Arrived to find John standing between his own speakers. Beamed at him not just because it was good to see him again but because the sound I could hear was simple amazing, certainly the most beautiful integration of heavy bass into the rest of the sound. Just filled the room with gorgeous sound. That is one hell of a system. Ian put on some Augustus Pablo reissue vinyl later – tracks I know and love – and it sounded so much better than I have ever heard it, a superb soundstage with the bass drivers being given a thorough workout. So I’m down £28 already.
Now for the kindergarten. Jammed full of people and kit. People clambering over, around and under kit (this season, arse cleavage is mostly being hidden behind proper underpants, although there were one or two traditionalists on view).
My Sonus Faber Amator IIs sounded great after a bit of a warm up, they had the soundstage and the rather unexpected bass that I get at home. Then Joolz swapped in the Charios – a name that I had not even heard before – which proceeded to trounce them in every respect other than looks (imho). What a sound – so beefy and fun. External crossovers were hilarious, they reminded me of those white life-support suitcases that Apollo astronauts used to have to plug into and then carry as they walked along the gantry to the capsule.
So much good kit. Some attempts at scientific comparison using the same tracks but generally both rooms were a blur of people putting on music primarily to enjoy rather than to audition. I don’t have good sonic memory and could barely make comparisons with kit I had heard a few hours back, unlike certain others who said things like “this DAC sounds similar to the xxxxx in Room 18 at the last Scalford, no I tell a lie it was the year before and probably Room 17. . . “. A few standouts for me: Carl’s Plinius amp just grabbed hold of the music and presented it to you the way I feel it was supposed to be. This was on the wish list until I swerved suddenly and kept on the valve path, I can’t help feeling that this might have been ‘the one that got away’. Barrington’s Big Bottle phono – I didn’t get much of a listen when it was swapped into the house system but it seemed to make a huge impact in the kindergarten. Difficult for me to find the words, the music just felt easier and more natural. Would love to try that out in my own system. Robin’s Technics deck was stunning, just dealt effortlessly with everything thrown at it. Went like a racing yacht, perfectly composed regardless of the genre of music.
· Met some old friends, many of whom had helped me in my own hifi journey (even though I never seem to take their advice)
· Met some new folk, talked bollocks about chemistry and philosophy with a very interesting chap
· Heard some great African jazz (Dollar Brand) then realised that I have that album, but haven’t played it for 20 odd years
· Ate some competition-standard chips (and went back for more), even though I was concerned about expectation bias.
· As I left I followed two guys loading up their kit to take to Non-Smoking Man’s after-party. Wam stamina! I could barely drive back home, let alone listen to more music.
John, thanks again for the invite. It was obvious to me that you have a great many true friends - in that currency you are a very rich man indeed.