Sound & Vision, Bristol 2017 pt.2

The Bristol show is always a blast, this year some of that was provided by Hurricane Doris on the night before set-up day, this tore off a piece of building which closed the main route to the hotel. But it takes more than crazy traffic to stop a show like Sound & Vision and the corridors were once again thronged with music enthusiasts and hi-fi nuts alike, a state of affairs that was only slightly undermined by the six nations rugby at the weekend. Highlight of the event for me was the sound made by Rega’s new Ania MC on a humble P3 turntable, see pt.1 for details. But there were plenty of great sounds to enjoy, many had brand new kit in action too.

Neat Acoustics has been building grilles and bases for two of its floorstanders, the Iota Alpha has a laminated steel and bitumen plinth kit for £395 while the all steel example on the Momentum SX5i is £545, complete with chunky stainless caps. The Castle Grey finish is on trial pending public opinion.

Malvern Audio had the distinctive Polish Pre-Audio 1301G (page top) with parallel tracking arm and granite plinth for £2,500. They also showed a prototype of the Audio Detail Chela (above), a valve powered DAC preamp (below) with 1287 and 6N6 glassware. The same company’s NV06 is a two box phono stage that runs on Nuvistor tubes and offers customisable impedance in a point to point wired design for £1,200.

TEAC is attempting to bridge the gap between its ‘real world’ components and the lavishly encased Esoterica models it produces. Enter the TEAC NR7 a network receiver with CD player, 220 Watt class D amplifier and the ability to stream up to 5.6MHz DSD. It can also upconvert any digital signal to DSD 12.2MHz, even CD. It’s a serious piece of kit as you can tell from the VU meters, the price reflects this at £4,000.

DS Audio of Japan showed an ‘entry level’ addition to their range of optical cartridges. The DS 002 at £4,800 is said to offer wide compatibility with different arms and comes with a phono stage/equaliser to suit. As with the two existing DS Audio models it uses a beam of light to read stylus movement with the advantage that this eliminates the magnetic friction of traditional cartridges.

Leema has finished the Quasar streamer/amp/DAC that it previewed last year, it has a dual mono 180 Watt power amp section, a Quattro infinity D/A converter and Bluetooth alongside the usual digital inputs. It’s fully UPnP/DLNA compatible and offers control apps for Android and iOS. Price is £2,995. It sounded rather good alongside the Sirius music server and Tucana Anniversary amplifier driving ATC SCM50 floorstanders.

Wilson benesch had several of its Hypertec coloured carbon speakers on show, including Enzo versions of its ACT One Evolution P1 and Discovery II P1 models flanking a substantial system powered by CH Precision electronics. The latest addition to that line is the L1 dual mono line preamplifier, a pure class A, fully balanced design with a £19,300 price tag. It is Swiss after all.

Alongside their remarkable Seismic isolation platforms Townshend Audio unveiled the first incarnation of a mega Allegri, dubbed DC47 Autotransformer Preamplifier. Essentially it’s the ultimate passive preamp with the luxury of remote volume control. No price has been released but it won’t be cheap.

Goldring had a man at a microscope winding coils by way of demonstration, in front of him was the new E series of entry-level MM cartridges. The E1 combines a spherical tip with a carbon reinforced cantilever for £60, the E2 has the same tip on an aluminium cantilever for £80 while the E3 has the luxury of an elliptical stylus for £100. All three have replaceable styli.

Acoustic Energy have built an active version of the AE1 monitor (above and below). With two 50 Watt linear A/B amps per channel this shiny standmount has a 5inch aluminium main driver and adjustable bass and treble output for a £1,000 per pair asking price.

Chord Co demonstrated its upgraded Sarum T cabling without the aid of cable guru Nigel Finn who is recovering from an operation, we wish him well. The T stands for Taylon, Chord’s name for a wonder dielectric that is totally phase consistent regardless of temperature. The difference it delivers is clearly worthwhile, even in a noisy hotel room. Prices start at £2,100 for analogue interconnect.

ProJect has added the DS2 to its Box range of electronics, these are distinguished by wooden end cheeks and sit below the RS flagship models. The Tube Box DS2 is a heavily featured phono stage, CD Box DS2T (£475) is a three output CD transport, Pre Box DS2 Digital (£695) is a preamp/DAC while Amp Box DS2 (£435) is a 100 W/ch class D power amp.

Isoacoustics demonstrated its Gaia range of screw in isolating feet for loudspeakers and components under Focal Aria speakers. Available in three sizes to suit product weights from 32kg to 100kg and starting at £199 for four these don’t have a lot of compliance but should help many speakers and heavier components.

Ophidian is a British speaker brand from the Wirral who use a hybrid loading system they call Aeroflex that’s said to combine transmission line and reflex techniques. The latest models are the Prophet P1 standmount (£2,299) and P2 floorstander (£3,699), these have plywood cabinets and a ‘floating’ front baffle that’s decoupled using neoprene foam. It houses metal main drivers and soft dome tweeters and sounded quite promising.

The Aria 2 is a Spanish built music server and DAC that uses JRiver and dBPower amp software, it has CD ripper, is DSD256 capable and has its own control app, the price starts at £5k.

Exposure have taken to making half width components for the first time since the nineties. The XM range currently consists of the XM5 integrated amp with MM phono stage, DAC and 60 Watt output for £1,236 and the XM3 Phono stage (£660) for MM and MC cartridges with variable gain and loading. The latest additions are the XMHP headphone amp and DAC which has balanced and single ended outputs, XM7 Preamp with digital and analogue inputs plus headphone out on the back and the XM9 80 Watt monoblock power amp shown above.

Mark Audio makes full range metal cone drivers that are used by a variety of companies and its own Mark Audio SOTA loudspeakers, including the tiny Tozzi 1 shown above left. This has an aluminium cabinet with reflex loading and costs £550 per pair. Also in the room was the Frugel-horn (above right) which is available in kit form at £500 and works with a range of four inch drivers from Mark Audio and others, it looks like a useful speaker if you have a single ended valve amp.