Audio Show Deluxe, Whittlebury
The first Audio Show Deluxe took place on March 25th and 26th at Whittlebury Hall, home of several other shows in the past. It’s not the most exotic of locations unless you are into motor racing, the roar of vehicles on the nearby Silverstone track could be heard from the car park but not, thankfully, inside the building. The rooms are mostly of a good size and the majority of the select group of exhibitors managed to produce good quality sound, sometimes very good in fact.
The show was given a twist with the presence of live music and talks from assorted luminaries, this combined with the open and airy nature of the spaces made for a far more relaxing show experience than that found in many other venues. Brand new product was thin on the ground but we managed to find a few interesting launches among the array of delectable offerings.
Living Voice strikes terror
Living Voice first previewed the R80 loudspeakers at Munich a few years ago, now after extensive RnD this big brother to the longstanding Auditorium is finished and sounding splendid. Kevin Scott used Shostakovich’s terrifying Baba Yaga to hold the audience entranced thanks to a system consisting of Gran Prix Monaco direct drive turntable, Kuzma Safir-9 arm and cartridge and SJS Acoustics amplification. This system turned what can be very challenging music into an immersive experience. The R80 has Scanspeak Elipticore 8 inch mid/bass drivers in parallel and a Elipticore 38mm tweeter, prices start at £41,000 for the R80 IBX or £45,000 for the R80 OBX with separate crossover, the gloss Santos OBX version shown is £52,000 per pair.
Shunyata’s Möbius grip
Boyer Audio had a big system fronted by two pairs of Kroma Atelier loudspeakers from Granada, Spain. The Stella Extreme (£29,500) floorstanders have cabinets made of a mineral and resin material called Krion that’s non unlike Corian, drive units include a Mundorf AMT planar tweeter and two of the much vaunted Purifi drivers for midrange, these being augmented by a 6.5inch bass driver.
The standmount Julieta with its beautiful stand is the flagship in the range despite its size and driver count, it weighs 50kg and costs £37,500. The Engstrom Eric monoblock power amps in the system use 845 triodes with pricing starts at £138,950 per pair. Shunyata spotters will notice the Möbius cable raisers holding Omega speaker cable in their soft rubber grip, unlike virtually every other type of support system these cables to be moved with ease.
Falcon get fishy
Falcon Acoustics brought along their biggest system from their new “M” Range, the M50 floorstanders. These ported speakers incorporate a Falcon B139 ‘race track’ bass driver, twin Falcon B110 mids and a custom 1” SEAS tweeter in a 74kg package for an expected £18-£20,000 per pair. The system was fronted by an upgraded Origin Live Sovereign turntable with Agile arm and Koetsu Rosewood Signature cartridge, amplification was the BAT REX500. The distinctive aquatic decor was provided by Alastair Gibson who makes ‘Carbon Art’ not far from Falcon’s facility. Room treatment by GIK Acoustics was described as excellent by Falcon’s Jerry Bloomfield .
Bigger is better with Stratton Acoustics
Stratton Acoustics were inspired by the big JBL studio monitors of the ‘70s but wanted to combine that sound with modern construction and design. Phil Ward has designed speakers for Mordaunt Short and Naim in the past so the Elypsis 1512s are quite a different proposition, as the name suggests they combine a 12inch midrange with two 15inch bass drivers and a 29mm dome tweeter with waveguide in a totally isolated enclosure. Sensitivity is a lovely 96dB and the cabinet is made of Latvian birch ply; the front baffle is 46mm thick plus an acrylic facia. Each monitor weighs 140kg which makes the £69,000 price point seem a bit more reasonable.
Dohmann makes it deluxe
Turntable guru Mark Dohmann joined Absolute Sounds to explain his Dohmann Helix One mk3 turntable in the Imola room. The turntable was running a Reed 5A arm and Koetsu Colarstone cartridge with amplification from Dartzeel including NHB-468 power amps, digital source was four boxes dCS Vivaldi. A pair of Magico A5 speakers completed one of the most deluxe systems at the show. Elsewhere in the room was the Western Electric WE91 integrated tube amplifier (below), a very tasty proposition.
Axjet keep it live
Axjet provided the PA system in the Lounge where various musical performances took place. With amplification in the form of Tom Evans’ Linear A 25W Class A tube amp these 100dB/W plus horns provided high quality reinforcement for the Bow Fiddle violin and cello duo. The Axjet Superjet horns are built out of glass reinforced concrete in a fibreglass shell and use an AER BD4B full range driver supplemented by a bass driver in the horn mouth, price is £65,000 plus tax but including delivery.
Hegel and Egglestonworks combine power and glory
Auden Distribution brought along the substantial Egglestonworks Viginti floorstanders, these weigh in at 116kg each and combine a pair of 10 inch carbon woofers with as many 6 inch mid units in the same material, the tweeter is a beryllium dome. Driving these with Hegel’s new P30 preamplifier (£7,000) and a pair of H30 power amps (£17,000 each) from an Innuos Statement server and Merason DAC 1 mk2 converter produced a superb result that will be explained further in the near future.
Vertere keep it real
There was both live and recorded music to be enjoyed in the Vertere room. With an RG-1 turntable and Reference Gen III arm plus Mystic cartridge (above) at the front end and amplification and loudspeakers from FM Acoustics, the vinyl sound competed with that from various artists who took the stage over the course of the show.
MBL delivers sonic holograms
Stranger High Fidelity had a complete MBL system with which to impress visitors. Consisting of a 1621A CD transport, 1611F DAC, 6001 preamplifier and 9008A monoblocks driving 101E mk2 loudspeakers this system delivered genuine sonic holography regardless of where the listener sat. The presence of a Clearaudio Master Innovation turntable with DS Audio DS-W3 optical cartridge probably helped too.
Symmetry step-up with pedigree
Symmetry Systems made a welcome return to the UK show scene at Audio Show Deluxeand shared a room with the colourful Mike Valentine who talked about Chasing the Dragon recordings in his trademark Hawaiian shirt. New to the portfolio is the Quadratic MC-1 step-up transformer (£1,895) designed by former Pass Labs engineer Jam Somasundram. The MC-1 has Cine-Mag transformers and floating shielding to keep hum at bay, it offers two levels of gain and comes pre-set with a high impedance ratio said to work well for most modern MC cartridges, internal jumpers offer alternatives if required.
Audiopax make wood work
Audiopax from Brazil formed the majority of Audio Reference’s system at Audio Show Deluxe. The Mandolin (£36,000) speakers were designed by Silvio Pereira whose training as a luthier led to the use of hard and soft woods in its construction, this example has an ipe front baffle with maple flanks, the drivers include an Accuton ceramic midrange. Their 90dB sensitivity combined with an easy impedance makes them eminently suited to the Maggiore M50 single ended via KT88 tube monoblock amps, preamplification was courtesy of the hybrid L50 line stage (£18,000) below.
dCS, Audio Research and Wilson throw it down
Absolute Sounds had an array of rooms at Audio Show Deluxe but getting into them proved challenging. Success was achieved in the one fronted by a pair of aquamarine Wilson Alexia V speakers being driven by Audio Research Reference 160M monoblocks, the source in this system was from dCS with the Rossini CD/SACD transport, Apex DAC and Master Clock providing sweet sounds for the system to spread over a happy crowd.