The Bristol Show 2020 pt.2

Rajiv Dave (top) of Chord Electronics explained a little more about the 2go portable streamer (£995) and 2yu DAC adaptor (£450) that were released just before the show. Dave formally worked with the BBC on their digital tech in the nineties, including Nicam, RDS and DAB and he explained how 2go which was initially made to go with the Hugo 2 DAC is a battery powered streamer that can be run with Roon and is built with avionics/military grade electronics with extremely high tolerances. 2yu locks onto it and means it can be connected to any DAC, alternatively 2go can supply multiple rooms via a suitable USB hub. 

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Naim brought along the fabulous Statement pre and monoblock amplifiers to power a pair of Focal Scala Utopia Evo floorstanders with the digital source consisting of a Uniti Core server and ND 555 streamer with twin 555 power supplies. A system that would have sounded good under most circumstances but when playing ZZ Top and Kurt Vile it was positively spectacular.

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Fyne showed their latest made in Scotland models, the distinctively styled F700, F701 standmounts and F704 floorstander combine Isoflare drivers with a magnesium dome compression tweeter in the centre of a cone mid/bass. The cabinets have downward firing tractrix profile ports and presence region adjustment via the knob on the front. The smallest F700 (right, £2,500) has a 6inch driver, the F701 (second right, £4,000) an 8inch unit and the 70kg F704 (far left, £11,000) floorstander with 12inch drivers for mid and bass. All three models will be available in late spring.

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Russell K. has clearly been listening to us impoverished enthusiasts because his latest offering is the Black 50, a rather less wallet challenging variant on the popular Red 50. It’s the same undamped box with an internal acoustic loading shelf combined with a 5 inch main driver and 25mm soft dome tweeter but comes in a painted black finish for £899 compared to £1099 for the Red version. I overheard the comment “I still like the William K or what was it?” in the corridor at Bristol, it’s the thought that counts.

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We saw concrete signs of a Rogers (UK) revival at Ascot last year and Bristol revealed things to be moving apace. There is now an active sub to partner the Rogers LS3/5A called AB3a with parallel B110 drivers and a 50W amp for £3,500. The E20A2 integrated amplifier has a much nicer front panel and Rogers branded 6L6 push-pull output tubes for an expected retail price of £4,000, it’s due in production soon.

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Funk Firm has been busy with a comprehensive LP12 upgrade kit that just drops into the chassis once the original top plate, armboard and subchassis have been removed. It incorporates Funk’s three point Vector drive and a new subschassis that has been designed for ease of set-up and long term consistency, apparently it “never goes off tune”. There are two versions of the 20/20 upgrade; SL at £2,500 and GL at £3,500. Funk main man Arthur Khoubessarian also hinted that he will be relaunching the Pink Triangle brand (which he founded nearly 40 years ago) at the Munich High End in May.

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The Taiko Audio Extreme SGM doesn’t look all that extreme but when you check out the specs it becomes apparent that the name is not hyperbole. This is a music server with the capability of storing up to 24TB of music files, weighs 42 kilos and costs £25,000. It has a choke regulated linear power supply and takes the unconventional approach of using non SSD solid state storage modules. The software is Roon with JPlay data stream output to USB alongside ethernet. I have to say I would like to have a play, if someone else puts it in the rack.

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Origin Live have a record weight with a difference, the main ones are that it doesn’t weigh very much and contains loose ball bearings that rattle if you shake it. The demonstration that Mark Baker gave me was very impressive however and the £199 price does not seem excessive.

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Charles Kirmuss from Colorado has been making some very positive impressions on both reviewers and archiving institutions with his KA-RC1 record cleaning machine (£1,200). Kirmuss is adamant that vinyl repels water and that most cleaning machines don’t really work, his ultrasonic machine de-gasses the cleaning fluid, monitors temperature (30 to 35 degrees is best) and works at a frequency that he has established does the best possible job. He has even patented an ionising cleaning fluid for the job.

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Audio Note were using an amplifier that has more features than anything the brand has done before, I wondered if it was a Marantz with some tubes plugged into the top. The Cobra (£3,400) integrated has line and digital inputs and remote control with EL34 tubes in a push-pull configuration for a banging sound. Not very Audio Note at all really but AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ sounded rather good via AN-J speakers.

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Lockwood is a name from the swinging sixties when it adorned the monitors in a number of high profile studios including Abbey Road. Today it is being revived by the founder’s grandson Danny Timms who is using vintage Tannoy drive units and installing them in sealed cabinets to provide the sort of sound that the Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin and the Who would have heard when making their classic albums. Pricing is £4,700 for the Mini on the outside and £6,000 for the Academy model in the centre.

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Lossless streaming service Qobuz announced a 25% reduction in subscription price for their Studio Premier plan, bringing the price down to £14.99/month. The offer is for the first 100,000 subscribers and will end on May 31st. It has also decided to stop offering an MP3 service to concentrate on CD quality and hi-res streaming.

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Townshend Audio showed the Allegri Reference that has been blowing me away in the system recently (review in the pipeline) as well as this lovely blue Rock turntable. A new Rock is said to be in the works but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

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Peter Comeau who designs for Wharfedale among others told us a bit more about the Elysian range that had its UK launch at Bristol. This is the first Wharfedale to feature their own AMT planar tweeter, a pleated diaphragm which uses velocity rather than vibration to create sound. The key to this model is an ultra lightweight diaphragm which delivers a “super transient response” according to Comeau. The other Elysian innovation is a slot reflex port where an internal tube fires downwards within the cabinet and escapes via a slot which helps to equalise the high air pressure within the box to the lower pressure externally and deliver smoother low frequencies. There are two Elysian models, the 2 (£4,495) shown above and the Model 4 (£6,495) floorstander which has a second bass driver.

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Audio Technica told me a bit more about its AT-OC9X range of moving coil cartridges. There are five models starting with the AT-OC9XEB and AT-OC9XEN where the E stands for elliptical nude stylus, things get more interesting with the Microlinear tipped AT-OC9XML and even more so in the top two models. The AT-OC9XSH (in gold and brown) has a Shibata stylus on a boron cantilever while the AT-OC9XSL has a Special Line Contact stylus but word on the street is that the SH at £550 is the one to beat.

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Audio Technica have just launched two closed back headphones with hard wood caps, hinged ear cups and redesigned head bands. The Asada Zukora (above, £1,300) uses Japanese hop hornbeam wood while the Kokutan (£1,700) has striped ebony embellishment. Both models have 53mm drivers and are supplied with detachable cables allowing quarter inch or balanced connection.

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Bowers & Wilkins exhibited a gorgeous new Santos rosewood finish for its 800 series models, shown here on the range topping 800 D3. Mmmm shiny.