The Audio Show, Woodland Grange 2019 pt.2

None other than Yves Bernard André, founder and designer at YBA, was demonstrating his Signature electronics via Marten Bird 2 speakers in the Harmony Hi-Fi room. This system had excellent vitality and tonal depth playing a cello and organ piece by Vivaldi on CD. It’s pretty serious stuff with the Signature Monos at £26,000 a pair, Preamp at £12,750 and CD Player at £12,950. The Marten Bird 2 floorstanding speakers are £28,500. So possibly the most expensive system of the show but definitely one of the best that I heard. 

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The Chord Company took the opportunity to do a bit of market research. In exchange for visitors sharing their thoughts on the new Epic X speaker cable they got entry into a prize draw to win some Chord cables. Epic X is an upgrade of Epic Twin that uses their XLP insulation and costs £60/m with availability this month. They also demonstrated Epic USB at £400 for one metre via a system comprising Melco N1Z server, Chord Dave DAC, Mark Levinson amplifiers and Boenicke W11 loudspeakers.

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The Quiescent T Series Streamer and server is a very serious digital front end made by the people from Vertex AQ. The unusual machined marks on the case are to keep vibration at bay and the internals have been designed for very low noise and very high accuracy. The T Series can be run with various control systems including Roon and Audirvana and build quality is properly high end, it’s priced at £15,650 for 2TB of storage but versions with less storage are available.

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Chris Liauw has made a big change to his attractive Curvi transmission line loudspeaker, it now has a 128mm BMR (balanced mode radiator) full range driver instead of the metal Jordan unit it started out with. This larger driver with its greater dispersion is said to be better in pretty much all respects and that includes bass extension. The Curvi retains its distinctive birch ply cabinet and sells for £6,000.

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In the same room Funk Firm had their revised P3/Rage 1 Rega upgrade with a new bias system on the FXR II arm. Instead of using the magnetic bias incorporated in the Rega arm base it has a falling weight system of the sort found on Japanese arms of yore. Funk explains that this approach gives consistent anti-skate performance across the whole side of the record. This turntable also has an Achromat and Bo!ng feet for £1,380. 

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Gekko Cables showed their first electronics in the form of the iHeart streamer , based on Volumio software, and the Fire DAC with valve and transformer output stage, these are at the prototype stage and will have much nicer boxes when finished. The most unusual component at Woodland Grange was a Sony Playstation being used as a CD transport, complete with spiked feat and a bit of mass damping. No one appeared to be playing Mario Karts however. 

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JoSound had the spacious Oak Room to show off the new EcoJo YS Tribute (£37,500) loudspeakers. Their eco credentials include cabinets made of compacted straw and a piano finish achieved with recycled acrylic. The drive units are an 8inch horn loaded paper cone for mid and top with an 18inch paper cone bass unit with its own 250W amplifier. It’s a big system, each speaker weighs 63kg but offers high 96dB sensitivity so worked well with the Audio Detail 101D pre and 211 monoblock power amps, source was the Lucas Audio Labs Maximus streamer with an Ideon Absolute DAC. The diffusion panels in this and several other rooms are by Acoustic Quality of the Czech Republic.

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The Audio Consultants put a big system together fronted by a Clearaudio Innovation Basic turntable running a DS Audio E1, the least expensive of the Japanese company’s optical cartridges. The small tower next to the turntable is a DS Audio Ioniser (below), an anti-static device that’s was having its first UK outing in pre-production form. Elsewhere were AVM electronics and Kudos 606 loudspeakers in a system that made Billie Holiday’s ‘Foggy London Town’ sound very much of its time.

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RMB loudspeakers put function before form in the model 44 (£3,300). This is designed for near wall siting and has a 6.5inch bass driver allied to a dome mid and tweeter in a twin reflex design built out of birch ply.

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Malvern Audio Research used some classic Japanese Diatone DS-38B monitors that they had managed to get in mint condition recently, they sounded pleasantly relaxed with an Audio Detail Nuvistor phono stage (£2,200) and a Ming Da Piccolo entry level valve amp (£999). This is a push-pull with a “near 19W” output that can run 6L6 or 63P pentodes. The turntable was an Audio-Technica LP5 (£330) so speakers aside this was a largely entry level system.

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Iotavx is that rare thing a new entrant to the affordable end of the market. The SA3 integrated amplifier has digital and analogue inputs, a 90W power rating and linear power supply for £399. The PA3 (£299) is the power amp part of the same amp that can be used to augment the SA3, the price is achieved by cutting out dealers and selling direct. The amp was driving Novus T5 speakers (€1,398) with a silk dome tweeter and slot port using a PC source over Bluetooth.

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German brand Audio Exklusiv has an extensive catalogue of electronics and loudspeakers from which Richard at Time Audio had chosen the entry level E7 preamp (£1,250) and E1 (£1,680) 140W power amp to partner a P8 CD player/DAC (£5,400) with tube output stage and Diapason Adamantes Vloudspeakers, which as Trevor pointed out recently are rather good.

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Hørning loudspeakers are looking a lot better these days if the Zeus (£9,000) model being used by Willow Tree audio are any indication, these have rear firing bass drivers and were being driven by an MHZS CD99 transport, Denafrips Terminator R2R DAC (£4,500), Audio Music Ultima preamp (£20,000) and a Denafrips Hyperion power amp (£1,300). A pricey but effortless sounding system.

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Meridian showed this retro system which shared a room with the Lodgsound studio gear in part 1, it consists of the 100 series modular components the 101 control unit and 104 FM tuner. These are badged Boothroyd Stuart Meridian and were launched in 1978 when they garnered the fledgling company a Design Council award. The loudspeakers are Meridian’s M1 model from 1977.