If it’s early October it must be time to go to Daventry in the midlands and see what’s happening at the UK Audio show. This sophomore year for the show saw more exhibitors and more visitors to the event with a lot of the Staverton Park hotel’s first floor taken up alongside larger rooms on the ground floor, with one newcomer in the bar demonstrating some radical new loudspeakers.
I mentioned that the most extreme new product of the show was in the bar and this is it. The William Eikos Aurigen (top) is made out of solid bamboo with the speaker pod containing an ellipsoid cavity behind the drivers and hung on wires with a Sorbothane sphere acting as a spring to isolate the cabinet. The crescent shaped stand is bent bamboo and quite a feat of engineering, the base contains an isobaric bass driver system. Made by former Trichord alumni Bill Pilcher the Aurigen comes with custom Litz cables that have silk insulation. The 3 inch aluminium drive units are derived from a Ted Jordan design and Pilcher credits Graham Fowler, Max Townshend and Tom Evans for letting him stand on their shoulders. The Aurigen system will retail for £150,000 plus VAT (£180,000).
For the first time in an awfully long time Townshend Audio took a room to demonstrate their Allegri Reference preamp and Seismic isolation products via Glastonbury Tor loudspeakers and hybrid valve/Class D amplifiers that Max Townshend developed but never put into production. Townshend hope to get their prototype CD player into production but the best source in the rack was the Rock turntable which belongs to Mat McNulty the Rockdoc who rebuilds and refinishes this classic design.
Falcon demonstrated their new M series loudspeakers which incorporate the company’s recreations of the KEF B110 mid/bass driver and B139 ‘racetrack’ bass unit. They originally built the B110 to go in their LS3/5a but are using it in the standmount M10 (£2,395) and M50 floorstander (£12,795). Both have a custom soft dome tweeter and inhabit Italian cabinets with walnut veneer, rosewood is also an option. The big M50s sounded rather promising on the end of a Mobile Fidelity turntable and Balanced Audio Tech electronics and we plan to get them in for review shortly.
Cultured Audio is a retailer from Whitney near Woodstock, it was recently established by ex Naim man Mike Heath this brand provided the electronics for their dem with a Melco N10, ND 555 streamer, NAC 552 preamp and NAP 500 power amp driving Kudos Titan 808 speakers to good effect.
Lowther have created a flatpack range in an effort to make their horn loudspeakers more affordable to the enthusiast. The Acousta 116 (right) is £2,400 per pair plus drivers while the Fidelio MkIII is the same price, which makes the bigger model look like the best value, if you’ve got the woodworking skills and the space. They had a prototype 205 which you can see the top of that will sell for £3,500 to £4,000 when it’s fully veneered, alternatively it will be available for £1,200 as a kit.
The Lowther Hegeman is a very limited model which will be supplied with the brand’s field coil driver, but only four pairs per year will be made. It has a plywood horn with back lighting and this example is finished in olive veneer, the price will be circa £70,000. The company are planning to offer NFTs for each pair of loudspeakers as a means of establishing that they’re genuine Lowthers and not one of the many copies in circulation.
Kerr Acoustics were making some great sounds with a vintage Pioneer PDS 505 CD player, one of the Tom Evans tuned Audio Precision versions that the company produced in the late ‘90s. The speakers were K320 Mk3s being driven by a Townshend Allegri preamp and an EAM Studio 362 power amp. Jez Kerr showed me the crossover for his speakers which features custom made ‘jumble wound’ air core inductors.
Midland Audio Xchange had two pairs of Devore speakers to play with including the new O/baby at £6,298, this entry level model from the New York company sounded rather good on the end of a Western Electric WE91E integrated amplifier. The WE is a single ended 300B design with build quality that’s reminiscent of the brand’s heyday, in other words it’s built like a tank which given the predicted £12,000 price when distribution is announced in the new year seems good value. With interchangeable output transformers to suit different speakers and onboard phono stage this one we really want to try at home.
Surrey based retailer Ultimate Stream demonstrated the shortly to be released Epos ES14n speakers (above) on the end of T+A electronics. The same brand’s speakers were also in use next door with Ultimate Resolution (below), where I enjoyed the S300 speakers (£10,400) on the end of a Melco M1ZH/2ex server with a Sonnet Morpheus DAC (£3,500) and T+A PA 2500 R integrated amplifier (£9,021).
Air Audio had the Hana range of cartridges on display alongside these tonearms from Sorane in Japan, you gotta love the big ZA-12 at £2,149. On the other end of the stand was the Connected Fidelity AC-2K balanced power mains transformer (below), this has a single output and can deliver up to 2.4kW, so it should not hamper the performance of serious power amplifiers, which is rare in a mains cleaning unit. Price is £1,995 for the Studio version and £2,850 for the Reference.
Icon specialises in autoformer based passive preamplfiiers and is run by a Manchester based Hungarian. He had a rare Linkwitz LX251 loudspeaker system with which to demonstrate the 4pro multichannel passive pre which can run up to eight channels, this means you can drive an active system such as the Linkwitz with a DSP crossover. We are keen to try their forthcoming Icon 5 which will offer 168 half decibel volume steps. The remote controllable two channel Icon 4pro starts at £3,119.
Matt ‘Rockdoc’ McNulty put on a display of Rock turntables through the ages with the rarest example of all at the beginning. The large black with polished aluminium metalwork Rock on the left is the original Cranfield prototype from 1976-77, this has direct drive, brass suspension bellows and the plinth is made of an early synthetic stone called Granitan. Next to that is the Elite Cranfield Rock from ‘79 that became the Elite Rock 2 in 1981-82, one of Matt’s rebuilt examples is shown in red. The Rock 3 beyond it was made in the US when Townshend moved production to Texas and has inner tube suspension built in while the mirror finish Rock V (below) was a revision of the Reference with bellows suspension, a PVC platter and motor and power supply from a Rega P3. The last Rock that Townshend built was the skeletal Rock 7 that can be see at the far end of the display.
One of the more engaging systems at this event was in a room shared by Curvi, Super Natural Audio (SNA) and Clip Audio. The Curvi BMR Mk2 loudspeakers sounding great on the end of a Lucas streamer with SNA’s non oversampling valve DAC. This has a single Philips TDA1543 converter chip and a valve rectified output stage that uses a 6NA7 triode, price starts at £5,000 depending on valve choice. The turntable is a Clip Audio Obsidian with acrylic platter and a modified Alphason arm.
See part 2 of our National Audio show coverage here.