It’s great to get over to Bristol for the HiFi show, I know it is billed as Sound and Vision but mostly it is HiFi and all the better for it in my book. I popped over on the train for the first day and had a pretty good time, though a one day visit squeezed into a cheap day return train ticket will not allow you to see everything or even most things at the show.
So given the nature of my visit I cannot claim comprehensiveness only ecletiveness. In most rooms I tried to stay long enough to acclimatise but to be honest half an hour would be the longest audition given the circumstances. It certainly isn’t easy to get good sound in a standard hotel bed room and kudos to the exhibitors who brought their own acoustic treatment with them. I’ll only discuss what I liked – what I didn’t like is probably not that interesting.
But I’ll start with some of the big guns who with bigger rooms had less need of such treatment. I should mention I spent most of the time with Hywel an old friend who builds his own speakers, brews his own dsp crossovers with phase correction and works hard to get his room right. He knows a huge amount speakers and is a very attentive listener. I always listen to what he has to say but I don’t always agree with him – even though I suspect he is always right 60% of the time. With Hywel on board most of our attention was spent on speakers and I don’t mind that at all. So introductions out of the way, let’s start at the top.
Quad had a lovely paneled conference room and on show their Artera Solus and a pair of lovely paneled ESL-2912’s. The sound was probably the best I heard – I say probably because of all the issues of different rooms, different sources, different programme material – etc. etc. Hywel and I both agreed it was very, very good. And slightly disconcerting in that instead of a rack of gear – you had just a box (the Solus) and the speakers. Very, very good sound.
Also in a nice big room – KEF LS50 Wireless – Hywel loves an LS50 he has a pair at home. Actually KEF did live up to the Sound and Vision tag with the LS50’s either side of a big screen showing the video for Kraftwerk’s Autobahn. I sneaked a look round the back of the LS 50 Wireless’s and they had loads of wires plugged in. But of course you can run them sans cables should you desire. I thought they sounded pretty good – but I was slightly disappointed they didn’t have the Blades on offer. I did enjoy them last time. Opposite KEF were B&W – they were rammed and only doing timed demos so I didn’t get a chance to hear them.
Naim had several presences at the show – I dropped in to hear the system with the Focal Utopias – and I’m sorry I didn’t pay more attention to which model it was – Evo’s I think, and so the pic on the right is of Evo’s. Anyway they sounded good but without the feeling of slam dunk greatness – Hywel wasn’t with me for Naim so you’ll have to take my word for it.
I had great fun in the WB room reading about their work at Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Park. Wilson Benesch had a very big space and their Resolution speakers are certainly big enough to dominate it. I liked them and so did Gareth (who he Ed?) Hywel not so much, as a turntable manufacturer WB were using vinyl as a source – no problem there, except vinyl’s great weakness is it’s unsuitability for making mix tapes. So unless the demonstrator is changing disks with some regularity and you find yourself listening to something you have never heard before it mind be quite hard to make a judgement. Well that’s my excuse for disagreeing with Mr. H.
While on the subject of mix tapes – a very different approach from Harbeth who had a standard line up of pop music, jazz and then a Radio 4 play. Pretty much the only opportunity to hear speech at the show. Harbeth had two rooms and I spent quite some time in the room with their P3ESRs – great sound from a bookshelf sized sealed box. Recommend a listen to those.
Spendor had some new floor standers in the shape of A7s – a replacement for the A6Rs – they were making a very jolly noise indeed and I was sorry that by then I was short of time and couldn’t stay long. Partly because I had spent quite of time listening to the D9’s in the adjacent room. D9’s are just tops. I’m hoping to get a pair of A1’s in to review in the not too distant future.
I recently reviewed ATC’s SCM12 Pros and they are fantastic – so a visit to the ATC room was much anticipated. On show were the ATC amps and a pair of SCM40’s, this was definitely brilliant sound. I think the ATC electronics are much overlooked and their speakers of the very highest quality. Even stony hearted Hywel was moved to say that if he won the lottery he would cough up the readies for a pair of SCM40’s – high praise indeed.
Taking a break from speakers but not from ATC – I dropped into PrismSound’s room to have a quick listen to the Callia DAC and preamp. Based on the circuitry of PrismSound’s highly regarded professional interfaces the Callia did not disappoint. And with on on the way to review I’m looking forward to that.
Back to speakers and it was off to hear some offerings from Kudos – I wasn’t familiar with the range but was intrigued by their active system featuring Linn electronics. Audioquest were on hand demonstrating their mains conditioners and cables. I came in at the end of the demo and by that time we were plugging the wifi router into the power conditioner – could I hear a difference? Well I kind of thought I could and I wished I had been there for the earlier stuff. That’s the trouble with shows.
Stepping aside from speakers I gave Chord’s new Poly streaming module for their MOJO DAC – I sneakily plugged in my ATH-70 cans and I must say was very impressed with playback from the on board micro SD card. Chord are bringing their amps to Cardiff in a couple of weeks for the B&W demo. I’m going to pop down to that.
Also on cans, I nearly missed Timestep’s stand as it was en passant rather than in a room, but I stopped to listen to their modded Technics SL-1200GAE – partnered with their own phonostage the quality was excellent.
One thing I noticed on my rounds was the decline of the LP12, once de rigeur I only spotted one lonely Linn on my rounds. However wizard of Welsh amplifaction Phil Balaam of Nytech introduced me to a man carrying an unlikely looking string bag containing corian subchassis and armboard, upgrades for the LP12. Theo Stack of wtpaudio – the kit looked marvelous and with prices that are affordable rather than ridiculous. Nice distraction Phil but I’m still waiting for the amps for review.
Finally honourable mentions to Proac, Creek and Exposure and no show is complete without a visit to Michell for a listen and a look at their turntables – that is Sound & Vision.