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Bristol show notes (and pics)

AlmaataKZ

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Jan 7, 2009
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(Also posted on some other fora)

These are my quick impressions from some of the demos at today's Bristol show. I only saw about 3/4 of the rooms, skipping cables, valves, sound bars, bluetooth and turntables. Unfortunately did not have enough time and had to drop just one from the wanted list - the WHF 4k demo as had to catch a train back.

All notes are 100% my personal subjective opinion. Also – blunt scepticism alert!

Naim

Unintentionally, first thing, I walked straight into the Statement demo. I did not even have a ticket but ended up in the room.



The sound was OK but nothing special. Bass dynamics low-ish, mids and highs a tad distorted, harsh at times. I do not get why would anybody want that rig over other better performing (and cheaper) kit. Amp lights were low taste and cheapo IMO (is taste important for this kind of product?), vol control knob looked cool but it is only visible from top :)

Wilson Benesch

Static display:



A turntable was playing. Regardless of that (and this is my second time hearing a WB demo) the sound was downright substandard. I do not get it. How can anybody do the sound so badly?! On a show!



PMC

The new 26 were playing at the time. Perfect looks - slim shape, high quality finish. The sound is very impressive. Extremely boomy and very tizzy. I think they got it right. These will have high appeal and will sell very very well. Fact 12 was on static display at the time. Very good looking speaker.



Q Acoustics



Not a bad sound at all.

Dynaudio



No actives or Xeo on demo. Ordinary, mushy, boomy sound. Imposing looks. Excellent finish. Cyrrus



The new streamer does look like a printer!

Quad

New small actives were on static display.



ESL:



Very good sound - clear, natural, undistorted, good imaging. I asked about the design (if it was a single es panel etc) and was told they have 4 panels each with a delay circuit but no crossover between them so I guessed it was for directivity control and this was confirmed somewhat - 'to make it point source'.

Spendor with Devialet (the shiny one on the wall)



Good sound (if a bit harsh in the 2nd room)

Graham audio



Reel Nagra with some rough boxy speakers with BBC something on them. The tape sounded OK, speakers nothing of note.

Eclipse

Small ones:

And medium ones, with a dedicated sub:



These had excellent dynamic sound with very good imaging. The sub I think was turned up too high and boomed.

Proac



Very nice veneers. Ordinary sound.

Elac AirX 403 and 407 (floor-stander)



Small wireless actives were on demo. Multi-source, multi-room. KleerNet 24/48. 70m range in free sight. DSP. 4 inputs in the box (small black box near the computer), so claimed lossless wireless stream to 4 pairs of speakers, independent source to each of the 4. Sound was decent, but bass was quite boomy at times. I think the demonstrators were trying to impress everybody with their size to bass depth ratio and overdone it by 3 or 4 clicks. Monitor Audio Horrible sound. Compressed, distorted, struggling. Sad as MA's were the first speakers I ever bought.

Tannoy



Nice finish, pleasant warm sound, but often boomy to extreme, a bit harsh.

JL Audio subs



These were demonstrated with an anthem AV amp and passive ATCs (new scm7) and active ATC C3c (which is one of very few things I would not mind adding to my own system). Superb bass quality from these subs. Very deep and clean. Side note - The C3c is very big!

Antelope Audio + Amphion



Guess what is the thing on the right… Atomic clock.



Good looking, compact, expensive. Mahoosive number of kHz sampling freq and DSD. Sounded ordinary (as per the speakers). (Amps were hidden under the drapes).

Lumin

I though the track title was good.



Canton AM5



for size:



Small actives, 250gbp per one. Very compact and nicely and simply finished, removable metal grille. Balanced and normal inputs, sensitivity and position trims, signal sensing (?), mounting holes. Heavy. DSP, soft clipping, class d amps. 115mm woofer. No demo was available unfortunately.

Usher

Some smallish model from their range. Sounded OK.



Magnepan 1.7, magneplanar speakers, 2,700gbp pair



Along with the JL subs and the Quads, the most positive impression from the show. Perfect sound - superb clarity, imaging, very low distortion including at high volume. The music played was a bit bass light so not a complete evaluation but everything including cello for example which does have reasonable bass was perfect. Really good.

Audeze LCD something, planar headphones, 1,600gbp?

Lots of people had these on demo (must be selling well and/or have very high margins) but only one had a 3.5mm jack to try with my own music from iphone. Very high quality of sound. Luxurious look of the wooden caps. Uncomfortably heavy and too tight clamping - would not be usable for me for these two reason. B&O, for example, are many times lighter and cheaper, not less luxurious, have iphone controls and mic and sound almost as good as these.



JVC 4K projector demo (no pics – just a dark room)

Very high image quality, both on 1080p upscaled to 4K and on native 4K. No idea what they played the native 4K content from but there was motion judder at the bottom of the screen and around busy parts of the image on both of the clips. I wonder why years into digital video the judder still has to be there. I would like to have a large scale video at home one day but would not want the kit/format to have any judder! Some static Tannoys on display.



Superb finish quality. Very large. I asked the exhibitor why they would not do active versions, given Tannoy's PA presence and lots of space in the cabs. The person must have been non-technical as his reason was that the extra mass of the amps would negatively impact the cabinet's sound. He should have said 'dunno' :)

So, the time flew by very quickly and it was time to catch the train. Useful visit as you see and hear a lot of stuff in quick succession/comparison, although the range is not as extensive as say Munich of cause.

I would have loved to see more exhibits of integrated control systems, wireless, multi room systems and more high performance gear.
 

spiny norman

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Or to put the above into a shorter version, 'Went to show expecting to hate everything. Hated everything. Pity not more fishing equipment.' ;-)
 

AlmaataKZ

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spiny norman said:
Or to put the above into a shorter version, 'Went to show expecting to hate everything. Hated everything. Pity not more fishing equipment.' ;-)
I say it as it is, good, bad or indifferent. You may enjoy the pics? ;-)
 

AlmaataKZ

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altruistic.lemon said:
Good to see maggies were there and sounding good. They really are something special.
indeed. Also, home friendly despite the apparent size. The footprint is tiny and they are light so can be moved away easily when not playing. Also the fabric colour can be different to less stand out against the room decor.
 

NHL

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INFORMATIVE review! Thanks! :cheers:

BTW, Nait used Naim (?), but which amps for the PMC?
 

andyjm

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AlmaataKZ said:
spiny norman said:
Or to put the above into a shorter version, 'Went to show expecting to hate everything. Hated everything. Pity not more fishing equipment.' ;-)
I say it as it is, good, bad or indifferent. You may enjoy the pics? ;-)
Thanks for the review. Interesting that the planar radiator speakers stood out (Maggie, Quad ESL). Goes to confirm my view that Peter Walker had it right all along. Still think my 'Logans show most 'piston engine' speakers a clean pair of heels.
 

LesterAnorak

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I am amazed to find that my views almost exactly correspond with yours! Thanks for all the pics, very helpful as an aide memoire. My overall impression was that most rooms had sound worse than last year and the only ones that didnt were the ones npt using a digital source: best for me were Audio Note, Ming Da, Quad and Q Acoustics. Biggest suprise was w HRT Stage system. Biggest disappointments, PMC and Spendor. Surely both these could have been demo'd to sound much better at such an important event for upping sales figures. Anything with NAIM in the train also sounded disappointing. There was the hugest emphasis on digital sources this year, yet all were beaten by vinyl sources hands down (and I am not a vinyl fan). All the new DACS failed to impress. Digital is sadly just not there yet by any means. Almost everything I heard was pretty horrible, bar HRT, regardless of price. I suppose Chord the best of a bad bunch. NAIM nowhere. And snake oil of the day? Whoever was demoing the mains conditioner blocks. Expensive too. I can only say that I left feeling happier about my own system this year than I thought I'd be. Was hoping to write this into the downloadable Guide, but the thing wouldn't let me write anything into the feedback answer boxes on my phone. What Hi-Fi, hope you are reading this: there must be some way most exhibitors can dem and get a better sound. I was, mostly, put off from investing in any new gear, surely the opposite of manufacturer's intentions. Last year was definitely better in this regard. Well done Q Acoustics and HRT though. And Ming Da was lovely, for a relatively reasonable price. Digital CAN sound better than this: please try harder to dem accordingly next year.
 

Frank Harvey

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There were a few rooms from manufacturers I'd not heard of, or never heard before that sounded good, like the CAD room, the Sound Of Eden room, and the BMC room.

The Q Acoustics Concept 40s sounded good - I wasn't in there long, but the piano track was sounding excellent, and no doubt won a few QA fans.

The Quad Vena sounded stunning for its price, which had no right sounding that good! Helped by the Quad electrostatics though...

KEF's E305 system playing DSOTM SACD sounded stupidly good, which put some two channel rooms to shame.

The Spendor D7s were sounding very exciting and energetic on the end of musical Fidelity's new M8 pre/power. I should get to hear this pre/power in store soon.

ProAc's D30R speakers were also a stunner with the music I heard. We already have these, so I already know, but I didn't get to hear the new D20R over the course of the weekend, but I'll hear them once we get them on demo.

Another new speaker I didn't get to hear was PMC's Twenty.26, but as above, I'll get to hear them properly when we get them on demo.

B&W's new 600 series was sounding quite 'big' in their room - the Chili Peppers track I heard was very well presented.

The Magnaplanars sounded good, which I was interested in hearing as I used to own a pair of SMGb many years ago.

The Anthem/Paradigm room sounded amazing. The first clip was Pacific Rim, which can sound a little muddled in the bass on some systems, but not on this one. Big expansive soundfield, nicely detailed and energetic, and surprisingly good for a £2k receiver driving £15k+ of speakers!

Yamaha's AV system sounded good too considering, and even that was better than some AV rooms that could be mentioned.

I'm not sure what was playing the Propellorheads when I was outside it he Monitor Audio room, but it was really kicking from outside!

Michell's new Orbe SEx was sounding rather nice, and the Kronos turntable in one of the rooms looked extremely serious and solidly made. Very nice.

The new top of the range Primare pre/power was good, but I need to hear it with some speakers I'm familiar with, as I have never heard the GoldenEar ones before.

The Karma/SVS room was pretty impressive using the SB2000 sub playing the Art Of Flight Bluray, although they could have turned it up a little... :rofl:

There will be some I have missed out, so I'll add if I remember!
 

The_Lhc

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David@FrankHarvey said:
Michell's new Orbe SEx
What seriously? :roll:

Wish I'd been there now, sounds a bit more interesting than the last couple of years.
 
B

BIGBERNARDBRESSLAW

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AlmaataKZ said:
I say it as it is, good, bad or indifferent.
There's quite a lot of stuff you didn't like the sound of, I'm presuming you did take the head gear off before going. ;)
 

iceman16

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Feb 8, 2011
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Been there last saturday but with limited time so was'nt able to hear many of the exhibitors. I manage to squeeze myself to Spendor with Devialet room and was not impressed at all:? . the combi sounds fast, detailed but not wide and deep and lacks emotion and fluidity. It's a bit cold and clinical for my taste but maybe due to poor room acoustics;)

There are a few that impressed me, the Nordost room with Moon source and amp with Proacs D18. A holographic soundstage that's wide, open and warm. The Neat acoustics are also very good and they really punch above their weight IMO. Next is the Q acoustics which are also very good, fast, detailed really worth in the price.

One of worst Ive heard were Dynaudio with Naim source and amp which sound bloated, dull and lacking in detail and they cost a fortune which is a shame!. Monitor Audio silver6 if Im not mistaken are awful and seems like listening to a car stereo. Same as the Exposure even my 14 y/o daughter can't listen for more than a minute:wall:
 

cj_random

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This was the first time I had been to one of these exhibitions and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was a bit of an eye opener really. Lots of smaller companies producing some very convincing kit and its certainly helped me with making a shortlist for some new speakers which im in dire need off.

As above I didnt get into every single room. A little gutted I missed the Nordost room after reading above what kit they had in there but nevermind.

I'll start with kit that didnt impress me. The Cabasse room, seemed to be missing quite a range of frequency. Not very convincing at all. Likewise with the Amphion speakers in the Antelope Audiuo room.. Focal speakers sounded reasonable but nothing special. In the Ming Da Valve Audio room it sounded like I was listening to music from inside a massive marshmallow. BMC Audio, nice kit to look at and sounded ok through theyre own speakers but again nothing to write home about. Probably heaps better with other speakers than theyre own brand I would think. Spendor A6R, dull, not engaging or exciting, pretty disappointing.

Really enjoyed the Heed room. Very good sound and the guy from Heed was having loads of fun playing some reggae LP's. Spendor D7's were very good, much better than the boring A6R's. Enjoyed the big Quad electrostatics. Probably the most convincing bass i heard all day. PMC's twenty 26's were very good. Proacs d30 were superb, very clear and sweet sound from those ribbon tweeters. In the Rega room I enjoyed the all Rega system. Musical Fidelity room was a nice sound running the Spendor D7'S. Biggest surprise for me was Neat Audio. Superb speakers the SX1. Compact speakers but sound much bigger than they are. A nice balance of bass, midrange and treble. Best I heard all day and the Naim system running them certainly wasnt anywhere near the most expensive either.

The only thing that was frustrating was I had to keep on asking everyone to turn the systems up and even after asking it went up by a few decibels only
 

matt49

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iceman16 said:
I manage to squeeze myself to Spendor with Devialet room and was not impressed at all:? . the combi sounds fast, detailed but not wide and deep and lacks emotion and fluidity. It's a bit cold and clinical for my taste but maybe due to poor room acoustics;)
I heard the Spendor D7s with a Devialet 170 a couple of months ago and the sound was dreadful. I blame the speakers. :shifty:
 

DocG

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andyjm said:
Thanks for the review. Interesting that the planar radiator speakers stood out (Maggie, Quad ESL). Goes to confirm my view that Peter Walker had it right all along. Still think my 'Logans show most 'piston engine' speakers a clean pair of heels.
Yeah, that was my first reaction too, when reading the OP! Planars (Maggies & Quad) ... or crossoverless speakers (Quad & Eclipse).

Anyway, thanks for the survey, AlmaataKZ! :cheers:
 

iceman16

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matt49 said:
iceman16 said:
I manage to squeeze myself to Spendor with Devialet room and was not impressed at all:? . the combi sounds fast, detailed but not wide and deep and lacks emotion and fluidity. It's a bit cold and clinical for my taste but maybe due to poor room acoustics;)
I heard the Spendor D7s with a Devialet 170 a couple of months ago and the sound was dreadful. I blame the speakers. :shifty:
Hi Matt

I hope my experience wit Dev. won't close the door for me. :)
 

AlmaataKZ

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DocG said:
andyjm said:
Thanks for the review. Interesting that the planar radiator speakers stood out (Maggie, Quad ESL). Goes to confirm my view that Peter Walker had it right all along. Still think my 'Logans show most 'piston engine' speakers a clean pair of heels.
Yeah, that was my first reaction too, when reading the OP! Planars (Maggies & Quad) ... or crossoverless speakers (Quad & Eclipse).

Anyway, thanks for the survey, AlmaataKZ! :cheers:
:cheers:
 

Yatcatcher

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:wall: Thanks for the photos! Interesting show and curious how many people seem to agree on the quality of the sound.... Does anyone else feel that some of the companies needed to employ someone who listened to the sound? Potentially great pieces of equipment had as a source a cheap laptop hard drive with a proccessed and compressed track, I know they all talked about recording at 196 etc. but the best rooms were vinyl or the (rare) CD player! One of the few companies who seem to have got digital right was Quad who were streaming tracks from spotify, to the Vena via Bluetooth.

Great to see newer companies bringing out some great kit though, Q Acoustics £300 speakers were seriously impressive, Neet was neat, Ming Da had some nice sound and some excellent people who knew what they were talking about.

All together, dissapointed, it seems that some 'golden ears' are needed, digital can work if done well, but can be terrible if done badly, and too often convenience was chosen over quality. At a hi fi show!
 

iQ Speakers

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First of all thanks for all your effort in the review and great pics.

I went last year and was disappointed in most of the rooms sound, including those using vinyl.

As a previous post I thought the Heed room sounded good, they were using "curtains" all around the room.

My system, playing "lowly" Spotify sounds better than anything I heard at the show but then I'm not jostling with others for that sweat spot.
 

matt49

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iceman16 said:
matt49 said:
iceman16 said:
I manage to squeeze myself to Spendor with Devialet room and was not impressed at all:? . the combi sounds fast, detailed but not wide and deep and lacks emotion and fluidity. It's a bit cold and clinical for my taste but maybe due to poor room acoustics;)
I heard the Spendor D7s with a Devialet 170 a couple of months ago and the sound was dreadful. I blame the speakers. :shifty:
Hi Matt

I hope my experience wit Dev. won't close the door for me. :)
Definitely not, Iceman. I think the Devialet tells it like it is. With good speakers it's amazing.

Matt

PS thanks to everyone for their pics and reports from the show -- nice work!
 

NHL

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So, all in all Neat SX1 speakers was overall one of the best in the show?
 

GetCarter

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We went to the show on Friday, and came away with very mixed feelings about the whole thing.

Generally we found the amount of AV very, very dissapointing, this is the first time we have been in several years, and I would have to say that this element has declined to the extent that there is now only about 30% of the number of AV type products than previous. I think we only saw 2 projector manufacturers overall, Epson and Sim 2, previous years have seen up to about 10 brands. this was very much the case across the board, where there was once a lot of AV, now there is hardly any.

The Anthem demo was, on the whole, one of the main highlights for us, and will certainly make us consider the brand when next updating, it was excellent.

We had hoped to see more screens (ie LED/Plasma/OLED etc) than we were able to, and I have to say that the What HiFi demo of 4k and OLED was actually pretty awful, it might have worked if you were sat at the front, but 3/4 the way back you could hardly see anything (mismatched screen sizes didn't help), and although they kept saying the blacks on OLED were much better, from where we were the 4k Looked much better. The whole demo room was the wrong way round for the majority of viewers, and would have been much better rotated 90degrees. As for the sound, their claim of 15k plus worth of speakers and amp, well all I can say is there was no rear chanel info, and very distorted front! This was amongst the most disappointing of demos on the day.

One really worrying concern for the industry, must be the age profile of potential buyers, as the average age at the show must have been well over 40 with very few youngsters on the day we went. Also with such a poor AV selection on view, where does one go to see a decent selection, if this is the UK's biggest show, then there is clearly a massive decline in the market now. Which as a potential buyer is very concerning. Clearly (as I have become more and more aware of) the youngsters don't care about quality, only instant access and quantity, all for either free or nearly free.

The manufacturers must take some of the blame for this, as TV and Blu Ray player prices have become far to cheap to be sustainable, it is no wonder Pioneer got out of the game, and Panasonic/Sony are in the process of doing so to an extent. In the Blu-Ray market you are generally hard pressed to find a product that costs more than £250 and with 40inch TV's readily availble for £300 upwards it is no wonder the industry has issues. Only a decade or so ago we were all not to unhappy to pay around £1,000 for a 32 inch TV. This supermarket approach to pricing has created a market where quality no longer seems to matter in many areas, only price.

And do we all really need so many platforms for catch up material anyway?
 

cheeseboy

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nowt to add, just to say thanks to AlmaataKZ for sharing the piccies and for others feedback, most interesting. :cheers:
 

spiny norman

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GetCarter said:
Generally we found the amount of AV very, very dissapointing, this is the first time we have been in several years, and I would have to say that this element has declined to the extent that there is now only about 30% of the number of AV type products than previous. I think we only saw 2 projector manufacturers overall, Epson and Sim 2, previous years have seen up to about 10 brands. this was very much the case across the board, where there was once a lot of AV, now there is hardly any.
You say that like it's a bad thing ;-) I was much more heartened by the apparent resurgence in the fortunes of two-channel audio, and music in general.

GetCarter said:
One really worrying concern for the industry, must be the age profile of potential buyers, as the average age at the show must have been well over 40 with very few youngsters on the day we went.
Over 40? Poor old devils! The shadow of the Grim Reaper must loom large along the Marriott corridors.

But seriously, I think that's symptomatic of the Friday audience, where you get a lot more hard-core enthusiasts (who have taken a day off work to go to the show), retirees (who of course are free to go to the show on a weekday), and members of the audio/consumer electronics industry. IME the Saturday/Sunday audiences are much more mixed, both in terms of age and gender, and tend to have more very small people with them.

GetCarter said:
if this is the UK's biggest show, then there is clearly a massive decline in the market now.
Most seem to think the show was busier than it has been for several years, and the show organisers say sales were up 'substantially' on last year's.

GetCarter said:
The manufacturers must take some of the blame for this, as TV and Blu Ray player prices have become far to cheap to be sustainable
I think most manufacturers will tell you that the retail sector has been driving prices down, not the manufacturing one.

GetCarter said:
In the Blu-Ray market you are generally hard pressed to find a product that costs more than £250 and with 40inch TV's readily availble for £300 upwards it is no wonder the industry has issues. Only a decade or so ago we were all not to unhappy to pay around £1,000 for a 32 inch TV. This supermarket approach to pricing has created a market where quality no longer seems to matter in many areas, only price
You're right: everything should be much more expensive. That'll soon boost sales. ;-)
 

jerry klinger

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iceman16 said:
One of worst Ive heard were Dynaudio with Naim source and amp which sound bloated, dull and lacking in detail and they cost a fortune which is a shame!.
That was the big £75,000 Dynaudio. The smaller £2k one actually sounded very good!

The Rega room was a terrible disappointment soundwise. I can see the potential in the RP10, though I'm not convinced by the looks, but why use with RS3 speakers? Naim into Proac 20R and 30R sounded extremely musical to me. Spendor SP2/etc sounded nice but the D7s grating. The PMC 20.26 were cleary classy but not quite special enough for me - the fact.8, though less forgiving, clearly had the edge; but I wouldn't buy either. I wanted to hear Naim's NDX/SN2/S400 downstairs but no serious demo was happening.

Fewer turntables this year, which is odd given vinyl sales. But some of the cheaper DACs etc sounded great!
 

Frank Harvey

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GetCarter said:
We went to the show on Friday, and came away with very mixed feelings about the whole thing.

Generally we found the amount of AV very, very dissapointing, this is the first time we have been in several years, and I would have to say that this element has declined to the extent that there is now only about 30% of the number of AV type products than previous. I think we only saw 2 projector manufacturers overall, Epson and Sim 2, previous years have seen up to about 10 brands. this was very much the case across the board, where there was once a lot of AV, now there is hardly any.
AV is on a downward slope at the moment. Why? Who knows. Maybe people are sick of feeling they have to upgrade evry year, maybe more and mroe people don't want six or more speakers clogging up their living space - soundbars and now soundbases seem to be increasing in popularity, although I see this as a bit of a fad (like soundbars). Eventually it'll come back round, but hi-fi is where it's at at the moment. People are buying streamers and turntables (and systems, obviously). People are getting back into music in a big way - maybe due to ease of access via streaming apps, but the vinyl surge is also helping too.

Maybe projector manufacturers are hanging back due to 4K TV popularity at the moment - if there were 4K projectors around at £5,000 or less at the moment, we'd have seen a lot more of them at the show.
 

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