GALLERY: 2018 BRISTOL SOUND AND VISION
Sound and Vision – The Bristol Show is over for another year. But, over the three days (Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th February) there was plenty to see and hear. Furthermore, there were plenty of firsts too.
The Bristol Show, how it has become affectionately known, is when the hi-fi and home cinema industry takes over the rooms (and power sockets) of the Marriott City Centre in Bristol, UK. This year saw well over 200 brands showing their latest and greatest products to the public. Also, it is worth noting that that public not only comes from every corner of the country, but many fly in especially for this show.
The Dandy Dozen: Bristol 2018
There were plenty of favourites on show this year. I am always impressed by Ophidian and they brought out their big guns, the Prophet P2s (£3,200) for me to listen too. Remarkable sounding, as expected.
Also, there were some new and interesting devices on show, such as the Orpheus JTR 1 speakers from the same creator that brought you the MiniPod and Blueroom loudpspeakers.
I could easily write something about everything I saw over the Friday and Saturday but, instead, here are my top 12 device debuts at The Bristol Show. Just to add, for the pedants, I am classing it as a debut if it’s the first time I’ve seen it in the flesh.
First up is Amphion. I loved this room as it was set up realistically, just how most music consumers would. It was simple yet sounded great.
Having spent many years in single bedroom apartments in London, this rang particularly true to me. Here you had a Hegel Röst networked integrated amp (£2,200) and a pair of £700 Argon speakers with music provided from a tablet using AirPlay. Simple and effective.
Not only did this sound great, but it also looked good too. Amphion managed to get the ‘lifestyle’ system looking as fab as it sounded.
Astell & Kern ACRO L1000
I had to go find this as I really love the design of the ACRO L1000. This is a very cool-looking desktop amplifier, headphone amp and DAC.
Astell & Kern has done everything right here, as far as I’m concerned. The volume wheel dominates the rest of the exquisite aluminium casework. It is such a tactile bit of audio hardware I just couldn’t help myself from groping it.
Priced at £799, the ACRO L1000 can play PCM files up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD11.2MHz, and offers 2.5mm, 3.5mm, 6.5mm and XLR audio outputs. Your office system *needs* this!
Chord Electronics Qutest
Having loved the Hugo 2 DAC from Chord I had a feeling I’d fall in love with this cut-down version. Named Qutest, I expected it to have confidence beyond its stature. However, it is well deserved.
The Chord Qutest (£1,195) is essentially a Hugo 2 without the headphone amp and rechargeable battery. This makes it perfect to slot into your hi-fi system.
Furthermore, it enjoys Chord’s typically extensive file support, with the USB-type B input, for example, supporting 32-bit/768kHz PCM and DSD512. I am crossing my fingers for an opportunity to review one.
DALI Callisto 6
I’d lost touch with DALI so it was great to catch-up and get reacquainted. It also seems timely as the Danish speaker company has teamed up with Lenbrook International aka Bluesound to create two wireless speakers – Callisto. These, naturally, use Lenbrook’s BluOS hi-res multi-room platform.
The speakers communicate with the DALI Sound Hub, via a 24 bit/96 kHz connection. A multitude of standard inputs – all with auto detect – ensures that any audio device can be connected; be it via Bluetooth, optical, analogue or coax.
The DALI Callisto 6 being being demoed at the Bristol Show are pre-production models. However, they sounded impressive.
Keep your eyes and ears open for these as they should be hitting stores in the next few months.
Elac Miracord 70
Spotted in the Elac room was the brand new Miracord 70 turntable. This, as you have already worked out, comes in just below the highly recommended Miracord 90.
The glossy black MDF plinth is typically understated. The belt drive is powered by a Premotec synchronous motor.
The platter is a 2.6Kg glass plate with a ceramic sphere as a central element on the shaft. This design achieves a smooth operation and a very high resilience to external influences.
The new arm guarantees a minimum tracking error and is fitted with an Audio-Technica AT95 cartridge.
It wasn’t in use when I visited so I just gawped at the Miracord 90 looking and sounding fabulous.
Although, I did like the look of the little box of tricks known as the Discovery DS-S101-G Music Server (£950). This nifty device uses a lite version of Roon and will play nice with 192kHz 24-Bit Audio Formats: WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC. It will sniff out all the audio you have stored on your network and then push it out through your system. I am really interested in this.
It is always special to see something beautifully crafted coming out of the UK. This time it was the gorgeousness that is the F1-10 from new Scottish speaker brand, Fyne Audio.
Fyne Audio had some rather fine (sorry) speakers on display on the ground floor, but upstairs is where the main event was.
Their flagship loudspeakers, the F1-10 looked and sound awesome. They were being simply fed by Rega Apollo CD transport and Osiris amp.
Imposing, until someone mentioned “Minions” to me, the £18k Tannoy meets Sonus Faber design nevertheless left most with slack jaws. Oh, there is an ex-Tannoy link from what I gather.
The sound was amazingly balanced even though they appeared to be too large for the room.
But, it is that deep and lustrous finish that makes you want to stroke them.
iFi Pro iDSD
iFi’s new flagship DAC isn’t being officially launched until next month, but that didn’t stop this gang of rebels from showing it off in Bristol.
The Pro iDSD (£2500) supports PCM files up to 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512 with DSD1024 upsampling. Additionally, it has a selectable tube and solid state analogue stage, and works over the LinkPlay hi-res Wi-Fi platform.
It certainly looks and sounds the part. The full rig is more than eye-candy, but it never hurts to look good, does it?
iFi was also teasing visitors with a pre-production version of the xDSD, the latest addition to its mobile headphone amp/DAC range. This should be available in April and slips in above the extremely impressive nano iDSD Black Label. The xDSD also boasts full PCM and DSD support. Furthermore is will have six to eight hours battery life and aptX Bluetooth streaming.
Jamo Studio 8
Celebrating its 50th birthday this year, Jamo is back in the UK and armed with the latest generation of its long-standing Studio series speakers.
The comprehensive (ten-strong) Studio 8 series comprises three floorstanders (S 809, S 807 and S 805), two standmounting designs (S 803 and S 801), two centre speakers (S 83 CEN and S 81 CEN), two subwoofers (S 810 SUB and S 808 SUB) and, finally, one Dolby Atmos-certified upward-firing design (the S 8 ATM).
The floorstanding Jamo S 805 speakers (£349 per pair) were on show for the first time at the Bristol Show.
The Studio 8 range employs soft dome tweeters with WaveGuide technology, as well as aluminium/polyfibre woofers plus reflex ports. And all models are available in your choice of white (with grey grilles), black or walnut (with darker grey grilles) matte vinyl finishes with wood-grain accents.
Some models also benefit from Atmos speaker integration features too.
I have already covered the launch of this rather competitively-priced 4K UHD home cinema projector in more detail here.
However, as a quick overview, the flagship UHZ65 is based on Optoma’s Award-winning lamp-sourced UHD65. Furthermore, at just coins under £5000, it is still considerably more affordable most other similarly equipped projectors.
Whilst in this room, I also learned to appreciate 4K projector screens a lot more thanks to the guys from Grandview.
Ophidian never cease to amaze me. What they can get out of their diminutive Minimos and Mojos is tantamount to witchcraft.
However, I was lucky enough for them to bring out the big guns, the Prophet P2 (£3,200).
The Prophet P2 is a 2.5-way floorstander featuring dual 180mm aluminium midbass drivers and a 27mm Sonolex coated fabric tweeter.
These speakers still manage to sound bigger than they really are and produce and effortless, lifelike sound and exceptional dynamics.
Quad Artera Solus
This all-in-one system was at the very heart of Quad’s award-winning demo room this weekend. The fresh-faced Quad Artera Solus (£1500) is a CD transport, DAC, preamp and power amp combo.
Also, it just happens to be the first Artera product to offer Bluetooth connectivity using the aptX codec. This promises ‘CD-like’ 16-bit/44.1kHz audio. Furthermore, its 32-bit, eight-channel DAC (capable of playing PCM files up to a 32-bit/384kHz) feeds five digital inputs. Tasty.
The SP-10R was doing its thing in Bristol ahead of its official summer launch. This was definitely a must see.
A couple of times the doors were shut due to timed listening slots but I was actually recognised and allowed in at one point. Now, I am not saying who they must’ve thought I was, as that doesn’t really matter, does it?
The SP-10R has no pressure, other than being described as the brand’s “most premium turntable ever.”
Also, there’s the fact that it will likely have a $10,000 starting price, it had better have the chops.
That said, it does seem to have most bases covered. The new deck features a newly-developed ‘noise reduction circuit’, and a coreless direct-drive motor that Technics claims has enough force to rotate the platter with very low-speed irregularities.
Additionally, those looking for the complete system variant should check out the Technics SL-1000R, which adds the triple-layered base and S-shaped tonearm.
Oh, you will need even deeper pockets for that one too.
OK, stop giggling at the back. Seriously!
Everything in this room was chunky. The neatly laid cables running from the Nirvana monoblocs up to the Legend speakers had plenty of girth… really?
Schoolboy humour aside, Von Gaylord are an outfit out of West Sacramento, California and the build some impressive kit.
The trapezoidal standmounted Return of the Legend loudspeakers ($9,995.00) were bi-wired and connected to the Nirvana tube monos ($8,495.00).
This was a really enjoyable system. I actually loved the fact that it didn’t have that somewhat bloomy warmth that lovers of tube amps seem to dig. Instead, this was more assured, detailed and dynamic.
The bass was surprisingly taut and deep and vocals were presented with subtlety and expression. Great stuff and definitely ones to check out.
Of course, there were many others out there. For instance, AVM Audio launched their AVM 30 range – always tasty kit. Same can be said of Melco and Leema, too. But, it wasn’t only the new stuff that I enjoyed. TAD, Iota, Goldnote, Prism, and Musical Fidelity never let me down.
Australian readers get their chance to witness all this and more at the 2018 Melbourne International HiFi Show, October 12th - 14th, Pullman Mercure Hotel, Albert Park. Tickets on sale now.
In the meantime, enjoy the full gallery below.
Til next year, then, Bristol!