My take on yesterday’s visit. According to the exhibitors, Saturday was the much busier of the two days. We had easy access to most rooms on the Sunday without it ever feeling too busy. Impressions of each room that caught my attention, and more impotently, have photos of…
Acoustica: Finally got to see and hear a Naim Solstice! I thought it looks so much better than photos suggest, and I really like the new electronic casework.
The big Naim system was playing into B&W speakers, and I’m sad to say I thought it sounded ‘compromised’ and certainly not representative of what an S1/500 system is capable of. With regard to the Solstice, the dealer outlined he thought a customer had ‘tampered’ with it as it sounded really ‘off’. I agree, it lacked any bass or mid range weight, and from what I’ve read of its capabilities, obviously there was a significant problem - disappointing as I really wanted to hear a Solstice in full voice!
Brian & Trevors: Thought this room sounded very good indeed. Based on a Linn streamer, Moor amplifiers, Kudos speakers and REL subs. Gratuitous shot of the BooPlinth for Linn-ites…
Audio Counsel: Liked this room. The sound of Audio Note playing into the DeVore speakers was lush, involving and engaging, if a little boomy in the bass (rear ports close to wall).
Accuphase and Fink: Very good indeed. A special paring if ever there was one - really liked this room a lot. A detailed, punchy engaging sound, but one which could easily be listened to all day long, a difficult balance to achieve. A perfect example of system synergy in this room.
Chord: First time ever hearing an M-Scaler, alongside their new Ultima Preamp with Neat Orchestra. Very good, if perhaps a little too analytical for me. Impressive scale and dynamics to the sound, and holographic soundstage too. Nice system. Surprised that the Okestras worked so well in a small room.
Vertere: Met Touraj who was really welcoming, and as it was very quiet when we were there (later afternoon by the time we got to this room) he was willing to switch between decks to compare up, from the intro DG-1 to the MG-1 and SG-1. Lovely! as was the FM Acoustics preamp into the active ATC SCM40. VERY impressed with the sound of the Vertere decks and this room in general. Touraj was great company too.
Kudos: Using an Accuphase integrated and sounding rather good, if lacking a little in overall impact / scale (room?), but this system did have a ‘listen all day’ inviting sound quality which appealed the more I listened as they played Laughing Leonard Cohen.
ATC & Auralic: Now, I quite liked this room, but after initially enjoying the impressive scale and dynamics of the very direct sound presentation, I soon found the sound rather unforgiving and relentless.
NewBriks: Mmmm. Now, this was interesting. Very impressive sound initially - dynamic, fast, incisive with truly amazing bass impact and control. Especially so after hearing so many ‘one note’ bass systems prior. But, I soon found found it fatiguing and too forward after a little while. Plus, the level of complexity due to the sheer number of boxes required to build this mega active system just seemed overkill to me, and took up a crazy amount of space, not to mention the hassle of modifying all of the Naim amps internally. I won’t deny though, one of this most impressive rooms at the show.
KEF: A very ‘corporate’ presentation, but there is no denying that the sound for an AIO speaker, amp and DSP streaming speaker set up, was very impressive indeed. The chap was very accommodating after everyone left and was more than willing to swap in the Blades and the Solution pre / power to compare. They were much better than the new Anniversaries!
The Audio Detail electronics and Universum horn speakers sounded really good, with a spacious, warm sound which I really liked - playing Cowboy Junkies on the Amari LP32 turntable with the Hanna Unami Red, Margo Timmins voice sounded so seductive.
Neat Acoustics: More often than not, Neat have been my favourite sounding rooms of the show. Not this year. Something didn’t quite gel for me with this system. It could be the room or perhaps the amp / speaker synergy, I don’t know. But, in their favour, the new Petites did their usual Neat ‘voodoo’ trick of a creating a huge sound from tiny boxes.
And a final drum roll for my favourite sound of the show…
Definitive Audio: A system Kevin Scott set up around the Kuzma R turntable, SJS amplifiers and of course his own Living Voice speakers. This system should never have worked in such a tight space, but oh my, it did, beautifully. A sound presentation that was cohesive, involving, dynamic and quite simply, intoxicating. Amongst several tracks (we stayed there quite a while) Kevin played Vivaldi, Arias by Cecilia Bartoli, not an album I’m familiar with, but it was hypnotic. My old school buddy who accompanied me for the day whispered to me “I don’t know whether to applaud or cry”. I think his reaction sums up the sound quality better than I can here. The holistic approach Kevin takes to system building really evident here, where the whole can add up to more than sum of the parts. Also, one of those rare vinyl systems that seemed to minimise surface noise to such a degree, it almost sounded like listening to a reel to reel tape. Very very impressive. This room left a lasting impression and If I had to pick just one system, this is where my money would go (not that I could afford it!).
A very interesting day out. Great venue, well organised and positive vibe to the whole event.