We may be rivals on the newsstand, but credit where it’s due: Hi-Fi News does ‘put on a good spread’ when it comes to an audio show. Now in its third year at the Beaumont Estate in Old Windsor across the third weekend of October, the show can be a little bewildering in terms of layout (there are five distinct areas across the hotel complex) but is settling into the spaces nicely.
The Hi-Fi Show is a comparative rarity in modern shows in that it concentrates almost solely on traditional two-channel audio. There was not a home theatre system in sight, and only a handful of brands (such as Oppo and Chord) demonstrating in the headphone space. But it didn’t seem to matter, because companies that don’t currently exhibit elsewhere in the UK (Absolute Sounds, Kog Audio, Symmetry) pitch up in Old Windsor.
We decided this year to concentrate on a dozen or so key sounds and new products from some of the best rooms, but there were many others showing good audio.
Audio Alchemy was part of an excellent sounding display using Ayre amplification and Magneplanar loudspeakers in the Symmetry room. The new DDP-1 DAC and PS-5 power supply are keenly priced too.
Computer Audio Design showed its new Mk II version of its popular 1543 DAC, teamed up with Bakoon’s AMP-51 amplifiers and the Swiss Sound Kaos loudspeaker brand, with its Wave 40 loudspeakers and active Subwave D12 bass speaker.
Now that’s not something you see everyday: the Clearaudio Statement turntable, complete with parallel tracking Statement TT1 arm, and Goldfinger Statement cartridge, in an GamuT and IsoTek system in Sound Fowndations large room.
Icon Audio makes find valve amplifiers, but it has turned its hand to something more specialised – making its own tubes. This one is genuinely new; the EL34D, a pure triode power tube designed to drop into any circuit where the popular pentode EL34 normally resides. Expect to pay 300B prices for this innovative design.
KEF Audio has not forgotten its mighty Muon. The tall flagship loudspeaker now sports driver technology pulled in from the Blades, and installed Muons can be upgrades on site… for a price!
Kog Audio teamed up with dCS in one room, with the new Rossini set amid a rack full of Entreq grounding. Anyone who pulls out impossible Albert Ayler when asked to ‘play some jazz’ is confident their system sounds good. It did. Elsewhere Kog teamed up with T+A Elektroakustic in an analogue vs. digital seminar.
Absolute Sounds takes the lion’s share of rooms at the show, with almost a whole corridor dedicated to its ranges. This was the first UK public outing of the new Magico S7 standmount loudspeaker, played through Constellation Audio electronics. This had power aplenty.
On show, but not playing, Metronome Technologie presented its first post-CD player; the Music Centre 1. Of course, this streamer/music server also includes a CD drawer for ripping existing discs, too.
Audio Detail and Pre Audio are new names on display in the Ming Da room, both British companies, the first demonstrating a clever new nuvistor-based phono preamp and the second a range of low cost turntables, featuring parallel tracking tonearms and solid granite plinths.
Quad’s new Artera component system meets the new Artera Play all-in-one system. These were playing both through Quad’s legendary Electrostatic loudspeakers but also through the upcoming Z4 floorstanders from the brand’s new top Z-Series dynamic loudspeaker range.
Revel’s F35 from its new Concerta2 range was one of the true stars of the show, delivering a sound with all the attributes of loudspeakers in a much higher price category than it should. This 2.5-way elegant white or black tower loudspeaker is set to clean up thanks to its very reasonable price.
With a combination of PS Audio front end and power conditioner, Jeff Rowland amplification (including the latest 625 MK II power amplifier), and DALI Epicon 8 floorstanders, good sound was almost guaranteed. Signature Audio Systems also played an all-PS Audio system with Vandersteen Treo CT loudspeakers.
In one of the few well-lit rooms in the show, Nu Nu Distribution showcased what the best of analogue and digital can do, when an Oracle turntable met TAD electronics and the outstanding Compact Evolution 1 standmounts.
Wilson Audio’s new Sabrina compact floorstanding loudspeaker (hitched to Audio Research electronics and Transparent cables) made one of the best sounds in the show. We’re starting to wonder if it’s possible to do anything less with this loudspeaker.
There were many more rooms and many components making great sounds, at prices from the absolute bargain (ELAC’s new Debut loudspeaker) to systems costing as much as a small house. Sadly, time constraints prevented seeing all of these rooms, but we’ve heard good sounds came out of the Puresound and GT Audio/Tron rooms, and more besides.
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