The Bristol Sound & Vision show is Long established as the premier show for all things Hifi and AV in the UK. Attracting the great and the good as it does, we sent Jason Kennedy along to see what was what. Jason’s show highlights below should hopefully inspire you to not only put Bristol in your diary for next year, but also to attend hifiwigwam’s very own show on the 2nd March in Melton Mowbray.
PMC introduced a new addition to their twenty series in the form of the first three-way in the range. The twenty.26 has more than a passing similarity to the £12k fact.12 but only the tweeter is shared between the two. The 50mm midrange dome is new as is the 180mm natural fibre bass cone. All three can be accessed via tri-wire inputs which connect to the relevant section of a military grade circuit board with gold plated copper tracks. Price for the three veneer finishes and diamond black is £5,750.
The latest entrant to the BBC design school Graham Audio had an array of their LS5/9 speakers (£3,000) with distinctive tweeter dispersion plates and adjustable high frequency output. What caught our eye however was a Nagra T reel to reel and an EMT 948 turntable. The thin-wall cabinet speakers sat atop very skinny, open frame stands (£250) the like of which I’ve not seen since the eighties. Apparently they let the speaker base flex which helps the sound, it certainly sounded sweet in there, the Pass Labs amps and the aforementioned sources probably helped.
Computer Audio Design launched their first USB cable at Bristol, it costs £480, but attention was naturally drawn to the Computer Audio Transport (CAT), a dedicated computer source from a guy that knows what’s what. Scott Berry’s CAT (£3,600) has a stripped back version of Windows 8.1 running JRiver and JPlay, four separate power supplies, two from Teddy Pardo and two linear plug tops and an audio quality motherboard from Paul Pang. The OS resides on a solid state drive and you can add the storage drive of your choice or use it with a NAS. Radically for CAD it also has an SPDIF input which allows non USB transports to be connected to the very excellent 1543 DAC.
Q-Acoustics Concept 40
Following last year’s remarkable Concept 20 Q-Acoustics has produced a floorstanding variant with twin-bass drivers and greater sensitivity. It achieves the latter by virtue of bigger motor systems on the mid/bass drivers and has a twin-wall, Gelcore cabinet and internal bracing in the same material. The tweeter is isolated by more rubbery stuff and the two-way system has a 90dB sensitivity for just under £1,000
Described as halfway between a computer speaker and a full on active such as QUAD’s 9AS, the Wharfedale DS-1 is a dinky powered speaker with Bluetooth aptX and NFC (nearfield connection – touch and connect) plus line in and volume control for between £150 and £200.
Vena is the least expensive and most highly featured QUAD amp to date. It has a 24/192 DAC and the usual digital inputs, Bluetooth aptX, USB for Apple devices and computers, two analogue inputs and preamp outputs, all for £600. The class A/B power amp delivers 45 watts a side and there are four finishes including gloss black and white alongside a wooden sleeve for the trad market – see China.
Wilson benesch Circle 25
Celebrating its 25th anniversary (already!) Wilson benesch showed a white version of its Circle turntable that differs in more than colour. The plinth is not the usual MDF but Delrin engineering plastic, it retains the carbon fibre suspension system and comes in at £1,750 plus arm. The ACT 0.5 carbon fibre arm adds £1,595.
Townshend Excalibur MkII
Max Townshend is getting tantalisingly close to finalising his Excalibur II arm (£4,500) for the Rock turntable. Now finished in silver two-pack it looks the business with its dual counterweights and space frame, outrigger headshell. My name is down for a review sample at the earliest opportunity.
ProAc Response Twenty R
The latest addition to ProAc’s Response range (the smaller model above) has its roots in the best selling Response 18, the difference is in the bass porting via the cabinet base and the use of a ribbon tweeter. The main driver is a six inch fibreglass weave with a transparent acrylic phase plug, nice. It sounded rather good in the cramped confines of a hotel room and could be yours for £2,650.
Michell Orbe SE EX
Steve Rowland is in two minds about the name of this latest Orbe variant, there is a danger that it might end up being suffixed SEX. It differs from an SE by virtue of an Isobase acrylic base in place of the usual spider, this improves isolation and provides something to support a relatively low profile acrylic cover on, price is £3,600.
USB DAC specialist HRT has produced an amp/DAC/speaker system called Stage (£1,200). The speakers have plastic enclosures and three inch aluminium mid/bass drivers. The streaming amp/DAC module packs 75 watts per channel, is remote control and has a line input plus subwoofer out.
Auden Distribution is bringing in this sleek network streamer, the first example of the breed that I’ve encountered which will natively convert DSD. It converts FLAC and Apple Lossless to DSD and can work with PCM files up to 32-bit/384kHz. Output is digital or balanced analogue and price £5,000, which for the feature set and build quality make it a tempting proposition.
REL Serie S
Welsh sub-bass monger REL has three new Serie S models out. The S2 (1kW, £999), S3 (shown, 1.4kW, £1299) and S5 (1.6kW, £1599) feature alloy drive units in deeper cabinets than the R series they replace. They can be wired or wireless with REL’s proprietary connection system Longbow, a transmitter is included with the package.
Mitchell & Johnson
Former Sansui folk Paul Mitchell and David Johnson have put their own name to a range that bears more than a passing semblance to recent Sansui products. It consists of the CDD-201V CD player (£249), WLD+201L network streamer and DAB+ tuner (£349), DR-201V DAB/DAB+/FM tuner (£249) and SAP-201V amplifier/DAC (£349). The smallest element in the mix is a circum-aural headphone called HP1 at £169 with lambskin leather and alloy frame. Most appealing however is a power amp with VU meters called A-812 and specced to deliver 120 watts per channel.
Nytech & ARC
What you get when a German, an Austrian and a Welshman decide to indulge their passions is not an unusual joke but the return of two classic eighties brands. The new Nytech amps don’t have the iconic design of their forebears but use the same basic circuit design. At present the smaller series consists of a preamp, monoblocks and a power supply expected to retail for £1,500. The larger units on the left are pre production power amps being used to actively drive the ARC speakers. The latter were early adopters of active operation and this incarnation features German 200mm mid/bass units, the smaller ARC 050 being £1,000 and the larger 102 expected to cost £4,000, both can be run active or passive.
Bristol marked the UK debut of Naim’s mighty Statement. This one horsepower mono-block and preamp amplifier looks extraordinary but when played through a pair of Focal Grande Utopias is simply stunning. Steve Sells told us all about the transistors based on satellite technology and the years of R&D involved but it wasn’t until he pressed play on the NDS streamer that we realised that the price, as absurd as it is (£125k), is worth re-mortgaging for!