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Guildford Audio Show

Guildford Audio Show

Guildford Audio is setting a template in the UK for a well-run, highly specialised audio event. It’s all about quality rather than quantity, going for hundreds of keen audio enthusiasts instead of thousands of people looking for something to do.

Last week’s event was based in the Reading Moat House hotel: in the perverse manner beloved of real estate agents, this hotel is in Wokingham, not Reading. And, despite being run by Guildford Audio, is in a completely different county to Guildford. But that didn’t stop the show in 2013, and in repeating the show in the same four rooms, the Guildford Audio team learned more about how all of those rooms behave, and the overall sound was better than last year’s already high standard.

A considerable proportion of the show – and a considerable proportion of Guildford Audio’s day-to-day product line-up – was given over to the portfolio of high-end distributor Absolute Sounds. As the first UK public outing for the distributor in 2015, this gave the Guildford Audio show some genuine exclusives, as products shown at CES as advanced prototypes were on demonstration almost a month before the Munich High-End Show. Two of the most impressive were the new Wilson Audio Sabrina and the Constellation Audio Inspiration Series Preamp 1.0 and Mono 1.0 amps, which were playing in a large room, driven by an extremely high performance Metronome CD front end, ReQuest Audio media player and a TechDAS/Continuum/Koetsu turntable with EAT phono stage.

The point of this system was not simply to show what extreme high-end audio sources can do, but just how the true spirit of the high-end is starting to manifest in more affordable ‘trickle down’ electronics and loudspeakers. The Constellation Audio Inspiration amps retain much of what’s so loved about the Performance and even Reference lines for a true fraction of the cost (you can buy almost eight sets of Inspiration amps for one set of Reference amps from the same line), while the Sabrina brings the Wilson sound to a new audience.

Alongside this system, the new Klaudio ultrasonic record cleaner was doing a pristine job of making LPs, er, pristine. It uses a powerful 200W motor and dryer system, and has an optional sound-deadening ‘blimp’ that helps keep your pets from running for cover. This is gaining a reputation for creating ‘cleaner than ever’ LPs.

The Wilson Audio loudspeakers were on rotation at the show, swapped with Sonus faber’s Lilium loudspeakers, finished in 24-ct gold leaf. Surprisingly, this gold finish didn’t look quite as ostentatious as one might expect, so oligarchs, warlords, and dictators may be upset at the relative lack of bling on offer. I lack the kind of entourage of armed bodyguards and fleet of new AMG Mercedes G-Wagens to dare ask the price.

 

In the second room, the system was smaller and more laid-back, with a two-box Metronome CD front-end, driving the Audio Research Reference 5 SE preamp and new Reference 75 SE power amp. These were driving Ktêma standmounts or (at the time of my visit) Accordo floorstanders by Franco Serblin loudspeakers, now made by Laboratorium after the great man’s passing. This was an effortlessly charming sounding system, but with more on offer than just sonic beauty… it rocked, too!

The third room was playing the new 300-range from Wadia, hooked to a pair of Sonus faber Olympica III floorstanders in an all Fine Sounds system, which sounded, er, fine! Wadia’s new line comprises a m330 media server, connected to a 321 decoding computer, directly driving a pair of 400W a340 digital mono amplifiers.

Wadia’s new di122 DAC and a102 digital stereo amp were in the same room on passive display.

 

Finally, in the farthest and largest room, came the biggest system of the show, with D’Agostino Momentum pre and mono amps, and the new Lifestyle integrated amplifier driving Wilson Audio Alexias. When this system wasn’t playing, a TechDAS Air Force Two and Audio Research Reference CD player were feeding an Audio Research G-Series preamp and power amplifier to drive those Alexias.

Connecting the four rooms was a corridor of oh-so-tempting new and second-hand vinyl. Judging by the number of carrier bags full of LPs, business was brisk!

Alongside the full demonstrations a lot of Guildford Audio’s brands were on display, although few were demonstrated during the weekend event.

This weekend in not-quite-Reading and definitely-not-Guildford was an oasis of high-quality listeners and high-performance audio, and proved more successful than anyone might imagine. Here’s looking to the next one!

Tags: FEATURED

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