Dealer Visit by George Sallit
The UK is better off than the USA and most of Europe.
Not politics but audio. The number of audio dealers in the UK is still fairly high and most people do not have to travel too far to find an audio dealer. But not all dealers are good and even rarer are the excellent dealers.
The bad ones can be truly terrible with pressurised selling and pushing of their most expensive audio products with a real sneer for your system. After a session with them you feel like they see you as a walking wallet with as much money to be extracted as soon as possible. And then there are good dealers and of course the much rarer excellent dealers. And when I find them, I want to let you know. Audio Consultants fit that description.
I have had dealings with Audio Consultants for some time but decided to renew our acquaintance following the De Vere Audio Show at Daventry. A lot of people thought their room at the Show was one of the, if not the, best sound at the show. Not only was the audio equipment top notch and very desirable but the sound produced in the room was excellent and they were amenable to playing your music. No enforced Peruvian nose flute music. I managed to talk to both Stephen Harper and Alex Tomlins and both were very knowledge about audio, willing to give great advice and demonstrate it with the audio systems in the room.
The really desirable audio came from Luxman, AVM, Kudos with top supports and cables. Nothing was being left to chance.
When Stephen played a Reference Recording of the blues singer Doug MacLeod the sound quality was amazing with a huge, realistic sound. No etched paper-thin sound stage, but one with detailed voices and a very smooth, natural guitar with the real bite of a steel strung guitar. I had to buy the album. Stephen said to me, if you like this then you must pay us a visit and hear what this system can do in a better room. An offer I could not refuse, and did not
A few weeks later I was going to the Calleva Business Park of amorphous looking units to find Audio Consultants. I had brought along a Denafrips DAC and Jays CD2 Mk III transport for comparisons. After introductions we made our way into the main listening room and got the Denafrips/Jays wired up to allow their two internal ovens to warm up. Time for a discussion about Audio Consultants. I asked whether they were audio consultants or an audio shop or both. Stephen said both. He was happy to advise customers on their systems and how they can be improved and he would be prepared to demonstrate his advice using listening tests. To ensure customers get a full and proper demonstration he insists on people booking appointments, although they may entertain the odd few walk in customers. Although being in the middle of a set of modern commercial units it is unlikely people would casually walk by.
Audio Consultants have a range of audio products at various prices but a £200 all in one system is probably not their forte. Their reasonable range of products come from AudioLab, Hegel, Amphion, Clearaudio and Wharfedale. At the more wallet stretching end is Luxman,, AVM, Kudos, Kerr Acoustics and Eggleston Works speakers with cables and supports coming from Gutwire, Audioquest and HRS. A broad range of equipment and prices.
I had my eyes on one of their best systems consisting of a Luxman D-10X CD/SACD/DAC, Luxamn L-590-AX integrated amplifier, AVM A6.2 Master Editions integrated amplifier and Kudos Titan T707 loudspeakers.
Close up photo of Kudos Titan T707 loudspeaker with Acustica Applicata DAAD room acoustics treatments and Luxman L-590.
Gutwire cables were used throughout including grounding cables and a special Puritan Laboratories PSM1512 SE mains purifier unit designed exclusively for the Audio Consultant. Supporting this system was various HRS chassis noise reduction products including the SXR-1921 frame and M3X2-1921 Isolation Bases. Nice.
Nottingham Analogue Ace Space Deck with Ace Space tonearm
Audio Consultants carefully select their products to ensure they meet their high audio standards by exclusively using listening tests. They are mainly focused on 2 channel audio and with 25 years’ experience in synergising audio systems they ensure their systems give a natural presentation, which can be listened to over long periods without fatigue. They want to present this music in the most natural way, never bright or forward and with layering from the speakers rearwards, creating a deep soundstage. They have a strong preference for a holographic soundstage that is both wide and deep, with a good impression of respective heights. They want the soundstage to emulate the concert hall experience.
A tall order.
So how did the system fare? After a good discussion and some lunch, we got down to serious listening. Starting with the AVM amplifier in the system we played some of my CDs. I had brought some CD/SACDs of high sound quality and one that was less good to hear what the system did with not so good recordings. The first thing that struck me was the soundstage. It was the largest soundstage I have heard in both depth, width and where recorded height. We played Audio Consultants ECM recordings of piano and they gave a more mid-hall experience than my Mike Valentine recording. Both were high quality, but the ECM recordings showed off the depth and width better. This large soundstage had real sized instruments with a very natural and well-balanced tone. And from a German amplifier which I thought might be bright and forward. Not so. On jazz and pop/rock music the system showed that it could keep a great beat but more importantly it presented the music with a really natural smooth sound and one that kept great timing, which stayed on the beat. There was no slowing of pace.
We then added my Denafrips/Jays combination. The Luxman D10X had a much better soundstage and presented the music more naturally. It was swings and roundabouts with the Luxman ahead in the overall sound quality stakes. However, my Denafrips was heard through RCA connections and I suspect it may fare better using XLRs. But I doubt the gap will be closed, maybe just altered a little. There is also a cost differential as the Denafrips is a direct sales product. Even so, the Luxman sounded superb and was a real luxury product that plays CD, SACD and a streamer such as the Innuous Audio Consultants stock. SACD did not fare so well, so if the Luxman was mine (I was only dreamin’) I would stick to CDs and streaming to assess new music’s worth. A reference player.
And then I asked to hear the Luxman L-590 AX Mk2 amplifier which is a Class A amplifier with only 30w(?). Well it kept those huge Kudos speakers under control and easily drove them. I have to admit, ,good as the AVM amplifier is (and it is), the Luxman took my heart. It has a really large 3D soundstage with natural recordings and with modern music the layers are well separated with each instrument in its own space. Despite modern music being recorded in a studio it sounded so natural (when recorded that way) and what I really loved with this system is it communicated the music, with all the fine details in a singer’s voice, being easily heard and not forced on you. The small changes in intonation on certain words being heard in a very relaxed and natural way.
Stephen said as our day ended that he was happy for me to return and really listen to Luxman amplifiers and hear what the Class A and the Class A/B give. And my answer back was you bet.
And then it was all over.
Audio Consultants: https://www.audioconsultants.co.uk/
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