Show Reports

SOUND & VISION: THE BRISTOL SHOW 2015 SHOW REPORT: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT PT.1

Complete with text, images and a wide array of sound file interviews, Paul Rigby presents the most extensive Sound & Vision 2015 show report on the Internet (or in print, for that matter)

After attending the Autumn National Hi-Fi Show in Whittlebury, near Milton Keynes, in September 2014, I was taken a-back and surprised by the Sound & Vision show, that occurred on 20-22 February this year. Why? Well, while the National Hi-Fi Show was a relatively low-key affair with only a few new announcements, the Sound & Vision function was bristling with the launch of new hardware.

The show basically took over four upper floors of the Marriot hotel in Bristol’s city centre. If you also included the ground and the strangely situated ‘Terrace’ floor, then this show was a 6-floor set-up.

I pitied the wide-eyed and slightly bemused guests who were only at the Hotel wanting a quiet bed for the week-end and a civilised breakfast the following morning. There’s nothing quite as noisy as a bunch of hunting hi-fi enthusiasts with the smell of valves, DACs and woofers in their nostrils. Never mind each evening where the bar was full of drunken exhibitors regaling all and sundry with exaggerated and mythic tales of the day. Sorry, enthusiastic exhibiters. Not drunken. Enthusiastic. Easy to mix the two words up.

The Ground and Terrace Floors offered exhibitors large rooms and halls to display their wares. Hence, in one typically large room, you might have seven or eight companies crammed together with other companies resident in off-shoot rooms. The upper floors featured gutted hotel rooms packed with individual companies, over the door of each was a sign telling the visitor who was present inside.

The problem – and it was a nice problem – was that the supposed company inside the room would often blossom in size. Hence, there were occasions when I would enter a room to see what was new from Company A, only to find that he had invited and squeezed in Company B and C too to share his room for the show and they had new kit launching too. In effect, therefore, this Sound & Vision experience was a lot larger than the floor plan promised.  At least twice the size, I would say. I was walking into some rooms, interviewing companies, taking photographs and wondering if I’d ever leave. In fact, I was, at one point, seriously concerned that I wouldn’t have time to cover all of the companies resident at the show.

That, in fact, proved to be the case. Not because of a lack of time but for other reasons. Doing a show report like this involves the careful management of time. I had two days to squeeze everything but some outfits didn’t make it. The reasons were manifold. Either they had closed-door demonstrations in progress and I never found the time to return, the room was so jam-packed that I just couldn’t get in (stand up Leema), thought I’d return later and never found the time, some companies had nothing new to talk about so I passed them by and, tragically, right at the very end of the second day, I missed two companies because…I ran out of batteries! Despite bringing four additional sets as back-ups. Hey, it was that kind of show.

As for this report? What you have is not much of me (the relief, eh?) and a lot of the industry itself. Hence, for each company featured in this report, you will see a brief textual report, images where available and, for most companies, a link to a sound file. These files represent a series of interviews with most of the companies present at the show. As for those interviews? I ask you to be patient and understand the circumstances and the context. When I interviewed each person, I tried my best to find a relatively quiet area to have a chat but, to be honest, there were no truly quiet places to talk to anyone, only varying levels of noise. This was a busy and, above all, loud show with people milling around, talking, shouting, music playing, people barging past others, doors slamming, you name it. In some cases, the right person to chat with was not present at the stand so I made do with images only. Also, people are people so some of the interviews are more interesting and more informative than others but I’ve presented them all for your delectation. Finally, hard to believe it but some people were rather shy. For these, I couldn’t shove the microphone right into their face, they would have clammed up. Hence, the volume is a little low on a few interviews.

As for the images? I tried to photograph anything and everything. That meant sometimes taking pictures in pitch black rooms, jostling with crowds, jumping in front of fuming members of the public and taking images while standing in between them and the system they wanted to listen to – for which I apologise…again – and hardware stuck in odd places. Hence, many of the images might not be perfect but at least a visual record has been taken and you can get some level of information from them for further investigation. I’m sure some show reports out there have beautiful set up shots but I decided on quantity over quality so a lot of these shots were taken ‘on the hoof’.

But look, this is a show report, it’s not an after-action report instigated after the excitement has died down so I hope, with each interview, that you get a feel of the show and its atmosphere. Not only that, because you are hearing the interviews during the show, you are hearing each interviewee at the top of their game. They are hyped up, the adrenaline is flowing and they are ready for action so I also hope that you get a sense of the passion that each company has for their products.

This report actually was larger than I thought so, to help your bandwidth issues a tad, I’ve decided to add a second part later. Keep a look out on social media and my home page for further details.

Have fun. Any comments, please throw them my way and I’ll answer the ASAP.

PRISTINE VINYL

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Launching a new series of ViVac record cleaning machines, the design utilises the same principle as that utilised by both Keith Monks and Loricraft. That is, a moving arms, hovers over a record surface, hoovering muck and grime from deep in the record grooves. The more manual RCS1 (£1,795) was joined by the push button RCS2 (£1,995). Available in a range of finishes, they promise to bring fierce competition to the recor cleaning machine market.

Q ACOUSTICS

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At the show, the company was introducing its 3000 series of speakers including 2-channel and surround sound solutions.

PMC

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This respected speaker manufacturer was introducing its twenty Sub. Listen to the interview below and also be seranaded by Kraftwerk.

ARCAM

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A range of equipment is discussed here including a Class G amplifier. At the start of the show any sort of Class G amp was a relative rarity. By the end of the show I quickly learnt that Class G was the new amplifier fashion…everyone was building one!

DYNAUDIO

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Based in Denmark, the company introduced three active speaker systems. Unusually, with a power and an a pre-amp incuded in each.

DYNAMIQUE

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New for the show was a suite of high quality headphone cables to upgrade your own model. The company covers a wide range of connector types and headphones types.

WBT & AVM

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WBT launch the new carbon connection plug technology. German-based AVM offers a CD player, all-in-one lifestyle music centre, amplifiers and more.

AUDIO TECHNICA

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Well, it took some convincing for the Audio Technica guy to talk about this box. The staff preferred to allow it to be the ‘elephant in the room’. It’s there, but we ain’t saying nothin’…if you seen what I mean. Anyone agree that it has a certain ‘Benchmark’-like tone to the design? It’s a pre-production model but this eye catching headphone amp is certainly one to look out for.

MELCO

 

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Japanese outfit, Melco, had a range of streaming-related hardware on show. I tried to chat with them but everyone was very busy dealing with potential customers. What you have here is the N1Z kitted out with USB 3.0 ports, LAN connection and 512GB SSD. The N1A, top right, is slightly larger and is fitted with two 2TB hard drives. The Comet DAC, top left, arrives with balanced and unbalanced outputs.

HI-FI RACKS

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The company was showing its new Grand Tower & Stand racks at the show. Wife of head honcho, Bradley Waters, the rather shy Julie Waters was on the spot, she quickly established her interviewee feet and provided a stirling performance.

SPENDOR

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The loudspeaker outfit were announcing the release of the A5R, the D7 and Classic speakers [above]

TECHNICS

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Technics shocked the show with its return to 2-channel audio. The company is offering two new, 2-channel hi-fi systems: the Premium Class C700 Series and Reference Class R1 Series. The Reference Class R1 Series (priced at £37,099, yes really) consists of three hi-fi components: the Network Audio Control Player SU-R1, Stereo Power Amplifier SE-R1 and Speaker System SB-R1. The network-based audio player works in tandem with a smartphone app, allowing access to high-res digital music collection. The Premium Class C700 Series (below, priced at £3,299) is designed for smaller living spaces. The SB-C700 speakers (left) re-visit classic Technics design cues. Music playback is possible from your home network or wirelessly from your smartphone. You can also enjoy your CD collection via the SL-C700 CD player (centre, priced at £1,100).

TRINNOV

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Costing £9,024, this Amethst preamp is also a hub of sorts. Apart from the usual inputs/outputs and built-in phono amp it offers a room/loudspeaker optimiser, and an active crossover. Contact:

PROAC

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Two, entry-level, speakers, one stand-mount (Studio 118) the other a floor stander (Studio 148) upgraded with new drive units: made by SEAS.

AUDIOQUEST

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The company was showing a prototype of their new Nighthawk headphones. A semi-open designwith a 3D-printed out grill using a process called selective laser sintering, a design AudioQuest call “biomimetic” that mimicks the latticework in a butterfly’s wing. It’s designed to diffuse sound and to help defeat resonances.

PARADIGM

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A range of speakers from this large Canadian outfit.

MODERN BRITISH AUDIO

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The company was announcing the release of anumber of products including the Progression (right) and Pulse (left). Also seen was the original O’hEocha D1 range, released after some development and improvement, with standmount and floorstanding speaker versions.

STACK AUDIO

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Run by Theo Stack, he was showing his new, high end, streaming product, the Onset. Here, Stack is showing the one-piece chassis moulding of the product (left) with the prototype on the right. Contact: www.stackaudio.co.uk

ISOTEK

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On view was the Mosaic Genesis, designed to reduce or even elimiate the noise from your mains electrical sockets, cleaning up your hi-fi signal in the process.

MING DA & AUDIO DETAIL

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That chap who owns the distribution outfit, Audio Detail, also runs Ming Da UK. Here’s a full list of new products from both. Check out the sound file to hear more details on the products pictured: Ming Da’s Dynasty Cantabile Grande MC998-A power amp (lower far left), MC368-BSE integrated amp (top right and left), Audio Detail Vista phono stage (bottom right) &  Mig Da MD-09 speakers

SYSTEMDEK

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It was great to see the venerable turntable outfit, from cotland, Systemdek.

EXPOSURE

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I managed to collar Exposure’s main designer to talk about the company’s new announcements.

REGA

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Not a new turntable but a new range of speakers from this respected UK outfit.

EPOS & CREEK

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A shared room full of new speakers and amps with nifty plug in stages. Contact: www.eposltd.com & www.creekaudio.com

FURUTECH, FOSGATE & MUSICAL SURROUNDINGS

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This packed room showed the latest wares from Furutech including their ADL headphones (left), the Fosgate Signature headphone amp (right) plus Music Surroundings MYDAC II (below).

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