The first Indulgence show was also the first event that the Ear has exhibited at, and it was a blast. The Novotel West’s exterior is about as inviting as the Death Star but once inside it’s a plush space to listen to great sound systems, live musicians and seminars on all things audio. Being spread over five floors meant overcrowding was never going to be an issue, and as it was the first show of its type in central London for nearly a decade that was never really a danger. But that meant you could get a good seat in all but the most popular rooms, a state of affairs that might well change once the show becomes better known. There was also an array of new products from across the board, so without further ado…
Rock photographer Ross Halfin exhibited his works and answered questions about the bands he has photographed over the years, these includ Van Halen, Ozzie Osbourne, Dave Grohl and some of the most bizarre hair styles in rock. The room was equipped with probably the best system of the show, a fully active PMC MB2/XBD system powered by 4.6kW of Bryston Cubed power and isolated on Townshend Seismic Platforms. This wasn’t quite enough to make Bon Jovi appeal but Led Zeppelin was something else.
If their stands and matching phono stage are any indication Vertere is on a unilateral mission to make orange the new black. The Phono-1 is an MM/MC phono stage with internal dip switches for load adjustment, at an expected £1200 this will be the least expensive non cable product in the range. Touraj was playing a single he had pressed of Silencers offshoot Caezar, later in the show the band also played live via this system, hence the guitar on the right.
Having established his credentials in the USB DAC stakes with the effortless 1543 MkII, CAD designer and Hammersmith local Scott Berry was demonstrating the benefits of his GC1 noise reduction system (£1,650). I’ve been using one for the last six months and can vouch for its remarkable effectiveness, but that’s no excuse for taking so long to write a review. Watch this space.
Leema have been busy, they have finished the integrated amplifier, streamer and DAC dubbed Quasar (£2,995). This 200 Watter has a streaming module that can be used to power a multi-room system, and streams music from Dropbox alongside the usual network sources. There is also a new Tucana integrated amp called Anniversary (above), this has lots of luxury tweaks including Nichicon Muse caps, twice the amount of copper on the PCB for lower resistance tracks, better transformers and a posh remote for £4,995.
Mitchell and Johnson electronics were originally based on Sansui hardware but they have switched to all British manufacture with Leema providing the design work. So the S800 preamp with phono stage and asynchronous USB inputs alongside the usual digital and analogue varieties is effectively a Leema on the cheap at £1,299. Ditto the S815 power amp that boasts 160 Watts into eight Ohms and 260 Watts into four at the same price.
Bryston’s BLP1 made its British debut at Indulgence, and it became a bit clearer what is meant by the description ‘seven segment arm’ in the original press release. It is machined titanium with variations in diameter that are designed to break up vibration travelling along the arm, both to and from the cartridge. The rest of the design consists of a 35mm Delrin platter on a carbon steel spindle with very fine tolerance, drive from a digitally controlled motor and a vented plinth. Inconveniently the price has been elevated by the weak pound to £3,995.
KEF unveiled an active version of its popular LS50 stand mount. This combines a Uni-Q aluminium driver array with two power amplifiers and full wired and wireless input to its DSP active crossover. Designer Jack Ogden has used a class D power amp for the mid/bass in order to deliver 200 Watts without too much expense and heat, and a 30 Watt class AB amp for the tweeter. The resulting sound with Kraftwerk’s Radioactivity (Minimum Maximum) was gobsmacking. The LS50 Wireless is Bluetooth aptX capable and available in a range of shiny colours for £2,000 a pair.
Chord Electronics demonstrated TToby (£2,750), a 130 Watt MOSFET power amp to match the Hugo DAC. It sounded rather good with a pair of PMC twenty5.22 stand mounts and some early Kruder and Dorfmeister on the Macbook.
Paul Benge was having a lot of fun spinning the Kraftwerk Yello mixes (Planet Dada) on a heavyweight system fronted by an MSB Select DAC. Thrax Teres hybrid amps (200W, £16,000) powered the company’s Lyra (£13,000) speakers atop Bassus active subs (1kW, £45,000). When Jeff Beck’s Goodbye Pork Pie Hat/Brush with the Blues came on you might as well have been at the concert, with volume levels to match.
TEAC showed two new turntables with prices to match the names, the TN-400 has a cast alloy platter and both USB and Bluetooth, the TN-750 shown is top dog with an acrylic platter and marble resin finish, it has digital outputs too.