In 2013 this show was branded as the Signals 20th Anniversary show, it featured all the major brands stocked by the Suffolk retailer. This year the doors have been opened to all brands which has widened the array of kit on demonstration. The venue is by far the best of any hi-fi show I’ve visited; idyllic surroundings, vast areas for parking and large airy demo rooms. Sensibly the organiser had offered all the exhibiters heavy drapes which really helped to create a far more realistic ‘domestic’ acoustic feel to rooms. Far too often when I visit shows I stand listening to a teetering stack of jewel (surely zircon. Ed) encrusted audio gear that could sound pretty fine, but I’d have no idea of what it really sounds like because of the public lavatory style acoustics of a pokey hotel bedroom. The tranquil rural setting certainly promotes a feel good atmosphere amongst the exhibitors and punters alike. There’s even a sensibly priced bar and the coffee is pretty decent, a rarity in the audio realm I can tell you.
It seems like the big brands have been attracted to the depths of Suffolk with the likes of Naim, Arcam, PMC, Bryston, Chord Electronics, Rega and few more of the larger players. This is always good to see and its ideal to be able to chew the fat with the actual makers.
First stop was the Rega room where they were spinning vinyl on the RP10 and a splendid bit of kit that player is. Great timing, and a real toe tapping feel playing through an Aria phono stage, Elicit-R amplifier and their RS7 floorstanding speakers.
The new twenty.26 (below right) was the mainstay of the demos in the PMC room, as always an entertaining affair hosted by the dynamic Tom Barron. A popular room with the visiting enthusiasts enjoying the grip, dynamics and good vocal presence emanating from the three way floorstanders. It’s good to hear an alternative to Diana Krall in the form of Trentemoller’s Last Resort which really did sound cracking from top to bottom, and there was plenty of bottom.
Chord Electronics rolled out the big guns with their rarely seen, super high end Red Reference MkIII CD player, DSX 1000 streamer, CDA 8000 preamp and the mammoth SPM 14000 MkII mono power amps (below) that deliver an eye watering 800W each. As at Munich High End this year they chose to show off this lustrous illuminated collection with PMC’s BB5se stand mounts. Certainly the room was rocking to a 24bit version Kraftwerk’s Robots from the streamer. They also let headphonistas have some fun with the Hugo DAC and headphone amp above left.
The Sarum Tuned ARAY range of cable was the focus of Chord Company’s demos, these hooked up a Naim 500 system and chunky Kudos Titans. Dave Brubeck’s trusty Take Five was the crowd pleaser.
Naim made quite a statement with timed dems of their Statement amps while in the foyer their shiny slim line MUSO, which is about to ship, played soothing tunes to coffee drinking visitors. No wire of course as the source was a Unitiserve over wifi, something to please anyone who dislikes electric string!
Arcam were taking things seriously by giving their CDS 27 CD streamer its UK debut. An interesting looking bit of kit which sounded a treat with their new A49 Class G integrated amplifier. Arcam co-founder John Dawson (below left) was on hand to answer the question: what the Dickens is Class G? Which he did extremely well, proving the amp’s salt by playing outstanding tracks from Gregory Porter’s Liquid Spirit album. The 200W per channel £4K amp showed its class by powering PMC’s superb fact.12 floorstanders to a good level.
Overall, a splendid bijoux expo, let’s hope its grows and we see even more brands in 2015.