Show Time is always interesting. Not only are there often new products – and sometimes new companies – showing their wares, but there’s always the hope that there will be a new audience whose interest in music has finally lead them to the discovery that there’s more to listening than Bluetooth speakers or ear buds.
For that potentially new audience style and visual appeal is (initially) high on the priority list; until the realisation dawns that the good sounding (to them) kit might have some visual compromises to accommodate. Wide eyes and open ears sometimes have a yawning gap between them. At Staverton this last weekend there were some good sounds and some visually striking kit. Here’s Chris Beeching’s take on the event.
Auden Distribution had a spacious room to showcase a Hegel-powered system with Amphion speakers which did rather well at filling a large space with good sound. Also on display were speakers from Egglestonworks, and cables from Audiomica which looked rather exciting (if cables can look exciting).
Golden Ear had two sets of speakers playing with a streaming source, a stand-mounted small mini-monitor, and a larger floorstander, the system being conjoined by Audioquest cables. There was little to choose between the two, in terms of sound quality per se, but the larger model offered a greater impression of dynamics, and a more assured deep bass. Neither failed to please, though, and in the right room would provide hours of enjoyment.
Whole Note were making a big sound with the smallest speakers on dem at the show, the Boenicke W5 (£5,200) worked a treat with an AGD Alto preamp and Tempo power amp. The latter is a GaN FET or gallium nitride Class D design with 100W on tap from its compact casework. The source was the Wand turntable and arm that we reviewed recently but here with upgraded power supply.
Moor Amps created an oasis of calm tucked away near the far end of the show, the simple system with an Angel-Pre and and Angel 4 power amp did a lovely job. Sporting a digital front end and Graham Audio LS6f speakers, this system simply delivered the goods. A wide variety of program material meant the room was always full, and most stayed quite a while, revelling in the ease of presentation.
Music First Audio’s room was very quiet – simply static displays of their products, with one opened up so we could see the fantastic craftsmanship and quality of work which goes into making one of these audio jewels. Some have suggested that their products are the best hi-fi equipment you’ve never heard.
Impressive sounds in a room shared by G Point and Music First fronted by a rather wonderful looking Lampizator Light 7 valve-based DAC feeding an Music First Reference V2 preamplifier with Gigawatt power conditioning contributing to the inky quiet background sitting behind each track played. The speakers are Sveda Audio Blipo active monitors from Poland. A room in which I didn’t spend enough time – but then, that’s often the way at shows (neither did I but it sounded better than many – Ed.).
Zinamp, a relatively new kid on the block made some impressive sounds with their range of electronics, featuring a slimline, almost 70s-styled power amp, valve phono stage (below) and preamplifier. Zinspeakers completed the line-up which certainly found favour with a number of show-goers. Interestingly the Zinamp offers a bi- and tri-amping option, with user-selectable crossovers built into the main amplifier itself. This should find favour with the home-tweakers among us who like to tailor the sound in a particular way.
Super Natural Audio showed a valve-powered set of electronics, featuring Audio Detail tweaked Ming Da power amplifiers and Audio Detail NV-08 phono stage. The Curvi-BMR ‘balanced mode radiator’ and Etude 5 speakers completed the line-up. At the front end the DAC featured a valve output stage and a triode buffer for both the USB and SPDIF inputs.
Emilen Audio had a very simple room, with a venerable Luxman turntable playing through Emilen’s active ES-1 Reference active speakers with Hypex power amps and two stages of DSP correction, one for flatness, and one for crossovers. Main power is three (internal) Class D amplifiers in the analogue domain, 250W each for bass and mid drivers, and 100W for the tweeter.
Hi-fi Traders surprised with a visually distinctive room. Oversized paper clips was one description I heard about the Bayz Audio speakers on demonstration here. Fortunately they did a rather better job of making music than a paper clip would. While they look stunning, the sound they made was really quite astonishing, and very worthy of further audition. Pilium’s excessively high mass electronics provided the power.
American Audio showed some rather retro-looking speakers from a brand from the past, namely KLH. The Model Three (£1,795) is a two-way, the Model Five a three-way (£2,495). Sound signatures were very similar, with the F just having that edge on the bottom end of things, mainly due to the larger cabinet size. Driven by a Bluesound streamer and amplification, the whole was a beguiling and restful haven, seemingly unflustered by the wide variety of requests being put through the system.
John Jefferies made a return to the UK show scene with his Lumley Stratosphere Mk3 turntable (£35,000) and Stratorium arm. The latter is made in the Netherlands and has a hardwood armtube with titanium headshell.
Wire on Wire had an interesting display, playing some very smooth sounds via an interesting set of open weave yet quite rigid cables. These are specially hand-woven using flat section conductors. The front end comprised a Dayens Ampino Custom preamplifier, with a pair of Beresford TC-7240 audio routers feeding Ampino Monoblock power amplifiers driving 3Square Ayal standmount speakers (£1,900).
On display and demonstration (feeding Innuos and Hegel electronics) were a number of Chord’s Powerhaus mains conditioning units. With more and more digital hash being imposed on our mains supply, keeping it clean is much more of a necessity than before. In this dem the results spoke for themselves.
Jeff and Gabrijela from Castle Sound and Vision had a number of interesting-looking cables on their stand, including a new Benchmark power cord from RSX with fluoropolymer dielectric at £240.
Of particular interest was Atacama / Apollo stands’ innovative cylinder player. You’ll notice the slim silver thread containing all the musical material in the spiral groove, and the heavy duty black metal casing to protect it from damage. The stylus which reads the groove is at the front, sporting a robust black-Japanned stylus. The exact method of mounting the stylus is a closely guarded secret at the moment. For finer music you can see three alternative stylus shapes in stainless steel for different groove profiles. Sadly this wasn’t being demonstrated live, but looks promising for the future. I await the formal launch with great anticipation (arf arf – Ed.).