The Bristol Show 2020 pt.1

It would seem that the hardy audiophile is not going to be put off visiting the UK’s most popular show just because there’s a virus around. Audio T’s Bristol Show was as busy as ever if not more so, throngs of enthusiasts queueing in the cold for the opportunity to hear a wide selection of top notch systems. I stayed for an extra day in an attempt to get round all the rooms and hear what I could and have to say that standards seem to have gone up. The rooms at the Marriott are not always spacious but the results produced by a number of exhibitors were excellent. There was also a surprising amount of new products, at least two long forgotten names coming back to market and plenty of speakers.

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PMC rolled out a major revision to its twenty5 speaker range, adding an i suffix to indicate the change. The cabinets and coned drivers remain the same but the tweeter has been updated to a ring radiator type that at 34mm is larger than its predecessor and has a natural roll-off that’s both lower and steeper than the dome it replaces. This means it can crossover at 1.7kHz and create a closer dispersion pattern to the mid or mid/bass driver its matched to. Equally significant is the use of isolation spacers between the cabinet and support bars (below), these stop energy transferring to the floor and back again for a much cleaner sound. Prices start at £1,995 for the twenty5.21i stand mount and rise to £8,495 for the biggest twenty5.26i floorstander.

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Definitive Audio returned to Bristol after a long absence to promote Kuzma turntables. The consisted of a Stabi R (below) in orange with the 4Point 11inch arm and CAR 60 cartridge with solid diamond cantilever. The SJS tube amps were a Model 7 enhanced preamp, Model 5 300B single ended power amp and Model 3 enhanced phono stage all on an LV G1/2 table. The pairing with Living Voice OBX-RW3 was very entertaining indeed, especially when playing the Mad Professor’s Massive Attack remixes. You’d not believe what 8 Watts can do in the right company. I’m told that LV are working with SJS to produce a range of their own tube amps, which should be very interesting.

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Falcon had their new kit form IMF 100 speakers (£1,495) in action. This transmission line design requires no soldering iron to build and can be put together in 20 minutes according to Jerry Bloomfield. It uses the B110 mid/bass and T27 tweeter that Falcon have had made for their LS3/5A standmount, the latter is now in Gold Badge form (£TBA) with a newly redesigned 15 Ohm crossover and upgraded transformer inductors. These can be seen stacked four high either side of the IMFs.

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Klipsch has been rolling out new loudspeakers at quite a rate and the Heresy IV with its horn loaded tweeter and mid allied to a big bass driver is one of the more compact floorstanding options. I like the classic styling and high efficiency, not to mention the unintrusive nature of this model.

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Proac introduced two new models to its K series of flagship loudspeakers. The K1 (£5,995) is a tall standmount distinguished by the down firing port that’s seen across the range, it has a high 90W sensitivity and 6.5inch Kevlar midrange allied to a ribbon tweeter with alnico magnet. The substantial K10 (£33,995) has a pair of 75mm midrange domes, two 8inch bass units and the same ribbon tweeter and stands nearly five feet tall, which is bigger than it looks in the picture above.

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The folk at Rega have obviously been very busy of late as they showed four new products and not one of them was a turntable. Those after a kick arse starter system should hear the System One, this consists of a Planar 1 turntable, new io amp and the new Kyte speakers for £995. The io (below) is a compact integrated with 30W output, phono stage and headphone output for £379, while Kyte has a phenolic resin cabinet with internal ceramic panels to add stiffness, it will retail for £429 when it gets to market. For those seeking the ultimate in vinyl sound quality the Aphelion 2 moving coil (below, £3,149) with new fine line stylus is now in production, as is the Aria Mk3 phono stage (£899) with MM and MC inputs and a facelift case change.

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ATC were getting so much bass out of their SCM7 speakers and an SIA2-100 integrated amplifier that they didn’t need to use the latest addition to the range; the C1 Sub Mk2 active subwoofer (£1,600). This is a compact but inevitably fully fledged unit with 200W of MOSFET class A/B power controlling a 12inch bass driver.

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English Electric is a name that will be familiar to fans of trains and jet aircraft alike as it was once a major force in British engineering. Now it has been bought by Chord Company and used to brand their first foray into electronics, this takes the form of a network switch that has been designed from the ground up for better sounding streaming. Featuring a low noise clock, quiet switching power supply and 8 ports it made a strong impression on demonstration by making Patti Smith’s great rendition of ‘Boy in the Bubble’ markedly more coherent. Price will be in the £400 - £500 region when it comes to market later in the year.

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Oli Lund Christensen has made a more affordable version of his Jern cast iron loudspeaker. The Model 11 uses the same high carbon cast iron chassis but has different drivers, crossovers and even fixings, bringing the price down to £1,250 for what is a surprisingly good sounding and compact design.

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Dali is expanding its wireless Rubicon C range with two new models. As well as fetching grey grilles the Model 2 standmount has a 250W amplifier and runs off a Blu-OS hub that’s included in the £3,840 price. This means it can be used with traditional hi-fi source components as well as streamed content. 

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Bob Surgeoner of Neat Acoustics has taken the concepts he introduced in the Ekstra floorstander into a more compact standmount called Ministra (£1,795). This continues the iso-baric bass theme with an internal bass driver behind the one you can see, treble duties are handled by a ribbon tweeter. The system sounded rather good with a Norma IPA-70 integrated amplifier and Well Tempered turntable.

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AudioQuest managed to borrow a lovely Rega Aethos integrated to use with newly acquired brand GoldenEar speakers for a demonstration of speaker cables through the ages. Starting with bell wire then going to original Monster cable and onto their Rocket 11 just to show people how cable had evolved over the last few decades. Their source was a Stack Link streamer with Dragonfly Cobalt DAC. Theo Stack is upgrading the Link with a new clock and will be adding a linear power supply designed by Dragonfly creator Gordon Rankin later in the year, watch this space.

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Chord Company have introduced their XLPE insulation material to the most affordable speaker cable in the catalogue. Chord Leyline X is £5/m and offered a demonstrable upgrade on its predecessor. They have also finalised the Transmission Fluid contact cleaning system that was originally shown to the press last year. Chord established that a longer drying time is needed to give a long lasting benefit to all treated contacts and managed to give the fluid itself a longer shelf life, the two stage ChordOhmic fluid costs £200 for 10ml but is said to go a long way. 

See the second part of our Bristol coverage here