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Guildford Audio HiFi Show

The week leading up to Guildford Audio’s HiFi Show was wild to say the least. I landed from Amsterdam late Friday night only to hop on a train first thing Saturday morning for Reading and NOT Guildford. A lot of firsts for me…never been to that part of the country and never stayed in a hotel with a MOAT!!!

Hosts Trevor and Gavin of Guildford Audio set the mood for the show. It was low key, chill and no pressure. Attendees were invited to freely ask questions and request that their music be played on the systems. Makes sense as there’s always squabbling online and off about what genre and quality of music is being sampled on systems. I did not bring any music with me, but after hearing someone request that their Doris Day “Que Sera Sera” and Dean Martin “That’a Amore” be played, I got myself a “historic” (read that to mean less than audiophile quality) Gene Krupa CD entitled “Drumming Man.” and managed to hear it in all four of the showrooms. Nothing was going to elevate the substantive quality of the music, but let’s just say some of the systems handled it better than others.

* A  complete list of gear and equipment follows each showroom review.

Room 1: Ktema “possession for life”  speakers matched with a serious rack of Audio Research gear, were the focal point, and turns out that they were designed by the late great Franco Serblin and both standmount Accordos and  the floor standing Prosceniums look the part.

Songs Faber aficionados will see in the Accordos vestiges of the Minima, along with the improvement in design and technology which come with time. Serblin cut his teeth on two-way compact bass enclosures and for some time now, I maintain a soft spot for this design.

Accordo is Italian for agreement and given that that the stands, containing the crossovers are integral to their functionality, Serblin’s nomenclature makes sense. They are as beautiful to look as they are listen to with their inward-curving side panels and non parallel surfaces. The fittings and the insets along with the overall design and characteristic Serblin soundstage would at first glance have you  see this as a Sonus Faber brand speaker. At its price tag: £6,200, the Accordos face stern competition in the market.

Proscenium, the focal point of the theatre and in such terms Ktema’s flagship floor standers do make quite the statement. They exude a degree of fluidity and lucidity in their sound which is in keeping with their appearance. Of note is the inclusion of a Ragnar Lian designed 28mm tweeter.

The Proscenium is a 4 way, 5 unit design with the afore mentioned tweeter, a midrange comprised of two 4” units in what was described to me as step compensated baffle. Bass is handled by two 9” metal cone piston performance optimized units.

If I appear to be more effusive in my description of the stand mount Accordo it is for the following: At £26,000 the Proscenium speakers are a a good £20,000 more than the Accordo speakers and truth be told the diminutive siblings punch way above their weight.  They are indeed Bang for the Buck.

Ktema Accordo, Standmount

  • Two way topology
  • Frequency response 40Hz – 33kHz
  • Sensitivity 86db/w/m
  • Minimum power 20 watts

Ktema Proscenium Floorstander

  • Four way topology, five units.
  • Frequency response 26Hz-33kHz
  • Sensitivity 92db/w/m
  • Minimum power 20 watts

Audio Research CD6

Audio Research GS Preamplifier

Audio Research GS 75

Audio Research GS 150

 

Room 2: Wadia interests me as I have never thought of them as a full system manufacturer, rather a signal processor specialist, so this room was a welcome surprise. I can honestly say that I never so much Wadia gear in one location.

I was intrigued by the room not so much for the electronics as I was for the speakers: Wilson Audio Sabrina, Harbeth P3ESR, Stirling and Broadcast LS3/5A v2.

The Sabrinas and Wadia gear made for a good pairing. There was an immediacy to the sound, and like a sharp well delivered blow, they immediately got my attention and respect. But, with all that I was curious to hear the smaller speakers side-by-side. Having folks in the forum wax poetically about LS3/5A designed speakers and Harbeth, as a brand, in particular, I was not going miss out on this opportunity. Drum roll: In all my listenings I preferred the Stirling LS3/5A v2 to the Harbeth P3ESR. The latter sounded polished, too polished, perhaps too accurate for its own good. The Stirling on the other hand felt at though there were more horses under the hood/bonnet, chomping at the bit. If this doesn’t provide fodder for commentary nothing will. :)

Normally I don’t write/recap/review gear on display that I have not heard, but, having Ricardo and Pedro of Absolute Sounds going on and on about Primaluna as a manufacturer of stellar tube/valve amplification, I just had to take a look at the Primaluna Dialogue Premium integrated amplifier. Its look and design belies its weight and stature. Am going to have take s serious look – read this to mean, I will be auditioning a PrimaLuna much sooner than later.

Wilson Audio Sabrina

Wadia DI322

Wadia M330

Wadia A315

Wadia A340 Mono’s

Metronome Le Player

Revox B77 Mk2

On Display:

Primaluna HP Integrated

Primaluna HP Power 

Primaluna Dialogue Premium Integrated

Harbeth P3esr

Harbeth 30.1

Harbeth SHL5

Sonus Faber Primaluna Headphone 

Copland DA215

 

Room 3: Martin Logan meets Constellation with support from Metronome, Audio Research and Absolute Sounds. I have been asked many times to describe that moment, that very moment when a system simply works. And it is not just the gear, the cabling, and the positions…it is ALL of that and more.

In a word…EFFORTLESS. Much like a wave in slow motion washing over you on the shore, this is what I look and listen for when seeking solace. While some head for the bottle, I head for seemingly flawless sound reproduction. Pedro, of Absolute Sounds, worked his magic in this room. The attention to detail with diffusers, bass traps, speaker and gear positioning all came together.

When it comes to shows I have a pet peeve, a HUGE one. I do not like being bombarded with gear in a room, to the extent that I cannot hear the music, for seeing all of the equipment. Making pairs of Martin Logan Renaissance ESL 15A speakers and Constellation Inspiration Monoblocks fade/disaappear into the room is no mean feat. Locating the source gear: Techdas Airforce 3, Request Beast Music Server and Metronome Kalista Reference CD off to the side made so much of a difference. Unlike W.C. Field’s admonition re: children: HiFi should be heard and NOT seen.

Metronome’s Kalista Reference CD is space-age. Wasn’t quite sure if it was going to take-off into the sky during the show and while lot has been said and written about the Techdas Airfare 3 turntable, I am going to to direct your attention to the ReQuest Beast music server.

Much like its physique, the price tag for ReQuest’s Beast is rather hefty. It does all that one could imagine and more as a music server, integrating CD ripping, hard drive storage and even Crestron support. I read through all the literature and documentation. This is a piece of kit that you just don’t happen upon. You NEED to KNOW that you have a particular use for this music server. I reckon, if you have shelves, closets and sheds of CDs and were waiting for that one unit to bridge the digital chasm, ReQuest’s Beast is at your service.

* Retailers, Dealers and Wammers alike. I implore you, that if Pedro of Absolute Sounds were to run seminars on room set up and positioning for optimal HiFi listening, that you run, not walk, to sign up for the privilege. He and I talked at length about his room set up for the show and it is rare to find someone who can speak as professionally and passionately on this subject.

Martin Logan Renaissance 15a

Constellation Inspiration Pre

Constellation Inspiration Mono’s

Techdas Airforce 3

Request Beast Music Server

Audio Research Ref Phono 3

Metronome Kalista Reference 

On Display:

Metronome Centaur 2 Mono’s

KL Audio Record Cleaner

 

Room 4:  A Love Story…Where Do I Begin? Everywhere I turned in this room there was something to catch my eyes and ears. What’s not to like? Where could you go wrong with any of the gear listed below? If you can tell this is part of a set-up, good on you.

So here it goes: I preferred the pairing of the Dan D’Agostino gear with Wilson Audio Alexia and Sasha speakers, and the Audio Research gear with the Sonus Faber Il Cremonese, and for the life of me I cannot tell you why. I wasn’t expecting to make any sort of comparison on the day, but after sitting in the room for more than a while, something just clicked… in a good way. :)

I am going to come clean here. I do not understand the fascination with Harbeth speakers and how it garners such loyalty and devotion. Listening to the 40.2 speakers in the same room with the Sashas/Alexias, and Il Cremonese made no sense to me. I listened at length to them paired with such excellent gear and I lost my will to … As much as I wanted to adore Wilson Audio’s offerings and take them home with me, Sonus Faber’s Il Cremonese  won me over with their ability to be simultaneously gentle with and commanding of the music.

Note: As wonderful as HiFi Shows can be, they are not the ideal/optimal venue to be making final purchase decisions. My comments are on the day, and might very well change once auditioning gear in more familiar surroundings. As for my views on Harbeth speakers, I stand by my words. The speakers are audio “marmite” – a matter of extremes. For all those who love them I come across an equal number who don’t share the love.

P.S. If Alan Shaw of Harbeth reads this, or has it forwarded to him, I would be more than open to discussing the matter.

 

Wilson Audio Alexia

Sonus Faber Il Cremonese

Audio Research Ref 6 Pre

Audio Research Ref 250 Mono’s

Audio Research CD9

Audio Research Ref Phono 3

TechDas Airforce 2

Dan D’Agostino Momentum Pre

Dan D’Agostino Momentum Mono’s

On Display:

Wilson Audio Sasha 2

Harbeth 40.2

KL Audio Record Cleaner

Audio Research Ref 75se

Audio Research Ref 150se

Audio Research VSI75

 

This piece would not be complete without photos, so with an extra special mention and shout-out to kenniGT here are photos from the show: http://s1377.photobucket.com/user/ke…%202016?sort=9

 

 

About David Blumenstein

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