their £4,000 price tag.
Amphion was being demonstrated along with Hegel again to typically wonderful effect by Auden Distribution with David from the Little Audio Company at the helm.
Henley Audio with Ortofon has been showing the difference that cartridge upgrades can make.
Using a Pro-Ject deck with the company's S-shape tonearm made cart swapping swift and efficient.
The demo started with the 2M range working through Red to Blue and then similarly throughout the Ortofon ranges.
The Chord Company was, interestingly, not demonstrating their fantastic cables this year at the usual lunchtime show-and-tell.
Instead, it was the wonderfully named ChordOhmic Transmission Fluid. This two-part treatment promises to improve your audio connections and therefore the sound. The demo of non-treated and treated cables piqued my interest.
I look forward to testing it out myself.
The difference that Atlas Grun grounding makes was shown to me using Asimi Luxe interconnects.
Johnny Cash's I Hung My Head was used being output to some PMC Twenty50 speakers.
There was an added clarity or, rather, the removal of some clutter that I couldn't quite put my finger on. I feel a closer inspection with refreshed ears is required.
KEF’s room continued the early Spring vibe that we were enjoying in Bristol thanks to its very colourful array of LSX powered desktop speakers. The company also had its R Series on display too, including the Award-winning R3 standmounters and R5 and R7 floorstanders.
Technics was running the SL-1500 C turntable at the Bristol Show this year. This is a derivative of the equally new SL-1200 Mk7 but one that has been designed with a view to being a more residential design. The pitch control, strobe and other DJ requirements have therefore been ditched. However, there is an internal switchable phono stage and supplied Ortofon 2M cartridge. It also has an automatic lift for the end of the record - something oft overlooked. Coming in under £1,000, this is a well made, well thought out deck.
When I reached the Funk Firm room, the discussion was already in full swing.
Brian Tucker from Pro Audio and Arthur Khoubesserian of Funk Firm were fielding questions and leading the debate in this packed room.
Bristol Hi-Fi Show Wrap up - on to 2020
That's it for another year. I think the show did well this year. Yes, they had a lift out for the duration which meant that the stairs were even busier than usual but as my first time as a stall holder, the porters did a great job and the management of those showing their wares was admirable. However, this is the first year that I have noticed so many stands being broken down and rooms being emptied by 4:30 pm Sunday. At this point, I was still trying to catch up with rooms and some were already vacated, or partially in boxes. I saw some bemused faces of people wandering the corridors as they had bought tickets but seemed to be getting in the way of people trying to pack up and get out as soon as possible.
Thanks to everyone that came up to the stand or stopped in the corridor to congratulate StereoNET UK on our coverage over this first 12 months. Also, thanks to those who discovered us at the show, stopped at the stand, chatted, and signed up to the newsletter prize draw. We shall be announcing the winner soon; the slight delay is due to getting Marc lucid enough to do the honours (he's on strong pain killers).
I am looking forward to the show next year where I can get more bar time in and have a more relaxed tour of the show.
See you in Munich!
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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Posted in: Hi-Fi Industry HiFi Show
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