Back again today for a more extended listen to a few in particular. Somewhere between coming in and going out, I managed to put down the guide that I made loads of notes in, and picked up someone else's that is pristine, so this is just a few more notes based on failing memory.
A lot of the issue is what Danny has already mentioned. Some exhibitors just get a bit overly enthusiastic and do the 'look how loud it goes' trick. This rarely a good idea, as was amply proved today - ironically (see Danny's post) in the Bovey room, where they were playing a Stevie Wonder track at exactly the right volume for it to be piercingly uncomfortable. That room sounded excellent yesterday, but I couldn't take more than a few seconds of it today.
By contrast with yesterday, the KEF room sounded a lot better when I put my head round the door, as they were using a smaller pair and were far less intense with the volume. Didn't do the 'image' trick for me, but that's hard in a room full of people and an off-centre seat. I'd enjoy an extended listen I suspect.
The Devore speakers Dom mentioned were I believe Orangutang 0/93. Very lifelike tonally and great dynamics to my ears. The room was a touch small for them, but they still worked very nicely. Can't remember the amplifier, but it was a 300B single-ended. If any of you lot 'won' my guide, the amp is written down in it...
The MBLs were interesting. The first time I went in they had the large floorstanders fired up and I didn't think they worked well at all. Tonally they were fine, but the image was far too diffuse for my liking. I'm happy with 'wide and deep', but there was a lack of focus, with voices especially having no apparent location. Later on, they were using the smaller standmounts, which despite the large room, seemed to work a lot better.
Mike Valentine's room produced some outstandingly good reproduction, as usual, with a string ensemble recording that was breathtakingly accurate. I have a fair few classical recordings, but I don't listen that much and would normally think 'very nice' and move along. That one was so beautifully recorded (Vivaldi in Venice) that my bank card got an unexpected hammering.
To echo and somewhat contradict Dom's comment, I was in the Audio Note room a few times. The first, I was a touch disappointed as something sounded not right, later, all was fine again. I suspect the bass with those field coil speakers was simply a bit much for the relatively small room, and any recording that was a touch bass heavy really pushed things too far.
I also spent a fair while with Kevin, Lynn and Simon in the Definitive room. I'm doubly biased, of course. First because I already have Living Voice, and second, because I'm shortly going to actually throw some of my own money at a newer pair (watch this space). Anyway, nothing I heard there made me question my sanity.
More later when I've downloaded some pictures and tried to remember the rest.