Rega Elicit-R & Aria
Rega's new product releases continue apace even amidst its 40th birthday celebrations. At Bristol there were two new fully formed components and a prototype. The Aria phono stage (£798) is an MM/MC ready model with two transformers onboard and dip switches for varying gain and loading. Elicit-R is complete redesign of the previous Elicit with the same type of output devices as the Brio-R but more of them, resulting in an output of 105 watts a side, it has an onboard phono stage and comes in at £1,598. The same casework is to be used for a Saturn-R CD player albeit with the top loading cover found on the Isis but this model is still a few months away from finalisation.
Sennheiser HDVD 800
Despite being one of the longest standing headphone manufacturers in the business Sennheiser has never previously built a phono stage. That has changed with two new models, the HDVA 600 (£1,300) and HDVD 800 (above, £1,500). These were built for Sennheiser's HD700 and HD800 headphones which have high impedances and thus are a challenge for standard headphone outputs. The difference between the two models is the inclusion of a DAC and associated digital inputs including USB on the HDVD 800, the HDVA 600 is a purely analogue amp.
Nu Force IA-18
This sleek beast is the 135 watt/channel Nu Force IA-18 integrated. It runs a largely class D output stage with a small amount of class A to keep things sweet and offers five analogue inputs and has a a thin-film, switched-resistor volume control. Its makers claim a "noise-floor approaching the vanishing point" and were running it with an iPad streaming through the Nu Force wi-fi direct dongle to the AirDAC you can see at back left. They also showed the UDH-100 DAC and headphone amp which has a single input in the form of a less fashionable adaptive USB but it uses a proprietary asynchronous data transfer technology thereafter, price is £549.
Spendor A6R & D7
Spendor has two new weapons in its audio armoury. The A6R (above left) replaces the A6 and has a new 18cm driver with an EP77 polymer cone and new surround, this gives it greater bass extension that's also more even. The balance has been realigned to bring it closer to the A5 and A9 models with a new crossover, it costs £2,500. The superbly finished D7 on the right might look sedate but if the result that Chord Co was getting with it is any indication it's an extremely capable and revealing loudspeaker. It sounded more refined if less visceral on the end of Spendor's Devialet D-Premier amp and a Mac Mini running Amarra. D7 has an EP77 coned midrange but is a 2.5 way with a kevlar composite bass cone and Spendor's distinctive LP2 tweeter which has chambers in front of as well as behind the dome in order to maintain linear pressure, the foil mesh apparently acts like a lens that focuses the the image. The D7 retails for £4,000.
This is Avid's new entry level turntable, it's available with one or two armboards on the 2.5inch deep aluminium cross brace. Ingenium has the sapphire bearing and platter from the company's Diva II model. The base model comes with a Pro-Ject Carbon arm for £1,260 (£800 without arm) and there are two models for SME arms of either nine (£825) or 12inch (£930) persuasion, the top twin arm base version shown is £1,200.
SVS Ultra Bookshelf
SVS is an American brand being brought in by the ever resourceful Ian Severs at Karma AV. This model's bigger brother, the Ultra Tower, won him a best sound and vision award at the show from the Clarity Alliance so it would seem he made a good choice. SVS is a subwoofer specialist that's branched out into speakers with the Ultra series, the Bookshelf has a 6.5inch woofer and comes in this distinctive walnut veneer for £1099. The Ultra Tower is a 3.5 way with 8inch bass drivers firing sideways and mid/bass units arranged D'Appolito style on the front baffle, each with their own sealed internal volume, it looks and sounds like a lot of speaker for £2,199.
Chord Company Tuned Array
Salisbury's finest cable makers the Chord Company have discovered a new way of enhancing their extensive interconnect range. Dubbed Tuned Array the technique is simple but proprietary and has a striking effect on the sound of both digital and analogue cables. I was given a dem of standard versus TA and have to say that the benefits it brings to the Sarum digital and analogue interconnects is extraordinary, in essence it turns a flat sound into a three dimensional one and removes swathes of distortion in the process. I'm so intrigued that a visit to the factory is in the diary.
Wilson benesch Cardinal
The conservatory was like a fridge when I visited early Saturday morning but this didn't stop Wilson benesch making some fine sounds with the most exotic system at the show. The £55,000 Cardinal speakers were hooked up to Siltech amplifiers, an Aurender S10 digital transport plus the obligatory Macbook, dCS Vivaldi DAC and augmented by a pair of Torus Infrasonic Generators (definately not subwoofers!). This sounded extremely good with Ralf Illenberger's Red Rock Journeys on the Circle turntable with a Carbon Nanotube arm and Carbon cartridge, it's still tough to beat vinyl for transparency and musical communication.